They had driven us out of the Bay View by playing Highway to Hell at max volume. The Anchorage, or is it the Golden Age, was closed. The lights were on in the Eagle but there was nobody home. The others turned back but I kept stupidly on up the stark unlovely midnight street. At the corner of Liffey and Gorre I was hailed by a shadow, blacker than the night behind it.
O farewell you streets of sorrow, it sang. O farewell you streets of pain.
Who are you? I asked.
Doncha know? the Shadow said. I’m Shane MacGowan’s Last Tooth.
And what might you be doing here?
Waiting for the Tooth Fairy.
You’ll be waiting a long time.
I’ve already been waiting a long time, said Shane MacGowan’s Last Tooth, but I can wait a little longer yet; and told me his tale:
When the time came for me to fall from Shane’s poor carious mouth and be gathered up and exchanged for silver, the Tooth Fairy swore she’d never seen such a specimen as me and would go to the ends of the earth before she’d lay her delicate fairy fingers upon it. ‘Alright then yer mouldy bitch,’ I said, ‘I’ll see you there.’ ‘I’d rather see you in hell,’ the Tooth Fairy said and disappeared in a puff of green smoke.
His story seemed lacking in a few essentials.
Is that it? I asked.
What more d’you want? he snarled, and I caught the unmistakeable stench of decay upon the clean night air. I’ve come all this way, to the ends of the earth, and I’m waiting for the Tooth Fairy to come herself and claim me for her own. Aw, Christ, it’s cold down here at the Bluff, and the pubs are all closed and the graveyards empty as well …
How do you pass the time? I asked, friendly as you like.
By singin’ songs and lookin’ at the girls, he replied, how do you think? There’s the two sisters, pretty as pictures, and I told one there was none more beauteous in the world than her, not even her sister; and then I told her sister the same. There’s the maiden of light and the maiden of dark. There’s the kelp woman who comes from the deep and wraps her salty self around me on nights when I’m lonesome …
Just then a black stretch limo drove past us down Gorre Street, heading for the signpost at the end of the world. Shane MacGowan’s Last Tooth looked after it and swore.
That skivey git Joe Strummer, he said. Givin’ himself airs again.
What, I said, Joe’s down here too?
Aw, he only comes for the oysters. You’d think a dead man would have more respect than that but there you go, he was a diplomat’s brat all along.
There was nothing to be seen behind the limo’s tinted windows. I looked again at my interlocutor, trying to make out features or at the very least a shape in the sodium glare.
Why, I said, a moment later, you’re not really there at all, are you? You’re all cavity!
And what in hell did you expect? said Shane MacGowan’s Last Tooth. Some kind of pearlie from the oyster? Some ivory for your mam’s brush to tickle? Some flossy Colgate fantasy?
A bright white light descended then, not before time, I thought it was the limo coming back, or maybe the police, who’d been cruising up and down Gorre Street all that long and boozy evening.
Lord be praised, it’s her at last, I felt rather than saw or heard the stench gape beside me. She’s gone and come for me at last.
The light formed a halo around that black shape, like an embrace, like enamel, like pulp in a jar.
Before the light re-ascended, I saw something I’ve not seen before and never wish to again: gangrene-black, mucous-green, pus-yellow and white as the jiggers a midnight drunk sees in his delirium tremens. This was not the tooth, mind, this was the Tooth Fairy herself, or who or whatever it was came to take him away:
You're a bum / You're a punk / You're an old slut on junk
Living there almost dead on a drip / In that bed
You scum bag / You maggot / You cheap lousy faggot
Happy Christmas your arse / I pray God / It's our last …
Shane MacGowan’s Last Tooth sang.