“Dad said the tooth has to be loose already and only a little tease with a piece of string or constant wobbling with thumb and forefinger is allowed.”
“Well, your father is right love. You can’t go around asking your friends to punch you in the face to knock a tooth out. The fairy will know. And look at the state of you. Your friends don’t have very good aim, do they. That black eye will take forever to go away.”
“Well, Tim Brown got a bag of pineapple chucks when his tooth fell out.”
“Tim brown’s teeth are probably falling out because of pineapple chucks.” Claimed my mum.
“They will come out in their own good time Lloyd. Let nature take its course.”
I left her to get on with scraping the toast to go with the over boiled baked beans and sat back at the table.
“See, told you I was right!” Laughed my father.
I rolled my eyes.
Mum brought the food through. She beamed as she put the plates in front of us. The beans were still bubbling and steaming and hiding the incinerated bread. We all did our best to smile. Dad always took it a stage further and licked his lips and saying ‘yummy’ while giving us a secret wink. The draught around the table as we all blew on each fork full made the curtains twitch. Today was Saturday which meant chip shop super night. The knowledge of that made the stodge we had for lunch a bit more palatable. It was also the only treat I was allowed at the moment.
Because of my behaviour for wrapping Shep, our dog in clingfilm and seeing if my little sister Rosalind could get through the dog flap and Mum having to use a block of lard to get her out, I had been locked in the pantry twice in a week and stopped pocket money. I needed sweets but I had no means of getting any.
Mum had caught me red-handed eating sugar straight from the bowl and hid it away along with pots of jam.
“Off you go out and play now Lloyd while I clear away the dishes.”
“Oh, and Lloyd.”
“You have twenty teeth and one black eye. Come back with the same.”
“Ha-ha, very funny Dad.”
I was playing marbles with Andrew Bell on the pavement outside our house. We watched a lorry park across the road with Cardiff coal written on it. A man got out and picked up a heavy sack from the back and take it into Mrs Williams. She opened the door with hardly any clothes on.
Their coal bunker is in the back like ours, no idea why he went in the front. Maybe she was getting him to help light her fire. His face wasn’t as black with soot when he came out. Mine went red when Andy said what he thought they had been doing.
A dog came over to where we were playing and sniffed us then the marbles and ate one. It started to choke. We both jumped up.
“What shall we do?” Panicked Andrew.
“I heard something on the radio about helping someone who has a peanut stuck in their throat.”
“What do they do?”
“They punch them.”
“In the face, I think.”
“You can’t do that; you might knock its teeth out.”
My thought process went into hyperdrive but pictured my mother counting my teeth and quizzing me on how I had grown another one in half an hour.
“Maybe it was the throat. Yes. Hit it in its throat.”
“Why me? You do it, I might miss, look what I did to your eye.”
The dog stopped gasping for air and made a loud gulp and just sat there looking at us, panting and wagging its tail.
“It swallowed it.” We said together.
“Charlie, Charlie! Come here you little bugger.”
A little old lady with a walking stick came across the road towards us. The dog bounced onto his hind legs and jumped up to lick her face.
“Where have you been you naughty boy? Thank you, lads, for finding him for me. I’ve been looking all over Whitchurch. Fucking postman left the gate open again.
I have told him so many times. I hope he has been behaving himself. Watch him with those marbles though, he will eat anything.
He puts on a choking act when he puts something in his mouth that isn’t edible. He loves a bit of drama. Use to scare the shit out of me.”
I was at a loss as to where to look and Andy just gawped as the old lady continued to swear. I don’t think even basher Davies at school knew as many bad words as her.
“Come on Charlie let’s get home leave these boys be. No bleeding treats for you.” She laughed.
The dog tilted his head to the side with a ‘it wasn’t my fault’, look in his eyes.
I knew how he felt.
“I’m bloody knackered from all that running around, I don’t think I’ll be up to take him out for his frigging walk tonight.” She said as she clipped his lead to his collar and sat beside us.
“We can take him if you like,” I said without thinking.
“I can’t.” Said Andy, “I don’t think I am going to be allowed out.”
“I tried to copy your cling film dog thing. we don’t have a dog or cling film, so I used my baby brother, Sellotape and the cat flap.”
“He’s stuck in the flap.”
I laughed out loud and asked him what his Mum did when she found out.
“She doesn’t know yet, that’s why I’m here.”
A scream rang out from Andy’s house. His name screeched through his front door turned right came to the kerb and smacked him in his ears.
“I think she knows,” I said.
Andy scuffed the dog on the head. Said goodbye to the old lady and as he was walking away shouted that if he were still alive on Monday, he would see me in school.
I felt sorry for him but at the same time happy for me as it appears that I am not the only seven-year-old boy to get into trouble.
The lady seemed to read my thoughts “Sounds like you’re a bad fucking influence.” She said.
“Anyway, you can walk Charlie later if you like. I live at number 12. I can’t pay you though, well, not with money anyway. Do you like pineapple chunks?”
“Does the Queen like bloody Corgis?” I didn’t say.
“Yes, they are my favourite, in fact any sweet is my favourite right now.”
“Suck the drool back into your mouth boy, its unbecoming. Pop over about six.”
I watched her crawl up her stick till she was standing as straight as she could, which was not very straight. More like the letter ‘C’.
“Don’t help me up will you, lazy toe rag.” She laughed.
She hobbled away at speed up the street with Charlie in tow.
“Here you go son. This is the first half; you will get the rest when you get back. What’s your name by the way?”
She handed me a huge bag of Pineapple chunks.
“I’m Constance. Bring him back in one piece and don’t let him off his damn lead. He’s like an effing whippet with a rocket up its arse if you let him loose.”
When I was out of sight, I tried to have a sweet. The bag wouldn’t fit in my pocket so had to carry it in one hand while keeping a grip on Charlie with the other. He’s not as well trained as our dog, Shep.
I asked for payment for walking him once. My Dad said that seemed a fair request and how would three meals a day and a roof over my head do?
The saliva was flooding out of the corner of my mouth. Each time I would try and take a sweet the dog took the slack on the lead and jerked my hand away.
I thought if I could sit down and thread my foot through the lead’s handle, I would be free to scoff and have control of Charlie.
I found a bench in Whitchurch Park and went through the motions till I was free for the first sweet I’d had in two long weeks. They were absolutely delicious. I managed six in my mouth at the same time.
A thought had occurred to me that maybe Constance had poisoned them, although at that moment, I didn’t really care. I was popping the chunks like smarties.
I couldn’t take them home. I’d have to finish them all. I’d ask the old lady to keep the rest of my payment till tomorrow.
“That’s a fine-looking whippet you have their lad.”
I looked up to see an old man with a dog that looked exactly the same as Charlie.
I questioned the old lady’s remark about Charlie being like a whippet when it was one. Definitely an old people’s thing I answered myself. All completely balmy.
“What’s his name?” he asked.
I was just about to answer when Charlie did a bolt towards his lookalike and yanked me at speed off the metal bench. My mind was focused on keeping the sweets from falling to the ground. I was flipped over and with my hands tightly gripping the pineapple chunks and arms stretched out before me I was dragged along the bench. The arm rest smacked me in the eye before I hit the floor with my face. I felt my mouth bang on the concrete and heard a crunch. I gave up trying to save my sweets and clambered up. A concerned looking group of people had gathered around me.
They were all rummaging in their pockets and bags. I was offered loads of tissues. Did I have a big boogie on my nose? I touched my mouth, and it was wet and sore. I looked at my finger and saw it was blood. My eye was throbbing. The old whippet dog man handed me a handkerchief and took hold of Charlie’s lead. He bent down to where I had fallen and picked up something and handed it to me.
“I think this is yours lad. Put it under your pillow tonight and see if the fairies leave you something. You can keep the hankie; it was due for a wash anyway. Looks like you have been in the wars. I think you are going to have another shiner to match the one you have already Panda boy.”
“Oh, my giddy bloody aunt. What the buggering hell have you been doing.” Asked the old lady when I handed her Charlie back. I just gave her the basics as I seemed to have developed an embarrassing whistle through the gap where one of my front teeth used to be when I talked.
Fucking idiot, she shouted and was still laughing when I was walking up her garden path on my way home after tidying me up the best she could.
It appeared that ‘cursing Constance’ as they called her, was well known to my parents, and admired as a caring kind old lady with a speech impediment; a term they used for her ‘rich language’. I got a lecture on talking to strangers and an extra big bag of chips. The tooth fairy left a fake pair of false teeth which I didn’t think was very funny.
Author Notes: Ian McNaughton is a writer from Cardiff. He writes mostly short humorous stories, a lot of them have a food theme as he was a professional chef. He is fed up with waiting for publishers to come knocking on the door after he had a joke published in Readers Digest. He has had stories feature in a few online magazines and in the book’ Write on Cardiff’. He is the product of far too many part-time creative writing courses at Cardiff University. He always has to look up how to spell Broccolli.
Ian can be found at cardiffstoryweaver.com