490 Words

I was just a little boy when my teeth fell out. Mama’s fell out then too.

“You leave that tooth under your pillow and the Toothfairy’ll come get it. Trade you a quarter.”

“How will she know it’s there, mama?”

“See that little hole in the bottom there? She can smell the blood.”

Mama said we got bad teeth. She’d come again after I’d lost all the big ones too. I’m 28 now and that’s starting.

I put them in the garbage at the 7-Eleven. She can smell her way over there.

***

Mama warned:

“If you’re awake when she comes, close your lips and eyes; pretend to sleep.” she smiled, left canine missing and one along the jaw, then demonstrated.

Mama said the Toothfairy puts quarters for kids because that’s all kids need. Adults got different needs, no longer needing quarters. She wouldn’t tell me what.

As they fell out, I traded my teeth for quarters; I traded the quarters for gumballs.

***

I was eight, baby teeth nearly done. Two came out the same day. Excitement kept me awake, tossing in bed thinking about handfuls of M&M’s. The Toothfairy ain’t like you think. She’s no small thing. She doesn’t smell like sunshine and forest breeze. She smells like cheap beer. She’s too fat to fly.

She climbed in through my window, cheap pumps snagging on the curtain, tripping onto the tatty rug. She was covered in dirt. One would expect the Toothfairy to be beautiful…but she ain’t like that. Not at all.

Her face was a twisted bloat; nose broken red from gin. She had about four chins and a gut.

“Ain’t you s’posed to be asleep?”

I closed my eyes tightly and pursed my lips, but I remembered too late.

“I know you ain’t sleepin’ I just seen you awake!”

I opened my eyes. She licked her lips with a gray abscessed tongue and I saw the teeth that glistened, all slavered inside, were a mismatched array of color and size.

“Three,” she sniffed and muttered, pleased. “One from your ma and your two makes three.”

She plucked a mirror from her bra and after a moment examining her jaw, pulled out three of her own rotten teeth. Chucked them out the window.

I could hear mama humming down the hall. I wanted to scream but fear kept me paralyzed.

“You know the rules, when I come here you ain’t s’posed to see, so I’ll grab underneath your pillow and after, kiss you to sleep.”

Her kiss did not put me to sleep. Nor mama whose humming sound changed to wet slurping.

That night I learned what the Toothfairy brings when you don’t need quarters no more. When your husband leaves and there’s no one to love you like before.

The tooth fairy kissed mama the same way she’d kissed me, snaking her leprous tongue into my mouth like a worm–the difference is mama sounded like she enjoyed it.