Saturday 24 June 2023

Debut Flash: 'Teeth' by Martha Hampson

Her teeth arrived early, eager to experience what the universe had to offer. By five months she had eight of them, crenellated edges like the gates to a new world: a sensory kaleidoscope of crisp-snap-crunch. Wide-eyed, she rubbed them with her tongue, her knuckles, her toes; gnawed the bars of her cot until the paint flaked away. She greeted strangers by grabbing their fingers to run along the ridges, dribbling proudly. She bit me, hard, just once, the bloody milk shocking her more than my pain.

After five years' service the first smoothed pebbles fall out, their replacements already pushing up for air. She brushes them clean at the kitchen table, holding each one up to the light before placing it in a tiny hessian bag to exchange for two shiny coins under her pillow.

How will the Tooth Fairy know? she asks.

There's a list, I say.

Like the one Father Christmas has?

Yes, probably.

Maybe they share it, she says, nodding with satisfaction at the efficiency, eyelids closing.

"I can't believe they're gone," I sob into my husband's shoulder, "I didn't even say goodbye."

Gently, he reminds me that nothing is ever really gone, because we are all parts of one another: stardust and DNA regenerating in an endless swirl of love and memory. And, also, that the Tooth Fairy is me.

In midnight darkness we lift her soft small head from the pillow, her hot breath ragged with dreams. The switch is made with a solemn sprinkling of blue glitter. We feel ludicrous.

As I tip the teeth tenderly into my hand, I resist a compulsion to eat them, to return them to where they had grown. A part of me, a part of her, jettisoned without sentiment, for the price of a strawberry lolly.

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