An unemployed tooth fairy finds work. Second in Holiday Short Story Contest.
|A Tooth Fairy Tale
The man at the bar looked the worse for wear. His greying hair was uncombed, his eyes bloodshot and his skin the colour of a newspaper left too long in the sun. He wore an old-fashioned raincoat with more creases and wrinkles than Columbo’s equivalent ever managed. His hand trembled as he lifted a glass to his lips.
Next to him, a man better dressed but visibly more affected by the alcohol consumed that night, leaned over and spoke in slurred tones. “So wha’ line o’ work ya in, Harry?”
The first man, no doubt the Harry mentioned, turned to regard his companion. “Collections,” he said. “I’m in collections. But currently unemployed.”
The other drew back a little and and waved a hand vaguely in space. “Jeez, I’m sorry, Harry. Didn’ mean to pry.”
Harry shrugged. “No problem, pal. Happens to the best of us, I’m told.”
The other man swayed a little as he considered this. “Yeah, I guess,” he ventured eventually. A little more thought and he asked, “So whaddaya collect?”
“Teeth, my friend,” replied Harry. “I’m a tooth fairy.”
The drunk seemed unfazed by this revelation. “Biggest damn fairy I ever saw,” he mumbled. “And where’s ya wings?”
“Oh, that’s just a superstition. We don’t really have wings.”
This set the drunk to pondering. He seemed to be falling asleep but jerked awake suddenly. “Wait a minute. How can ya be unum, umpel, unemployed if yer the tooth fairy?”
Harry took another sip of his drink. “It’s the adults,” he explained. “They take the teeth and put the money under the pillow before we can get there. Leaves us nothing to do. There you are - lots of tooth fairies out of a job.”
The drunk’s eyes crossed as he thought about this. “Tha’s a bummer,” he opined. “So you just sit around in bars for the night?”
“That’s about the size of it. Back at base, they give us pillow money when we go out and I don’t have anything else to do with it, ‘cept buy a few drinks. And here I am.”
Harry spread his arms wide in demonstration, apparently unashamed of being an unemployed tooth fairy. The drunk swayed again and seemed about to fall into Harry’s arms. Harry caught him quickly.
“Hey there, feller, you’re getting in a bad way there. Time for home and bed, I think.”
The drunk mumbled something into Harry’s shoulder.
“That’s what I thought,” said Harry to no one in particular. “Come on then, let’s get you on your way.”
He took one arm of the drunk around his shoulder and supported him as they stood and then shuffled their way to the door. The drunk flopped against the tooth fairy like a bag of potatoes but Harry seemed to have no problem in bearing his weight.
Outside the bar, Harry asked the way and the drunk pointed to the left. “Msplff,” he said.
The pair moved awkwardly down the street, Harry almost carrying the drunk now. They managed two blocks before Harry turned into a dark alleyway. He let the drunk slide easily to the ground, back supported by the wall of the building behind him. The movement brought the drunk out of his stupor and he opened his eyes.
“Wha’s goin’ on,” he asked.
“It’s what I didn’t tell you,” replied Harry. “You didn’t ask about the teeth. I have to have something to show for my night’s work. No teeth because the adults took them and no money because I’ve spent it on drink. You can see the problem, I’m sure.”
The drunk’s head lolled to one side as he passed out again.
“Ah, there you go,” observed Harry. “Sweet dreams, my friend, while I just perform a few extractions.”
He produced a pair of forceps from the pocket of his raincoat.
Word Count: 637