It was a nice summer day at McKinnell Square in Orillia when I put on a little mask that only covered my eyes, and I crouched behind the plate to catch a ball thrown by neighbourhood kid Ricky Ley, who would eventually grow up to play and coach big league hockey.
I had the ball lined up when Rick made the pitch, but the batter ticked it and the ball changed direction and flew into my mouth. And into my hand came my top front tooth, root and all.
It hurt like hell and I scrambled home and I don’t know whether Rick and the guys kept playing or not, but I like to think they felt so bad they just couldn’t carry on. Somehow, though, I feel they carried on.
I learned to live with a plastic upper plate with one tooth on it, but it would come out easily which made me paranoid. I held it in my hand one time while on the roller coaster at the Canadian National Exhibition in Toronto because I was afraid I’d lose it, and I broke it in about five pieces.
On one dark, fuzzy night several years after I got this tooth, my friends and I were down in the bushes drinking Four Aces sherry (95 cents) with the hobos at their little camp, and I got sick. Four Aces would do that sometimes. Shortly after, we all staggered out, and at some point I realized I’d lost my tooth, so I staggered back into the bushes in pitch-black darkness with an almost impossible chance of finding the thing. But at some point, in the middle of a blackness, in a bush, I reached down and put my hand right on it.
Nowadays I’ve got this fancy permanent tooth in my mouth and it’s way better. I don’t have to worry about losing it.
Losing it, and breaking it, and having gum stick to it. All in all, that false tooth was quite a pain in the ass.
It looked a lot like this –
And without it, I looked like this…