Backwoods Jack!

categories: Cocktail Hour


 I have never been a fan of writing exercises. Back in school, I would immediately freeze up when asked to do one in class. I couldn’t write on demand, after all, I was a young genius and so I wrote when inspired or when alone in my study. Well, the other day I had the opportunity to sit in on a class where an exercise was given and I went ahead and did it. I won’t tell you what the exact prompt was, since that is the intellectual property of the teacher, but the prompt worked–it prompted. And I found myself beginning a short essay on a subject I have never written about: the history of my troubling teeth. Here is how it starts:


I stare at the hard, green apple and I think of my teeth. More accurately, of the history of my teeth. It is not a pretty history. Were I to bite into the apple’s shining surface, a full chomping bite, I would surely leave one of those teeth–likely my fake right front–in the fruit’s hard flesh.


Just the way I, by the way, left it many years ago in the skull of an ultimate Frisbee player who was guarding me. It was freshman year of college and we both went up for the disc. I went higher and when I landed came down right on top of him. We both found ourselves writhing on the ground. I, suddenly toothless, and he with a piece of tooth jutting out of the top of his skull.

“Backwoods Jack,” my friend Hones would call me during those times in my twenties when I would lose the tooth again. Once it happened surface diving in a swimming pool–I remember the muffled underwater “clink” sound as tooth hit the bottom of the pool. Another time biting into a piece of lobster and somehow hitting claw. Yet another when it was hit with a Frisbee during a throwing drill. And of course a couple of times playing pick up basketball.

It was as if I had a secret identity. WASPY New Englander most of the time but then, suddenly, Backwoods Jack!

Well, that’s as far as I got. Not sure if there’s an essay in it, or if toothlessness is as fascinating a subject as it once seemed to me. Just glad the tooth has stayed in my head for almost six years in a row now. A personal record.






  1. Richard Gilbert writes:

    Great! Have you read John Updike’s saga about his teeth in his memoir Self Consciousness? If not, you must!

  2. Debora writes:

    Hahaha! OMG, what a funny pic! One thing is for sure, I could never pull-off that look. How do mange to still be cute?

  3. George de Gramont writes:

    Good writers seem to like writing about their teeth (painful subject ) . Love Nina’s comment.