511 WORDS | 3-MINUTE READ
Rapt in his campaign to keep his wife from leaving him, Lawrence forgot to exchange the tooth under his son’s pillow for a dollar, so he left a note the next day. The tooth fairy was so sorry to have disappointed Micah, the note said; belief in another being was one of the last sacred things, and the tooth fairy hoped she had not damaged Micah’s in her. The truth was some personal troubles had prevented her from fulfilling her responsibilities. But if there was one thing the tooth fairy believed in, it was the importance of understanding the failures of others and loving them anyway (see, she directed, the collected works of Tolstoy). The tooth fairy hoped Micah would be better for the experience.
“Better for it?” asked Lois, Micah’s mother.
“Why not?” Lawrence asked. “He may as well.”
“If we’re talking may-as-well, Lawrence, our son may as well forgo belief in a fictional being on whom he can’t even count, apparently, to uphold its own fiction. He might be better for that.”
Just then their eight-year-old walked in, still in his pajamas, note in hand. The dollar, he had pocketed. He deposited the note on the kitchen counter. Pale pink moisture from who knew what spill crept up into the paper and spread.
“I know there’s no tooth fairy,” said Micah to his father. “I saw you hovering in my doorway last night, seeing if I was asleep.”
“I always hover,” said Lawrence. “It’s the heart of parenting.”
“You’re lying,” said Micah, his voice expanding as anger swelled. “It’s one thing for the tooth fairy not to show up, a whole ‘nother for you to lie that there’s a tooth fairy. It’s not right, or good, or true. It’s bad parenting, Lawrence.”
Tears surged to Micah’s eyes and wavered there.
Lawrence opened his mouth, hoping speech would follow. The air grew taut, as though rising words had hooked onto the silence and pulled it back down with them as they fell. Micah’s breath became ragged. He will howl, thought Lawrence. He will howl and Lois will leave me, and I will watch it all play out; my stage time is over, used up in the wrong woman’s bed.
“Your dad hasn’t lied to you, Micah,” said Lois.
“Et tu, Brute?” asked Micah.
“I’m trying to tell you the truth.”
“What was he doing outside my door, then, if he wasn’t trying to put that note under my pillow?”
“He was helping the tooth fairy, who had a lot on her plate.”
“How would you know?”
“Because I am the tooth fairy,” Lois said. “You dad was there for me.”
Two sets of male eyes widened, then Micah narrowed his, sending a held tear cascading overboard, but he wiped it away. “You?”
“You can get all small, and fly and stuff?”
Lois nodded solemnly.
“Okay,” Micah said, and he turned on his heels. Soon his room door sounded in its frame.
“Lois,” said Lawrence, “you were magnificent.”
But in her face Lawrence saw neither love nor recognition.
Sophia Veltfort’s work has appeared in the Alaska Quarterly Review, the Chicago Tribune online (Nelson Algren finalist), the Harvard Review, Hobart, Isthmus, J Journal: New Writing on Justice, Post Road, Quiddity, and the Saturday Evening Post online. After graduating from Yale, she studied at Oxford and the University of East Anglia on a Marshall Scholarship. She is currently a graduate student at Cornell.
Photo by Tory Byrne, FreeImages