Family Stories

The Tooth War…and its aftermath

by S.E. Schlosser

Not too long ago my niece lost another tooth.  Being an enterprising child who is not afraid to believe in the tooth fairy if it means receiving money, she stuck it under her pillow.  Obedient to custom, her father -- Tooth-fairy Tim -- did his job well, and in the morning she was richer by one dollar. 

My enterprising niece took her lost-tooth story to my father, Pop-Pop Schlosser, and the upshot was another dollar.  In triumph, she turned her eye upon her maternal grandfather - relating her tooth tale with the added rider that she'd received a whole dollar from Pop-Pop Schlosser.  The result?  Five smackeroos!  Talk about upping the ante.  My niece hastened to inform Pop-Pop Schlosser of her maternal grandfather's tooth generosity.  Pop-Pop Schlosser promptly whipped out his wallet and handed her a ten.  My eyes just about popped out.  My teeth had been worth a quarter and no questions asked. 

So my niece scored seventeen bucks for one tooth.  Smart kid.  Knows how to work the system.  Mentally filing this information away, I turned my attention to other matters; until the day I lost the dang molar with the $1000 root canal in it.  Blasted thing fell out while I was chewing bubblegum, mind you, and didn't even have the decency to come out all the way.  Nope.  It broke at the gumline.  (Serves me right for chewing bubblegum, I guess.) 

Now I knew this was going to be expense.  Very.  Tooth extraction, bridgework/implant, and whatever else the dentist saw fit to impose upon me.  Dental bills loomed on the horizon.  That's when I remembered the tooth war.  Ah ha!  Ten bucks a pop from my father the tooth fairy.  That should help alleviate some of the pain. 

I picked up the phone and called my father. 

"Hey Pop," I caroled cheerfully into the phone.  "Guess what?"

"What?" he asked obediently.

"I lost a tooth!" I exclaimed. 

"Oh dear," he responded and asked for details, which I happily supplied.  Got to get him warmed up and sympathetic to my cause.  When I felt the mood was right, I threw in the big question:  "So Pop, how much do I get from the tooth fairy for my tooth?"

"Nothing!" said my hard-hearted father. 

"Nothing!" I exclaimed in my best shocked-and-disappointed voice.  "My niece got ten bucks."

"She's a kid," my father said.  "You've got a job and dental insurance."

This was going to take some work.  But I was prepared. 

"Yeah, but it's MUCH harder to lose a tooth in your thirties than when your nine," I told him. 

"You've got a job," repeated my suddenly-thrifty father. 

"It's a molar," I wheedled in my best Daddy's-little-girl voice. 

He didn't budge. 

I played my ace. 

"It's got a thousand dollars worth of dental work in it!" 

"Get out of here!  You've got dental insurance," said my father. 

Blast!  He wasn't to be moved.  Fortunately, my Mom was listening to this exchange on the extension in the living room, and she was a soft touch.  I appealed. 

"Hey Mom, how about it?" I asked.  "Can't the tooth fairy supply a little something?"  I threw everything I had into this final plea:  "Thirties!  Molar! One thousand dollars worth of dental work.  Must be worth at least ten bucks."

"Sorry dear," my mother said primly with only the faintest hint of a chuckle in her voice.  "Your father's in charge of the tooth fairy."

Dang!  Beaten by a nine-year-old. 

After hanging up the phone, I glumly regarded the errant tooth.  Cost me a thousand bucks already and I was pretty sure the fee would be double that before I was through.  And that was WITH dental insurance.  With a sigh, I tossed it into the garbage and went to call the dentist. 

I was right about the cost.  That first bill hurt almost as much as the extraction, and there would be more to come.  It was then I realized I should have saved the tooth.  I could have used it as collateral for a low-interest loan to cover dental costs. 

Hmm.  I wonder if the bank believes in the tooth fairy? 

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