TTT Stories    Cutting His Teeth

Cutting His Teeth

Yeah, we’re definitely gonna pay off the mortgage. And maybe the student loans. Heck, I might even get my wife that imitation mink I keep promising her.

Mr. Thorndyke Pawner, Jr., looked down at the garden gnome smiling benignly from its moss-covered blanket and cautiously allowed a small grin. The late nights studying while manning the sticky, greasy, drive-through counter at Tastee Burgers, the many prayers that his prehistoric car would make chug up the incline express ramp one last time, and all those lunches of instant noodles from the dollar discount market…and now, finally, the big time! And to think, he originally balked at this assignment. Accountants simply do not make house calls, his textbooks had drilled into him for the past five years…not even Internal Revenue rookies fresh from the Academy of Accounting Arts and Sciences.

But his iron-jawed boss simply folded his arms and glowered, like the way his mother used to after nabbing a cookie thief red-handed. What was the unofficial motto of the United States Internal Revenue Service? The organisation that was created by Abraham Lincoln himself? That brought down Al Capone?

Service! With a capital SIR!

Now, an hour later, after charting a course through the prehistoric forest surrounding the estate of one Isabella Zahnfee, watching the deer (deer!) hop through the meadows as if fleeing some Disney nightmare, the ramshackle abode leaning to one side with age…heck, this assignment didn’t seem so bad, in a rustic, primitive sort of way.

Plus, the garden gnome and the plastic flamingo keeping watch on the front lawn seemed to say “Come on in!”

The mortgage. Just remember we have to pay off the—


If his briefcase was not firmly in his sweating grip, Pawner would have slapped himself for his vocal faux pas. Thinking out loud was a nasty family trait, although it came in handy during the long, lonely study hours in the dorm rooms during homecoming parties in his senior year. Pawner swallowed his pride, and possibly his job, and coughed politely. “Good morning”.

The preserved female specimen in the threshold leered back at him from the shadow of a disheveled hair bun. “What?”

Thank God if she’s tone deaf. Attempting to start over, Pawner offered his best Magna Cum Laude smile and bowed slightly, like his Grandfather used to do, partially so he could meet this codger at eye and ear level. “Good morning, ma’am. Miss Isabella Zahnfee, I presume?”

The old crone elevated her head—a remarkable feat given her hunched back. “Oh. Yes.

What a sweet young men you are”.

Pawner beamed. And his boss had tried to scare him with tales of axe-wielding Lizzie Bordens who feasted on rookie Riding Hoods. “Why, thank you, ma’am. My name is Thorndyke Pawner, Junior. I’m from—”

“What an adorable puppy dog name! Do you have any friends? Do they call you ‘Thornie’? Or just ‘Dickie’?”

The accountant’s grin dimmed slightly. The old lady was a 1040EZ form for sure. Why, the whole thing would take ten minutes. Not glamorous, but at least it’ll show the Boss I’m serious. And promotable material for sure. Before the rate goes up on duplexes. “Well, ma’am. I’m from the I.R.S.”.

“…Iris…?” The old woman’s eyes widened and her hands shot to her parched maw as she stifled a scream. “Oh! Oh! Police! I’m being radicalised! Massacred! Help!”

Pawner felt his lower jaw loosen in astonishment. He raised his free hand in protest. “Now, please, ma’am…I’m—”

“Madam, you say!?” The aged dame shriveled before his eyes. “Merciful Heavens, save me! I’m being raped! Dragged to the harem! Oh, a fate worse than death!”

You’re telling me. The thought of his first client having a heart attack in the first two minutes of an interview would make the water cooler crowd, but it was not the mark of distinction Pawner was aiming for. “Please, Miss…I’m not here to hurt you. I’m from the Bureau of Internal Revenue”.

The delicate creature’s pupils dilated, threatening to fall out of her sockets. “Oh! Oh!

Oh!” Her exclamations were clearly not signs of ecstasy.

“Miss Zahnfee?” The rookie accountant held up both hands, indicating his surrender. “Please! I—I believe you called my office for some pointers with your taxes…?”

“I—I did?” The old bat batted an eyelash.

“Why, yes. today…the twelfth…?” Pawner bit his lip. “I—I did?”

“I believe so, ma’am. Since you indicated you don’t drive and can’t make our Volunteer Assistance Program, my office thought to send someone out to help you personally. We arranged an appointment…?”

“Oh! Yes!” The old woman’s face lit up like the Fourth of July. “Why, isn’t that nice!

I’m up to my eye-teeth with worry”.

Pawner felt his easy grin flicker back to full power. “Well, no need to fret, Miss Zahnfee.

Anything I can do to help. Might we get started?”

“Yes, Mr. Powder. Please, do come in”. The old woman hobbled back a few steps and her arm swept the room invitingly, not unlike Count Dracula.

Pawner instinctively assumed the copyrighted I.R.S. walk: square shoulders, quick breath, left hand firmly gripping the briefcase, and right foot forward as he ambulated into the Zhanfee residence. As his eyes adjusted, he found himself focusing on the cobwebs and vines dangling from the window panes, the faded wallpaper patched with yellow newspaper clippings with women wearing beehives, the wall calendar with “1966” in red letters, and the stubs of candles whose flames had been extinguished long before he was born. And this is why we need to pay our mortgage on time.

The old woman moved about, a small dust storm in her wake. “You know, my poor husband said we didn’t need help with the taxes, but with all the new fangled laws, it does become rather worrisome. Why, look what happened to poor Kenneth Lay. Such a nice man”.

Pawner resisted a double-take. “Taxes can be complicated, Miss, which is why—”

“And all this attention to little me! It warms an old lady’s heart to be appreciated”. The young man instinctively drew himself up. The handbook’s stock reply No. 15-A,

revised edition, immediately sprang to mind. “Ma’am, we at the Bureau of Internal Revenue believe every taxpayer is special. I’m glad that—”

“—and so I told my poor husband we really need an expert. I’m so glad you’re here, Mr. Pawnee, because you’re so young and handsome. Why, I’m sure you’re up to date on the latest bugaboo”.

“Uh, thank you. Now, if we can get started…?”

She smiled. “Don’t stand on my account. I just have to feed my little nibblers”. “Nib…?” Pawner craned his neck at the expected site of ravenous canines. But no, she was merely watering a small patch of greenery on the window ledge. Refugees from the Little Shop of Horrors, no doubt.

“Oh, Mister Pawdoo, please be seated”. She indicated a nearby relic that had probably performed a stint at a lion trainer’s academy.

“Um, thank you, Miss Zahnfee”. Gingerly, the accountant lowered himself, preparing for the mushroom cloud of dust that was sure to surround him. The chair howled in protest, followed by the splintering of wood.

“Oh, cra…gee, I’m sorry, Miss Zahnfee”.

“Well, that’s to be expected, I suppose”. The old woman shrugged. “It’s only two hundred years old. They don’t make them like they used to”.

Pawner was glad he did not set his briefcase on the accompanying table. He was really glad the old bat didn’t offer him anything to drink. The layer of grit covering the furnishings and laid out dinner ware might be all natural and gluten free, but accountants, by nature, were not archeologists…digging up ancient history notwithstanding. Determined to escape before the dust paved his lungs, he cleared his throat. “Now, Miss Zahnfee, before we begin, may I ask why you felt you needed assistance?”

The decrepit hag took on a pink hue that defied her wrinkles as she cast her eyes downward. “Well, you see….Mister Prowler…”

Pawner followed her gaze to the carpet. The old carpet. As in Byzantine old. And the chair he was sitting in. And who knows what other bric-a-brac resided in this time capsule. “Well, maybe you can across some good fortune?” he prodded gently.

“Oh, yes, that’s it!” She smiled. “A bit of luck. You see, it started so innocently. Like a game, almost. Why, Mister Painter, it was so much fun. But then it added up so quickly”. Her forehead wrinkled over in through, threatening to fall into her eyes. “Let’s see…how many has it been since last season?”

After a short pause, Pawner prompted, “Last season…of Antiques Roadshow?”

The old woman almost laughed as she fondled the patch of greenery with relish. “Good heavens, no! The season since I started my little garden!”

“Garden….?” Pawner directed his attention to the “nibblers” she caressed with a passion that defied her aged fingers.

“You mean those?”

“Of course! The way they grow, popping up all over. Like weeds in a field!”

Weed? Poppies? Oh, god! The rookie accountant sat up. “You—this garden is a cash crop? This is a business?”

“Well….” The vintage female hesitated. “Strictly…’under the table’ is what my poor husband said”.

The thought of this old bird being a jailed canary was not the image the I.R.S. was cultivating. Imagine! Thorndyke Pawner, the pride of his graduating class, sending his first client to the slammer. What would his wife say if this got out?

What would the gang around the water cooler say? What would the mortgage lender say?

“Miss Zanhnfee…uh, well, under the table-wise…” Pawner took a breath and prepared for eternal damnation for subverting the system. “Ma’am, I’m sure you know that if your gross income does not exceed your standard deduction, you don’t have to file…” He gestured around the hovel. “…and it seems that you’re, well, a bit behind the eight-ball…”

Mis-ter Podfee”, said the patriotic matron, clutching an invisible flag to her once prominent bosom, “I pay my taxes like any good citizen!”

“That’s very admirable”, Pawner replied automatically, paraphrasing Stock Reply 41(b).

Sure, she wants to pay her taxes…as long as they’re dirt-low. He snapped open his briefcase. “Miss. Zahnfee, let me check my laptop for the current state laws regarding marijua—I mean— regarding ‘cannabis cultivation’.”

“…‘cabbies’…?” The old woman looked more helpless than before. “Is that what we’re calling it now? Isn’t that really silly, just for a little part?”

“Part?” Pawner bit his lip in annoyance with her cavalier treatment of this serious topic. “Ma’am, this is no laughing matter. People are—”

“Oh, bosh. It’s just a little tidbit from a child”.

Pawner’s award-winning , trademarked smile collapsed under this declaration of insanity. Struggling to close his suddenly-parched mouth, he forcibly swallowed. “I…I beg your pardon?”

“I mean, I know doctors have funny names for parts of the head, solely for insurance premiums, you know, but still!”

Pawner tried to stand, but his legs were slack with disbelief. His laptop slid from his knees and clattered to the floor in a merciful death. “You—you…” He gestured at her little nibblers. “You grow these things from the bodies of children?”

“Oh, for years! Started out as a wee girl myself”. Her eyes glazed over in the fond memory of a carefree youth spent frolicking among the lilacs. “Mister Pawlinger, there is nothing like the sight of approaching a little, innocent child in peaceful slumber, and then reaching out to pluck their—”

“Miss Zahnfee, please!” The accountant’s hand shot to his mouth as he shook with revulsion, fighting a gag reflex.

The elderly beast eyed him with curiosity. “You know, yours are rather pretty as well.

You shouldn’t cover up that beautiful smile”.

The accountant’s fist tightened with resolve. That’s it! A man could only take so much!

Pride came before the Fall! And he had only one life to give his country! Yes, the mortgage could wait. His wife would understand. But this old coot was going down the river! The children must be avenged!

Miss Zahnfee gestured, not unlike the Bride of Frankenstein, and then innocently asked, “Won’t you like to see my pretties?”

Pawner attempted to rise from his chair with defiance, but only succeeded in stumbling backward, tripping over his briefcase and scratching the engraved brass nameplate and lock his wife had inscribed for their first anniversary.

“Oh! Mister Poo-ter!” the old woman cried, hands spread open with fright. The poor boy, so weak! Probably malnourished from working so hard! “Where are my manners? I haven’t offered you a drink. How about some fresh-squeezed elderberries? Fresh from my little patch—”

Stripped with arsenic and old lace, no doubt! “Get….”, he gasped. “Get away from me!”

“Now please, Mister Player, please! Do be careful you don’t gnash your teeth! You’ll

ruin the shape of your mouth! Now, if you’ll just let me…”

“Don’t!” Pawner nearly struck the old bat’s hand aside. “What do you think you’re doing? What are you on?! Uh, no, don’t answer that! Just, just let me get out—”

Out of here. Out of work.

Out of home. Out of luck.

“Nor Mister Ponsosa”, the old woman tsked with disappointment. “I do believe you’re intoxicated”.

“You—you think I’m out of whack? Lady, you’re off your rocker if you think…think…” She smiled, with a twinkle in her eye. “I am a bit pixilated.”

The admission caught the taxman short. “Huh?”

For an instant, the old woman looked like she was about to twirl like a ballerina. “Pixilated. Pixie, in fact”. She drew herself up, the illuminated dust clouds around her bathing her in a heavenly aura. “After all, I am a close relation—on my husband’s side, not that there’s anything wrong with that—with the little people. But mother, bless her soul, did warn me about their kind”.

Pawner, resigned to a future of silence in a padded cell, rubbed his temples. His toe nudged the remnants of a once respectable government-issued laptop. The language from this crone would make a sailor blush! “And what people would that be, Miss Zanfee? For, uh, classification reasons, you understand”.

She smiled and stood at attention as best she could. “The fairies, of course. And, please don’t, Mr. Paws, don’t twist your lip. You’ll misshapen your jaw. Why, in my time, such abuse would have called out the Humane Society”.

Mister Pawner felt the room tip to starboard. “What—are you saying you’re the Tooth Fairy?!”

“The one and only, Mister Pawl”. Then, with a shake of her head, added, “And to think, that I should pay taxes on my little teeth collection. My poor husband says that when he was young—”

Mister Fairy was the least concern on the junior accountant’s mind. “Then—when you take—the body parts of children….you were talking about teeth!” He almost laughed with relief.

“Well, really, Mister Podner, certainly I was. Now, will you have something to drink? I do whip up the most delightful demitasse…”

A demitasse! He might have known! “I’m afraid not during business hours.”

Her eyes narrowed. Business hours! Headstrong youth! Giving her the business like that! Adding that wide-eyed innocence to draw her out while the meter’s running, as her poor husband would say.

Her voice cooled. “Then we have nothing more to say”.

The first sensible thing he heard all day! Finally! Thorndyke Pawner tentatively tapped the laptop with his toe then, deciding to let it rest in peace—it should be so lucky—he pulled out his old legal pad and alumni pencil case. Considering the antiquated trappings of this cozy shack, this old-school approach seemed appropriate.

“Now, then, Miss Zanhnfee, I’m assuming we’re filing a joint return for you and your husband?”

“Are we?” The big words seemed to faze her and the delicate face clouded over.

The Internal Revenue agent couldn’t say he was surprised. “Okay…moving along, do you have a W2? Or any other statement from a bank?”

“A what?” The kindly old lady stared as if he were speaking a foreign language.

Pawner stopped doodling concentric circles on his pad. “Let’s see, Miss Zahnfee, you, er, pay money for every tooth you collect, right? This is a business transaction. I need to know if you have a ledger or bookkeeping records….?” Seeing the blank look on the sweet lady’s face, he tried something else. “What do you do with the teeth you collect?”

The aged lips sealed into a thin, red line. “Why, young man, you are full of questions, And of all the things to ask!”

“Not to invade your privacy, of course,” Pawner added hastily. “But…for tax purposes, if you’d like to lower your income bracket…it would help to know your rate. How much for one tooth?”

“Mister Paw, that is a trade secret”. He voice dropped from the saintly tones of Mother Theresa to the hellfire of Ma Barker.

“Well, okay…uh…” Pawner poked his memory. “When I was a kid…”

You are a kid. The old lady rolled her eyes. “…you gave me a dime, I think.”

“Oh, is that all?” She blinked in surprise. “I guess you were one of those.”

Pawner felt a sudden emptiness inside, as if he had stumbled across Santa Claus’s hit list. “…I was…? But…back to the taxes….you might qualify as a non-profit, I think, but, well, there are paperwork and forms and…”

“‘Form’, you say?” She repeated the word as if the juvenile had uttered a different four- letter word.

“Yes’m”, he replied, oblivious. “I’ll fill out most of it myself—all part of the service, of course—I just need some figures”. He grinned, not unconvincingly. “I’m sure the Easter Bunny does the same thing”.


“The—Peter Rabbit. You know, with the ears?”

“Mister Pawlywolly, I don’t think my…faith…is any of the government’s business. I will speak to your superior about this”.

Extra! Tooth Fairy Axes Accountant! Junior Internal Revenue Agent Thorndyke Bitten Off Where It Hurts! Death Due to War on Easter! Readallaboutit!

Pawner swallowed. “I apologise, Miss Zahnfee”. He counted to ten, then twenty, then thirty, then rubbed his temples. “I’m sorry”.

“I should say so! I’m not particular like some people. Everyone has teeth”.

Pawner looked at her askance, not certain what to make of that. “I see. Then you have clients all over the world”.

“I should say so. Why, Mr. Pawpaw, the scheduling I needed to arrange just for this one meeting…my poor husband! Mercy me and bless my soul!”

“I-I never thought of it that way”. An international firm based in the U.S.! With connections throughout the entire world! So much for the 1040 EZ form!

She made a noise, satisfied some dim light bulb had finally seen the light.

Pawner looked at the old bag with new respect. He felt his shoulders relax. I represent the Tooth Fairy! The one and only gosh-darned, genuine Tooth Fairy! An experienced woman of the world whose hands have touched the lives of everyone on this planet!

And the boss thought she was an old dipstick running on empty.

But no, here was a bona-fide, certified mother of the world! A matriarch to molars! A queen of cavities—well, maybe not. But surely there was some prestige attached to this grande dame. Something his wife can be proud of aside from crunching numbers. Or, as his father-in-law had harrumphed, nose in the air, a ‘bean counter’. And he would have an expert to look over the little bundle of joy in its formative years!

“Gee!” he said in a moment of unguarded boyish enthusiasm. “Gee, Miss Zanhnfee, a woman of your caliber…I’m sure you’ll appreciate the many complexities in international financial holdings”. Utilizing the lingo, Mister Thorndyke Pawner held his legal pad up to his vest and scribbled down the Pythagorean Theorem. The Dean of the Academy of Accounting Arts and Sciences would be proud. Not looking up, he concluded briskly, “Now, a tooth may be just a tooth in any language, but given the algorithmic flux in monetary exchange rates in the global economy, minus the differential, short-term static withholdings, you know…”

“Do I?” The bewildered old woman’s eyes bugged. “I never realised, oh Heavens!

Maybe, maybe we should call the whole thing off…”

Mr. Pawner turned white. He could picture the headlines of the Huffington Roast filled with tax evasion charges, followed by manhunts, the usual gun shoot-outs, with the old dame declaring her intentions never to be taken alive. And lest the newshounds and flatfoots forget the accomplice, one rogue IRS agent! “Oh, no, ma’am! You’re doing the right thing. Taxes are a very complex, but important part of life. Why, without everyone doing their bit…”

“You’re—you’re right”. The aged fairy steeled her nerves. “My husband would say…well, never mind. You must forgive an old woman, Mister Pawnerella, surrounded by a lifetime of dead things…”

Literally out of the mouth of babes! Pawner repressed a shudder, thanks to his rigorous training. His professional demeanor required that he suck it up. “Miss Zahnfee, I…”

“Oh, please, Mister Paw….Thorndyke, help me.”

Pawner looked down at his legal pad. And here he was set to walk the red carpet…more like trampling this old broad into the ground. And then gawking over the remains. His boss probably had an app for that. “I…”

“Thank you, dear boy, such a dear boy!” The tears welled up and ran down the wrinkles in her worn cheeks like a canton creek. “You will save me, won’t you? Everything is all a mess…I’m afraid I can’t pay you very well…”

What a sweet old lady. “Miss Zanhfee, I don’t want—”

Her voice hardened. “I don’t depend on the enslavement of poor, defenseless elves and animals. Not like some fat old slob I know.”

Then again, sugar kills. Mister Pawner blinked at this about-face.

“But I…” she hesitated her fingers trembled at the button on her blouse. “I…I can offer you…”

Pawner felt his face drain of color. “Please! Ma’am, no!” He swallowed reflexively, not even bothering to look the goods over. “I’m a married man!”

“Is that right?” she asked, distractedly. “Yes!…and happily so!”

And with a mortgage to pay! And a baby on the way!

And those Academy loans!

“Happily…? Well, good for you, young man! Why, the number of cracked teeth I collect these days…” She shook her head at the teeth gnashing that went on in this cold, friendless world. “The times we live in! Why, my poor husband…”

And you’re married, too!” remembered Pawner, with a sigh of relief.

“And may Heaven rest his glorious soul!”

Recovering neatly, Pawner took a breath and straightened his tie. “As a federal employee, Miss Zanhfee, I must remind you that it behooves us not to take payment for pro bono work”.

“And I, Mister Pawn, am not a charity. Perhaps…” She paused, then said slowly, a full set of infant crowns from Charles Philip Arthur George?”

“Who’re they? The Beetles?”

Ignorant youths of today! Flaming downward in a spiral towards damnation! “Then how about those from Mike Meyers? As a token of my sincere appreciation?”

Make the check out to eBay. But no, the exploitation of the elderly was not exactly a friendlier face for an agency representing the Supreme Law of the Land. “Miss Zahnfee, I must decline, and, uh, nothing to drink, thanks. But in order to qualify as a 501(c)(3), you know, like the Red Cross…or St. Jude…you are in the medical profession, to a degree, aren’t you?”

“Am I?”

“What I mean is, with your prestige and—”

I don’t care for fame, Mister Podner. Not like some commercialised elf”.

“No, certainly not. But still, with all the good will, why, the people should erect—”

Miss Zanhfee made a face at the bawdy language. And to think, from a government man to boot.

“—a monument for you. The work you’ve done for orphans and the poor…” “Monument?!” croaked the relic, suddenly exploding to life like a typical woman over

the question of age. “Do you think I’m old?”

“Simply for tax purposes, ma’am”, he replied, trying not dwell on a similar reaction when he praised his mother-in-law on a recent birthday. “I can attest to your, uh, timelessness…a sprite little fairy…” He smiled, lopsidedly.

“And don’t you forget it!” She snapped her arm as if waving a baton, or putting a curse on him with an invisible wand. “And that Kris Kringle thought he’d take me over! And what he does to Mrs. Kringle…well, you just know where that brat of his gets it from, the little trollop. You should see his ‘little’ operation. And I do mean little!” She poured herself a generous libation and bottoms went up.

Pawner stared, stupidly. “Uh, beg pardon?”

“‘Escape Claus,’ that should be his name. The going-ons, right under his nose. Red nose, indeed!”

Cheeks flushed and feeling a little crimson himself, Pawner gestured helplessly to his legal pad. “Miss Zanfee, if we can concentrate on the matter at hand…?”

“Oh, don’t get me started now!”

The word start, like its synonym begin, did not seem to have applicability in the land of fairies. “All right, Miss. Zanfee. I suppose I can fill out most of the forms on my own”. And deposit them in the office’s new shredder. “Now, if I can just note which signatories I should use. Is your husband a partner? Are you registered with any superior—”

My superior?” She looked upwards. “Well, now. Whom do you think, young man?”

I think I’m going nuts. I think the mortgage is the last of my worries. I think I’m gonna install padlocks on the baby’s windows when it starts to teethe.

“Now, Mister Podley”, she said, recovering her equilibrium with a little pick-me-up and feeling no pain. “I think I’ve given you all the information you need. I’m a very busy woman and I don’t have all day. I know how you G-men love to dawdle. The hands of justice, you know”. She giggled.

“B-but Miss Zanhfee, if you can give me one thing to go on. Your expenses…how many miles do you travel, on average, per year? And if you want to qualify as a non-profit, I’ll need…”

“Oh, poo it all”.

Thorndyke Pawner’s pencil snapped.

Her gaze focused on the destruction of taxpayer property. These youngsters seemed to think hardworking citizens were just made of money. But, then again, not every government pencil-pushers could wreak havoc with equipment like this strapping young man could. She poured another glass and watched the bubbles float to the top. “Such a fine grip you have”, she observed. “My affairs are in a mess, aren’t they? I could use a male secretary…so organised…so smart….to help me file my books. And what a grip on your shorthand!”

Pawner unclenched his fist. “Thanks for the offer, ma’am, but I’m happy with my position…”

“Your boss was sucking his thumb until the age of ten. They’re rather obvious, what they do to their parched mouths. Speaking of parched…”

Pawner glanced at his watch and then closed his legal pad, slipping it into his briefcase. The firm clasp of the lock echoed loudly, the click a sound reminder of the outside world. An existence apart from being a celebrity’s best friend…or mindless entourage.

To a tooth fairy on her fourth glass.

His wife had given me that lock. And a baby. And a purpose. A life.

Thorndyke Pawner, Jr., a mediocre young accountant with student loans, a mortgage, and a rust bucket with wheels to scoot around in. A mere cog in the human machine. Newspaper scandals? Savior of an international icon? Hardly. Just a small nobody in the annals of time.

It sounded wonderful.

“Miss Zanhfee, you’re right”, he said, getting up and feeling the blood circulate. “I’ll get started on this right away. Thank you very much for your time. You’ll hear back from us soon.”

“Oh…my case…my taxes?”

“Yes’m. A perfect example of non compos mentos, corpus delecti, third class. Easy to file. No problem. We’ll treat you like a fancy hobbyist…a stamp collector of teeth who gets a little carried away”.

“I do at that, don’t I?” She chuckled in content. “Must you go so soon? Do stay and smell the flowers. My nibblers are just starting to bloom”.

The thought of stroking a Venus flytrap was not how Pawner envisioned spending his afternoon. But to appease the old gal, he took a few steps to her treasured pots, brushing a dangling vine away from his face. He watched the fairy stick her nose into one of the plants and inhale with relish.

“Do try it, Thornie. A little nature never hurt anybody. It’s relaxing for the soul. Take a feel”.

Pawner glanced at her and shrugged. There’s no way I’m taking what she’s on. Still, he touched the delicate leaf hanging from a vine and was surprised by its organic texture. He wrapped his hand around the living vine and marveled at the living organism in his grasp. “Gee, Miss Zanhfee, this is kind of a Zen thing, huh? It’s does tingle a bit”.

“Does it?” She looked over in surprise.

“Sure”. Nature was remarkable. He turned to grin at her and the vine hit him in the face. “Oh, my”, she said.

“Yeah”. He blew the vine away with a breath and it came back and batted him on the cheek. “This is quite a sensation”.

“Well…” She looked back to her nibbler. “I guess poison oak has that effect on people…”

Mrs Isabella Zahnfee heard a yell and turned to watch Thorndyke’s retreating figure. Out the door, out into the world. He didn’t even said goodbye. She shook her head. Honestly. Young people these days. It’s like pulling teeth.

 By P.W. Lee from the United States