The Tooth Faerie
by Patrick O'Brien
Successful hitchhikers keep their faith and embrace the Road, for
they know that, like a loving mother, she will always provide . . .
I’d been to Gore once before. A successful photo shoot, portraits of a young woman, and an earnest invitation from her mother to call again and stay if passing through.
Nestled among rolling green hills stocked with grazing sheep and dissected by the Mataura River, one of the world’s finest brown trout fisheries, it’s a pretty place.
Small town New Zealand; parks full of exotic European timber introduced by early settlers from the Occident — and a bored youth. Booze, cars, drugs and teenage pregnancy.
A weird combination of circumstances and rides saw me arrive back in Gore at sunset, Easter Sunday.
Pitching my tent, I felt the first tingle of things amiss in my jaw. Tooth ache, a slow, minor niggle at first, accelerating into a mind bending crescendo within 24 hours, with that creeping numbness indicating the complication of infection.
Strange town, no money, medical emergency. The hitchhikers nightmare.
At 4.00 am on the Tuesday morning, desperate from pain, I remembered the earnest mother from two years earlier and knocked on her door.
Yes, of course I could use the phone.
A call to the after hours emergency number was answered by a female voice thick with sleep. She woke her husband, Mr James, the local dentist.
I’m just a traveller passing through, I told him. Not a problem – happy to help you.
I have no money, I told him. Not a problem – see you in my clinic at eight.
A few hours later, with offending tooth pulled, and a pocket full of antibiotics to clear a nasty infection, I mulled over the Road’s splendour: it had picked me up and carried me down to this little town at the bottom of the world with perfect timing to fix a pending problem.
Thank you, God!
Tonight, I’ll leave the tooth in my tin cup outside the tent door for the tooth faerie . . . I need $45 to pay the good Mr James.