At some point in the silent post-midnight hours after I went to bed, but before dawn’s chirruping chorus awoke my second son, Quentin Wilberforce, T.F. visited himself upon us yet again. I have never seen Quentin, nor have I heard the passage of his footfalls outside our door. He must be very light to avoid squeaking the wood floorboards in the hallway.
I imagine Quentin as short, perhaps Hobbit-short, small as a four year old child, and very, very thin. I see him as older and dapper, with graying mutton chop whiskers. Archaic clothes, well worn but exquisitely tailored, with bone buttons on a tweed waistcoat. I have never asked Geran what Quentin looks like, and he has not asked me. None of us know for sure, though he leaves a calling card each time he visits our home, so as invisible visitors go, he is unmistakably corporeal.
We have naturally assumed the T.F. appended to Quentin’s name stands for “Tooth Fairy,” though this has always been implied, never spelled out. His visits are marked by notes left for Geran, written on tooth-shaped paper with carefully-canceled tooth-shaped stamps. These notes are a dead giveaway, an unmistakable clue as to Quentin’s fairy nature, as they are seldom seen except when left by visiting creatures of Toothkind. The stamps alone would mark this as peculiar, and I have never seen similar commemorative postage issued by the U.S. Mail.
I thought the most recent note that Quentin left had a rather odd shape, and not at all the typical Tooth. It was as dissimilar from the standard outline of teeth as a real heart from a Valentine, but Geran pointed out that the shape of his latest card matched his small, prolate pearl of a tooth.
As I recall, my elder son, who is now closer to losing his Wisdom Teeth than to his last, long-passed “baby tooth”, had more than one tooth fairy in his day. One was female, I believe. I don’t recall her name. For some reason the male’s name sticks in my head, however: Throckmorton Idyll Bluster III, T.F. A mouthful of a moniker, and one that required a full set of teeth to pronounce.
Geran has, I believe, only been visited by Quentin, a seemingly small and delicate fairy as evidenced by the ornate and miniscule script.
Throckmorton and his female counterpart visited Ben a large number of times. Thrice in one memorable week: one tooth which fell out naturally, one which was pulled, and one which fell victim to an apple. I’m sure there’s a story in there somewhere, one that gets told by Throckmorton Idyll Bluster himself, at dark and musical Tooth Fairy gatherings, over flagons of questionable beverages around green and ghostly campfires on the moor.
Once, toward the middle of his prime tooth-giving years, Ben asked Marci, “Mommy, are you the tooth fairy?”
Marci looked at him and replied, “Do you really think I have time to fly to peoples’ houses all night and take away little kids’ teeth?”
Hesitation. “No, I guess not.”
“Well, there you have it, then.”
On another occasion, Ben said somewhat hesitantly, “Daddy, if I asked you to tell me the truth about the tooth fairy, would you?”
“Is that something you really want to know?”
He thought about it. “Not right now.” He never mentioned it again, and as he has grown into a young skeptic, I’m glad for that. The Tooth Fairy has been a tangible presence, unseen but definitely sensed, and a “small god” of the most personal sort. Some mysteries are best left alone.
Both boys wrote notes to their respective tooth fairies. Geran still does, since he’s the one who is still losing teeth. The notes are brief and, I imagine, as hard to read by Quentin as they are by me. But the messages are heartfelt and sincere. How are you? Is there a Tooth Fairy Queen? Do you have a middle name? Where do the teeth go when you take them?
I imagine some sort of castle made from the teeth, but I’m not positive on that count. As I’ve already said, there is undoubtedly a moor involved. And dim light even at midday.
One thing I can definitely say about the Tooth Fairy is that the money exchanged for teeth has risen. I’m not sure it’s kept up with inflation, but as I recall, the tooth fairies of the 1970’s paid in quarters, and today’s T.F. pays in small bills.
I imagine the polar opposite of the Tooth Fairy: a tooth demon, wicked and sharp-incisored, who pulls teeth before they’re ready to come out. Some times I will threaten that if the kids do not get ready for bed they will be visited by the Tooth Demon. It hasn’t happened. But that doesn’t mean it won’t.
Perhaps the Tooth Demon visits us already, and leaves bad breath, oily hair, and socks on the floor. That would explain a lot. If so, the Tooth Demon is much busier than the Tooth Fairy in my house.
But much less welcome.