The tooth was an expert, a specialist. He knew one thing, inside and out, and kept to his own. He seemed happy with his place, his lot, but he could be very exacting. He took peer review extremely seriously. He didn’t like being pushed around. He met his opponent squarely. He was polished; he was bald. He didn’t like stray hairs in his face. He thought all teeth should share his tastes.
In his last article, the tooth articulated a taste, a feeling, really, testing for hardness and size an assortment of round hard candy. He usually preferred chances for the soft stuff, but he could pass off a lollipop like a soccer striker. He knew just when to bite down hard. He waited. He had tasted tongue and cheek.
I remember the time he reduced my 1,000-page novel to a single tweet. Hilarity. I knew something was up. Then there was the time he reduced my grand slam dream to a sacrifice bunt. And then he squished my perfect wave to something like backwash out the Hyperion Treatment Plant outside El Segundo. The tooth was a master of the sedate.
The tooth knew the end was near. He slinked back and waited. I thought he was sedated. Bad idea, eating the ice from the iced tea. That ice was the beginning of the end, that and the peanuts, the peanuts and corn nuts and sunflower seeds. I’d have been better off chewing tobacco or bubblegum. Baseball is bad for the teeth. Anyhow, the tooth did not chew. He stole and hoarded and hid his spoils.
I called in McTeague, who shushed the tooth, his vice grip fingers grasping the truth. My tongue seemed to come unattached as I rubbed it softly one last time over the top of the tooth, like walking barefoot over a tide pool barnacled in black plaque.
And where is the tooth now? Reduced to the cliché of a gaping hole and the source of a bad pun. How stealthily love deteriorates into a source of pus and infection (Yuch!).
That gap the tongue now feels, a place apologists go to investigate past cultures.