Anthrow Circus

MicroView: The Magic of Lost Teeth

Digital image created by JC Johnson.


Last night my roommate du jour lost a tooth.

She’s 9, so it’s nothing to be concerned over. Her dad helped pluck it out in the kitchen after having a go at it in the living room the night before, without success. Tonight, the napkin-wrapped fingers of Dad met such little resistance that we onlookers weren’t sure whether to believe the little tooth had really given up the game.

Now, says the 9-year-old, her tongue has a window. Its red tip spent the rest of the evening poking through, testing the window frame just right of center on the bottom floor of the mouth-building.

As we were preparing for bed, Mom whispered to me, “Do you have any Brazilian reals?” The parents were not prepared for their magical duties. And I could not help—one of the downsides of credit cards becoming easy to use nearly everywhere is that I no longer need to acquire local currency for trips abroad, especially short ones. A lost art. My souvenir collection of leftover coins rarely gains new entries these days. But I digress.

The parents made plans to include a bank stop on their early morning run to the bakery, and we all turned in—after the tooth had been dutifully deposited beneath the 9-year-old’s pillow.

Tucking in to my guest mattress on the floor of a room filled with pink, I exuberantly expressed to the 9-year-old my hope that just maybe I’d get to see a tooth fairy during the wee hours. How often do grown-ups get a chance to catch a gossamer-winged dentist in action?

This morning I heard a stir and then a gasp, and turned over to see the 9-year-old sitting on the edge of her raised white bed holding a 10-reals bill (worth around US$2).

“The tooth fairy came?!” I exclaimed—at a level appropriate for morning. “But I didn’t see it.” [Insert the facial equivalent of a sad-face emoji.]

“Of course not,” the 9-year-old said. Then she added, “Because an ant is too small to see.”

Wait. What?

It turns out that in some parts of Brazil the tooth fairy does not have a job. Instead, it’s a tooth-collecting ant who skitters under pillows at night. All this time I was keeping a night vigil for the wrong kind of magical being!

But now that I know the truth, I can’t stop imagining a Brazilian ant (they do seem ubiquitous here) lugging a tooth several times its size back to its underground enamel palace. Perhaps located in a rain forest dressed with bright tree flowers against deep green leaves. And maybe it occasionally invites the local tooth fairy over to compare specimens and tooth-snatching tales over dark Brazilian coffee.

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Kami Rice, Anthrow Circus’s editor, plies her insatiable curiosity from a base in northern France and from perches in coffeehouses, cafés, and friends' homes the world over. As a freelance journalist, she has reported for the Washington Post, The Telegraph, The Tennessean, Nashville Arts Magazine, and Christianity Today, among many others. Her more creative work has appeared in Another Chicago Magazine, The High Calling, and Washington Institute's Missio. Her French to English translation has been published by Éditions Beaux-Arts de Paris. She also edits manuscripts and articles for a variety of clients and loves learning about the lives of regular, real people wherever she finds herself.

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