Susan M. Lemere is a social worker and mother who has moonlighted as a tooth fairy, though not this particular one. She graduated from the Solstice MFA Program in Creative Writing at Pine Manor College. She has had poetry published in The Quotable and Waterhouse Review, and is thrilled to have won first place with this, her first published story. She would be equally thrilled to hear from other readers and writers at Susanmlemere@gmail.com.

 

Incognito

By Susan M. Lemere

 

Friday, March 19, 2010

Dear Tooth Fairy,

I am writing on behalf of Billy LaGrange, a student in my first grade class at Fairfield Elementary School. This afternoon at recess, his tooth fell onto the playground amidst patches of grass and loose gravel, where it was impossible to find, despite the best efforts of Billy, his friends, and a recess aide. Poor Billy was inconsolable about having nothing to leave under his pillow, and he begged me to write this for him.

I should mention that Billy told me he was planning to use the proceeds from his tooth, along with some piggy bank money, to purchase the children’s book Standing Pride. Since Billy is a good kid (and frankly, the only one in my class who would care about owning a book!), I am writing to vouch for the fact that his tooth was in fact quite wobbly this week, and that I witnessed his genuine tears when he was made to come in from the schoolyard empty-handed. Please accept this note as verification of said tooth, and please tell him his teacher said that any proceeds from the tooth fairy should go toward reading material only.

Sincerely,

Katherine Campbell

*

E-Mail to Katherine Campbell

Saturday, March 20, 2010

To PinkPeony12@gmail.com

Dear Katherine,

Thanks for looking out for young Billy. You’ll be glad to know that the lost tooth issue has been addressed to Billy’s satisfaction. Frankly, though, I’m less concerned about Billy’s plight than I am about your own. Didn’t you promise yourself you were going to apply for that Masters program in Speech Pathology this year? What about that reading group you told everybody you were “looking into”? And do I even need to mention your vowing you’d get back to the gym? You’re not looking so hot these days, and it’s hard to imagine what excuse you would have for staying so stagnant in your life.

Forgive my bluntness, Katherine, but it is your time that’s ticking away. You may be too old for quarters under your pillow, but you’re just the right age for this particular wake-up call. So wake up, honey. The world is waiting for you to stop sleepwalking through it.

Yours,

The Tooth Fairy

*

Saturday, March 20, 2010

To: TheToothFairy@gmail.com

Dear “Tooth Fairy”,

Okay, hee hee, ha ha, that was a good one. Is this you, Mom? Roberta? And how’d you even know about Billy’s tooth fairy note? I don’t remember talking about it. Please fess up and say who you are—I want to be able to share the laugh.

Katherine

*

Sunday, March 28, 2010

To: PinkPeony12@gmail.com

Dear Katherine,

I told you, I’m the Tooth Fairy. If I’d decided to go under an alias, don’t you think I’d be Cleopatra or Angelina Jolie? Besides, my identity is no big deal compared to the mess you’re getting yourself into even as I write.

Listen up, dear. Do not, do not go on a second date with that Neanderthal from East County. You have absolutely nothing in common with the man, no matter what the stupid compatibility dimensions on NewLove.com say, and you were so bored with him at that ridiculous barbeque place, I don’t know why you would subject yourself to more of the same. For crying out loud, stop selling yourself short! The pickings are never that slim.

Your Concerned and Watchful Tooth Fairy

*

Monday, March 29, 2010

To: TeacherOfTheYear@gmail.com

Dear Roberta,

Ha! You are so busted! You’re the only one who knew about that awful date, Madame “Tooth Fairy,” so you’ve given your identity away. Aren’t you clever. Maybe we should join forces and start a small business doing tooth fairy letters for grownups. It has to pay better than teaching.

Katherine

*

Monday, March 29, 2010

To: PinkPeony12@gmail.com

Katherine,

What the hell are you talking about? Are you drunk? Call me soon for girl talk. Extra credit if you actually make sense.

Roberta

*

Sunday, April 4, 2010

To: PinkPeony12@gmail.com

Katherine,

Although I sympathize with your latest predicament, you can’t say I didn’t warn you. If you had left it as just a bad first date, you would’ve been able to write off the experience completely as just a long, forgettable evening with a complete bore. Now what you have on your hands is an ongoing problem with a stalker-bore. Aren’t you wishing now you had followed my advice about being a little more selective?

And another thing. That Ativan you’re supposed to take “as needed” for anxiety? I’m pretty sure “as needed” doesn’t mean every time you’ve had a bad day and just want to drop off fast to sleep. Are you looking to becoming an addict like your uncle?

Hope your feathers aren’t ruffled. I know that I, for one, am sometimes in need of some tough love from my inner circle of friends. I wouldn’t mention any of it if I didn’t care, dear.

The Tooth Fairy

*

Monday, April 5, 2010

To: TheToothFairy@gmail.com

Dear “Tooth Fairy”,

Okay, I don’t know who the hell you are, but now you’re starting to piss me off. Maybe the stalker reference fits you better than it fits the barbeque guy. People think they’re so anonymous in cyberspace, but all this is more traceable than you might suppose. So cut the crap, or I’m going to the police.

K.

*

Friday, April 9, 2010

To: Ladybibliophile@yahoo.com

Katherine,

You silly person, you. Why you would go to the trouble of setting up a whole new email account when 1) I know about everything about you to begin with, and 2) I am obviously on your side. Did you even stop to think that your hostility in the face of my well-intentioned efforts to help you might be a tad hurtful on this end? Most people would jump at the chance for a little omniscient guidance now and then, but you—what? You’re too stubborn? Too proud?

Whatever happened to the girl who used to read Five Little Peppers and How They Grew? The girl who hid that banged-up robin under the porch so you could still try to tend to it after your father said you had to let it go? I miss that girl. What’s become of the Katherine you work so hard at hiding from the world?

Worn out but still devoted,

The Tooth Fairy

*

Sunday, April 11, 2010

To: TheToothFairy@gmail.com

Dear Unsettling Anonymous Correspondent,

I know you’re caught up in this tooth fairy prank thing, but you’re starting to creep me out. Nobody knows about the robin. Not even my parents.

Who are you?

Katherine

*

To: Teacheroftheyear@gmail.com

Hey, Roberta.

It feels ridiculous writing to you when we pass each other in the hall six times a day, but I think I need a girl’s night out with you. Or maybe an Ashram or a lobotomy or something. I definitely need something.

Lately my life feels like a slow ride on the Titanic, and while I can paste on the great big I’m-fine-thanks face with the best of them, at the end of the day, I just wish I’d wake up and be somebody else. Anybody else. Know what I mean?

Maybe I just want to be you. You’re as psyched about teaching as when we started. You go scuba diving and skiing. You’re single without being lonely or down on yourself. You date if you want to, when you want to, who you want to.

So can you just hear my confession coming? Yeah, I slept with the barbeque guy. The one I told you I wasn’t seeing anymore. God knows why. I never liked him, not even a little. Guess I thought it would be nice to not wake up alone. Only the second it was over, all I wanted was to be alone. And of course, by then, it was too late.

Roberta, the man is calling me 25 times a day now. I think last night he drove by my place a few times, too, but I may have just imagined that, or maybe it was the vodka talking. Admittedly, the vodka has been getting some extra air time lately.

It’s late, and I’m so exhausted, I’m not even sure any of my rambling is making sense. I’ll save this for now and look at again in the morning. If it makes me sound as pathetic as I feel right now, I can just delete the whole thing. But it would be cool if you could read my mind and know how much I need to talk to you.

Katherine

*

Dear Katherine,

I’m so glad you hit “send” instead of “delete”. I have Saturday night free, and we are going out together, period. In the meantime, please do the following, no questions asked:

Block the Neanderthal on phone and email. If you don’t know how to do this, call me or come by, and I’ll show you. You are being too nice for your own good, and there is a fine line between sparing someone’s feelings and painting a giant target on yourself.

Gather all pills and booze at your house and flush them. Seriously. Do not replenish supply until we’ve had a chance to talk.

Tell yourself five hundred times at the start and end of each day: “Roberta Hartnick has outstanding taste in friends.” Repeat as needed until you believe it.

Above all, hang in there, sweetie. Things will get better. I’ve got your back.

Your friend,

Roberta

*

Friday, May 28, 2010

To: Ladybibliophile@yahoo.com

Dear Katherine,

I’ve left you alone for a while because you seemed so put off by my earlier attempts at communication, and my tooth fairy identity turned out to be a much harder sell than I expected. In fact, I wasn’t planning to write again at all. But please keep reading, and in a moment you’ll understand why I’m reaching out again at this time.

What I’m about to tell you is hard. Roberta has just had a stroke. She’s on her way to the hospital now, and she probably isn’t going to make it. I know she is your best friend, and more than that, I know she’s the only one you really confide in these days. So I know that this will hit you hard.

Here’s the thing. When I picture you six months from now, I can picture two scenarios clearly, and I don’t know which one will happen. But I feel like you need to know about both of them, so here goes.

In the first scenario, you drink too much. You start drinking every day, actually, and you take Ativan more often, too. Teaching is all you do anymore, but the trouble is, you’re going to be fired because you won’t be able to keep getting up in the morning. Or because you crash the car and get a DUI charge and it’s all over the news. Or maybe you’ll quit so the job isn’t interfering with your new priority, drinking. Whichever the case, the result will be the same. You will not be teaching. And you know that old saying about not putting all your eggs in one basket? All of your eggs have been in the teaching basket, and once they break—well, I don’t know what will happen to you.

But let’s talk about the other scenario, so you’ll know that I’m not just Ms. Gloom and Doom. In that scenario, you’ve moved to a smaller apartment. It’s an attic apartment, kind of cute with the dormered ceiling you’ve always wanted, and it’s a lot more affordable than where you are now. You’re saving money to apply to graduate school.

You’ve also joined that book club. One night, the book club is discussing that Andres Dubus III novel House of Sand and Fog, and suddenly you start to cry, without even seeing it coming. You’re totally embarrassed, and you want to just leave, but then people start sharing about the awful things they’ve been through, and about making it the other side of terrible times. Your eyes are puffy and you feel like you’re so ugly to everyone, and you just want to get the hell out of there. But you stick it out, and you listen to the radio on the way home, and by the time you pull in the driveway, Angie from the book club has left a message on your voice mail. She wonders if you’d like to go to a poetry reading this weekend, even though you know nothing whatsoever about poetry and are not turning cartwheels over the prospect of having a new pal.

But you decide to go to the reading, and discover that you don’t, in fact, hate all poetry, and that some even makes a bit of sense to you when you listen to it. Angie’s not Roberta—not by a long shot!—but she has a goofy sense of humor and will listen when you tell her about books you’ve read or movies you’ve seen, and she may not be a best friend, but she’s a first friend. A first friend of the new era. And from what I can tell, she’s actually pretty cool.

So much of life, Katherine, is what we do with what happens to us. Don’t you think? Isn’t it what we try to set the stage for with our kids? Lose a tooth, but hey, check this out. Put it under your pillow, and here’s a shiny new quarter for you. You don’t get back what you lost, but you do get something different, and good, and maybe it even goes toward something you really want.

I’m sorry if this message from me is yet another annoyance to you, but I really felt compelled to write it. I’m so sorry about Roberta, and sincerely hope this will soften the blow, to whatever extent that a blow like that can be softened.

In case you haven’t figured it out yet, you were one of my favorite loose-tooth kids. I guess any one of us, at any time, can have some trouble letting go.

All my best,

The Tooth Fairy

*

July 16, 2010

To: TheToothFairy@gmail.com

Dear Tooth Fairy,

Well, you were right about the condition, but not the prognosis. Roberta did have a stroke, but she’s a fighter, and she has rallied. In terms of her rehabilitation, well, so far, so good.

My life is as changed as you predicted. I’m in that new apartment, which is as cozy and adorable as you suggested, in a total-lack-of-storage-space kind of way. And I did indeed join the Book Club. I try to read out loud to Roberta as often as I can get there, because that’s what she would do for me if the shoe was on the other foot. As for Angie, I decided to cut to the chase and invite her out first. No sense forming a friendship on bawling your eyes out over a piece of fiction.

As far as you’re concerned, I keep our correspondence to myself, as I am not looking to find myself in the psych unit above Roberta’s floor. But I’m remembering the coins you used to leave under my pillow, and the way it made me believe as a little girl that good things could come my way. I’m sure there’s an age limit for the whole coin-leaving thing, but I’m wondering if you’ve had any experience writing letters of recommendation for graduate school admissions? I’m told that it helps to ask someone that everyone knows.

Of course you know I’m kidding. I’ve been a good secret-keeper ever since I was a little girl.

Katherine

 

Copyright 2014 by Susan M. Lemere