Saturday, 10 May 2008

A Chattering of Teeth

Niccolo Machiavelli has passed into modern idiom as a metaphor for obfuscation, manipulation and - lets say it plainly - spin. A sixteenth-century author of a manual for rulers and statesmen wishing to stay in power, he comments that being hated is not good - it can stir up too much resentment. However, doing stuff behind the scenes which flauts all acceptable moral codes, but maintains the status quo, is pretty much okay...the status quo being the big be-all and end-all for the tush on the velvet cush.

"The Prince" makes interesting reading. However...I would have to say that I did not think it had been published in twenty-four point helvetica, illustrated with friendly culturally diverse cartoon children, and presented in a tear-proof plastic wallet. No - "the Prince" is not one of the selection of stories in the "Oxford Reading tree", a series I admire. I wonder, then, how my five-year-old, who has never been organised enough to return her first library book this year, can have obtained access to the cunning machinations laid out in the Florentine's thesis.

But somehow...she has.

Yesterday morning, I rose early. I rose early, because I had a moral duty to perform. A tooth had been presented to me the night before - at ten-thirty pm, and I had no cash to augment the Tooth-Fairy's then empty coffers. She was done for the night, I said. She was a one-woman business. She worked crazy hours, and had to knock-off at ten, to preserve her sanity. And wash her very very smalls. Payment would follow the next day, when my daughter's tooth would become top task on the roster.

The offspring took this well. She has an ongoing correspondence with the Tooth-Fairy, and trusts that she will deliver. She has even discussed the pink curly-fonted rose-emoticonned emails, posing as IOU's, with spellbound classmates.

The Tooth fairy is a pragmatic girl. She is an edgy lass who is a sort of rebel at the gates of dawn. she is Boudica in her chariot, with espadrilles ( the original kind with flat heels) and unshaven calves. She wears her "Mountain" tee-shirt emblazoned with ravening Wolf fangs with aplomb, beneath her tiny leather jacket, grown from mouse stem cells. (I read about this. It exists as actual art in a famous gallery. But I am feeling a mite queasy today, so am not going to google a picture. Nope.)

Anyhoo...the Tooth Fairy could hire help, but, like I said, she is a one-woman show. Iconic. If she went out to franchise, standards might slip. And somehow...she might lose out to her disloyal shareholders, and be forced to wear a Barbie Mariposa outfit, with strobing karaoke wings. Goth-girls, even weeny-teeny ones, like to plough their own furrow. And yeah...she has to be a Goth...cos there is something sort of alternative about what she does. Something out-there, mysterious, ill-defined. There is some purpose in her egalitarian activities/proclivities, but no one can exactly say what. whatever they are, my guess is that they are edgy, but also environmentally friendly. She will most likely have an Ebay shop, liberally bespotted with dragons and orbs, and selling vaguely familiar-looking pearly enamel beads. she is a rockin recycler.

This is what she wrote:

"Wow! That was a late tooth-wiggle and pop-out! You caught me on the way home. My fairy antenna buzzed, but I had run out of coins. If you like, I can leave a surprise present instead of money. I see you like Littlest Pet Shop! So do I, my dear.

You have been a good customer, and might like a change. If money is best, then I will leave that instead. Just put a note under your pillow, or tell your Mummy, and I will overhear, as I'll be back in Dundee tomorrow, and my fairy hearing is excellent. Woo hoo!

Much love to you,

The Tooth Fairy"

It was a nice letter, and well-received. Moved by the same collectivist OCD principles which have passed to my daughter's DNA, I spotted and boughted a large tin box of "Littlest Pet Shop" toys, which I knew would go down very well. Indeed, they elicited a heartwarming whoop of infantile joy.
However...a few hours later, the spell was broken. Grandma came to collect the small one for an overnight stay, and raised a grey pall of doubt over the aforementioned tooth. I recalled the scene...the surprised "Oooh", and the handing over of the shiny pearly item. The ritual pointing-out of where the tooth had originated. It all seemed above-board. However, Grandma was smelling the proverbial rat. She remembered another tooth, lost a fortnight before, which had gone missing before the tooth fairy had dutifully paid a generous five pounds sterling for it. This tooth, Grandma prognosticated, was a Scarlet Pimpernel amongst milk teeth, and had popped back like a bad penny to spirit away more funds for some dubious cause.

No. The implications of this were too enormous.

1. My sweet and dainty daughter is as cunning as a Renaissance Florentine spin-doctor.

2. I am an unfit mother, not to have noticed that the gap was healed.

3. I was well and truly duped, although I like to think my teacher's sixth-sense is still functioning, though long out of use.

4. It is a wizard wheeze, which I would never have had the gall to attempt, even if it had crossed my mind. Which it didn't.

Nevertheless, I didn't believe the accusation. It seemed kind of way beyond the bounds of normal infantile deviousness. She held to her original story. But there was definitely a waver. An ever so slight disinclination to look me square in the eye - a disinclination which pleased me, a it took the edge off my fears of innate sociopathy.

A day later, when it became clear that the selection of huge-eyed wobble-headed plastic creatures with magnetic bottoms would not be returning to Woolworths, the truth came out. Or, as near as I may ever get to the truth. I shall paraphrase.

It started out as a game. But I believed her. The lie escalated into untold portals of potential gain. She kept schtoom. She never actually stated directly, that the tooth had fallen-out at that given time. She may have given powerful indications that it had, but not direct notification in actual words.

I am seeing a curly wig and ermine in her future.

And mayhap, a cosy Georgian town-house in a very smart part of London, with a granny flat, full of nearly-new but frivolously cast-aside qwerty-mobiles, laptops, and video iPods. a comfy little place. Not too far from the Natural History Museum. or maybe the Tower, and Wagamama's noodle bar.

I am feeling a little more steady on my pins.


Dr. Bob said...

Try having three of them. All able to tell the most outrageous whoppers with limpid-eyed sincerity. The only good thing is that they will rat each other out.

Yer mum is a canny one, though. I wonder what the tooth fairy does to those who try to shake her down for littlest pets?

rowan said...

Aha! That made me feel better. Solidarity, Sistah.

It also made me think somewhat, of the plank in my own eye. Methinks I may be looking back through rose-tinted binoculars, and seeing myself rather differently than I really was, back in the day. Don't remember any mental calisthenics of the sort described above, but, prompted by the fear of painful consequences, I did do the limpid eye-thing after I pushed my sister down the stairs.

Being nearly six must be a sort of last-fling high-rolling time for the Id. I mean, not soon after that, I recall, came the understanding of pity and albatross of Guilt. Innnteresting. I need to look into this whole thing more.

Yeah, my Mum is canny indeed. I dunno what the Tooth Fairy might do. As she's nocturnal, and has identified me as her deputy in this timezone, I guess my response has been to chew and review, and take my seat on the rollercoater called, The Steep Learning Curve.

Bob - I will refer to you as a repository of good advice. Think I'm gonna need it!

rowan said...

I am now recalling an incident where, at around six, I was having to thole indignities of various sorts from two small gangs of slightly umpleasant children at either end of my street. Rather than rat about the ongoing low-level bullying, I decided to act, passing both rival groups a note, supposedly from the other, indicating there was to be a big 'rumble' out in the street after tea, on an appointed evening. Both turned up, aimed with their miscellaneous weaponry: various tree-branches, old gym-shoes and soup ladels. (Yeah...they were a rum lot. ;) )

Nevertheless, quite a colourful scrap commenced, and I had a bird's eye view from my bedroom window. The evening was topped-off by an extra unexpected surge of delight, when my father went out after them and chased them around the corner.

I guess Machiavelli might give me a wee high-five for that one. And starting to see now where the small person may have aquired some of her her guile...

Sheena said...

Hello Dr Bob! Your comment made me chuckle.

I would have to say that there was definitely a Machivellian streak in Rowan. However, I would agree it seems to have distilled into a purer form in the next generation!

rowan said...

Bob - I like the phrase "shake her down for littlest pets." It is most edgy, and spanking new to me. I like a new edgy idiom. I will now be using that verb when I sense the feeling of aquisitive pressure being placed upon me."Can i have this?" is going to be met with, "No! I will not be shaken down for yet another piece of evanescent plastic!"

(I will say that inwardly, cos if I vocalise it, and then end up giving in, my lack of backbone will be all the more reinforced in those "limpid eyes" you describe so clearly.)

I like Littlest Pets, though. I have to admit that they are cute. And I have to fight off the inclination to collect things.

Yep...gotta get a Paypal account and sell off my daft Ebay doll collection.I have learned a sharp lesson there. Space > things with which to fill it.

(And I had to google which bracket was 'less than' and which was 'greater than'. But that is okay. Cos I found a cool math forum, where someone had already asked, without me having to abase myself.) to what the Tooth fairy migt do to those who try to shake her down, I can only think she could just place an embargo on future tooth collections, or unexpectedly return those already uplifted. Then you would see materialistic sorts walking about with wee bits of enamel embedded in their faces.

Dr. Bob said...

I liked the six-year-old last gasp of the Id. Nice.

rowan said...

Thanks, Bob! I don't think it knuckles down without a fight, does it? I appreciate your expertise in this field. An hoping the SuperEgo kicks-in at seven. But I'm sort of afraid to google. Just in case...

Bama said...

Okay...sorry I haven't been around in awhile.

This is one of the funniest things I've ever read! Both because of the events and because of your retelling of them!!

I gathered the girls around my desk at work and read it to them. They all agree: You and your daughter are both special ladies!!

Love you! Miss you! I'll be around more often!

Rowan said...

Bama! Great to see you! Highly chuffed you and your colleagues liked the post. Woo hoo! (Waves to Bama and friends in Texas, feelin very happenin.)

I am debating telling the small culprit that you find her special, as she may see that as support for escalating her aquisitional tactics. She has been trying to shake me down for those stuffed tooth characters I found for illustrative purposes on Flickr. Still..they are indeed cool. I guess I owe the person who made and photographed them a wee bit o business.

Muchly glad tae see yiz aboot!

Bama said...

Weeeelll...I dunno if you should tell the little lady or not. I would normally say to heap the praises on her head...but in this instance...hmmm...

Hee. She's adorable. Tell her that much at least!

Rowan said...

Hee hee. I will tell her indeed! I will tell her that you also watch ANTM. Lena has shown an interest in that show, on the the occasions (cough) when it has just happened happened to come on, um, at the tail end of a lengthy and in-depth documentary about wind-power and other renewable resources. :D Anyhoo...she has been observed in AMTM-esque role-play argument with two Barbie dolls. One sayshays past the other, and comments with biting candour, "I may be thin, but I got a booty." (I would have to disagree, in Barbie's case.)

Thanks.Lena will be chuffed!

Anonymous said...

I just loved the process of revelaing 'the plot'. Such a fluent style with language which creates the pictures is a joy to read. The structure of the story is so carefully desiged with so many clever devices to keep us reading....thanks

Mo said...

I loved the story paricularly because of the 'writer's craft' it revealed. Such wonderful language used to such clever effect. It moves along gradually releasing the Machiavellian twist. He would approve!

Rowan said...

Hi Mo! I am so glad you liked the post. Thanks for coming by, and for the lovely comment!

Wry Mouth said...

I'll be sure and steer Bob's sissy over here for a peek... she (mum of 3 red-haired daughters) would surely empathize.

Remind me to congratulate the kid on her scheming... much, much later, when it is safe to do so. Perhaps when she is 30.

In the meantime, with the world economy spinning crazed on its axis, a little scheming might be something that one wants on one's team.

Alternatively, you could extract an extra tooth in payment, or intimate that that is what the Tooth Fairy does to horrid little children... !


Rowan said...

Wry, the extra extraction threat is a possibility...only, she would expect payment for that tooth too, and perhaps danger money, as I would be a dyspraxic dentist. I will just have to crank up my vigilance-o-meter for such ploys in the future.

yep - can imagine Bob's sis to be an expert in seeing through devious devices!

Hope yer all daein awa fine.