How to Pull a Tooth in One Hard Lesson
"Han! Han, wait up," Jed Curry called, running to catch up with his cousin. "I've got something to show you."
"Morning, Jed," Hannibal Heyes paused on the path home from town and grinned down at the younger boy. "Must be somethin' special. You look fit to bust a gusset."
Jed grinned back as he fell into step with Hannibal. That was the thing about Han: he never assumed that, just because he was older, whatever he was doing was more important. It was one of things that made Jed feel close to his cousin, closer than most brothers he knew. "It is. I got a loose tooth." He tapped his left upper incisor, which wiggled obligingly.
"So you do." The dark-haired boy frowned momentarily. "Guess you won't be wanting this apple I saved for you, then," he said, reaching into his pocket and extending a small, green fruit. "It's the first of the year. Sour like you like 'em."
"Reckon I'd better not. Wouldn't want to swallow the tooth," Jed said, his blue eyes lingering on the apple. "Could you save it for me? Tooth should be out in a couple of days."
"'Fraid it bruised a bit when it fell off the tree. Don't think it'll last that long." Han slipped the apple back into his pocket, leaving his hands there while he considered the problem. "Could pull the tooth, Jed," he said, watching his cousin closely.
"Pull it?" Jed shook his head, blond curls flying. "That would hurt."
"Only for a minute. It's better than waiting for it to fall out on its own, you know. Could come out while you're eating and you might swallow it, or might do it while you're sleeping, and then, who knows? It might up and choke you."
The blue eyes went wide. "Choke me? Are you sure?"
"Why, sure I'm sure. Didn't your ma tell you that when you showed her?"
Jed looked away. "Ain't showed her."
"You ain't?" Hannibal was incredulous. "Why not?"
"Pa came home with a loose tooth Saturday night, and she yelled at him like he was a fox broke into the hen house. I don't want her mad at me like that, Han."
"Your pa got that tooth in a fight with Frank Johnson, Jed. Heard all about it when my pa told my ma. He said it was the Curry temper, and my ma just smiled at him. But it ain't the same as a tooth up and deciding it's time to come out to make way for a new one. Your ma won't be mad at you."
"Oh." Jed brightened visibly. "You really think we should pull it, Han?'
"I do. Especially if you want that apple. Now, let me think a minute." His brow furrowed as it always did when he sorting out some knotty puzzle. They were just coming up to the Heyes homestead. "Ah, I know. I've got this thread I went into town for. I don't think Ma will miss a couple of yards." He reeled off a length of thread, then cut it with his pocket knife. "Now, we just tie one end to your tooth, like this," he said, suiting the action to the words, "and we'll tie the other end to a doorknob. Slam the door fast, and out she comes!"
Jed shook his head again. "Uh-uh. I told you, that would hurt."
"Suppose it might. Okay, how about this. We tie this end," he held it up for Jed to see, "to. . ." he looked around the farmyard, his eye falling on his mother's favorite milk cow. "To Bessie, here. Then I hold you still, and when she moves off, out comes the tooth, nice and gentle like."
"Bessie don't hardly move at all, Han. Except her mouth and her tail. Besides, what would you tie it to?" Jed was beginning to look doubtful, and Bessie rolled her eyes at the two of them.
"Happen you're right. Well, there's my father's horse. We could tie the tooth to the saddle horn. You know old Thunder can move fast."
"Your father's gone to Lawrence for the day, Han. You know that!" Jed stamped his foot. "And besides, we'd lose the tooth that way and I wouldn't have anything for the tooth fairy to pay me for. You're just saying the first thing that comes into your head; you don't really want to help me with this tooth at all."
"Now, Jed. You know better than that. I just forgot my father was in Lawrence. I'll come up with something." He closed his eyes and leaned back against the barn wall, concentrating hard. Then his head came up and there was a hard glint to the brown eyes that Jed wasn't at all sure he liked. "All right, this time I've got it. You know that Indian that came in with the Wild West show? The one who can shoot through a knothole from clear across a field? We'll get him to tie the tooth to his arrow and shoot that arrow into a target. That way we'll know exactly where to find it, and you won't lose it."
Jed backed up a couple of paces from his cousin, shaking his head all over again. "You must be crazy, Han! Them Indians are dangerous, you know that. What would we pay him with? You know he'd want to be paid. And you don't speak Indian, any more than I do. I'm going home and get Ma to pull it!"
"You some kind of coward, Jed?" Hannibal asked, his eyes narrowing.
"You know I'm not!" Jed retorted. "I'm not afraid of a little old tooth."
"You don't want a doorknob," the older boy counted off one on the index finger of his left hand, "or a cow," he ticked off the second finger with a little flourish, "or my father's fastest horse."
"Your father's only horse," Jed pointed out, watching Han count off three with that same little flourish, as if he were getting ready for one of his magic tricks with scarves or cards. He was up to something.
"And you don't even want an Indian arrow fired by a genuine Indian." Hannibal counted off the fourth finger, then curled his hand into a fist. "Honestly, Jed, I just don't know what to do with you." He threw his arms wide in exasperation.
"Ow!" exclaimed Jed, pressing a hand to his jaw. "My tooth!"
"Here you are, Mr. Curry," Hannibal slipped it from the thread and presented it to him with a bow, then unwrapped the thread that was wound around his hand. "Now you see, it only hurt for a minute. Right, Jed?"
"Right," his cousin replied. "And it's only going to hurt for a minute when I get my hands on you!" He knotted up his fists and stepped up, ready for battle.
"Aren't you forgetting something?" Hannibal asked. He pulled out two apples and held one out to his cousin.
Jed glared for a few seconds, them put his hands down and accepted the apple. He polished it on his sleeve, then took a big bite. "You know something, Han?"
"What?" he asked, taking a bit of his own apple.
"There's no bruise on this."
"What? Must have given you the wrong one." The two munched for a while, then Hannibal held out a hand to Jed. "Friends again?"
"For life," the younger boy swore solemnly as they shook.