The Curmudgeon


Sunday, August 11, 2019

The Father of Teeth

Text for today: II Pulp lxxiii-xcvii

Soon, however, the Father of Teeth came upon a town where every third or fourth citizen was shaved bald with a scar circumventing the cranium. In many cases the top of the skull was set somewhat loose, and rattled temptingly as the citizens shambled. Being hungry, the Father of Teeth pounced upon the nearest citizen, sank his claws into the scalp, and found to his gratification that the cranium hinged back with hardly a squeak, exposing the squiggly and quivering grey jelly. The Father of Teeth had just inserted his most intellectual dentures and was about to commence a most fulfilling feast of knowledge when a passing personage stopped and demanded that he account for his conduct.

"I am merely a hungry traveller," said the Father of Teeth. "I have journeyed long and hard to reach this bailiwick of yours, and wish only to refresh myself before moving on. I trust I have violated no significant dietary ordinances?"
"Not yet," said the personage; "but it is not customary among our people to seize random citizens on the street and make free with their cranial contents and their cerebral succulence, when an equally pious effect may be obtained by simply visiting the nearest House of Intellectual Purification."
"And where, pray, might one find the nearest House of Intellectual Purification?" inquired the Father of Teeth.
"It lies just across the street," said the personage; "in fact, I myself happen to be bound there at this very moment, and would be honoured to accompany you, if you would have the goodness to release this law-abiding citizen and allow him to go about his legitimate business."

So the Father of Teeth closed the citizen's cranium over the glistening squiggles, and with muttering stomach followed the personage into an imposing pile on the opposite side of the street. Just inside the entrance he was courteously accosted by a polite gentleman in robes very similar to those sported by the Father of Teeth's new acquaintance. The polite gentleman informed him that, owing to necessary expenses, it was customary to pay a consultation fee, which was revered throughout the land for its miraculous reasonability.

As soon as the personage had traded some of the Father of Teeth's gold fillings for legitimate coin of the realm, at a remarkably reasonable rate of exchange, he led the Father of Teeth through several intimidating portals, and beneath the benevolent gaze of numerous robed and reverend gentlemen, to a high-ceilinged circular chamber. At its centre was a stone pedestal, and on the pedestal was a huge head, with its eyes towards the door; it blinked and grinned at the Father of Teeth, and emitted a long unmelodious moan to which the personage responded with a reverent genuflection.

"Behold," he said, "the Purified Intellect." Approaching the pedestal, the Father of Teeth saw that the head's cranium had been completely removed, and that the exposed jelly pulsed with the same intricate squiggles as that of the citizen whose brief and none too nourishing acquaintance he had made in the street.

"We take off the top of the skull," the personage explained, "and engrave the holy scriptures directly onto the cerebral surface. In cases of particularly deep understanding, we remove the entire head and construct a House of Intellectual Purification to shelter it."

The Father of Teeth scooped out several grey gobbets of scripture and chewed and gulped them down with the delicacy of a connoisseur, while the personage involuntarily echoed the head's unmelodious moan.
"Bland," pronounced the Father of Teeth at last.
"Bland?" repeated the personage indignantly.
"Decidedly flavourless," said the Father of Teeth, picking the stringy neurons from his gums with a terrifying thumbnail. "I notice, however," he continued, "that you yourself, and indeed all those who wear robes after the fashion which you affect, are free from the marks and tonsure of cranial surgery. Does this mean you have not undergone the honour of cerebral inscription?"
"Indeed," said the personage, "members of the clergy are exempt from the process, having proven by their vocation the ability to maintain purity of doctrine without artificial aid."
"I hope it improves the flavour," said the Father of Teeth, advancing upon him.


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