Watching Sara Chimner trudge listlessly into the room, head down, brown hair hanging loose in her eyes, Samson tried to imagine what it would feel like to work at McDonalds on the grill. Sure, people suffered everywhere but, at least as a fast food line cook he wouldn’t have to deal directly with eight year olds. From the looks of her, Sara would be an unwilling participant today.
“Good morning, Sara.”
At the sound of her name, Sara sighed and slid into her seat, putting her head down directly upon the desk top, arms hanging down by her sides like a rag doll. Eyebrow arching upward in fascination, he wondered if he was too young to get a vasectomy?
“Is something wrong, Sara?” Rising from his desk he swallowed his own sigh and walked toward the child’s seat where he knelt down beside her. “Did something happen?”
Like a marionette, her right arm rose into the air, nearly whacking him in the face, and her hand opened to expose a single, opaque tooth, the bottom edges slightly darkened. He stared obediently at it.
“We all lose our baby teeth, Sara. It’s nothing to be upset over. Your adult teeth will grow in and fill the gap.” He thought his rational explanation was a good start. He watched her close her hand again around the tooth and rest it on the desk beside her head. His jaw tightened. “Did you lose it on the way to school, this morning?”
A muffled no came from the still form.
“When did you lose it?”
Thinking she sounded rather bitter, he tried a different tactic.
“Do you know about the Tooth Fairy?” Every child knew about the Tooth Fairy, right? This particular mythos was still alive and well, being preached to every child on American soil. He fully expected Sara to acknowledge the question with a positive response. He was more than a little startled when she raised her head and fixed him with eyes lacking any spirit of life and told him just how much she knew about it.
“I put it under my pillow last night. It was still there this morning.” The brown eyes were puffy and red, having shed silent tears of grief all the way to school. Her lips, normally full, seemed thin, drained of their usual vibrance.
Looking at her now, he could see she had taken a serious blow to her ego. That a child this young could have her mental legs knocked out from under her by being overlooked by a made up entity that bought children’s teeth for a living seemed absurd. Part of him wanted to take her by the shoulders and shake her, to rattle some sense into her. The Tooth Fairy is a lie! It’s all a big lie! Get over it and get on with growing up.
None of that was possible though. Samson’s sense of reason struggled to get a grip on his anger. He was expected to tell these children that the world was round, the sun rose in the east, and that two plus two equals four. If he told Sara the Tooth Fairy was a lie, he would, effectively face a firing squad.
“Did you tell your mother?”
“No.” Sara dropped her head back onto her desk, this time using her arm, the one still holding the tooth, as a cushion. “It fell out after I went to bed.”
So she had just stuffed it under her pillow. Samson could see it as clearly as if he had been there. It had never crossed her mind to get up and show her parents the tooth. Sara had absolute faith that her parents told her the truth in all things. To have her tooth still with her when she awoke had been far more tragic than just the loss of a quarter. That tooth meant that her parents were not the all-knowing gods she had thought them to be. They had been wrong. Those red eyes weren’t about the tooth, they were about the loss of innocence.
“You need to tell your mother. Mom’s have a secret way of communicating with the Tooth Fairy. If you don’t tell her then she can’t send the message and the Tooth Fairy doesn’t know to come.” He almost patted her on the head but caught himself. Never touch the children. Straightening he went to his desk and pulled a couple pieces of tissue from the box and walked them back to her.
“Here, let’s wrap the tooth up nice and safe and put in the front pocket of your bag. As soon as you get home today, give the tooth to your mom. Can you do that for me?”
Sara turned her head on her arm to look at him again, this time with a small flicker of hope in her eyes.
“Uh huh.” She sniffed and sat up enough to drop her tooth on the tissue.
“There, all safe and sound. Let’s go put it in your bag, okay?” He stepped back to give her room to get out of her seat and lead the way into the hall.
Sara’s bag was pink and purple with flowers all over it, a miniature back-pack, complete with straps to go over her shoulders. Samson handed her the wrapped tooth and watched as she zipped it securely into the small front pocket. He gave her an encouraging smile that felt unnatural for him.
“Let’s get back to our seat now, and start our day, okay?”