The Curmudgeon


Sunday, June 16, 2019

The Father of Teeth

Text for today: Premolars xxxi-xlvii

Nine months later, however, the Father of Teeth had infiltrated a paternity ward, where he drifted into the habit of shambling up and down the rows of beds, dispensing useful advice to the swelling expectancies and occasionally fingering the stirrups in a manner which gave rise to much fascination and occasional outbreaks of twitching.

Each day an orderly would tour the ward, pushing before him a gurney with a squeaking wheel; mounted on the gurney was an intravenous feed dangler, and draped over the dangler was a white coat. At the foot of every bed the orderly would pause, stand behind the white coat and tell the inmate of the bed how very well he was doing and why no glucose could be spared just at the moment, while the Father of Teeth stood sniggering a short distance off until the orderly rammed him with an elbow. When the orderly went squeakily on his way, the Father of Teeth would resume shambling up and down, informing the inmates collectively and individually that the whole business was a bad idea and would likely come to nothing in the end. Some of them screeched at him; some of them grinned and clawed for his eyes; most lay back and listened in vacant contentment, complacently fondling their bulges.

Eventually, as usual, war broke out and the hospital was invaded by soldiers in the uniform of the enemy. They raided the medicine cabinets, smashed up the incubators and used the intravenous feed dangler to inflict hideous indignities upon the squeaking orderly; and they carefully recorded on video each one of these deeds of derring-do, and more besides.

"Our children!" shrieked the inmates of the paternity ward.
The Father of Teeth gestured at the soldiers, a couple of whom looked up from their depredations; whereupon the Father of Teeth miraculously transformed the gesture into a salute. "Those were children once," the Father of Teeth said to the inmates of the paternity ward. "There is no shortage, gentlemen; indeed, for some dozens of millennia there has been a positive glut. Your own additions to the flesh-pile, if they survive this unfortunate conflict, will no doubt be driven to relieve the market in their own humble manner."

At this the inmates of the paternity ward grew even more indignant, for none of them wished to see their children in so unprofitable a profession as the infantry, let alone the enemy's infantry. Fortunately, the soldiers were not from the enemy's infantry at all, but from the Ministry of Public Information. They were manufacturing an atrocity video for the motivation of the populace, and they had been ordered to make it convincing. The Father of Teeth sneaked out before the climax: the inmates of the paternity ward had given small thanks for his advice, and he did not suppose they would be much more appreciative if the last words they heard in this life were: "I told you so."


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