For Dr. Jerry Hiura.
Back in the day before hard-soled shoes, Cain and Abel raised a ruckus playing
in Abel’s room at the back of the tract. They threw wooden toys at each other, tussling on the caravan route-themed area rug, and trampolining up and down in the crib. Cain wanted to be a red diaper baby, too. And pretended not to be jealous, though he put on a diaper to match his brother’s butt coverings. Maybe by accident, maybe on purpose, Cain caught Able in the chops with an elbow that knocked his front tooth out. There was blood. And screams heard into the night well down the block. Eve herself became hysterical, lamenting Abel’s lost looks, crying out “he’d wear the mark of Cain until his baby teeth fell out.” I can’t remember amidst the parental freak out, with accompanying shrieks and recriminations, who sent the signal. We were both on the ground, grappling for the tooth that bounced out of the crib. But couldn’t find it. It was getting really late, and we were falling into a cavity of despair. But then Dr. Jerry rang the bell, looking like a casual Sanjuro in his wrinkled chinos. Unmasked and ungloved. And brought with him his ronin sidekick, prophet and pedodonist Dr. Kent. They calmed us down, saying that Abel would be able to live to adulthood, revising the predictions. They said they had better eyes for teeth than we did, and quickly found the tooth wrapped inside a dust bunny under the crib. They packed Abel’s gums with cotton to staunch the bleeding. And asked only for a glass of water and to discuss prospects for local Silicon Valley samurai poets to be trained in ways of nonviolence. The San Jose Arts Commission had grants available. I said I was most interested. Then they said bring Abel round to the office tomorrow morning. And they’d see if they could get the tooth back in his head or would have to leave the gap—cleaned up of course—like you’d see in faces of Sharks players. We said good night. I brought Abel in the next day, but they couldn’t fit the incisor back into its socket. So they gave it to Abel with a chain and told him he’d be the toughest ronin in his Kindergarten. Ever since that day, I have twice-a year sat in Dr. Jerry’s chair. He always carved out the decay successfully. Sometimes when it took hours to save a tooth, he’d carefully etch his initials in the enamel filling. He avoided gold, given how many out there wouldn’t give a second thought to stealing it. And he gave my friend, the kimchee-eating Mexican samurai-poet, the best of care, despite having no money to pay for it. He even rented him a house next door to his Taylor Street office. Dr. Jerry even sponsored him in the annual poetry jousting competition in Sacramento, where my friend was named winner of the royal order of the caesura. And appointed the new state samurai laureate. Dr. Jerry asked nothing for my loyalty. He only wanted to preserve popular respect for the sharper arts. We’d have conversations in his booth at Kubota, during his lunch hour, where we’d review our acquaintance with the Hawk’s Well, and talk about cats we fancied. He’d order a sashimi bento and a diet Coke. And when there was a woman warrior whose work warranted disseminating on stage he never hesitated. He hardly ever wanted to play the shogun. I never had to pay for anything.
—Alan Soldofsky 7 ix 20