Christopher sits facing a young man with a round, pleasant face who can’t quite meet his gaze.
Christopher: You’re Cracktooth?
Cracktooth: Actually Cracktooth is a nickname I chose. It sounds impressive, doesn’t it? Like a pirate or an adventurer. Someone who chipped a tooth in a scrap while doing daring deeds. (He flushes a bit.) I hoped it might impressive an, err, equally daring soul. Not to mention it’s better than my actual name.
Christopher: What is your actual name? If you don’t mind me asking?
Cracktooth: Victor van Dousselmause III. (The red in his cheeks spreads.) Prissipat nearly laughed herself sick when she heard it. Marchen suggested I come up with my own name if the one I’d been given bothered me so much. One I hoped might be, err, more unique.
Christopher: Isn’t Dousselmause your uncle’s name?
Cracktooth: (reaching up to tear his hair in a gesture a bit like Garnet tugging at his beard) I’m nothing like my uncle! (lowering his hands) Well, maybe I have an aptitude for magic. And maybe I take things a little too seriously. And maybe…no! I’m not like him!
Christopher: You seem to have a different way of looking at things than he does. Like the mice your uncle creates traps for.
Cracktooth: Well, I haven’t always been human, thanks to my uncle’s magic. He has himself to thank for the way I view mice.
Christopher: Was it when you weren’t human that you met Mousetrick?
Cracktooth: Not that he remembers me, but yes. (His voice softens and a tiny smile plays across his lips.) Mousetrick is the one who gave me the idea for the name Cracktooth. It came to me when I was watching him sleep with his jaws open, exposing his teeth.
Christopher: Interesting first impression.
Cracktooth: I’d been so unhappy ever since my uncle changed my shape, but this mouse was clearly enjoying himself, sleeping in his shredded tissue. I’d never been that happy, not even when I was human. It was after encountering Mousetrick that I resolved to try to be happier.
Christopher: How is that working out?
Cracktooth: I’m not sure. (He flushes again.) One of the things I had to get over was Prissipat.
Christopher: Prissipat, she’s the daughter of your uncle’s employer, isn’t she? Whom you live with?
Cracktooth: When I first saw her, I thought she was the most beautiful creature I’d ever beheld. Only her behavior is ugly. The way she treats Marchen and everybody else, including her changed her face. Or perhaps it’s changed the way I see her face. Every smile and dimple seems distorted, twisted by a pettiness which comes from within.
Christopher: It sounds like her beauty was fleeting. Or perhaps it couldn’t hold up against long-time attention.
Cracktooth: Exactly. Her beauty wasn’t strong enough. Or she wasn’t strong enough. My uncle thinks I simply came to my senses. I had to learn to look for the true face of an individual by observing their actions.
Christopher: An interesting way of putting it. It sounds like your uncle is trying to teach you. Or hoping you’ll learn something?
Cracktooth: Oh, yes. Everything is a lesson with my uncle, including changing my form.
Christopher: Are you his only student?
Cracktooth: No. He’s teaching Marchen, his goddaughter and Prissipat’s companion as well. He’s much gentler with her. She’s not as big a disappointment.
Christopher: What makes you think that?
Cracktooth: I’m learning from my uncle’s harsh lessons, but I’m not sure if I’ve learned what he wanted to teach. I keep surprising him. Shocking him, even, but why wouldn’t I? I keep shocking myself.
Christopher: What shocks you?
Cracktooth. Feelings. Opinions. Like how I regard mice. (He bows his head.) I’m not sure what to do with what I’ve learned.
Christopher: Do you wish you’d never learned from these lessons? To go back to you were before them?
Cracktooth: I…no. (He opens his mouth and closes it.) No. No, I don’t regret the lessons. No matter what I’ve changed into, inside and out.
Christopher: Maybe you haven’t disappointed your uncle. Maybe you’ve just surprised him.
Cracktooth: Do you really think so?
Chirstopher: Do you?
Cracktooth: I…maybe. Maybe what I thought was disappointment was just my uncle, trying to figure me out?
Christopher: You could ask him.
Cracktooth: Ask him? (He shrinks back.) Directly to his face? (He shakes his head.) No, no. Maybe I’ll ask Marchen to talk to him. Ask her to ask. She has an easier time talking to my uncle than I do.
Christopher: It won’t get any easier talking to your uncle if you don’t try.
Cracktooth: I…perhaps not. (looks deflated)
Christopher: Maybe Marchen has an easier time talking to your uncle because she doesn’t shy away from talking to him.
Cracktooth: You don’t understand! The more I care about someone, the harder it is to talk to them!
Christopher: (in a gentle tone): Like it was Prissipat?
Cracktooth: (looking away) It used to be hard to talk to her. It’s been getting easier, but it no longer matters as much.
Christopher: (in an even gentler tone) Or Mousetrick? Is it hard to talk to him?
Cracktooth (flushing) I understand the speech of mice due to, err, lessons I’ve learned. I’m just not sure what to say to him.
Christopher: Well, what do you know about Mousetrick? What might he like to talk about?
Cracktooth: Um, he certainly enjoys cheese. (looks thoughtful) I could try offering him some.
Christopher: You could.
Cracktooth: Yes, I’ll do it. Next time I see him…only he’ll probably suspect it’s a trap.
Christopher: I guess you’ll have to convince him it’s not.
Cracktooth: Yes…yes, I will. (straightens up, looking a bit more determined)
Christopher: Good luck. I hope all goes well for you.
How do matters go? Read Seven Tricks and find out…
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