the tooth fairy

Raisin Bran. Again. Every morning for the last five years. "Goddamn it," Jake Naughton sighs, then looks up at his wife, busying herself with the kettle on the other side of the kitchen. The smell of peppermint tea making his stomach even more depressed than the damned Raisin Bran. "I want eggs."

Sarah doesn't look up. "You always want eggs. Drink your prune juice, I've made tea."

"I don't want tea, I want--"

"Jake, honey, please, not again, OK?"

He goes back to staring at the brown cardboardy flakes, going soggy in his bowl. Eggs, home fries, bacon, sausage, grilled tomato and a big pot of freshly-brewed coffee. Doesn't even have to be that fancy stuff they sell down at Starbucks, just regular black-as-tar squad room coffee. He sighs again, and drinks his prune juice instead.

"Did I tell you Cathy Albright's boy Skip got a football scholarship to RMU?" Sarah says, coming to the kitchen table with two cups of stinky peppermint tea and the morning mail. "She's got a brand-new bathroom suite too, you should see it Jake, it's like a palace in there -- I was afraid to pee!" she chuckles, shaking her head at the thought of Cathy Albright's bathroom. "Marble tiles came all the way from Italy, can you believe that?"

Jake doesn't say anything, just crunches joylessly on a spoonful of Raisin Bran that tastes like it's come all the way out to Denver PA in the backside of a cat. He doesn't tell her that Cathy Albright's husband's a drunk with a thing for hookers.
Sarah launches into some story about how one of her friends has started 'quilting for world peace', but Jake just tunes her out -- he's had thirty years' practice -- and runs through everything he's got to do today. Court in the morning, then an update on the Goldberg case, then a press conference and a meeting with the mayor and his 'advisors'. Greasy little college boys who've never done a day's work in their lives telling him how to keep the junkies from shooting-up on Walnut Street. The joys of being Chief of Police in an election year.

He pushes the bowl of raisin bran away and picks up the mail. Bill, bill, something from the mayor's office, Publishers' Clearing House, someone trying to sell them aluminum siding... and right at the bottom of the pile an envelope with one of those printed labels and a Fresno postmark. There's something lumpy in it and suddenly the Raisin Bran is the least of his troubles.

"Jake? Jake, are you OK?" Sarah, sounding concerned. "Jake, do you need one of your pills?"

He crosses to the kitchen cabinets, feeling numb, holding the envelope by the corner, even though he knows it's got to be covered with every postal worker's fingerprints from here to the San Joaquin Valley, then carefully slits it open with a clean kitchen knife.


Sitting in the bottom of the envelope is a lock of red hair, and a single human tooth.