Anything worth taking
seriously is worth
making fun of

The Tooth Failure

The tooth fairy is magical. The tooth fairy is eternal.
First appeared in Mary Englebreit’s Home Companion in January 2001

Who can’t remember the thrill of putting a lost tooth under the pillow at bedtime and waking up the next day to some shiny new coins? So what happens if she gasp doesn’t come??!!

We found out recently when our six-year-old daughter lost a tooth and we forgot to exchange it for some coins before we went to bed. The next morning at dawn, my husband and I awoke to the sound of ripping paper and a heartbroken wail as our daughter tore open the envelope she’d carefully put under her pillow the night before.

We lay, still groggy, in our cozy bed, heard her running footsteps and knew we had to think fast — before we’d even had coffee.

Claire leaped into our bed, tears rolling down her cheeks. “Mom, Dad, the tooth fairy didn’t come,” she cried. I looked frantically at my husband, who can usually be counted on to get us out of tight places like this. “The tooth fairy must have gotten really sick to not be able to come last night. Just wait, she’ll be back tonight,” said my husband, authoritatively.

The day went downhill from there. Every few minutes Claire would look up at me with hound-dog eyes and say, “the tooth fairy forgot about me.”

Still, come bedtime Claire gamely put her tooth into an envelope and tucked it under her pillow. Then I had a brainstorm! I’d write a note from the tooth fairy explaining what happened!

9 p.m.: I write the note:

Dear Claire:

You’ll never believe what happened to me the other night. There I was ready to come pick up your tooth, when bam! My wing fell out! Just like a tooth falls out, my wing just dropped right off. Well, I can’t fly with just one wing, so I had to wait a whole day for my new wing to grow in. Now I am as good as new. My new wing is working great and I can fly even faster now! Sleep tight, don’t let the bed bugs bite!


Very clever, I’m thinking to myself. One problem: I go in to put it under her pillow and she’s wide awake. Think fast. “You warm enough, Claire?” I ask.

9:45 p.m. Finally, Claire is asleep. But she also is completely on top of her tooth. I shift her and she opens her eyes. I grab the envelope, stealthily, I think. “Why do you have my envelope?” Claire asks.

“Ummmmm, just making sure it’s still there, Claire. Good night, sleep tight.”

“Dang!” I add, sotto voce.

10:30 p.m. Okay, I’m desperate. I want to go to bed. I send my husband in. He can’t find the envelope. Argh!! Under the pretext of moving her so she doesn’t fall out of bed, I grab the envelope, slip the tooth fairy note and coins under the pillow and breathe a sigh of relief.

Next morning. I hear the ripping of an envelope, feeling pleased with myself.

“Hey Mom, the tooth fairy came,” Claire yelled. I hear the clink of coins landing in her piggy bank. Not a word about the note. My pride is hurt. “Did she tell you what happened?” I can’t resist asking.

“Oh yeah! Here’s a note,” she exclaimed. “What does it say?”

Claire didn’t seem impressed with my clever tale, but she did relay it to several adults, perhaps to see if they’d ever heard of that tooth fairy excuse before.

Recently Claire lost another tooth and the fairy forgot — again — to deliver the goods. Although this time she didn’t get a note, Claire assured me that the tooth fairy must have been delayed by a bum wing.

I’m not sure how long this ploy will work, but for now I’m thinking we should re-name “our” tooth fairy the “Tooth Failure!”

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