Earth teeth

Tank Green/ February 3, 2024/ Writing Walking

Seaside photo of a grey, cloudy sky with a weak, winter sun behind the clouds. The sea is frothy and browny-grey and lapping at some old, sea-worn, brown wooden posts sticking up from the sand in rows.

Seaside photo of a grey, cloudy sky with a weak, winter sun behind the clouds. The sea is frothy and browny-grey and lapping at some old, sea-worn, brown wooden posts sticking up from the sand in rows.

In the beginning, the earth had teeth. It was much harder for the people then, as getting from A to B at a pace quicker than a slow amble was a complicated feat, and involved razor sharp attention to avoid damage to shins or toes or knees. The seers said that people stood around a lot at first, occasionally picking fruit from the trees which happened to be growing nearby. There was hardly any shelter in those days, and a lot of people died from exposure or nutrient deficiencies.

The seers also spoke of a time when the earth had a mouth to match all those teeth. They reminded the people of how much harder things had been then, when a person had not much more to do than to hold onto their allotted tooth in order to avoid falling into the mouth. All they had for sustenance was the plaque and plankton they picked off their tooth. The seers said the teeth moved in those days, and vast parts of the world were swallowed down beneath the people. The sea, the seers said, was the last vestiges of the earth’s saliva.

The young people said the seers used the fearful past to control them, but they were wrong: the seers were actually telling the stories to cheer people up. Things could be so much worse! The truth was that there really was a mouth once, and people really did have the most extraordinarily difficult time with the row upon row of eternal mastication. Those were the times of great change, and the histories are incomplete because so many who witnessed it were swallowed down along with the world around them. 

The early days saw war, of course. Wars over proximity to the best trees for food and shelter. Wars to obtain the least spiky and jagged tooth to cling to. Wars to obtain the teeth which had already lost their mouth. Wars over the best way of sleeping. As a result of that particular war, the people were now arranged along tribal lines: those who favoured an s-shaped curve around three teeth; those who preferred to lay horizontally between rows of teeth; and those who preferred to lay vertically between rows. 

Arranging themselves along these three lines seemed to help in calming frayed tempers, and so for the last 364 years, the people had been somewhat cooperative. It was true that sometimes there were skirmishes along the periphery lines of sleeping clans, but mostly the seers were able to resolve it by rearranging a border here or there. Nevertheless, most of the people understood that aiding one another across tribal lines was much more efficient behaviour than skirmishes or war. As such, the people were now adept at passing, catching, and throwing various provisions across the earth from areas of abundance to areas of scarcity. 

The seers said that Ricky was the first of the ancestors to figure it out. Legend had it that Ricky had a gift for order and hand-to-eye coordination to match. One day he realised that as Bob passed the lamb to Fatima, Clementine could underpass a coconut to Filipe, whilst Aron overpassed an orange to Bronwyn. Suddenly an orchestra of passes opened up before his eyes and, well, really we can say that Ricky invented mass juggling. 

Since then, things had gotten much easier for the people. Everyone had a balanced diet, so no one died from nutrient deficiencies. On top of that, from the moment a person was old enough to be allocated their own tooth, they also received a matriculation present of sustainable shelter. All in, the seers said, the people had never had it so good. Ricky and his visionary passing had given them rich and rewarding lives compared to the ancestors, unless, of course, you weren’t much of a juggler.

As one would expect, Samantha was from the s-shaped clan, but like many young people, she wasn’t sure she believed in all that. She spent her life on the borders and at the periphery due to an unfortunate childhood accident wherein her parents bodged a pass and dropped her straight on her head. This ruined poor Samantha’s eyes and now she has appalling hand-to-eye coordination. She can only straight pass in a stationary relay, and thus can’t be a part of the orchestrated juggling. 

This all meant that she had time on her hands, so one day she sat down to make a bucket to better catch things with so that she could join in the juggling. However, due to also suffering from a lack of depth perception, she actually invented a raft. Undeterred, and desirous of being useful, she threw the raft away and tried again to make a bucket. And another. And another. And so the cycle of raft making and discarding went.

One day, along came Jermaine (clan vertical) who found one of her rafts and seemed to know instinctively what to do with it: skate. He did some kind of jump up flippy thing, and then scooted himself across the tops of the teeth. Honestly readers, the elders were not impressed: they thought he was unruly and disruptive. However, the younger people thought he was very cool indeed and so Samantha started a solid trade in failed buckets. Finally, she thought, a fulfilling sense of social utility!

At first, the young people skated the tops of the teeth in single formation (they weren’t that disruptive). Jermaine as vanguard, Latifa as rearguard, and a growing number of other young people in the middle. After some time of this, everyone noticed that the teeth on the skate paths were filed down, and so some of the less disgruntled elders suggested that Jermaine and his crew try skating in rows of three. Much nodding and chin stroking was to be had and finally the seers agreed that the young people really were the future. They therefore created a new clan whose sole duty it was to skate the teeth of the world flat. Eventually, the fragment you can see in this photo was all that was left of the teeth, and the people went back to arguing.