I sit here all-day logging teeth on a spreadsheet. Johnny Moe, Age 6, Bottom Left Lateral Incisor (premature). Little Johnny bit a candy apple, and, pop, out came his tooth stuck in red dye 40 infused corn syrup glaze. He was happy to get that $1 despite the blood. Despite his dopey grin. Yet here I am, can’t even see a window from my cubicle. The vent blows cold air on me all day, so I wrap myself in blankets, sit on my feet. I used to work out in the field until they clipped my wings. You rip one kid’s molar out and you’re sent to the office forever. But that was the only one they knew about. The good days before those lapel cameras. Collect the tooth, chuck a Sacagawea under the pillow. That’s all they wanted from us: home after home. Nothing but production and numbers. How many coins did you throw under pillows? One per tooth; never more. Some kids are like strange enamel hoarders out there, with their stashes of a mouthful of teeth under the pillow. Little freaks. Sometimes I’d take their stash and still give them one Sacagawea to teach them that their pillowcase isn’t some high yield savings account. But as I said, policies changed over the years. We didn’t always have lapel cameras to keep us gentle, benevolent traders. I had a good thing going for a while. Never got caught until I did. Teamed up with those sadistic sand sprinklers, putting kids to sleep. I’d flutter in through the window with my black-market sand, dump a little extra on Alex’s lashes, and dig in. There’s nothing quite like a fresh molar: the sound of bone popping out of flesh; that copper smell of fresh blood. Of course, I could never take more than one from any household. It was all about restraint. Stealth. I can hear that pop now. But all I have left is the footage in my brain. They won’t even let me near the tooth vault anymore. So, I’ll just continue to sit here and log Susie Matthews, Age 11, Top Right Canine (string and doorknob).
Ryan Norman (he/him) is a queer writer from New York living in the Hudson Valley. Inspired by the landscape, he writes what he feels. He is a contributing editor of creative nonfiction with Barren Magazine. His work has appeared in From Whispers to Roars, XRAY Literary Magazine, Black Bough Poetry, Maudlin House, HAD and elsewhere. You can find him on Twitter @RyanMGNorman and an updated list of his publications at Linktree: linktr.ee/RyanMGNorman.