if i once traded a baby tooth for a dollar, then what's the going rate now for a twelve year old maxillary central incisor? a month's rent? the tooth lay dead on the dentist table and like the dying claim their whole life flashes before them, i was taken back to the birth, or more appropriately, the emergence of the bloody jagged pebble. it was a simple time when gangling little teeth fell into bowls of pudding and swollen gums were a common indication that new blunt lumpy things would soon appear. more than anything else, a school aged mouth resembled pink gums with rake tongs sloppily jutting out in all directions. some years later, a man with hairy nostrils would hover over me and exacerbate the mortification of adolescence by cemeting metal brackets to each tooth and wrapping them with lilac rubber bands. my abraded lips awkwardly streched out to form words but after three humiliating years, i was liberated. the metal was chipped off and the boy who would break my heart for the first time said i looked "prettier" in religion class as he put his hands in places where good catholic girls do not allow. my teen angst veneered my porcelain fence posts in fast food, bubble gum and cigarettes and as i grew in wisdom, the teeth shifted due to crack of dawn grinding and late night coffee talk. last week, i awoke stinking of jameson to a dry mouth and a throbbing socket where a tooth had once been. i went incognito to the dentist who shot me with novicaine and i drooled as he put the tooth out of its misery.