Greek-American Stories

September 24, 2018
Phyllis “Kiki” Sembos

Yiannis walked into Dixon’s looking like an investor who had just learned his stocks failed. Getting his coffee and seating himself in silence the others wondered what was up with their friend. Pushing the plate of donuts toward him as a measure of comfort, Kipreos asked if he was feeling alright. “I got a problem,” he responded with a sigh. Looking up he asked John, “Isn’t your nephew, Panos, a dentist?” John nodded, “And, a good one, too. My wife and I go twice a year.”  “Tooth problems, Yiannis?” George asked with feigned concern. “Costs money to go to a dentist, you know.” “I know that!” Yiannis snapped. “I tried to ignore it but…” turning back to John. “How much does Panos charge for a visit? And, where is he located?” “About thirty dollars the last time I was there. So, sixty for me and my wife. Maybe, that’s his rate just for us. I don’t know,” he stressed. “He’s located five blocks from your house, Yiannis. Not far!” “THIRTY DOLLARS!” his outburst caused rubber-necking from the other tables. “Thirty dollars?” he said, more calmly. “Since I’m not related there’s no telling how much he’d charge. Well, one compensation, at least, it’s walking distance. How much to remove a tooth if it comes to that?”  “Depends on the situation, I think. But, about forty,” responded John. “Forty dollars is a good price!” Dimos clarified, hoping to ease Yiannis’ objections. “A visit at my dentist costs forty dollars. Tooth extraction and all together it would be about $150. But, it includes, anesthesia if not Novocain.” “Forty dollars just to walk into his office? A theater ticket costs less. And, you get entertainment too.”

Yiannis was exasperated. George quipped, “Maybe, Panos can sing a song while he removes the tooth. And, his receptionist can do a little dance for you.” “Cut the comedy, George!” snapped Yiannis. Grinning, George told him, “It can’t be an emergency if you can balk about the fees.” Turning his attention back to John, “I suppose anesthesia costs extra.” “Naturally!” John sipped his coffee. “It’s like a service station; using their oil and gas supplies are not free. Neither is anesthesia. But, at least, with Panos, you know you’re in good and efficient hands.”  “Huh! Looks like dentists charge a lot because they know you’re suffering and need them. Huh!” After a while, he appealed to John, “Can you…maybe…talk him into reducing the cost…for a good friend.”

“I can try,” John said conscious that a tooth ache can be a painful affliction. Trying to be helpful he added, “I believe a tooth extraction without anesthesia, Yiannis, would be, maybe, twelve dollars less. I’m not sure about that. Even if it is cheaper do you think you can you take it? You’d better not want to walk home afterwards with or without anesthesia. It’d be a tough walk. Consider taking a taxi!” Choosing to ignore that suggestion, he calculated the costs under his breath as the others watched and waited. About forty dollars the visit, thirty dollars for tooth pulling would be seventy dollars – minus twelve dollars without anesthesia … comes to fifty-eight dollars and, maybe, another reduction if John speaks to him on my behalf. Hmmm! Sipping his coffee with deep contemplation, his brain busily calculated the costs like an agent from the Internal Revenue Service, … “one hundred and forty dollars at Dimos’ dentist – less a few dollars if Dimos tells him I’m a veteran of W.W.II, could come to $128, at the least. One hundred and forty dollars is out of the question.”

Finally coming to a conclusion, he announced, “I’ve made the decision. I hope you’re not offended, Dimos.” Dimos waved his hand to signify, “not at all.” Setting down his coffee cup, he announced his final decision and informed John, “Ok, make an appointment with Panos, your nephew.” John, taking a paper napkin and pencil, asked, “When will you be able to go?” “Oh, it’s not for me! It’s for my wife, Areti.


Elmer ‘Lucky’ McGinty’s crystal clear memories of a life well lived flow with a thickness, a richness, that borders on the hypnotic.

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