Fooling the Tooth Fairy
by Judith Laura
Beth had begged and begged until finally Mommy said it was okay for her to go to the beach with Arlene and her family and stay for two nights at their beach house. When the day to go finally came, Beth got nervous because one of her bottom teeth was loose. She didn’t want to say anything after she had finally convinced her mother to let her go, so she just worried. She tried to keep smiling as Mommy packed her suitcase and took her over to Arlene’s, but every now and then her tongue would sneak over to the tooth and wobble it back and forth, hoping it would come out when her mother was still around.
But it didn’t and sitting in the back seat of Arlene’s family’s car as they drove to the beach, Beth confided to her friend, “I have a loose tooth.”
“Me too,” Arlene said.
“Whenever I lose a tooth, I put it under my pillow at night and the tooth fairy comes and takes it and leave me some money. But if I lose the tooth while we’re at the beach, the tooth fairy won’t know where to find me.”
“The tooth fairy leaves me money too,” Arlene said. “So it’ll just come find you at our beach house.”
The next day at the beach, after Beth stood in the ocean up to her waist and then got knocked down a little by a wave, Beth’s tooth fell out . As she ran from the ocean, she cupped the tooth in her hand. When she reached Arlene’s mother, Sophie, she opened her hand, but she didn’t look at it because sometimes when teeth fell out they looked weird. Sophie got a tissue from her beach bag and gave to Beth to wrap her tooth in. Then she took Beth to the ladies room so she could rinse out her mouth because it had blood in it. That night, Beth put her tooth under her pillow wrapped in a tissue just like she did at home. In the morning, Beth looked under her pillow. The tooth and tissue were gone and instead there was a shiny half dollar. At home, the tooth fairy left her just a dime for each tooth. When Beth told that to Arlene’s parents, Arlene’s father winked at her and Sophie said, “You got more this time because it was a bigger tooth.”
“But I always get fifty cents for my teeth, even if they’re little,” Arlene said.
“Arlene, just eat your eggs,” Sophie said.
That fall when Beth and Arlene were in the second grade, one night Beth was sleeping over at Arlene’s and they decided to fool the tooth fairy. Actually it was Arlene’s idea, but since they were at Arlene’s house, Beth had to go along with it. They took two little pieces of white Kleenex and rolled them up very tiny so they looked like baby teeth were in them. Arlene put one wad under her pillow and Beth put the other wad under her pillow. They figured the tooth fairy kept so busy going to the houses of all the children who had lost teeth that it didn’t have time to unwrap the tissues to make sure there were really teeth in them. So the tooth fairy would be leaving them each a half dollar even though there was nothing in their tissues. Arlene was giggling so much at the idea of fooling the tooth fairy that Beth thought she would never fall asleep.
The next morning they got up and looked under their pillows. But no half dollars. No money at all. The empty tissue wads were still there.
“Maybe there isn’t any tooth fairy,” Arlene said. “You know what? I think my daddy is the tooth fairy because if there really was a tooth fairy, it would have been fooled by the Kleenex.”
“There has to be a tooth fairy,” Beth said. But then stopped before Arlene could start asking why she thought that. Because if Arlene’s daddy was the tooth fairy then either Arlene’s father also gave Beth the money when she was at home—and she didn’t think he had time for that—or her own daddy was the tooth fairy at her house and she didn’t think that was true because her parents were poor and probably didn’t even have enough to give her a dime every time she lost a tooth.
“Then why didn’t it leave us any money?” Arlene went on.
“Maybe you can’t fool it.” Beth guessed.
When they went down to breakfast Arlene told her mother they had both lost teeth the night before and had put them under their pillows but the tooth fairy hadn’t come.
“Show me where you lost the teeth from,” Sophie said.
Beth and Arlene tried not to giggle but they couldn’t help it. Then Arlene told her mother what they had done and she said, “Mommy, Daddy’s really the tooth fairy, isn’t he?”
Arlene’s mother laughed deep down inside. ”The tooth fairy tells your Daddy when to give you money if your tooth falls out,” she said. “But you can’t fool the tooth fairy.” Sophie laughed and hugged Beth and hugged Arlene at the same time. When she went over to the sink to do the dishes, Sophie was still laughing.
Arlene poured some Rice Krispies into her bowl and whispered to Beth, “See, I told you it was my daddy.”
*In loving memory of J.M.N. 1941-2004*
(This story appears in slightly different version in Judith Laura’s novel, Three Part Invention)