When one of Lisa's baby teeth fell out here, the tooth fairy left her 50 cents. Another tooth fell out when she was with her father in Las Vegas, and that tooth fairy left her $5. When I told Elvis that 50 cents would be more in line, he laughed. He knew I was not criticizing him; how would Elvis Presley know the going rate for a tooth?
I look to everyday magic in art to remember how to live: how to estrange and vivify ordinary objects and beings. So little, really, is ordinary, but to remember this I need the brain chemical of painting and film and reading I had a thrummy doomed oracular feeling when I wrote blackened baby teeth into my little blind boy story: I saw teeth and in an instant they were becoming something else. They were buckshot. They were food. They were tiny flightless corvids.
It’s funny—when people call you “shy,” they usually smile. Like it’s cute, some funny little habit you’ll grow out of when you’re older, like the gaps in your grin when your baby teeth fall out. If they knew how it felt—really being shy, not just unsure at first—they wouldn’t smile. Not if they knew how the feeling knots up your stomach or makes your palms sweat or robs you of the ability to say anything that makes sense. It’s not cute at all.
No one else noticed, or cared. It was just something they did. Taking other people’s livestock. Other people’s lives. She watched the soldiers, hating them. They were different in so many ways, white and black, yellow and brown, skinny, short, tall, small, but they were all the same. Didn’t matter if they wore finger-bone necklaces, or baby teeth on bracelets, or tattoos on their chests to ward off bullets. In the end, they were all mangled with battle scars and their eyes were all dead.