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Chapter 5: Visiting the dentist

About the serial story

The Monroe Times is presenting the serial story, "Roscoe's Treasure," provided by author Frances Milburn, The Watertown Daily Times and its Newspapers in Education coordinator Dawn McBride, and shared with members of the Wisconsin Newspaper Association. The story, written for third-graders and above, explores what happens when a family's dog named Roscoe returns home with a set of false teeth. The story unfolds in nine chapters on Wednesdays and Thursdays, beginning Nov. 12. Teacher materials are also provided for use in the classroom or at home.

The story so far ... Belle and her family are working to find the owner of the denture plate that their dog Roscoe brought home after a few days of wandering. They first checked with the neighbors and then put an ad in the paper. Grandma visits and Belle learns she wears a denture plate too.

The ad appeared in Wednesday's newspaper with a big caption MISSING YOUR DENTURE? I came home from school and expected the phone to ring immediately. But the house phone remained silent. Surely, whoever was missing teeth would check the paper. I begged the phone to ring. But it didn't make a sound all evening. For the first time, it hit me that we might not find the owner.

The next day, Dad took me with him to visit our family dentist. Since Roscoe brought the teeth to me, Dad wanted me to be a part of the detective work. We arrived at Dr. Trbovich's office around 3:30 in the afternoon. The receptionist was writing on a pad when we approached the window. Looking up, she slid open the little glass door. Her curly red hair was puffy and stuck out to the sides. "May I help you?" She smiled, showing very large, white teeth. Definitely not fake at her age ... At least I didn't think so.

Dad cleared his throat. "I'd like to talk to Dr. Trbovich about an important matter."

"Do you have an appointment?" She tilted her head and gazed very seriously at us through her window.

"No, but this should only take a few minutes. I can guarantee she'll want to hear what I have to say." Dad gave a reassuring smile.

The receptionist frowned and sat up straight. "The doctor is busy with patients, and ..."

"Listen, Miss ..." Dad interrupted, looking at her name tag. "Rosa Butler, we are patients of hers. And this is important. It's a ... dental matter."

Rosa sighed. "Have a seat. I will check with her." She rose and disappeared behind the inner door. We sat in the middle of a row of chairs, Dad tapping his foot impatiently. I grabbed a magazine with a woman showing off her straight, white teeth across the cover. Teeth were everywhere! The minutes passed.

Finally, the side door opened. Dr. Trbovich appeared, dressed in her white smock. "Hi Carl." She looked over at me. "And, Belle! You look bigger each time I see you." Her smile revealed a row of small, not quite so white teeth. Her hair was piled in a messy stack on the top of her head. "Rosa said you have an important matter. Come on back to my office."

We followed her into a small room with a desk, and she motioned us to sit down in the chairs across from her. On the wall behind her, there was a poster of a striped cat showing off a perfect set of teeth. A model of a big tooth on her desk caught my eye, and I picked it up and examined it.

"So how can I help?"

Dad retold our story about Roscoe and his denture. As Dad explained the details, Dr. Trbovich started smiling, a twinkle in her eye.

"I never heard of such a thing! Who would think a dog could steal someone's teeth?" But then she got serious. "A denture can be very expensive ... up to $1,600 a plate."

Dad whistled through his teeth. "Didn't realize it was that expensive! But we did figure someone must be very upset about the missing denture. We already put an ad in the paper, but so far, no one has called. Mr. Cordova from the paper asked if dentures have any identification, and that made me think I should contact all the dentists in town. I thought if you called all your patients who you've fitted with dentures, you could find out if anyone was missing their teeth ..."

"They are just beginning to put identification on dentures. But my patients don't have that yet." She folded her hands together. "I'm not sure how many patients I have in this situation. A lot ... It would be some work."

Dad and I watched her hopefully in silence. "But I guess I could do it. I wouldn't want any of my patients missing their plate. And it might lead to the owner."

She looked up at Dad. "Of course if I find the owner, I can't give you their phone number. It's a privacy thing. You'll have to bring the denture in, and we'll return it to the patient. Is it an upper or lower?"

"I have no idea. I'm not an expert on false teeth." Dad reached into his jacket pocket. "But I just happened to bring it along." He drew out a plastic bag and handed it over. "Don't worry, we cleaned the thing."

"Upper," Dr. Trbovich said. "And by the way, putting ID on a denture is becoming more common, and some day, this technology will solve this type of problem immediately, like the ID chip vets insert in a dog in case he gets lost."

Dad retold the story over again to each of the other three dentists in our town. All of them agreed to go through their files and contact their patients who wore dentures. I felt much more confident that we'd find the owner in the next few days.

Meanwhile, Roscoe seemed to forget about his adventure and went back to his lazy ways of lying in the sun by the window. He didn't look around for his treasure and was content to play with his own toys. And best of all, he didn't leave the yard again.

Everyone in our family also seemed to forget about the teeth, except me. Each evening as I loaded the dishwasher and cleaned the sink, I'd look at the denture plate, still in a plastic bag that Mom left on the kitchen hutch shelf. Someone needed those teeth and was wondering over and over again where they were.

And then one evening, when I looked over at the hutch, I was shocked. The bag with the denture was gone ...