A Short Story

Amelia Cooke

Copyright © Joyce Gibbons   All rights reserved.
Published by: JGHawaii Publishing Co., Hawaii, U.S.A.


Nick Harris stood by the window watching the middle-aged couple across the street laughing and teasing each other while working in the yard.  He smiled wistfully, remembering the time when he and his wife did the same before the accident two months ago.

"Dad?" Karen said softly, noticing how depressed her father has been since her mother's death.  They all missed her terribly, but she at least had her husband and son to help ease the pain.  Her father refused to move in with them, wanting to live alone in his house full of memories of their life together.

"Yes, Karen?   Are you ready to leave now?" he asked, still looking out the window.

"Paul has gone to the car, but I wanted to tell you I've left the numbers where we can be reached.  Bobby shouldn't be much trouble, he's been looking forward to your visit . . . and thanks Dad for volunteering to stay with him while we're gone. It was such a last-minute decision to go, but Paul said his client insisted we come there and I couldn't find anyone to sit with Bobby for the weekend," Karen said.

Nick turned at last and smiled,  "It's all right, Karen.   I guess it's about time to start getting out again.   It's just that . . . well, I don't . . ," Nick shrugged, "Never mind.  Just go and enjoy the trip.  It may be business, but at least you can see some tourist attractions while you're there.  Have a good time honey, and don't worry about Bobby," he said, putting his arm around her and giving her a hug.

"I love you, Dad," she said, choking up.  Karen turned quickly and stooped to kiss Bobby as he watched his favorite cartoon on the television.

"Take care of Grandpa," she whispered, as he giggled when she poked him in the side.

"We'll take care of each other, huh Grandpa?" Bobby said grinning at Nick.

"That's the best way, partner," he agreed, ruffling Bobby's curly hair.

Later that evening, Nick was startled when Bobby called,  "Grandpa !   Grandpa !   Come quick ! "

Hearing the urgency in Bobby's voice, Nick hurried to his grandson's room, chagrined that he was lost in thought again.

"What happened?" he asked, stooping down beside Bobby.

"Look, Grandpa, my tooth fell out ! "   Bobby said, holding out his hand with a small object resting on his palm.

"Well, well, you lost your first tooth ! "   Nick chuckled, relieved that it wasn't anything more serious.

"But Grandpa, I just growed it . . . and now it fell out ! "

"Don't worry Bobby that one was a baby tooth.  It falls out to make room for a grown-up tooth.  That proves you're not a baby anymore.  Soon, the others will fall out, one-at-a-time of course, and you'll get more grown-up teeth."

"Can I keep it Grandpa?" Bobby asked, surveying the tooth with interest.

Knowing that his daughter would want to save Bobby's first baby tooth with the rest of the mementos of her son's development, Nick didn't want to take the chance Bobby might lose it.

"Well . . . I'll tell you what you should do," he advised, "Put the tooth under your pillow, and tonight the Tooth Fairy will come and take it away.  In its place, she will leave you something else like . . . oh, maybe a quarter, or a dime . . . depending on what she has with her."

"Who is the Tooth Fairy, Grandpa?   Why does she want my tooth?"

Nick smiled at his grandson, then sat down on a chair, getting comfortable to tell his story . . . a story he had told his children and all his other grandchildren through the years.

"You see, Bobby, the Tooth Fairy, is from Fairyland.  She's a very beautiful lady, and . . . " he paused as Bobby tugged on his sleeve to interrupt.

"You seen her, Grandpa?   What does she look like?" Bobby asked, awed that his grandfather really saw a fairy.

"Now let me think . . . , it was a long time ago, you know.   Ah, I remember . . . she had long silky hair, the color of golden honey, and eyes like the blue summer sky," Nick said with a dreamy, far-off gaze, envisioning his wife in her youth and the first time he met her at a dance.

"Her gown was a shimmering blue, satin, that brought out the sparkle in her eyes . . ."

Bobby propped his elbow on the arm of the chair and rested his chin on his hand as he listened.  The action snapped Nick out of his reminiscing. Clearing his throat of the lump that had developed, Nick continued with his story.

"....and the gown was adorned with thousands of little baby teeth, all polished up like pearls.  At the time the Fairy received each tooth, she'd engraved it with the name of the child.  Why, do you know that she has some with my name on it, and your daddy and mommy's too?  Oh, she loves to collect baby teeth !   They are as precious to her as diamonds. When the Fairy takes the tooth from under your pillow, right away she touches it with her magic wand and imprints your name on it ! "   Nick said, as he made an elaborate gesture with an imaginary wand toward the tooth in Bobby's hand.

"Then she hurries back to Fairyland, and polishes it up until it gleams before stitching it to her beautiful dress. When it's all done, she dances around, singing happily, because now her dress is more beautiful than ever before ! " Nick said smiling.  Then his smile faded, and he leaned close to Bobby with a serious look.

"Do you know what, Bobby?"

"What Grandpa?"

"Sometimes, when she picks up a tooth from a pillow, she is very sad, because the tooth has a cavity in it. Sometimes there's barely enough left of it, to put the name on . . . and when she polishes it up, it is so tiny she has trouble sewing it on her dress."

Listening wide-eyed to his grandfather, Bobby looked down at his own tooth still in his hand, considering it thoughtfully.

"Well, I know this is a pretty good-looking tooth   Don't you think so, Grandpa?"

"You bet ! "   Nick laughed. "She'll really dance when she gets that one ! "

Bobby smiled back at his grandfather, then quickly turned to leave.

"Where are you going?" Nick inquired.

"To put this one under my pillow, and to brush my teeth so I don't get any ka . . . kab-a-teez in the other ones.  The Fairy Lady is going to love all my baby teeth ! "

Bobby stopped and looked back at his Grandfather with a big grin that emphasized the empty space of his missing tooth.

"Won't that be something, Grandpa, if she puts this one right next to one of yours?"

"That would be something indeed ! " laughed Nick.

While Bobby was busy, Nick let his mind wander back to when his first child lost a tooth, and his wife was so excited about it.   His eyes stung and his chest hurt again, which happened so often since the accident, when another memory would surface.

Heaving a heavy sigh, he sadly murmured, "Oh Annie, why . . . why did it happen? I miss you so much."

Early the next day, Nick sat at the table reading the morning paper, when Bobby came running into the kitchen.

"Look, Grandpa ! "  he said happily, holding out his hand to display the coins.

"The Fairy Lady left me a quarter and a dime   I guess she really liked my tooth ! "   Bobby exclaimed.

Shocked, Nick stared at the coins. He had completely forgotten about the tooth after he told that story.  Had Karen and Paul returned last night while he slept?  They weren't due home for another day.  Getting the milk from the refrigerator, he peered out the window, but their car was not in the driveway.

"That's really great, Bobby.  I'm glad that the Tooth Fairy was so generous," Nick answered slowly, putting the milk carton on the table. "Now sit down and have your breakfast.  I'll be right back."

While Bobby climbed up on his chair, Nick went to look for his daughter and son-in-law.

A quick search proved they had not returned, and indeed the tooth was gone from under the pillow.   Nick frowned, as he walked back to the kitchen.

"I'm sure I didn't put that money under his pillow," Nick muttered.

Refilling his coffee cup, he settled back in his chair again, sipping at the hot brew while he puzzled over the tooth mystery.

"Grandpa, you know what?" Bobby asked when he finished his cereal.

"What, Bobby?" Nick answered, still with his mind half attending to the conversation.

"The Fairy Lady looked just like you said . . . she was very pretty."

"What did you say?" Nick asked, startled by the remark.

"I said, she looked just like you told me, and you know what else?   She remembered you ! "  Bobby said wide-eyed.

"She spoke to you?" Nick asked, concluding his grandson had a vivid imagination, he would have to be careful with the stories he told in the future.

"Yes, she was very nice," Bobby answered nonchalantly, as he climbed off the chair to leave the room.  He stopped when he reached the doorway.

"I almost forgot, Grandpa.  She said to tell you not to worry, and . . . something else . . . uh . . . that . . . that Ann is fine.  Who's Ann, Grandpa?" Bobby asked, then tilted his head as he waited for an answer in the long silence that followed.

Taking a deep breath to steady himself after that surprising statement, Nick said,  "Ann was your grandmother's name, Bobby."

"Oh," Bobby said, nodding his head knowingly, satisfied that the Tooth Fairy was acquainted with his grandma.

" I'm going to play in the backyard, Grandpa.  Will you come with me?"

"Run along, Bobby, I'll be with you in a minute."

Watching Bobby as he hurried out the door, Nick felt the heaviness, that had been lingering in his chest for the past two months, finally lift and he could breathe easily again.

His Annie was all right.   Nick smiled as he thought about that odd conversation with his grandson.  Suddenly he realized how disappointed Bobby would have been if the Tooth Fairy had not shown up last night.

"Thanks, Annie," Nick whispered.

Deciding to make the most of the day, a revitalized Nick went out the door humming Somewhere Over the Rainbow.

"Hey, Bobby !    How would you like to go to the zoo today and see the lions, tigers, and bears?"

*** The End ***