The tooth stood upright in the dead center of the table, observed by two pair of eyes. One set studied it in near Talmudic study, which was Jim who also happened to be the one who picked it up. The other set looked at it in clinical disgust. She was Kath, Jim’s girlfriend.
“It’s definitely not a baby’s tooth,” he said. “Adult. It looks like an incisor. Maybe it got knocked out of someone’s mouth. Only there wasn’t any blood so maybe someone just lost it.” He smiled. “You know, maybe the Tooth Fairy dropped it or something, like, I don’t know.”
“It’s gross,” she said. “Why did you pick it up? What if it was an addict’s tooth or has some sort of disease or something?”
“Knock it off,” Jim said. He picked up the tooth and, for the forty-millionth time since he found it, inspected it like a diamond expert. “I just think it’s weird, that’s all. You know, the stuff you find in the streets.”
They were seated in a booth, in a chili parlor. White, bright, and thick with the sort of desperate fin de la nuit atmosphere you find in most places at three o’clock in the morning. They had come in from the clubs, a night cap before heading home to sleep, perchance to fuck. Chili fries to sponge up any residual alcohol while producing just enough acid reflux to burn a witch.
Jim took a suck on the cola in the hard plastic glass. “I shouldn’t be drinking this shit now. It’s got caffeine in it, keep me up all night.” He went back to studying the tooth.
“Serves you right,” Kath said. “I mean, why’d you even pick that up? It’s gross.”
“Life is gross, baby,” he said, affecting his best Clark Gable impersonation. He smiled and put the tooth down. “I’ve been doing this experiment, creative visualization, consciousness liberation.”
“What the fuck are you talking about?” she asked.
“The Thinker thinks, the Prover proves. I read about it in a book. I’m supposed to go around and think about a quarter and think that I will find that quarter. And when I’m out, I try to find that quarter and explain it either as a mystical event – that I made it appear with my mind – or that there are quarters lying around all the time and because I went out looking for one, I found it. Just as we were walking in here, there it was on the ground.”
“But you found a tooth.”
“I didn’t say the experiment was a success. I mean, think about it. George Washington’s on the quarter, right? He had wooden teeth…” He waved his hands, expecting her to make the conclusion.
“So you found George Washington’s tooth?” Sarcasm, she knew, would rile him up but she couldn’t resist. “Here comes our food, put that thing away.”
“Jesus,” he said and slipped the tooth into his pocket. “I tried to find a quarter. Maybe I didn’t visualize it right. They say sometimes with this Chaos Magick shit I’ve been looking into that you’ve got to be pretty fucking specific.”
The server came by with their order, a large order of fries smothered in chili, cheese, and jalapenos.
“I didn’t say it was Washington’s tooth. But you can’t deny that it’s an interesting coincidence. I go looking for quarters and end up finding a tooth.” As he reached for a fry, she slapped his hand away.
“Don’t touch our food when you’ve been fondling that tooth,” she said. “Go wash your hands!”
He stood up. ”Washington’s famous for having wooden false teeth and he’s on the quarter so I was just making the connection.” He walked off to wash his hands, he came back. They ate in silence for a second.
“Anyway, Washington didn’t have wooden teeth,” she said. “That’s a myth.”
“Okay,” he said in exasperation. “I get it. All I was trying to say is that this stuff I’ve been reading lately, Chaos Magick, it’s about creating the world you want. It’s about taking control in what everyone thinks is an uncontrollable universe. Putting meaning into our lives, right?”
“Yeah,” She wasn’t an enthusiastic believer..
“I’m not saying that I made the tooth appear by magic. Just coincidence.”
“But you’re putting a pattern on something that is just random. You’re giving significance to finding a tooth.”
“I need to read some more about this shit, okay? But what I do know is that we assign meaning and patterns to everything. The tooth. These fries. The plate. My car.”
“Right now,” she put her hands on the table. “This table, it’s got food on it. I’m hungry, I’m tired, and I just want to eat.”
The server stopped by. “How’re y’all doing?”
“Great,” she said and pointed at the plate with a fry. “This is hitting the spot.”
He looked around. “It’s kind of dead in here.”
The server chuckled. “You should’ve been here an hour ago. We had a couple of drunk guys in here earlier.”
“You’ve got a couple of drunks in here now,” Jim said. Kath laughed.
“We’re not drunk,” she assured the server. “Just hungry.”
“And drunk,” Jim added. “Hey, check this out.” He dug into his pocket and pulled out the tooth. “I found this walking up to the door here.”
“Holy shit,” said the server. “I’m sorry, my language. One of the guys who was in here, the drunks. They got into a fight with another customer. One of them got walloped right in the face, lost his tooth. Blood all over the place. We couldn’t find his tooth because they were wrestling a lot and we thought it got kicked around and lost.”
“See?” Kath said. “It’s just a tooth.”
“Anyway, I don’t know. These guys were in these costumes. One of them was one of those superheroes. Another was dressed like a pirate. The other one, the one who got his tooth, was dressed as George Washington.” The server laughed. “The stuff you see on the late shift, right?”
The server walked away. Jim watched the server leave and slowly turned his gaze back to Kath. He smiled wickedly.
“Don’t you say a fucking word,” she said.