I’m eight, I think, maybe nine, when Mad Molly whispers in my ear, “The tooth fairy is a lie.”
I lean away from her. Her breath smells of garlic and eggs. My tongue probes the new space between my teeth. I taste blood. In my hand I hold my tooth, white in a tiny puddle of red, not as small as the last one.
“Did you hear what I said?” Her face changes, the skin around her eyes tightens.
I nod my head. I don’t want to move my tongue away from the space. I can feel a roughness in my gum. The new tooth? It is here already?
“Well?” She is angry now but I still can’t move my tongue away.
Mad Molly wants my pain. Her madness feeds on blood and sorrow, spilled milk, broken dishes, and skinned knees. I don’t have anything for her. I am distracted by the sensation in my mouth. I stare blankly at her twisted face, working my tongue in and around the new space, getting used to the change.
She snorts loudly and shuffles away.
Do I care that the tooth fairy is a lie? Will the truth or lie of the tooth fairy’s existence change the reality of the loss of the tooth or the gain of the dime? Probably not.
I cup my hand around the loss and watch Mad Molly disappear. My mother approaches. I show her the tooth. She gasps and smiles and hugs me tight.
“Another one? You are growing up so quickly,” she says. There are tears in her eyes.
“Mommy?” I ask, “Is Mad Molly real?”
“Yes, darling,” she laughs, “What an odd question!” She glances at the tooth in my hand, then over her shoulder. “Don’t listen to her, she’s a sad old lady, full of venom and spite.” She kneels and looks up at my face. Her eyes look like mine in the mirror.
“Did she say something to upset you?”
I pause, probing the space and thinking of the thing I have lost.
“No, mommy,” I say.
“Good,” she says, hugging me again. “Let’s go wash that tooth for the tooth fairy.”