Put 'Em Back!

Put 'Em Back!

I started off my senior year of high school with two black eyes.

That all-important last first day of school and I looked like I’d been in a bar room brouhaha.

The shiners were from wisdom teeth extraction. Add in the glasses, braces, introversion, and the preference for books and science projects over socialization, and congratulations! Total nerd status achieved.

It was all downhill from there…

That dental procedure was intense, as is any procedure where someone is in your space with sharp objects and drugs.

They gassed me.

Gave me pain pills.

And took my teeth.

Wisdom teeth.

All these years later, I wonder if I should’ve let that happen. Perhaps, all these years later, I would’ve been able to tap into some of the wisdom in those molars and navigate CIRCUS life and the battle of the AI Bots trying to take over my job, and how to maneuver three cats, Little Miss Muse, and Trudi the Office Goose through each and every day of the week without a nuclear bomb going off in my writing space.

And now we’ve got Zeppo, who’s still learning the ropes from his perch high in the corner of the office. (Zeppo's post will land next week...)

But, in that drugged stupor, drool sliding from my mouth, down my chin, and onto that paper bib chained around my neck, if I had slurred, “Put ‘em back!” would that have even been a possibility?

Or, perhaps if you’ve been cut off from the source of wisdom those chompers elicit, even for the briefest moment, all hope is lost?

I don’t know. But all these years later, I wonder what revelations I may have missed out on, given that my wisest of teeth are not in their respective spots, fueling a bit of decision-making here or there.

Like which make and model of car to buy.

Or which fight to pick with the Hubs over which car to buy.

Or whether the next jiggle dragon should be pink or white.

Or whether normal, grown adults worry about such things as pink or white jiggle dragons. (My guess is they do, but no one talks about it because they're too busy car shopping or engaging in general vehicle maintenance tasks. FYI: I’m trying to normalize jiggle dragon collecting, in case you didn’t know…)

I’d love some wisdom about which work in progress needs my attention the most. Or which ones could be deleted from the “DO ALL OF THIS RIGHT NOW” folder on my desktop. Cut them right out and into the digital incinerator like a handful of wisdom teeth into a fiery furnace. Or set to the curb for the Tooth Fairy. (Seriously, what do they do with all the teeth they extract on a given day?)

“You cut out that old woman from our story last week.” Little Miss Muse is reading this over my shoulder. In fact, she’s been chomping her gum and twirling her curls this whole time. The air above my desk reeks of grape bubblegum. “Poof. She gone!”

“I took out that character because she didn’t fit.”

“They told you your teeth didn’t fit either, and now you want them back. I want that old woman back.” Little Miss is miffed.

“She served no purpose.” The character in question was just sort of hanging around, doing nothing. Wallpaper. I trimmed her out.

“You cut out the store owner from the story two weeks ago. Like a surgical extraction.” She pops another bubble over my head. “I think we should put ‘em both back.”

“We didn’t need either of them.”

“You’re wondering if you need those long-gone teeth. I think we need those folks. They were the source of the wisdom in those pieces. Your main characters are as dumb as rocks.”

I had to stop typing there for a second and look her square in her chubby face. Because she’s right. But I can’t let her know that. Not just yet. I can’t go down without a fight of some sort.

“You’re emotionally attached to people we made up. My teeth were real.”

“And now they’re gone. Gone is gone.” She’s winning the logic battle here. Quite a feat for a creature with wings and a frayed tutu.

And yet…

My main characters aren’t always the brightest bulbs. Sometimes they need the guidance of an older, wiser human. Or at least a diary left lying around by one. Or long-lost letters. Or a well-timed visit from beyond the grave to offer some sage advice.

“Put ‘em back,” Little Miss says. "It's why those stories stalled and remain 'in progress'."

Oof. Another gut punch.

“Tell you what,” I still can’t let her win so easily. “You get the Tooth Fairy on the line and see if she can—”

“No refunds, no returns, no exchanges with the Tooth Fairy. And she’s sick of middle-aged folks asking for their teeth back. I know this already because she’s my great aunt’s neighbor’s cousin.” She picks her front teeth with her finger then manages to get bubblegum in her hair.

And in mine.

“And we’re not related. I’m sick of people thinking that we're from the same lineage just because we both have wings. Not even the same species. Like, she wouldn’t even know where to start a story or when to put people back into plots or nothing. All she does is haul away worn-out mouth bits. Just put those characters back.”

For crying out loud.

I look at Trudi, who, if she could raise her wings from her concrete torso in surrender, she would. Zeppo, likewise shrugs from his perch, then goes back to studying his alien artwork. I think he might be one. An alien. But that’s a bit for next week.

I give up.

Where'd I put those characters I extracted from the cast? 

Gas me now. Or give me some caffeine.  

 And I’ll grit the remainder of my teeth as I put ‘em all back.

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