Abe Conseulos’ False Teeth
Abe Consuelos places his false teeth in a glass on the sink. This is how he found out about those thieving elves. When Marta was still alive, he put the false teeth in their case. She thought they looked like those wind-up novelty teeth, half expected them to chatter across the porcelain any moment, so Abe hid them away when he didn’t have them in his mouth. Now that he’s all alone he sees no point in this. Instead, he soaks them in the glass with baking soda and water. Doesn’t buy any of that fancy store bought cleaner with some actor on the packaging, his teeth twinkling behind his Tom Selleck mustache. No, Abe does not fall for any of that nonsense.
After his morning stretches, Abe goes to the bathroom for his teeth. The glass will usually still be filled with the bubbling baking soda concoction, but his teeth will be … poof, gone. When he tells his kids and grandkids about the thieving elves, the grandkids giggle until they are prodded with the parental elbow, at which point they giggle through their eyes instead. Their parents have to have the talk with them, the one about what happens to old people’s minds when they get too old. Abe knows they’re having this talk about him, he knows they think he’s loony, but with age comes indifference to what other people think.
And besides, Abe knows the truth. He had noticed things being moved since his childhood. It was his own grandfather, Alberto Javier Jose de Sotomayor Consuelos, who told him it was the dead playing tricks. When Abe was young, he thought his own grandfather crazy and now, as an old man himself, he realizes that he wasn’t so much crazy as skew-whiff in his accusations.
The first time Abe saw the elves he was annoyed about how stereotypically elfish they looked. They had the pointed ears, the diminutive stature, that look of mischief in their eyes. When they stole his teeth on that occasion, it took him all morning to find them. It was actually his granddaughter who found them in the end. The little one. What is her name? Julia. Julia found them in the refrigerator in a Tupperware container with the stir-fry he’d eaten the night before. Another time, the elves stole his teeth, Abe found them in between the couch cushions.
Abe tried to set up traps to catch the elves. Once he used a bunch of mousetraps, the sticky kind, strategically placed around the glass. As Abe rested his eyes in the tub, letting the bath water heat him through, he heard a pitter patter across the bathroom tiles. With one eye open, he watched the elves carrying a little ladder. The elves flung a rope, anchoring it on the tap. (He would later find out the rope was, in fact, dental floss). One by one the elves shimmied up the rope until they were at the top. The last elf to climb, tied the bottom of the rope to the ladder and together the elves heave-hoed it until it was on the bathroom sink. They tilted the ladder up against the glass, retrieving Abe’s teeth and disappearing behind a bar of soap.
Abe learned to accept the elves. He realized their stealing and hiding his teeth was their way of helping him keep his mind fresh: the location of the stolen teeth was a puzzle for him to solve. There was one day in particular where he could not crack their puzzle. After checking every corner of his house, Abe decided the elves’ territory had expanded, so his search went outdoors.
The police found him walking along the shoulder of a main highway. His kids picked him up from the station, scolding him as though he were their child. He explained again about the thieving elves. They sighed and put their hands to their heads, shooting concerned and knowing glances back and forth between each other. As usual, Abe didn’t care much that they didn’t believe him. He just wished he hadn’t made his case look so bad by later finding the teeth in the pocket of the very pants he was wearing.