At the dentists. She measures my face with a dental compass. ‘How big is it?’ I ask. ‘Big and round enough.’ Irish, she says, , ‘How’s your home? ‘ as she wields the knife. I think of my home, that ruin. She says, ‘Let me clean you up,’ and wipes my tatty moustache with a fragrant tissue, attentive as an assassin. Later I see inside the staff rest room. On a shiny, dismayed table dead-centre, a foot-and-a-half high rotted cactus, penile and mocking and hopeless. Nothing else. Nothing. Except from the walls, huge images of women’s arctic smiles look down smiling insanely. I imagine a crime, and these the suspects; what have they done? I interrogate them one by one. They each have a dental alibi, and charts and x-rays to prove it. What next? This case is cold. Have you a minute, asks the charity worker? No. An hour? he shouts after me. Have you an hour? Do you? I hate his red beard. I would love to measure his face with my fist.

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