The Curmudgeon


Sunday, February 28, 2021

The Father of Teeth

Text for today: II Caries cxvii-cxxxix

At a considerably earlier date, therefore, the Father of Teeth spent a gap year as a minor village deity, scaring off those spiritual enemies which were most conveniently dispatched by virtue of their nonexistence. It was only when a swarm of locusts descended, and devoured not only the year's entire crop but the sacrifices around the fertility totem at the centre of the village, that certain doubters began to call the arrangement into question.

Prominent among these was the fertility god's high priest, a venerable gentleman whose pious sensibilities were so deeply shocked by the vanishing of the sacrificial meat and cakes that his stomach had not stopped growling for three days after the débâcle. While his parishioners cowered at their hearths and did obeisance to the fertility god by breeding more mouths for the non-existent crop to feed, the high priest tottered indignantly to the residence of the Father of Teeth in order to demand an explanation, an expiation or, failing both, a compensatory lunch.

He found the Father of Teeth at home, squatting in horrid complaisance before the fire, on which rested a hissing cauldron full of locust parts.
"Knave," fulminated the high priest, "knowest thou not that the gods are displeased and that we languish and starve through thine exceeding negligence? Why squattest thou thus idly in thine indigent indigence and slothly slothfulness, while thy chosen people face a hungry demise amid a most demising hunger? And why didst thou not perform thy divine duty of protecting thy chosen village from these pestilential arthropods?"
"The locusts are no concern of mine," said the Father of Teeth; "there is a reason for everything, or very nearly, and certainly there is a reason for the fact that nobody calls me Father of Mandibles."
"It was thy sworn and contracted purpose," reprimanded the high priest, "to protect our village and all its gods, against all perils and dangers that might threaten us with the threatening of their threatening."
The Father of Teeth snatched a locust from the air, bit off its legs with six cracks and half a dozen crunches, and tossed it in the cauldron. "The locusts, whatever one may say of their table manners, have not burned your houses to the ground," he said. "Your village is still standing and the fertility god is as rampant as ever."
"But what of thy chosen people?" demanded the high priest. "Deprived of their worship and propitiation, the gods will grow angry and the entire world may be imperilled with peril by the wrath of their wrath. Wilt thou take that upon thy carnassial conscience, even in the squatting of thy squatting and the impudence of thine impudence?"

So the Father of Teeth seized the high priest and bit through his Achilles tendons with a snap and a twang, and hung him head down over the fire until he was considerably kippered and even more morally indignant. "The wrath of the gods is harder to arouse than is generally thought," the Father of Teeth reasssured him. "There are many in the world who eat their gods, and who believe that a change of diet is enough to warrant divine punishment; but happy are those who can adapt their appetites to the whims of fate."

The shrieks brought the villagers from their houses to the house of the Father of Teeth, where he served them nauseating rations of locust pulp which kept them alive until next planting season. By the time the crops began to sprout again, the locusts were practically domesticated and would not touch a vegetarian diet. Meanwhile the villagers revered them as protectors of the fields, devastators of enemy mealtimes, and punishers of absconding high priests; for theirs was never seen again.


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