The Skin of his Teeth
Clark Kent stared at the memo the mailroom boy had dropped unceremiously on his desk as he was preoccupied doing the final draft of his article on the latest City proposal for the Dockside property development. While keeping his outer composure his heart skipped a beat. He feared these little complications most of all. Fight a ten-story high killer robot? Yawn! Plug an erupting volcano with a gigantic battleship slated for the scrapyard? Don’t you have anything hard for him to do?
But these things came as close to driving a wedge of fear into his self confidence to deal with any crisis as he’d ever known. He stared down at the memo again. The bean-counters in the Human Resources Dept. had determined in their infinite wisdom he was overdue to get his annual dental check-up to satisfy the group insurance dictates for all Daily Planet employees.
He’d been clever enough to dodge this bullet in the past, managing to be away on assignment during the re-enrollment period. But someone had spotted the fact Clark hadn’t complied in nearly six years.
It had been that long since Doc. Brown, his family doctor from Smallville, had passed on. When he was just a child entering school and was faced with having to show proof to the school he’d had all his requisite shots and regular medical checkups he’d forged a plan to get around it.
Feigning a panic attack due to phobia about doctors when Ma Kent took him into his office that first time he played on the kindly physicians’ good nature. As long as Clark promised to take care of himself and followed a health regimen he drew up, he’d sign whatever waiver Clark needed. It was a quiet conspiracy between the good doctor and the Kents that went back to them finding him in that cornfield. They told the doctor just enough to let him think he’d been abandoned by an unwed mother and they wished to adopt him as their own without anyone knowing he wasn’t theirs. Doc. Brown faked records showing him making the delivery at the farm and signing the birth certificate. Ever since then he could always rely on him to provide whatever Clark needed to appear to be a regular visitor to whatever medical specialist the family doctor had to pose as.
But with his reliable accomplice in deception gone Clark floundered to deal with petty roadblocks like this in maintaining his dual identity. It wasn’t the fear of being caught in a lie or slipping up and referring to something only Superman should know (or vice versa). He’d compartmentalized his two seperate personae so well over the years Clark actually thought like the timid, clumsy bumpkin he had posed as since childhood. It was allowing a medical professional from doing anything more than simply taking his temperature or blood pressure. These he could fake, using his extraordinary willpower and bodily control in slowing his powerful heartrate and even adjusting his metabolism to mimic a normal earthling. But beyond that it wouldn’t take much to set off alarm bells. Needles would shatter on his skin. X-rays wouldn’t penetrate either. He could fool a simple weight scale by simply using his flight power. It was something he’d been doing instinctively since he was a toddler. His cellular structure was so dense he would normally tip the scale at several hundred pounds. But at the lowest exertion of his flight power he partially negated his weight that would otherwise cause chairs to collapse beneath him. So ingrained was this practice he maintained this equillibrium even when asleep (which he rarely did and usually just to relax his mind after a particularly harrowing series of rescues).
However, this wouldn’t fool a basometric examination, wherin he’d be lowered into a tub of water and have the ratio of his fat-to-muscle content measured. Superman was, quite simply, all muscle. His metabolism ran on converting sunlight into kinetic energy. He needed no fats to convert to fuel his thick, powerful muscles.
It was when faced with the need to show proof of having undergone these types of examinations that old Doc. Brown had proved invaluable. Now that he was gone hed have to face the music. Forging his own records was easy enough, but if anyone thought to check back with the medical office listed he’d be busted.
Clark finally determined to go through with it. After all, it was just a cleaning and a checkup. He had perfect teeth, after all. A cursory examination should be enough to convince any competent dentist no closer examination was needed to declare him in perfect dental health. The only thing that worried him is he knew most dentists taking on a new patient would run a series of x-rays just to establish a baseline to check against any changes due to disease that may appear later.
But he’d thought of an elegant solution to that as well. If he could get an emergency referral from a trusted patient for a cursory examination to meet an insurance deadline, with the understanding his regular dentist was on vacation, the dentist would no doubt forego the usual full initial examination routine. The trick was to get someone who didn’t want to impress him with his thoroughness to get him to switch practices. Someone he knew had a long waiting list for his services and wasn’t taking on new patients.
When Clark had been assigned the Sports Desk during one of his periods of being on Perry White’s s**t kist he’d met a ruggedly handsome hockey star. Clark had remarked casually he had a surprisingly perfect smile for a player who had the reputation of not minding mixing it up with the most fearsome hockey goons in the league. The player had told him he’d had his share of teeth knocked out but that he’d been put on to a wizard of a dental surgeon who’d been able to re-implant and save every one. Even one that had been lodged in one goon’s fist after a particulary brutal fight that had left them both in the hospital.
Clark called the player, who obliged him by making the necessary arrangements for him to see the dentist after the end of his normal appointments. Clark checked him out and finds he formerly was a gynecologist who had settled a case just before changing specialties, so the judgment and the original complaint were sealed. The fact he gave up his practice and instead took up his earlier practice of dentistry made Clark suspicious the case was one for malpractice. Still, such things were almost a rite of passage in the medical profession. And perhaps more so, with apologies to the Fairer Sex, with nothing but hormonal and possibly hysterical female patients to deal with on a constant basis. The fact he retained his medical license and had no record of censure from the Medical Board suggested it may have been a minor complaint.
He decides to go undercover. He enjoyed investigative reporting under an alias. It meant he can drop his carefully constructed guise as a “mild mannered reporter”. No longer was he forced to dress shabbily, shuffling along stooped over with hunched shoulders, and speaking hesitantly and shyly. He can instead act the part of the manly stud he truly is. In fact he decided to play the swaggering lady-killer to the hilt, the better to draw his target into his confidence and put him at ease. He learned from his research nearly all of his clients were professional athletes like his friend, so he’d drop the name of the celebrity jock as his referral, implying he was a teammate. Such “Sports Celebrity” doctors weren’t uncommon, and made it all the more likley he’d be rushed through the office simply to please his sports star contact.
He surmised, too, that a little manly locker-room bragging may elicit a slip from the good doctor regarding possible unprofessional improprieties with his pretty young female patients. Any small compromising admission may give him a little leverage should he need the dentist in the future.
Clark dresses for the role, wearing an ultra-tight wife-beater that uniformly hugged the bulging muscles of his athletic frame, and skin-tight faded jeans that showed off his muscular ass and thighs, and strained to contain his very full package. After years of craftily hiding his assets under ill-fitting baggy clothes that made him look fat and dumpy he revelled in the sideways glances he got from lady (and not a few men) passerbys in the street. He was used to this as Superman, but for Clark this was unexplored territory to be unabashedly gawked at as prime eye candy.
He enters the expensively appointed office, and is surprised to see he is the only one in the waiting room. He understood the Dentist’s practice was an exceptionally thriving one. He scans a gallery of photos on the wall and spots a conglomeration of Hall of Famers and Olympic athletes, Action star actors and Supermodels. All were male. Only a small group of anonymous females filled a small corner, all bearing a family resemblance. He catches the eye of the deaf looking elderly hygienist at the reception desk who tells him “Dr. Denton” has an elite set of celebrity clients, and that each is given an exclusive all-day appointment so that no one is inconvenienced by either having to wait in the outer room or feel rushed by a roomful of `impatient patients’ waiting their turn.
True to her word she ushers Clark directly into the inner sanctum without the formality of filling out forms and showing proof of insurance (his patients must all be people of some means), where he is surprised to see Dr. Drake Denton was an impossibly handsome and muscular young man. Nearly as tall as he himself, and only slightly less bulky, with chiseled features, a thick mane of golden hair and a set of piercing blue eyes like sky emeralds. And a dazzling smile formed of lush full rosy lips and the sort of dazzlingly perfect ivory teeth that was his best advertisement for his specialty. He hardly seemed the sort that needed to resort to unethical means to get any women into bed. He looked like one of those bodice-ripping Viking warriors on the cover of a tawdry romance novel. Clark momentarily startled himself when he found himself picturing the white jacketed dentist barechested with glistening pecs and massively muscled naked arms and thews.
Alongside his framed diplomas, for both Dentistry and, surprisingly, Gynecology as well, were trophies for a plethora of bodybuilding and amateur sports championships.
Clark was beginning to think the anonymous plaintiff in the sealed legal case was an insurance hoaxer, even possibly from a jilted lover or snubbed patient infatuated with the handsome hunk. Clark even absently wondered to himself if Dr. Olson and Superman were offered as rival suitors that Lois Lane might not choose Doctor Dreamy over the Man of Steel Himself.
Dr. Drake briskly greets him with a powerful handshake and offers him the chair. To his surprise it is not a traditional dentist’s chair but instead has stirrups on the footrests and restraint straps on the padded arms and the chair-back. With a sudden flash of recognition he realized it was a gynecologist’s chair, the widely swinging hinged leg supports meant for vaginal inspections and the restraints to protect women caught in the throes of birth pangs from injuring themselves should they thrash about hysterically. Or be helplessly bound by her erstwhile healer, he thinks suspiciously.
But once again he is put somewhat at ease when Drake candidly and casually confesses he has only recently begun practicing Dentistry, and was forced during some renovations at his adjoining dental practice next door to use his old office and furnishings until he could find and outfit his new office elsewhere. He offered no explanation for the odd change in careers, but betrayed no shame either. After all, it made sense he may hold on to some things should he decide to switch back to gynecology.
The Doctor smiled that dazzling smile and cheerfully offered Clark the chair. Clark settled gingerly into the odd-looking chair with it’s shiny metal stirrups. Feeling a bit awkward, he tried to change the subject by remarking on the pictures in the waiting room.
“Umm, yes, those. My clients, all except the blond ladies. They are family.” he remarked absently.
“One of them your Wife?” Clark asked breezily so as not to seem too inquizative.
“No, my Mother and my sisters. I’m the only boy, and I’m single by the way. My dad was a dentist, so that’s why I got into it and ended up by taking over his practice.”
“They are all strikingly beautiful. You come from a very handsome family.” Clark almost chocked. Why had he used that word to describe them unless he was thinking of Denton in particular? And to his astonishement the image of that bare-chested Viking crept back into his mind. Only now, to his bewilderment, he pictured himself in the embrace of those masculine arms, his clothes being ripped from him with those strongs hands. He shook himself and tried to go on the offensive again.
“I can’t help but ask. I mean, the duel medical degrees on the wall, this chair and your reference to your old office. You were a gynecologist at some point?” Clark asked, trying to sound only mildly interested.
“Yes, as I said being the only boy I had been pressured by my father to take after him in his choice of professions. And so I did. But I found general practice of dentistry unchallenging, especially as I always exhibited a talent for surgery. So I specialized in gynecology. But eventually I found that not to my liking either. I found adding emergency oral surgery the perfect compromise. As pro bono work I work in the hospitals doing reconstructive work on congenital defects, military injuries and massive accident injuries. And as some of my cases involved consulting with team doctors on sports injuries I gradually gathered a client base and now specialize in treating amateur and professional athletes.
“And quite a collection it is. David Bendham the soccer star, a who’s who of ball players, Olympic Medalists, MMA and boxing champions. Even some professional wrestlers.”
“Hmmm, yes. My little Band of Brothers as I like to call them.” Denton said, flashing a sudden, dazzling smile that washed over Clark like a beam of sunlight. He fidgeted uneasily in his chair as he delicately phrased his next question. “All uh, Boys? No woman athletes?”
“No. Not many girls into contact sports. Besides, I find it easier to deal with men only.” Denton said.
“Well yeah, I imagine it must have been hard with all-female patients only. I mean, they must have been undressing you with their eyes all the while they were undressing for the examinations.” Clark blurted out without thinking.
“What, why would you think that?” Denton asked, a sudden look of concern on his face. Clark felt he’d pushed too far and fast. Yet he suddenly found himself saying the wrong thing once again. “I mean, one look at someone with your amazing looks and beautiful build must make them cream themselves being naked and alone in a room with a golden stud like you.” Clark was screaming at himself in his head “What the hell’s wrong with you Clark? You’re a goddam reporter! What kind of line of questioning is that?” He was gushing about Denton’s sex appeal like a cub society writer interviewing a teen idol.
“Well, don’t believe all those stereotypes about gyneccologists. Most women are very frightened going through an examination. I always tried to be as professional as possible to put them at their ease. And as far as being alone I always had a nurse in the room with us at all times.”
“Oh, of course, I didn’t mean to suggest…I mean…I’m sure that’s right…” Clark found himself stammering and struggling to make sense, he was glad when Denton shifted the topic of conversation back to himself.
“So, you are a friend of Brad’s? You don’t look like a hockey player. I mean, you’ve got the size and then some, but at least you seem to have all your teeth.” Denton said, that dazzling smile flashing again and making Clark blink to look at a man even handsomer than himself blue eye to even bluer eye. Clark found himself blushing for no reason. Mentioning he had a large frame and all his teeth was hardly like his gushing about Denton’s ‘handsome’ ‘looks and build’ and calling him a ‘golden stud’.
“I’m an Olympic athlete. Decathlon” he blurted out. He meant to pose as one of Brad’s teammates, but that remark about having all his teeth threw that out the wndow and he had to improvise.
“ ‘World’s Greatest Athlete’, eh?” Denton joked, unleashing that unsettling smile again.
“Uh, no, not yet at least. Just on the alternate team. Haven’t had a chance to medal yet.” Clark said, trying to appear modest. Why had he said Decathlete? Was it because it was the furthest thing from what he normally posed as, a nerdy clumsy wimp?
“Well, with a build like yours and a little talent that title won’t elude you for long, I’m sure. As you noted I have some of the best athletes in the world, including professional bodybuilders. You have the best body I’ve ever seen on a man.” Denton said, and this time instead of a disarming smile he looked Clark over from head to toe with a long, pentrating appraisal that made him blush and feel flushed all over at the same time.
“I um, thanks. I uh… work out.” he answered, that voice screaming in his head again “My God! What a lame thing to say. Stop acting like some frustrated school girl. You’re Superman, for Heaven’s sake! Why is this guy getting into your head like this? You’re supposed to be getting into his.”
Clark was relieved when Denton got down to business and began examing Clark’s mouth.
“Remarkable! You’ve retained all of your baby teeth. More unusual still, there is absolutely no sign of decay or even enamel wear. And your gums are solid as a rock. The most perfect set of teeth I’ve ever seen, even in medical books.” Denton praised, again making Clark unexpectedly blush for reasons he couldn’t fathom. He squirmed uneasily in is chair, and his reporter’s notebook fell out of his pocket onto the floor. Denton reached down and picked it up, glancing briefly at the open pages.
“Little Black Book? I’d think a stud like you would need something as thick as the Metropolis phonebook for all your conquests.” Denton joked.
“Uhh…no…no, actually. I guess I prefer to be around guys mostly, like you. I mean…I meant to say…” The voice wasn’t screaming in his head now. It was shouting obscenities he didn’t think he knew.
“I guess you meant to say you are more of a ‘Guy’s Guy’ rather than a ‘Ladies’ Man’. Isn’t that right, Denton offered, tactfully letting him off the hook.
“Uh…yeah, I’m more into guys than…I mean…yeah it’s the Guy/Guy thing for me……” Clark wanted to crawl under the chair.
“Not unusual with you athletes. Everybody looks at those handsome faces and killer bodies and think all those guys do is go through one gal after the next. Truth is, most of them tell me they are closer to their teammates than their girlfriends. After all, they didn’t reach their level without a single-minded focus on athletics. And most of their time is spent in the company of men.” Denton turned away to put an instrument down, and added dryly over his shoulder. “You’d be surprised how many are actually virgins. Or were, until just recently”
Clark’s head was spinning. Where was this going? He just wanted to get to know the man he was dealing with, but was swiftly getting in over his head. Thank God he was putting away the mirrors and probes. The examination seemed to be over.
“May I go now?” Clark asked in a surprsingly squeeky voice, like a schooboy asking to be excused from the Principal’s office.
“No, just one more thing. I suspect their may be some nerve damage. When I prodded you with the sharp end of that instrument you registered no discomfort at all. It should have made you nearly jump out of the chair. I’m going to have to take some x-rays.” Denton said matter-of-factly.
“But, you said I was a perfect specimen of manhoo…I mean you said my teeth were perfect.” Clark heard himself whining.
“And so they are. But disease can often come from below and rot out the best of teeth. Inflamed nerves are often the first sign of disease. The fact yours may be totally severed makes them all the more dangerous as you have no normal pain response to alert you there is a problem arising.” Dentom stepped out and quickly returned, briskly wheeling in a portable X-ray machine.