BABY TOOTH • by Suki Litchfield

I was lying in bed, wiggling my new loose tooth, when I started thinking about the Tooth Fairy. I was just trying to slide into sleep before my parents started fighting in the next room, but all of a sudden I realized: There aren’t any boy fairies. By the time my dad was slamming things and my mom was crying I thought: So if the Tooth Fairy can’t get married, how can she have kids? By the time my father was snoring and my mother was whispering into the phone I had figured out the truth: The Tooth Fairy must make her own kids. Out of clay and rocks or magic or something, and they look perfect except for their teeth. That’s why she needs mine.

In the coming days she began following me wherever I went, just waiting to take part of my body from me. She would keep out of sight, but I was certain I could sense her behind trees, in passing cars, in the cloakroom at school. I was pretty sure she had rummaged through my cubby. I fell asleep during Storytime and jolted awake, thinking her long, cold fingers were reaching into my mouth.

But it seemed as though she had to wait for my tooth to fall out. I tried to stop wiggling it. I started smiling with my mouth shut. I tried not to talk.

But I couldn’t make the tooth less loose. Even when I wasn’t touching it or brushing it or anything it still kept breaking free, a little at a time, from the gum. Eventually it was spending more time sideways than straight up. And one night I knew that if I didn’t want her to have it, I had no choice.

If I don’t pull it out myself, I thought, it will come out in my sleep. Then nothing would keep her from stealing it. I was certain she was standing in the dark of my room, watching me in my bed. If my parents hadn’t been shouting so loud I knew I would be able to hear her breathing.

I pressed my lips together and started wiggling it with my tongue. It went flat, but it didn’t come loose. Knowing she was watching me I pretended to cover my mouth with my hand while I yawned, but I secretly stuck my pointer finger in my mouth and jammed at the tooth. Please, I thought. It remained attached.

I thought of brave things — knights and dinosaurs and big dogs — while I counted backwards from ten. Then I took a deep breath, plunged my hand into my mouth and grabbed the tooth. I could feel her creeping closer and closer in the dark and my father smashing something in the next room and my own crying as I pushed my tooth from side to side to break it free. My fingers were covered with spit and the tooth slipped from my fingers but I grabbed it again and yanked hard. The last strand of gum finally released it. I immediately covered my mouth with both hands and swallowed the tooth like a little bloody rock.

I could feel her disappointment as she wafted away. It did not diminish my triumph. Not even when I thought of her toothless child. As I was drifting off to sleep I thought of the poor kid, a boy who looked just like me, drooling and looking out the window, waiting like a baby bird for his mother to come home.

Suki Litchfield writes and works at a haunted inn in St Augustine, Florida. She has just completed her first novel.

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