One of my wisdom teeth is coming in, and my dentist is on holiday. It’s my own fault: he’d warned me to have them taken out, and I hadn’t listened. On Monday, while waiting until I could take the next ibuprofen, I emailed intelligentdesign.org: ‘How do you account for wisdom teeth?’ The blessings of suffering?
I looked for mentions of wisdom teeth in fiction. Up came the novels of Ian McEwan: a wisdom tooth extraction provides a suspected criminal with an alibi in Saturday, and in On Chesil Beach, when the boy kisses the girl, ‘he probed the fleshy floor of her mouth, then moved around inside the teeth of her lower jaw to the empty place where three years ago a wisdom tooth had crookedly grown until removed under general anaesthesia.’
I was stung by a jellyfish the other week. Actually, I was stung by two jellyfish in the space of three days. But the first one must have been a tiddler, because after the initial panic – is my leg going numb? am I going to drown? – and slatherings of hydrocortisone the reaction quickly subsided. Pathetic, I thought. Not much more than a transparent floating squishy stinging nettle. Two days later I was splashing happily about a few dozen yards from another Aeolian beach when someone snuck up from below and pressed a red hot skillet against my wrist. Flailing away, I got stung again on my thigh. By the time I got back to the beach most of my forearm had swollen up, and my wrist was decorated with raised white welts, quite elegant in their way, like variations by Picasso on the Nike swoosh.