Milk Teeth

This one is for my daughter, whose first adult teeth are growing through, although she’s yet to lose the old ones, making her look like a toothy Chthonian nightmare.

“It’s out! Mum! Dad! it’s out!”, yelled Tracey. She came running into the living room brandishing an apple. In it was embedded a blood-spattered ivory peg, the size and shape of a wrinkled pea. “It’s out!”

Both parents squealed and fetched the envelope she’d made, covered in crude writing and glitter glue. Carefully they popped the little tusk inside, sealing it up with sticky tape. “For the tooth fairy” said her mother, and winked conspiratorially.

Tracey tongued the exposed nerve. She could feel it all the way down through her jaw, and the nub of the new tooth bursting through. A little fibrous strand poking up from the bloody gap. Sore, but not so sore or unpleasant that she could leave it alone for more than a second. The nerve wriggled and jerked as she brushed her teeth, twisted under the tip of her tongue as her father plaited her hair for bed, and distracted her from story time.

And when lights went out, Tracey couldn’t sleep. She could feel the envelope through her pillow, every rustle of the curtain or clink from the kitchen ripped her back into wakefulness, in case she missed a glimpse of the fairy. Until ever so slowly, without her notice, she drifted into darkness.

It wasn’t a soft tinkle or the glitter of dusty light that roused her, it was the throbbing tingle where her tooth had been — a twisting glissando in the bone that drew her out of the depths of REM into a waking dream. Through the slits of her eyelids, she could make out a faintly glimmering shadow, darting around her head, and sniffing at the air.

“You’re real!” Tracey whispered, as the nerve in her lower jaw twisted and shivered, all jittery impatience. The fairy gave a little gasp, and made to flee, but it was too late. Like a bloody vine, the nerve shot out of Tracey’s mouth and wrapped itself around the fairy’s neck.

“Mum!” She cried, her mouth half full of blood and sinew, “Mub! Dab! I gob one! I gob a weal toof fairy!” But they were already there in the doorway, arms around each other’s waists and looking proudly at their baby, all grown up.

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