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The General's Teeth

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“Like most men who made it to the age of thirty in the mid 1800’s, General Robert E. Lee had no teeth,” Nico Tarst informed our investor, who stared anxiously at the wooden box sitting in my lap.

“Although dentures at that time had progressed beyond wooden teeth, they were still comprised of an uncomfortable blend of chimpanzee molars, cuspids from stray dogs, and incisors carved from the horns of the common, domestic goat.”

As I waited for my queue to open the box, I took a moment to survey our surroundings. Our investor lived in a family estate that had once been a plantation. The room in which our meeting took place was one of many appointed in antique furnishings. I noticed that the couch Nico and I sat on was built with solid mahogany arms and handwoven upholstery. Beyond the walls that stood thick with centuries of paint and plaster touch-ups, lay acres of farmland that had been turned into an amusement park for the rich including a nine-hole golf course, running track, and Olympic sized pool.

Nico’s voice snapped me back into the parlor. “A true aristocrat such as the general could afford fixtures that may not have been more comfortable, but were certainly more luxurious,” he motioned towards the wooden box in my lap, which I opened, and held out towards our investor. What lay inside were a set of sparkling white dentures; the top and bottom ridges forming an “O” from atop a burgundy silk scarf.

“Most of these are a combination of elephant and rhinoceros ivory, which was hard to come by in those days, not because of anti poaching laws, but because of the simple fact that only the wealthiest of dentists could afford to leave the main land and travel to Africa to shoot these animals themselves.”

“But the real treasure of this piece lies in the upper and lower central incisors,” Nico leaned an arm across my lap to point at the front teeth on each ridge.

“These were carved from the horn of a narwhal.”

Our investor’s eyes grew to the size of a snake’s mouth as it chokes down a possum. I handed over the box of false teeth so he could examine them closer.

“You can almost make out the grooves of the corkscrew pattern,” the man said.

“Naturally,” Nico explained. “Since the age of the Vikings, medieval practitioners sought the horn of the narwhal for its healing properties. The king of England himself drank his tea in cups carved from narwhal horns because he believed that it would neutralize any poisons.”

Nico amazed even me with that fact. I wasn’t sure if there was any truth to it, or if he made it up on the spot, but I was certain our investor was imagining the narwhal grooves. That was mainly because the false teeth he was about to pay us $40,000 for had recently been swimming in a glass of water on my grandfather’s nightstand.

Our investor was a state senator, and he had been in the news recently for being the author of a new policy that would cut funding for college loans. Upon further investigation, Nico and I found that our investor’s great, great, great grandfather was infamous for murdering any of the slaves who attempted to escape his plantation. One of those slaves’ great, great, great grandsons was a college student significantly affected by the grant cuts.

Once we completed our sale, Nico and I sent the $40,000 as a gift to that nice young man. We figured it was the least the senator could do.

 

I am a freelancer who graduated from Columbia College Chicago with a  Bachelor of Arts degree in creative writing. My fiction has appeared  in The Cynic, I’ve done articles for HD Living magazine, and I spent a  year as a staff writer at Groupon (www.groupon.com) composing daily  deals, merchant profiles, and stupid jokes.

 

 

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