23rd February


Everything was proceeding normally. The dentist probed and scraped, calling out numbers, and his assistant recorded the condition of each tooth as it was checked. Bob Cruikshank had his eyes closed, but he knew that this was what she was doing.

‘Very good,’ Bob heard the dentist say. Assuming that he was being addressed, Bob nodded slightly and made a reciprocal approving grunt.

‘Hang on,’ said the dentist. He seemed to be in the lower-left region. ‘That’s interesting.’ More probing and scraping. ‘Have a look at this.’

Bob felt Muriel leaning over him.

‘Wow,’ said Muriel.

‘Quite,’ said the dentist. ‘Relax, please, Mr Cruikshank. I want to go just a little deeper.’

There was a brief silence, then a kind of plughole gurgle. ‘Whoah, whoah, whoah!’ the dentist shouted, and in an instant he and Muriel were in amongst it like a SWAT team. A quick, professional-sounding exchange followed. Bob, unable to speak with his mouth full of equipment, was more than a little anxious.

‘Bring that over. Cap it. Right, clamp on. Secure? Good.’

‘This tank?’

‘Yeah, I think that’s wise. Where’s the uh . . . Oh, thanks.’

‘Pressure’s up to max now.’

‘Okay. Open that valve about a half-turn. Great. Now, Mr Cruikshank.’

Some, at least, of the equipment was removed from his mouth.

‘What’s up?’ Bob asked with some difficulty.

‘Nothing to worry about. On the contrary, it’s your lucky day. Our lucky day. Know what this is?’

Between his thumb and index finger was a plastic phial, in which a viscous-looking black globule was floating in some clear liquid.

‘I hope that didn’t come out of me,’ Bob said.

‘Oh, but it did,’ Muriel said. She clapped her hands. ‘It absolutely did.’

‘Oil,’ the dentist said. ‘That’s a big field down there. Nearly blew the tooth right out, but it’s safe now. Mr Cruikshank, I don’t think you’ll be paying any dental bills for a long time.’

‘Oil?’ Bob said. ‘Are you mad?’ He tried to sit up but the dentist held him down.

‘Mad? No,’ the dentist said. ‘Not mad, but rich – yes! You, me, Muriel – we’re going to be rich as Croesus. Muriel, off you go, girl. Fetch the big rig!’

Reader: Tam Dean Burn
Fiddle: Aidan O'Rourke
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