Monday, August 25, 2008


A fourth grade teacher next door to my class has a boy in her class who is very cynical, and probably for good reason. He had been tossed around like a cheap rag most of his life until he was adopted by his new family, who happens to live in our neighborhood.

This boy is the Captain of Cynicism, the Duke of Derision, and the Sultan of Skepticism. This boy doesn't believe in Santa, not because Santa can't fly around the world in one day and fit down any chimneys, but because, if he could, why didn't he stop at his house those two or three years.

He's a little like my younger brother Jack. Our older sister Carolyn, who by the ripe old age of sixteen had decided to inform me and Jack about some of life's Great Mysteries, told us that Santa was not real. How could some dude carry all the presents for every kid in the world in some flying sleigh pulled by deer, and then do it all in one night. I remember telling Carolyn, "You're lyin'! Mom said he's real. He does it with magic!" I looked over at Jack, who was five years old and four years younger, who replied, "I think Carolyn is correct. Santa doesn't make any scientific sense. I think Santa is what adults call a myth. Santa isn't real." Now I'm ten years old, and smart enough to know that Jack is smarter than me, so I went along with both of them. It's a good thing. too. It turns out they're right.

This boy doesn't believe in lots of things because he has seen too much negativity, but he is also very intelligent. He approaches this teacher on Friday and says, "Mrs. B., do you believe in the tooth fairy?"

"Why do you ask, Mario?"

"Because I have a loose tooth and I don't think that there's a Tooth Fairy. I think that adults put money under your pillow."

"Well, that could be. How could you find out if you are right?"

"I could make sure this loose tooth I have in my mouth comes out here at school. Then I could go home and not tell my parents. Then I could put the tooth under my pillow and they won't know it's there. If there is no money, that means there is no Tooth Fairy."

Mrs. B. doesn't think much about it until after recess. Mario had gone out on the playground and involved all the other children in her class in his scheme to determine if adults are dupin' 'em. They all come in excited, and she can tell some of them are already giving up on the idea of the Tooth Fairy. There are some heated exchanges, and she tells everyone that the class will have to let Mario's experiment decide if the Tooth Fairy is real.

However, Mrs. B. decides to call Mario's parents and inform them of his experiment and tells them that the outcome will affect other children in the class. She told the father that she had no suggestions for him as to what he should do, but that she would back any decision he made, no matter what it was. It's just that she wanted him to have this information so that he could make an informed decision as to how to handle the problem.

Mario came back to school on Monday with a couple of dollars in his hand, and those who believed in the Tooth Fairy were very pleased. Howver, Mrs. B. informed me that Mario was still skeptical, and he told her, "Mrs. B., I think my Dad found out. I think he could see something in my eyes that told him I had lost a tooth. I still don't believe in the Tooth Fairy."

Smart Boy.

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