Jayden Dwyer should have been surprised when a human tooth fell out of the gumball machine instead of candy. But still, it was far from the worst thing that’d happened to him that week.
Billy William — what kind of stupid name was that? — had already torn the sleeve of Jayden’s Doctor Who tee, had put a dog turd in his rucksack, and had poured something that smelled like cat pee over his head. And it was only Tuesday.
Jayden was sick to his back teeth.
Ha! Back teeth, he thought and turned the molar over in his hand. It was perfectly clean save for a thin line of red tissue which clung to the root. Jayden shrugged, pushed it deep into his pocket, and promptly forgot all about it.
* * *
By Thursday, Jayden had found another four teeth, a lower mandible, three large fragments of skull, and a long bone he was certain was a femur. He also found himself sporting a black eye and six cigarette burns curtesy of Billy. Those had been decidedly harder to keep hidden from his mom than the bones.
Jayden had often thought about telling his mom about Billy, but he knew she’d only worry. Even worse, she might go down to school and tell the Principal and then he’d be in for it — Billy would kill him.
At least this way all his mom had to sort out was her next paycheck, or getting the alimony from dad. She had enough to deal with and he didn’t need her to fight for him anymore.
* * *
Inside seven weeks, Jayden had gathered enough pieces from around town to make almost a complete skeleton. He’d wired them together like an elaborate jigsaw while his mom had worked the night shift at a motel out on I90. It’d been harder than he’d expected and Jayden had needed an anatomy book from the library to help. All he’d been missing was an upper left canine, until Billy William knocked his out with an “accidental” swing during baseball.
Coach had panicked, asked if he was all right, told him to sit down and take a minute, even promised him that their star player (Billy, of course) hadn’t meant for it to happen. Jayden had just smiled a bloodied smile and, retrieving his lost tooth from home plate, left the field without a word.
He’d told his mom it was an accident, but that hadn’t stopped her from calling Coach. When she’d calmed down a little, she told him to put it under his pillow. He had other ideas.
The hours passed so slowly while he waited for her to leave for work. He’d waited another hour on top of that to make sure she wouldn’t come back.
His tooth fit the skeleton’s jaw as though it were made for it and Jayden almost wept when he heard the creak of flexing bone and his creation’s first ragged breath.
The look on Billy’s face tomorrow morning would be epic.