He stood there in the kitchen, his eyes wide and his mouth wider. There was a tiny tooth in his outstretched hand. My mind drifted quickly to the contents of my wallet.
His tooth had been loose for days, and frankly I should have known better. However, if life has taught me anything it is that I am slow at learning lessons, and my pockets were as empty as the new, dark space between his teeth.
“I’m going to put it under my pillow,” he said. Then he added, “I’m bleeding!”
I grabbed a paper towel, rolled it into a thin tube of kitchen gauze, and placed it gently on the red pool forming in his gums.
“You’ll be fine,” I said and we never talked about it again.
By “it” I meant the bleeding. The prospects of pillow prospecting, however, grew grander by the minute. I considered ATMs, IOUs, and other letters of the alphabet before I remembered seeing some random change in the car and a bit on the counter. Perhaps it would all add up to the going rate of a freshly lost tooth. I prepared to talk to him about the recession in case the tooth fairy needed a scapegoat.
After some gentle brushing, a story from his mother, and some rather tedious arranging between a tooth and a pillow, he fell asleep. I waited up for hours.
The room was lit by smartphone. I tiptoed around toys, shoes, and sleeping dogs that couldn’t be bothered. I was a messenger with a note signed T.F. and a handful of quarters taped upon it. The tooth fairy, it turns out, is nothing if not resourceful. Suddenly his head, despite it being one tooth down, was heavier than it had ever been. Every little noise echoed through the night like thunder.
I managed to place the note and its adhered reward under the pillow and reached around for the obligatory exchange. However, there was a little hand where the tooth should be, and it was clutching its contents tightly. I decided to leave the tooth behind.
In the morning he looked at the note, the coins, and the tooth. None of it seemed to phase him.
“The tooth fairy didn’t take my tooth,” he said. “It was probably too much, because all of these quarters must be heavy.”
He counted his change, did some math, and asked me my opinion. We both agreed that he had received two whole dollars.
“I have a dime in my backpack,” he said. “I found it on the ground.”
“You’re rich,” I told him.
“I’m saving it,” he said. “How much is a ticket to Disneyland?”
The next tooth might just get a check.