The Curmudgeon


Sunday, January 06, 2019

The Father of Teeth

Text for today: II Bicuspid xlix-lxxviii

Later the Father of Teeth was on his way to the sugar factory when he found a purpose-peddler in front of the gates. A great queue had formed as people crowded around to receive a meaning for their lives. Wielding a rubber stamp in each hand, the purpose-peddler thumped out meanings with great speed and dexterity, imprinting the word FAMILY on almost every brow because that was the stamp in his right hand, and the word NATION on almost all the rest, although occasionally, by way of a change, he would swap one or other of these two rubber stamps for the one reading GOD, or the one reading APPLAUSE or one of the dozens of others messily arrayed in the racks on his stall. So rapidly did he work that the purpose-peddler could give meaning to the lives of perhaps forty or fifty petitioners a minute, yet the queue continued to lengthen even as those imbued with purpose wandered off to nurse their aching heads and fight over the meanings of the meanings assigned to them.

Since the crowds around the purpose-peddler were packed solid, the Father of Teeth joined the queue and waited the few hours necessary to find himself within sight of the factory gates. "You're blocking the way," he said to the purpose-peddler, who made no reply but readied his rubber stamps while indicating with a flick of his head the traditional bottomless bucket into which petitioners, in accordance with custom, deposited their virtually non-obligatory cash homage to his charity. Grinning with his black gums, the Father of Teeth grabbed the purpose-peddler's wrists and twisted them until, with a slight gasp and two discreet clicking noises, the release of both rubber stamps was conclusively motivated. The Father of Teeth took one of the rubber stamps and fiddled with the letters, while the crowd stood watching in silent awe. At last the Father of Teeth grabbed the purpose-peddler by the neck and lustily impressed him with the modified rubber stamp. The letters were so clearly marked that the purpose-peddler had to sit down and shake his head a few times before asking what word they spelled. On this question, unfortunately, no two people in the crowd could agree: some said the word was GOD, and some said it was FAMILY, and quite a few said it was JUST A BIT OF FUN, although they didn't seem greatly amused.

"What does it say?" they shouted after the Father of Teeth, who had sneaked through the gates of the sugar factory and was making his way surreptitiously to the caries dispensary. At the sound of their yells he turned and bawled something back at them. It sounded like "roadblock", but they couldn't be sure.


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