What the Tooth Fairy Smells Like
By Andrea Afra
After investing several days of my sixth summer into the wiggling and tugging of a loose tooth, victory was finally mine. I held pinched between my thumb and forefinger the very first bottom tooth I had ever lost: The Right Central Incisor. The bloody tissue still clinging to its root was more fascinating than anything else I’d seen that day, yet I knew it wasn’t proper to present it to the Tooth Fairy with gore intact. At my insistence, my great-grandmother put a little red wooden stool in front of the bathroom sink so I could brush the tiny tooth clean one last time. I was giving it a final rinse when it slipped from my grasp and disappeared down the drain, and my heart fell in right behind it.
I gasped. Frantic, I stuck my fingers down the hole. I couldn’t reach it. I tried with my toothbrush, but I dropped it too.
“Oh no!” I wailed.
I heard Granny stomping fast across the thin carpet of her shotgun house.
“My lands! What happened?”
She sounded scared and that scared me, so I toned down the dramatics a notch, but I couldn’t help but cry.
“I lost it! It fell down the drain and now I can’t give it to the Tooth Fairy!” I covered my face with both hands and Granny did the same with hers. She did a decent job of hiding her smile, but I was too upset to see it still showed in her eyes. She had been “puttin’ on her face” by the light of a bare bulb at the Formica kitchen table and I saw that she’d only had time to draw on one charcoal gray eyebrow.
“Well, go check under the pillow anyways, hon. You never know, she still might come looking for it.”
I nodded and sniffed in assent and took off to go inspect every pillow in the house. There was nothing under either of the heavy feather pillows on her bed where we fell asleep each night watching Johnny Carson, and where every morning I’d wake up in the middle of the bed, tucked halfway under her. At just over five feet tall, she was still portly enough to weigh down her side of the mattress and several times a night I’d have to squirm out from under her to retreat to the elevation of my side of the bed.
Granny’s bedroom smelled nice, like Pond’s Cold Cream and Jean Naté powder, Elizabeth Taylor’s Passion and Oscar de la Renta perfume. I refused to sleep in the guest room at the front of the house. It had an odor of emptiness to it because no one ever slept there. The ‘fancy room’ was an ode to Granny’s favorite color and her old nickname, Ruby. The walls were painted a deep red and the frilliest white lace bed sat in the corner at an angle, stacked high with more frilly pillows where lacy dolls leaned, the old kind not meant for play, with their porcelain heads, shiny dark hair, and lash fringed eyes that blinked when you’d least expect.
I looked under all of the dolls, but not at their half-opened eyes, and under the pillows that were under yet more the pillows, but not a spot of green or silver peeked out of all the white.
I checked behind all of the throw pillows and flipped the cushions on the brown tweed sofa in the living room and ran back to look under the pillows in Granny’s room again. Still nothing. My first bottom tooth and the Tooth Fairy would never see it. Such a travesty had never befallen any other tooth and I was to blame. I flung myself down on the bed, praying for nightfall as it was just now after lunchtime, with one last hope for an overnight visit from the mystical lady despite the fact that the space between my pillowcase and the fitted sheet was shamefully barren.
Granny called out from the kitchen, “Any luck?”
I dragged my feet back to the table and sighed. “No. Nothing.”
I watched her press a tube of pearly red lipstick to her padded cheekbones and rub the color in with her fingers. It was the same color she wore on her lips. She had both eyebrows on now. On the table next to her sat a big silvery white wig perched on a Styrofoam head that helped keep its round shape and a small pile of bobby pins that she used to fasten it to her own thinning curls.
“I thought I heard something in the bathroom. Hope it was wasn’t a rat.” With delicate fingers, she pulled the wig off its stand like it was a cloud of platinum cotton candy and watched herself in the mirror as she placed it on her head. Without looking away, she picked up a few bobby pins and stuck one between her lips and muttered around it, “If it was a rat, I’d have smelled it already.”
Glancing at me out of the corner of her eye, she saw I was pouting and jerked her head towards the bathroom. “Well, go on. See what the noise was. Bring me my Oscar too, if you wouldn’t mind.”
The way Granny talked about rats made me feel sorry for them. I never saw one in her house, but I never doubted that she could smell them and every other rodent within a mile. Her back porch was screened in, but she left the door ajar so the cats could find their way in to the little cans of food she left out. The more cats, the less rats on her turf and her door was literally open to any feline that cared to drop by. She wouldn’t let them all the way in the house unless they were her cats, but she welcomed them all as her sentries.
I stepped through the doorway of the bathroom, looking, listening and sniffing the air, but there was no sign of any rat. Granny’s perfume was on the bathroom counter and as I stepped up on the stool to reach it, I couldn’t help but take one last forlorn glance at the sink.
And there, lying across the drain, was a crisp dollar bill.
I didn’t even touch it. I was awestruck. The Tooth Fairy. She had just been there. I stared it for a moment then jumped off the stool and dropped to the floor. I closed my eyes, pressed my face into the olive green carpet and inhaled. It smelled just like the perfumed powder Granny let me pat on after my baths.
I heard her chuckle as she came in the bathroom, and her laughter only paused for a moment when she saw me on my hands and knees, nose to the ground like a bloodhound on a trail.
I looked up and grinned at her wildly with the revelation, “The Tooth Fairy smells just like my Jean Naté!”
Moral of this Story:
A great loss can lead to great discoveries that would otherwise never be revealed…
Grannies kick ass!