My ten-year-old brother Eli lost a tooth tonight. The crazy thing is after he had been to bed for a good thirty minutes he came back out with another loose tooth, complaining it was hurting and keeping him from sleep. I said I’d have a look at it. He opened up wide and a bloody mote formed around his teeth. I grabbed a tissue, with promises of only “checking it”, wiggled the tooth a bit, and realized it wasn’t quite ready to be pulled. I prescribed one tissue to bite on until just before he fell asleep (and to be removed before doing so), and immediate rest. He went back to bed.
About thirty minutes later I heard my mom go in Eli’s room. They talked, and then she came out and into my room. She had “foiled again” look on her face and a wad of money. She held up the handful of cash.
She whispered, “He’s still awake and I’m about to go to bed. Could you be the Tooth Fairy?”
Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa! I was not sure if I was ready for that kind of responsibility. I felt slightly insecure, but I realized there was really no other option. I think my mom picked up on my posing-as-an-imaginary-person-anxiety by the hesitation in my voice, “Um, yeah?”
She reassured me, “He doesn’t really believe in the Tooth Fairy anymore, but we still do this just for fun,” she said, probably also doubting my Tooth Fairy skills at that point. I agreed to do it. She thanked me and handed me the wad of cash, and the responsibility laid heavy on my shoulders. It felt like a truck-full of iron at first, but then I tried to hype myself up. It can’t be all that difficult, I thought to myself. I shrugged off the nerves, and continued doing stupid tweets.
About thirty minutes later I figured I had allowed enough time to pass for Eli to be deep into REM sleep. I grabbed the money and headed out of my bedroom to make the exchange. I snuck up to his door in a way that would have made the most stealth-like ninja proud. I understood why the Tooth Fairy has wings in all the pictures because I was walking so quietly I was practically floating. I started to get cocky. Who does this Tooth Fairy think she is and what does she have to complain about?! This job is easy! I thought. I opened the door without making a sound. I was not even aware doors could be opened so quietly before that moment.
I tiptoed over to Eli’s bed and began my reach for the pillow, quietly thrusting the cash towards it. Eli sat straight up and looked at me! I put the money behind my back and bent over nonchalantly. He looked at me as though I was crazy, or a stalker, or just a weirdo who liked to stare at him while he sleeps. I awkwardly asked, “So, not asleep yet huh?”
Eli gave me the weirdo look again, “Well, I kind of was a little…”, he stopped speaking suddenly. Insert “until I heard heavy breathing and felt eyeballs staring down my neck and woke up really freaked out,” into that pause.
I fake laughed, and then faked concern, “Your tooth still hurting?” as if I had just come in to check on that.
He wiggled his tooth as though he had forgotten about it, “Um…I guess, a little,” which actually means, “Um…well, I didn’t even feel it until you woke me up!”
I got frank with him, “Look, you know about the Tooth Fairy and all right?”
He answered confidently, “Yeah, it’s mom and dad.”
I leaned down onto the bed casually, pushed my shoulder into Eli (blocking his view of his pillow), and made the exchange, cash for plastic ziplock bag with the tooth in it. I spoke as I worked, “Well, good then. Nothing to see here. You just get some rest now.” I pretended to fluff the pillow, then stood up quickly and ran for the door. I waved my fingers in the air just before I closed the door, “You didn’t see anything!” Eli was still sitting up, just smiling at me as though I am a fool. He was onto my little game. I shut the door, and ran down the hall with the tooth. I don’t know why I ran but I think it was Substitute Tooth Fairy adrenaline. So yeah, my first time standing in as the Tooth Fairy was an absolute failure. I’m going to write her an email to tell her I’ve always underestimated her work, and I am deeply sorry for that.
Substitute Tooth Fairy mission…FAIL!