Updated: Oct 6, 2022
It was one of the most pain-filled nights of my life.
Decay in my left top molar drove spikes into my gum and directly into the nerve. I moaned in bed, no medicine or balm seeming to help. Curled in a fetal position, my body quivered for hours, that agony hammering with each heartbeat into my skull and down through my limbs.
It was 2012. I was late on a book deadline, my 12th novel, titledTwo Seconds Late. Guilt and depression were setting in. My publisher was waiting on me.
And now I was wracked with pain.
My wife took me to a nearby dentist the next morning, but as a writer I had no medical insurance--which was common for self-employed writers before Obamacare. And we were waiting on my next check--which for writers come 6 to 12 months apart. We didn't have the $75 to apply for a payment plan, so we drove home and I waited until the nerve went numb and the pain subsided.
A year later, after frequent bouts with pain and with paranoia about my breath, I got the bugger pulled.
The relief was instant.
In the meantime, I merged real life into that 12th novel and turned it in a week late. The tooth-pulling scene, wow, it caused me to wince and also moved me with deep emotion.
Here's how it went: Without her knowledge, Natalie has had a poison-filled, remote-triggered implant put into her molar. A killer hundreds of miles away is ready to end her life. Only one man, Mr. Shofokey, understands the peril she faces and has moments to convince her that he must pull her tooth with pliers, with no painkiller, or she will die a most gruesome death.
It is a moment of blind faith. A moment like I had recently faced in my relationship with God, while wrestling with relational and financial woes. Did I trust Him even when things hurt, even when He seemed to cause me pain for no good reason? Would I surrender myself to His deeper knowledge and love?
As I typed out the rest of the scene, as Natalie spread open her jaws and felt the pliers take hold, I wanted to scream along with her. I wanted to yell at God for all the shit He lets go on in our lives, all the agony He seems to ignore. I wanted to fall on my knees and apologize for my arrogance, thinking I had a freakin' clue about what was best for me.
With tears and blood streaming down her face, Natalie watched her tooth fall to the floor. Two seconds later, it cracked and hissed, spewing deadly acid across the cement.
It is one of my favorite and most personal scenes I've ever written. It flipped a switch in my own heart and mind to start trusting again. To trust Mr. Shofokey.
In the final pages of the book, Mr. Shofokey's true identity is revealed.
Go read it, if you haven't already.
Either way, don't wait till the final pages to surrender. For me, life and peace and joy came in the pulling of a tooth.