“Oh! I think I feel another one!”
Julie glanced at her little brother Brian. He was sitting on the living room couch with his right hand in his mouth.
“It’s definitely loose!”
Julie frowned and went back to her homework.
“Yup, it sure is.”
She looked at him out of the corner of her eye and then tried hard to concentrate on her fractions again. Up until recently, it had never bothered her that she hadn’t lost her baby teeth. It had just become a part of life like her perpetually-tangled brown hair or her ears that stuck out; it wasn’t a big deal. When the dentist had first told her, she was more confused than anything. Who didn’t lose their baby teeth?
“It happens sometimes,” Dr. Merton had said. “For most kids it starts around seven and since you’re almost nine, you’re probably not going to lose them. But don’t worry about it, your teeth are perfectly healthy.” He then handed her a new pink toothbrush.
Julie actually felt kind of lucky. She never had to deal with teeth hanging on by a gross string of gum or a mouth full of holes like the rest of her classmates. Last year her best friend Becky Harper had come to school with her face all swollen from a tooth that wasn’t coming in the right way. She had to spend three hours at the dentist. And although she had felt bad for Becky, secretly Julie was happy she wouldn’t have to deal with any pain.
“Yup,” Brian said, tugging on his tooth again. “The Tooth Fairy’s gonna love this one.” He jumped off the couch and ran into the kitchen. “Mom! Hey, Mom, I got another one…”
That was the only aspect of losing teeth Julie was sorry she was missing out on: the Tooth Fairy. But then again, Julie wasn’t even sure she was real. To her it seemed kind of silly; a fairy who collects teeth and pays you for them?
“She’s real,” Becky had said to her one day at lunch when Julie mentioned it. “She’s definitely real. She leaves me two dollars a tooth.”
“That’s nothing,” Marvin Hayes said, overhearing their conversation. “She gives me five bucks a tooth.”
Soon the whole lunch table and most of the cafeteria started talking about the Tooth Fairy and how much money she would leave. Julie could only listen. She wasn’t jealous, she kept telling herself. So, she wouldn’t get a few dollars from her loose teeth, so what?
Brian lost three more teeth in the next six weeks. Julie began to think he was doing it on purpose, that he was yanking out perfectly non-loose teeth just to bug her. Each time he would strut around the house — always ending in Julie’s room of course — and wonder aloud how much money the Tooth Fairly would leave him.
“It’s always a dollar, doofus,” Julie would say.
“I don’t know,” Brian would reply. “This tooth is pretty big. I think it might be worth five dollars.”
At that point, Julie would shove him out the door and slam it behind him.
“I knew it!” Brian screamed, as he ran into the kitchen one morning where everyone was eating breakfast. “I knew I’d get a lot more for that one!”
Julie, sitting at the kitchen table, swallowed a spoonful of Rice Krispies and rolled her eyes. “It’s another dollar, isn’t it?”
“Nope,” Brian said, shaking his head and beaming. “Look.”
At first Julie wasn’t quite sure what she was looking at; she had never seen a hundred dollar bill before.
“What?” she stammered. “Is that real?”
She reached for it but Brian snatched it back. He raced over to their father who was reading the newspaper. “Look, Dad! Look what the Tooth Fairy brought!”
Julie was seething. She lifted another scoop of cereal to her mouth but before it could get there, dropped the spoon into the bowl. Milk splashed onto her sleeve but she didn’t notice. She also didn’t notice her father’s shocked expression when he saw what Brian was holding; or her mother’s look of surprise when she reached into her purse and pulled out a one dollar bill.
All Julie could see was Brian, dancing around the kitchen and waving the hundred dollar bill.
Mom, holding a stack of neatly folded clothes, knocked on Julie’s bedroom door.
“I have some clothes for you.”
After another knock she opened the door. The room was dim.
There was a giggle from the closet and Mom smiled.
“Are you hiding, Julie? Can you come out and put your clothes away?”
There was another giggle.
“Julie, please. I have to start dinner.”
She dropped the clothes on the dresser and walked over to the closet.
“C’mon, Julie,” she said, opening the door and peering into the darkness. “Where are you?”
She jerked the light string and the bare bulb buzzed on. Julie’s feet were sticking out of a row of dresses.
“C’mon, Julie, I really have to-“
Mom stopped when she saw flecks of red on Julie’s white shoes.
She took a couple steps and pushed the hangers aside; they made a squealing noise as they slid along the metal bar. Julie gazed up at her. She was sitting Indian-style with her arm around a large stuffed monkey. Blood coated her lips and chin and red splotches covered her yellow shirt.
“Julie!” Mom shrieked, crouching down beside her. “What happened?!”
Julie giggled again. “Now she’ll come, she has to,” she said, droplets of red saliva spraying from her mouth.
“Who?” Mom asked. “Who has to come?”
A wide smile stretched across Julie’s somewhat misshapen face.
Mom grabbed Julie’s head in her hands and looked it over. She did the same with her arms and legs.
“Julie! What happened?!” she pleaded.
The trail of blood on the beige carpet flowed out of the closet and Mom scrambled back into the bedroom. She rushed over to the light switch and flipped it up. Light bounced off the pink walls and suddenly the whole sickly mess came into view. How did she not notice it before?
The reddish-brown line got thicker as it neared the bed and even thicker as it crept up the light blue sheets. It ended at the square green pillow. After glancing back at the closet, Mom slowly reached down and picked it up. There was a slight pause while her brain registered what she was looking at, and then she screamed. She took a shaky step backwards, nearly tripping over a pair of rusty, wet pliers.
“Now she has to come,” Julie said from the closet and began giggling again.
| COPYRIGHT 2006-2011
Portland Fiction Project
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED