I do hope that all of you enjoyed a terrific Christmas time and wish you a happy Boxing day.
When my son was old enough to appreciate bed-time stories, I used to make up my own for him. The following was written specially for my son, James and I apologise, in advance, for references to people from the Liverpool area:
Copyright J. S. Raynor January, 2001, 2016
James’s tooth was becoming very loose. It annoyed him, as it was one of his front teeth and affected his eating. Anything but the softest of foods caused him great pain, especially when biting in to a nice, crisp, juicy apple, which was his favourite fruit. “I wish this tooth would hurry up and fall out.” This was the second tooth to become loose. His daddy had removed the first one, just by pulling quickly on the dangling tooth. When James asked him to try to do the same again, the tooth stubbornly remained firm. “Ouch!” The tooth was just not ready yet.
“You will have to wait a few days more, James.” His daddy smiled. “Don’t worry. It will come out when it’s ready.”
James could not stop himself from playing with his loose tooth, pushing his tongue around all its sides. One day, when he was at school, listening to his teacher, his tongue was busy curling around the loose tooth when, all of a sudden, it came out. James put his hand up.
“Yes, James. What is it?”
“My tooth has just come out, miss.” James held up the tooth, proud that his efforts had succeeded.
“Okay. Go and see Miss Green. She had better check to see if your gum is bleeding.” James took the tooth to Miss Green, who acted as a nurse when any of the children felt ill. There was hardly any blood at all. Carefully, she wrapped the tiny tooth in a tissue and gave it back to James.
That night, James was very excited. Still wrapped in its tissue, the tooth was placed under his pillow. James was hoping that the tooth fairy would visit, while he slept, and exchange the tooth for some money. Perhaps, this night, he might actually see the tooth fairy. James soon fell fast asleep. All of a sudden, his sleep was disturbed as the pillow moved. He stretched out his hand, grabbing at the intruder. His grip was on a tiny arm.
“Let me go!” A strange tiny voice came from the struggling figure. Obediently, he let go, only to hear a crash as the figure fell to the floor. James slept in the top of a bunk bed, high above the floor. Quickly, he climbed down the steps, just in time to find the little figure struggling to his feet. He did not look much like a fairy. It was a little man, only about the size of James’ two-year old sister, Kimberley. He was dressed in a blue boiler suit and blue hat. A bag hung over his shoulder and, because of his fall, the bags contents had spilled on to the floor. Hundreds of tiny teeth were sprinkled like breakfast cereal, all over the bedroom carpet.
He was very angry. “Now, look what you have done!”
“I..I’m sorry,” stammered James. “I didn’t mean to…”
“Nobody ever does. That’s the trouble with you humans!”
James knelt down and started gathering up the teeth and helped the strange little man to refill his shoulder bag. His hands were larger than the man’s and, very soon, the carpet was clear once again. The anger had been replaced by a look of gratitude. “Thank you, James.”
“How do you know my name?”
“Why shouldn’t I know? How else could I know which house to visit?”
James stared in amazement, as the man showed him a list of names and, sure enough, James’ name was at the bottom of the list. “What is your name?”
“Oliver. I’m the Theone tax collector.” He pointed to a label printed across his chest.
“Tax collector? I don’t understand.”
“Of course you don’t. You are not even supposed to know that I am here. I’ll get in terrible trouble over this lapse in security.” A worried look crossed Oliver’s face.
“It’s not your fault. Let me come with you and I will explain just what happened.”
“Oh, I don’t know about that.” Oliver looked thoughtful. “Perhaps you should. I’ve never had a security leak, before. I need to find out how to solve this problem.”
“Really?” James was very excited. “Can I see the tooth fairy?”
“You ask too many questions.” Oliver looked thoughtful for a few moments. “Come on, then. It might be for the best.”
“But, how? The alarm system is switched on.” James knew that he could not leave the house without setting off the alarm.
Oliver laughed. “Intruder alarms have never stopped me, yet. After all, I’m not an intruder.”
“But, how can I….?”
“Trust me, James. You have to keep your eyes tightly closed and hold my hand. It couldn’t be simpler.”
“Okay.” James was still wearing his pyjamas, but did not think this would be a problem. He put on his slippers, held the tiny hand of Oliver and closed his eyes tightly. No sooner had he done this, when he felt a strong, yet warm wind blowing in his face. A loud, rushing noise drowned out any other sounds.
“Right, James. We are here, in Theoneland. You can open your eyes, now. Isn’t she magnificent?”
James opened his eyes, expecting to see the tooth fairy. To his amazement, he was standing on a quayside, looking out at a glistening, white boat. “But, where is the tooth fairy?” asked a puzzled James.
“She’s straight in front of you. This is the tooth ferry.”
James could not believe his eyes. “I don’t understand. I expected a ‘fairy’ not a ‘ferry’.”
“You humans are always misunderstanding. Over many years, you have changed the sound of the word. For us, it has always been the tooth ferry. It takes many teeth to keep her afloat. Anyway, come on. We had better report in with this latest batch.” James followed Oliver, as they walked towards a building on the quayside.
“Ouch!” James hit his head as he walked through the doorway. Everything here was much smaller than at home. A little man was sitting at a desk, busy counting through a mass of teeth spread over the desk-top.
“Don’t interrupt, James. You will be in terrible trouble if you disturb him while he is counting. This is Harold, counter number one.”
Obediently, James stood in silence, watching the masses of teeth as they were counted. Harold was very fast, quickly reducing one pile to nothing, while a tray at the end of his desk soon became very full. James watched as this tray was emptied into another tray on a second desk. Here, another man was busily removing the teeth and began the count over again. “What a boring job,” James thought to himself.
“That’s William, counter number two,” whispered Oliver. The whole count has to be double-checked. It’s very important.”
“But, why?” James was puzzled by all the counting.
“It just is. We all have to follow the rules.” Harold looked up and was so shocked on seeing the tall stranger, that he dropped his papers all over the floor.
“Oliver! What do you think you are doing bringing a human, here? He looked very angry.
“He saw me. I thought I should bring him here to find out how to prevent a security leak.”
Harold looked thoughtful. “You know this could mean the teething ring for you.”
James giggled. He imagined Oliver with a big plastic teething ring in his mouth. “What’s the teething ring?” he asked, with a cheeky smile.
“I don’t know what you find so amusing.” Oliver frowned. “That is our highest court. I’ve never been there, but I believe it is a horrible experience.”
“I’m sorry, Oliver. I didn’t mean to get you into all this trouble.”
“Yes, I know.” He turned to Harold, who was still gathering his papers from the floor. “Can you find out what I need to do? Meanwhile, here is my latest collection.”
“Yes, of course, Oliver. Meanwhile, you had better try and keep your visitor out of trouble. I will let you know, as soon as I have an answer.” Oliver emptied the contents of his bag into the large tray on Harold’s desk. James realised that his own tooth was one of the many now waiting to be counted. They were just about to leave the room, when a little man with a big, friendly smile came through the doorway.
“Hello, Oliver. Who’s your big friend?”
“Oh, hello. This is James. James, meet Dan, he is our extractor fan.”
James giggled. “Extractor fan? At home, that is something that takes all the cooking smells out of the kitchen.” James shook the hand of the funny little man.
Oliver explained. “Dan has the job of going to dentist’s offices and collecting all the teeth that have been extracted. You have got to be a fan to do a job like that, you know. Come on, James. Let me show you around, while we are waiting for a decision.” The two left the office, James being careful not to bump his head on the top of the door opening. All these funny little men were dressed the same, in blue boiler suit and hat. The labels on their chests were needed to know just who was who. He had noticed something very strange while Oliver, Harold and Dan were talking. Not one of them had any teeth in their mouths. Just gums, which made their speech very strange. As well as this, they all spoke with a strong, Liverpool accent. ‘Scouse’ is what his daddy had called the way that some people from Liverpool talked.
James could not help being curious. “Oliver, why do none of you have any teeth?”
“We don’t need them. We don’t chew foods like you humans, as we all live on honey. That is why teeth are so valuable to us. Just like gold is to humans.” Oliver continued his explanation, as they wandered around a big, bustling room. “When the first humans were created, our maker gave them teeth, as they would need them to survive. The only condition was that we could collect them, as taxes, when they were no longer needed.”
“So, you are all teeth miners?” James was beginning to see the purpose of all these strange, little people. The room they were in had many long, winding conveyor belts covered with thousands and thousands of teeth, all moving slowly from one place to another. Sitting alongside these conveyors, were many little people, sorting teeth by their size and quality. Again, they all wore the same type of clothing as Oliver. Ten large containers, at one end of the room, were slowly filling with teeth, after being sorted. James was fascinated by all the organisation around this curious, tooth-mining world. James and his little companion left the room as many of the sorters began to become uneasy and unsettled by the presence of the tall intruder. Outside, Coloured trucks were being filled up from the ten containers.
“The different colours indicate the quality of the teeth. White is top quality and black, the poorest”, Oliver explained.
“But, what happens to the teeth after they have been sorted?”
“Everything here is made from teeth. The best quality is kept for the tooth ferry and the others for less-important construction jobs.”
“Wow, that is neat!” It seemed so obvious to James, now. “Oliver, do you come from Liverpool?”
“No, I come from here. Why do you ask?”
“Because you and the others talk with a Liverpool accent.”
“I don’t know why that should be. You will have to ask someone wiser than me.”
“Can I go on the ferry?” James looked at the huge, glistening, white boat moored at the quayside. He really wished that he could go on board.
“As long as you don’t cause any trouble. I think the news of your arrival should have reached everybody’s ears, by now.”
“Oh, great!” James was so excited. The two walked to the harbour wall and along the walkway, down onto the ferry. The boat was moving gently as the bright, blue sea was very calm. The decking, handrails, steps, superstructure and everything else were all shiny white. “You mean that all this is made from teeth?”
“Yes, everything. The engineers are very skilled at working with teeth. After gluing them together, the teeth are ground and polished to the right shape.” James could not help but admire the ability of these strange, little people to create such a masterpiece from plain, ordinary teeth. “It is a nearly perfect material, you know. It is lightweight, hard, tough, water and heat resistant and is very stable.”
“What about the engines? Surely, they must be made of metal?”
Oliver shook his head. “No. Even the engines are made from ground and pressure-moulded teeth. Come on, I’ll show you.” Oliver took James down a flight of steps and into the engine room. “Mind your head, James. There’s not much room down here.”
James bent his head as he walked into the engine room. He stared in amazement at the quietly-turning engines. “Wow! That’s smooth.”
“Our engineers are very proud of this. It is a triple expansion marine engine with enough power for a ferry four times the size of this.”
James knew a little about engines, as his Granddad had been an engineer who had made model steam engines. “But, if this is a steam engine, don’t you need coal to burn to make the steam?”
“No. The sun’s energy, with strong, magnifying lenses turns the water into steam. It passes through the engine, condenses and is passed again for heating.”
A lot of this was too complicated for James, but he knew that it sounded like a perfect machine. A bell rang twice. Oliver took hold of James’ hand. “Come on, we must go, now. The ferry will be sailing, soon.” The two of them quickly returned to the main deck and ran back onto the quayside.
A thought crossed James’ mind. “If the heat from the sun is used to make the steam for the ferry, what happens when it goes dark, at night? Does the ferry have to stop, then?”
“It’s no problem. It never goes dark, here. We don’t have day and night, like you humans.” James was just thinking what a perfect place this seemed to be, when a group of these little people surrounded him.
“What’s happening?” James felt frightened, seeing the angry faces of these tiny people.
Oliver spoke quietly to one of the group. “We have to go before the teething Ring.” Oliver looked worried. “They want us there, now.”
James felt nervous at the thought of going before a court. He knew there was no choice, as the group herded James towards one of the biggest buildings, as though he was a sheep or a cow. He was pushed roughly, along a passage and up a staircase. When he and Oliver reached the top of the stairs, they found themselves standing on what seemed like a round stage. Surrounding the stage was a ring of thirty-two seats, each filled by stern-faced men, all dressed in different colours. Eight were in yellow, four in orange, eighteen in red and just two in a rich, purple suit. Strong lights shone down on the two figures of James and Oliver. James legs began to tremble as he wondered what might happen to him.
“Oliver!” A loud voice boomed out. “You are guilty of a security leak, by bringing a human, here. What do you have to say, in your defence?”
“James saw me. I didn’t know what to do. I thought it might be safer to bring him here to find out what I should do.” Oliver’s voice was shaky.
“And you, James. What do you have to say for yourself?”
“I…. It wasn’t Oliver’s fault. I am to blame.” There was a discussion in voices which James could not hear clearly.
After a few moments, a voice said, “It is the opinion of the molars that James should stay here, never to return to the land of the humans.”
Another voice boomed at James. “The incisors agree. This is the only way to protect our security.” James was now visibly shaking. The thought of staying in this place, never to see his mummy, daddy and sister again, frightened him. He began to cry.
“Yes. It is the only way to protect our people,” growled the canines, in a sinister voice. “He must stay here, for ever.”
“The Wisdoms do not agree.” Another voice rang out. “If James is not returned, it will lead to difficult questions. That is likely to cause more of a security problem in the future. If he tells of what he has seen, here, who will believe him? He is not a problem. As leaders of this Teething Ring, our decision is final.” The others in the court nodded, meekly, in agreement.
James felt very relieved. “Thank you. I promise not to tell anyone of this.”
“You are free to leave. Do you have any questions, before you go?”
James thought for a moment. “Yes. Why do all of you talk with a Liverpool ‘scouse’ accent?”
It was the Wisdoms who answered. “You have got it the wrong way round. A long time ago, a similar incident occurred. A boy from your land, in the area you now call Liverpool, came here. During his stay, he picked up our way of speaking. After his return, his dialect, over many years, must have spread to everybody in the area.”
“Oh, I understand, now.” James was feeling very relieved.
The final word came from the Wisdoms. “Don’t think that you humans know everything. We have influenced many of your ideas over thousands of years. Go now, and keep this knowledge secret.”
With that Oliver led James back down the steps and into the open air. They had become good friends in the short time they had known each other and James knew that he would miss his friendly smile. “Can I see the ferry, once more, Oliver?”
“There she is. She has just set sail.” Oliver pointed to the ferry, steaming away from the quayside. Many of the little people were standing along the sides of the boat, waving as they sailed into the distance.
James looked at the impressive sight of this pure white boat, gliding gently through a perfect blue ocean. “Thank you, Oliver. I’ll miss you.” James gave the bewildered little man a big hug.
“Take care, James. Remember, this is our secret. Oh, bye, the way. Remember, bunk beds make it difficult for us collectors. Now take hold of my hand and close your eyes.”
James did as he was told and, once again, felt the air rushing past his ears. Oliver’s hand seemed to melt into his and when he opened his eyes, he was back in his own bedroom. There was no sign of Oliver. James took off his slippers and climbed back into his bunk bed. Very soon, he was fast asleep.
When he awoke, next morning, he suddenly remembered about his tooth. He looked under the pillow and found a bright, shiny coin where he had left his tooth. “Was everything about the tooth ferry and Oliver real or just a dream?”
Copyright J. S. Raynor, 2013, 2017
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