Cleaning, Part 4

Sth-o, let me guess.” Dr. Jasper rubbed his chin with his thumb and forefinger as he gazed up at the ceiling. “Have you been hearing rumors-th at sthcool?”

The Bird nodded from her reclined position in the dentist chair, said her friend at fencing practice, his name was —

A firm shake of Dr. Jasper’s head stopped her before she uttered Rune’s name. “It doesn’t matter, the who that is. This-th friend, did he call me the Tooth Fairy?”

The Bird blinked. She told him she’d heard there was a Tooth Fairy in town, a “real” one (she flexed the middle and forefinger of each hand at that word), since she was eight, hadn’t known they’d meant him until a couple years ago, and didn’t know exactly why they called him that until — that afternoon at fencing practice.

“I see.” Dr. Jasper nodded, his eyes peering straight down. A laugh percolated in his torso, rose to his mouth, but could not escape past his lips. “Odd, isn’t it, the lifespan of rumors, how they evolve, from urban legends to half-learned truths, until finally the truth emerges, like a butterfly from its cocoon.”

The Bird nodded. Either he’s lost his lisp, she thought, or she was no longer noticing it.

He placed a hand on her shoulder. “You’re one of the ones who’s worried about me, aren’t you?” She nodded, as he retrieved his hand. “That’s because you’ve heard how people in this town talk about people like myself. You’ve heard their fear, their suspicion.” He looked down at her, smiling. “I wish I could tell you that those words, those aren’t what’s in their hearts. And for some people, that’s true. But the reality is, for some people, what’s actually in their hearts — what they are capable of doing when motivated by fear — is actually far worse than what is in their words.”

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