The Girl With 1,000 Teeth
Sammy was in love with a girl with 1,000 teeth.
They didn’t really show unless she smiled. It was frustrating. She was pretty, her smirk was beautiful. Sammy really enjoyed telling her jokes, making her giggle… but when she laughed, well, it scared him a little.
Sammy was good at telling Lulu – the girl with 1,000 teeth – jokes, because he had his family tree on his head.
It was a lot to deal with.
First, branches grew, then a trunk, then leaves sprouted.
Before he knew it, his Mum and Dad were up there. Then their mums and dads, and so on, all the way back to hairy beasts, who looked more than a little like cavemen.
If nothing else, it was a lot of weight to carry around.
School was frustrating – Sammy’s tree was taller than the building, so he had to sit outside the class window, and playing sport was very awkward.
“I always thought the government would come for me, because I’m so different,” Sammy said to Lulu, as they sat on the pier after school. “And you, too I guess.”
“Well, some police interviewed me, but there’s a lady in the next suburb who lays dinosaur eggs,” said Lulu.
“Yeah, there’s always something going on.”
“Left alone? Fine by me,” said Sammy.
Gradually, he moved his fingers to touch Lulu’s resting hand.
“NO!” a voice cried. It was his great, great, great, great, great, great grand auntie, Bobbie the Nun. “These things are sins!” she bellowed.
“Put a sock in it, Bobbie” said great, great Granddad, Cyril, who was a fisherman. “Life is short and hard. Do what you want.”
“He’ll do no such thing!” protested Sammy’s mum.
Soon, Sammy’s whole family tree was arguing! Fights broke out, several limbs caught on fire.
“Sorry,” he said. “This is very embarrassing.”
Lulu grinned a little. Sammy could see about 60 of her teeth.
“I don’t mind,” she said. “Some of the things your medieval relatives are using to fight with are very enlightening. Brass framed garden rakes, blacksmith’s hammers…”
Sammy just slapped his head with shame.
“Hold my hand anyway,” Lulu said.
Sammy shook, the butterflies in his belly had butterflies in their bellies. He reached for her hand…
“DON’T YOU DARE!” half a dozen voices raged, as weapons, tools and rotten fruit from throughout the ages rained down at Lulu.
The girl with 1,000 teeth ran, almost in tears. Sammy was gentle, and friendly and she really liked him!
We all have family trees, she insisted to herself, in her room that night, while deciding if Sammy was worth it. We all come from other people. I can just see his, is all.
He was worth it, she decided. Very much so!
But she knew it was more than that. Each generation did things so different, thought so different. The world must have been always, always changing, from generation to generation – values, volumes, attitudes, nothing would be constant. She felt for Sam. All those voices. It must have been driving him crazy.
Sammy fell asleep in the garden listening to hundreds of relatives snoring and mumbling their dreams in at least 30 different languages. It was almost funny, almost soothing. Every now and then he would shake his head, just to mess with them a little.
All he wanted to do was hold Lulu’s hand. It was that simple.
Well, and maybe kiss her.
The next morning Lulu was woken by a paper aeroplane flying through her open window. It hit her in the eye, and when unfolded read:
Hi, it’s Sammy. I hope this didn’t hit you in the eye or something. Haha. Come to the bench in the park after school. If you want to, that is. Please. Sammy.
School was often a drag for Lulu, and today was no exception. One of the kids snorted milk out of their nose, which made her laugh out loud, which showed all her teeth, which made the girls tease.
“A fortune on toothpaste…”
“Who’d be a dentist…”
“Send the tooth fairy broke…”
“Imagine trying to kiss her…”
Then, as always, she snapped at them, and was lonely. The sooner she got to the park the better.
Down at the park, Lulu was hit by an empty tin can. It had a string attached. Sammy was at its other end, with another can. She pulled the string tight, and spoke into her end;
then watched Sammy listen to his, then put it to his mouth.
“Hi,” his voice said. “I thought we could talk this way, without interruptions.”
Lulu’s heart soared. “I like your ideas,” she told him.
And, like that, twenty feet apart, they were hanging out again. In a way none of his family tree could interfere.
“It seems such a waste,” Lulu said. “There’s so much knowledge up there. Do you have any medieval knights on any of your branches? That era fascinates me.”
“I don’t think so, I’ll ask Dad.”
“I can hear,” Sammy’s father said. “Up there,” he pointed, “is a Scottish stonemason from that era. Aymer went to England and made the blocks from which they made castles.”
“Wow, I could talk to him for hours,” Lulu said, delighted.
Then, Sammy felt the string go limp. He could no longer hear anything except leaves rustling, branches bending. It was hard to look up with so much on your head. He used mirrors and saw Lulu was climbing his family tree!
“Mud and straw,” Aymer said, into the tin can Lulu was holding. “We would pack it and haul it, one brick at a time. In impossible heat, in snow. A castle took years to build. Made me strong. That’s why I was tough enough to survive when the heathen attacked…”
“The heathen?” said Sammy. He was down the other end, can-to-ear, intently listening to everything.
“Yes, the sea wolves! You know, the northmen!”
“I think he’s talking about Vikings…” Lulu’s voice whispered, breathlessly.
“Yes! The Vikings! The heathen!” the voice down the other end of the can insisted. “Yet they thought we Scots were barbarians! We were invaded often. Life was hard. We only expected to live for about 20 years.”
Sammy tried to image it. He would already be middle aged! Impossible!
Then, he heard arguing.
“Carson nach innis thu dhaibh mu dheidhinn an àiteachais again,” a harsh voice ranted.
He used his mirrors. An old lady in the branch above Aymer was shouting.
“Màthair, bidh iad a ’bruidhinn Beurla san àm ri teachd!” Aymer shouted back. “Sorry, that’s my mother, she wants to tell you about the farming and probably music.”
“Na bruidhinn Beurla!” the old lady raged.
“English, Gaelic, I’ll speak what I want, mother!” Aymer shouted.
Sammy used a mirror to see Lulu, who was smiling a lips-together smile at him. It made Sammy smile, which made her smile more. Which made him smile more. Which made Lulu’s smile break all the way out, and there they were, 1,000 teeth!
Sammy didn’t care. He was in love.
“This is so cool, we should record all their stories!” Lulu said.
Then Sammy heard a clunk and clatter.
“You’ll do nothing but get out of here!” he heard Bobbie the Nun shout at Lulu. “You, you… dragon’s daughter!”
“Hey, man, chill out…” a cousin from the 60s moaned, then everybody was fighting again.
Lulu ran from the tree, crying. A few minutes later the local policeman came.
“I heard somebody threw a wooden rolling pin at a little girl and knocked a few of her teeth out…” he said.
“Oh, no! Poor Lulu! The girl with 998 teeth!” Sammy wailed.
“Look,” grumbled the policeman. “There are several other people with family trees growing out of their heads, but they are nothing like yours. They at least pretend to get on, solve things. They’re like big, green, community libraries.”
“Well, the person who threw the rolling pin is up there somewhere,” said Sammy.
“Good luck in getting them.”
The policeman looked up at a sea of arguing people who all sort of looked a bit like Sammy.
“Oh,” he said. “I might just issue a warning.”
Then, “Hi, I’m here,” said Maddox the Magician. Or so the card he gave Sammy told him.
“Huh? Whu? Wha?” said Sammy.
“You called me. You said you have some people you want to get rid of…?”
“That was me!” said Mum, sitting on her branch holding a mobile. “Just his side of the family,” she pointed at Dad. “They’re the ones causing trouble!”
“Hey!” protested Dad. “It’s a good thing I called you!” he insisted, pointing his mobile at the policeman.
“You’re all unbelievable!” protested Sammy. “Leave me alone! I have a life to live! Gah!”
“But… we are you,” somebody from the higher branches added.
“I am me! Me!” Sammy boiled. “You lot got me here, but I have to make my own history!”
“Kazam!” shouted the magician.
Everybody froze for half a second.
A rabbit appeared from his hat.
“Sorry, sorry, I’ve just come from a birthday party,” he mumbled while fumbling with his wand, as a deck of cards spewed from his sleeves, and a flower grew from his vest pocket.
“Kalazoop!” he tried again, covering everybody with hick-upping frogs and coloured hankies.
Then, there was a scream, and everybody saw Lulu get taken by a dragon.
“We’re getting more and more unusual stuff around here,” the policeman reluctantly admitted.
It was very hard for Sammy to run with a tree full of people on his head, but that didn’t stop him. He sweated and gasped and ran as if his heart might explode. All that arguing about medieval times? If dragons did exist, of course it would attract them!
“I’m sorry, Lulu!” he called, as her and the dragon flew towards the horizon.
It was no good. Soon, Sammy was exhausted.
“I’m sorry,” he gasped. “I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry…”
“You need a dragon net,” a voice said, waking Sammy up.
He looked around. It was night. He had run so hard he had passed out in a clearing. The tree was on its side. All his relatives were around, waiting on him.
The voice was Aymer’s.
“I can show you how to do knots,” said a distant uncle.
“And I can tell you how to build a raft,” said his grandfather, the carpenter.
“And I can show you how to mix herbs that will shrink the dragon,” said a very old lady.
Somehow, Sammy just knew she was one of his great, great, great, great, great, grandparents, or something – who was a doctor back when they used leaches and believed in strange things.
“You’re handy to have around,” Sammy told her. “Modern doctors wouldn’t know how to tackle dragons.”
Sammy didn’t have time to build a big raft. It couldn’t fit both him and the catapult he’d made, so he waded through the shallows in his great, great, great grand cousin’s diver suit, pulling them behind him.
It had taken two days to catch up to the dragon. Its lair in the coastal cliffs was huge, and totally imposing. Sammy was frightened… but he was also angry! There were two types of dragon; primal ones that ate and destroyed, and intellectual ones, that would capture a person, ask them about their dreams and philosophies for a while… then feast on them.
Sammy could see the beast, prowling in the mouth of its cave.
“If you’ve eaten Lulu…!” he growled as he crept closer.
insisted his relatives, loud enough to wake a Roman statue.
The dragon turned… Sammy’s moment gone, he fired the nets as it rose!
“Come on…” he pleaded, as they rocket towards the beast. “Come on!”
The nets worked! They pinned the dragon’s wings! All Sammy’s relatives charged out from the family tree, attacking like pirates!
But they were slow and small compared to the beast, no match for it.
There was no way out. They fought on, until, finally, somebody totally lost their patience.
“I WILL NOT BE EATEN! AND I WILL NOT BE A PART OF SOME TYPICAL BOY’S ADVENTURE!” Lulu raged.
For the first time ever, she opened her mouth fully, and 998 teeth, give or take, descended on the dragon…
She even burped when it was over.
Sammy waded against the tide, under starlight, pulling the raft with Lulu on it.
Sometimes his head was above water, sometimes it was too deep and he had to breath through a long straw. Everyone on his family tree was silent, it was almost as if there was just him and Lulu, and the hum of the ocean.
“Does this dragon-type stuff happen around you all the time?” Lulu asked.
“No, rarely,” Sammy said. “But not never, unfortunately.”
“Over there is the land of rainbows…” Lulu pointed.
“No thanks,” said Sammy. “I like the real word. I like you. Even if we are a little different.”
There was a long silence.
“Do I scare you now?” Lulu asked.
“No,” said Sammy. “Well… maybe a little.”
“But you still want to hold my hand, don’t you?” smirked Lulu.
It was a beautiful smirk, in the dark, surrounded by the Milky Way. Sammy loved it.
And he loved stories. He made a pack with himself that Lulu would explore his family tree with her tin can for both of them. No arguments from above! If only because Lulu was so happy she was smiling.
Sammy was the sum total of his relatives, but, also, he was their future.
Each night that summer, rather than watch television, or use their computers, Sammy and Lulu would hold hands when they could, while kicking back somewhere. Then Lulu would sit in his branches asking questions, as the two of them lost themselves in history.