There I was, a first-grader in elementary school (or “grammar school,” as we called it in Alabama) sitting in my child-sized first-grader chair and gripping my alphabet workbook in my hands, trying my best to gaze with appropriate attentiveness at Miss Margaret Byers as she introduced our class to the wondrous world of the written word.

But even as I attempted to maintain a respectful deadpan, inside I was experiencing the most sublime waves of sensual pleasure I would be lucky enough to enjoy until I discovered my penis’s full potential several years later.

What was going on? The first of my “baby teeth” was preparing to come out.

Who knew that the mouth of a a rural Alabama innocent like me could be capable of generating such wonderful sensations? I hadn’t sought out the experience. I hadn’t known that it was available to be had. While a few of the other first-graders had already begun arriving at school with “snaggle-tooth gaps” separating one tooth from its neighbors, the funny-looking gaps simply made their smiles more amusing. More “cute”! A certain amount of schoolyard teasing by their playmates could be expected as a rite of passage among peers. But the phenomenon was way too abstract a concept for me to worry about as long as my own teeth remained in place.

Of course, discussions about the benevolent Tooth Fairy were sure to arise. Was the dime-dispensing nighttime visitor an actual Thing? Its sole duty in life, the story went, was to creep into the bedrooms of kids who had recently shed a tooth while they slept, like a non-seasonal Santa Claus disconnected from the birth of any deity. When they went to bed with their extracted teeth tucked under their pillows, a supernatural exchange could be counted upon to follow before they woke. Where a tooth had been, a dime would be found. (At least a dime was the going rate for a tooth when I was a kid in the 1950s; fairy inflation may have set in by now.) It seemed a mildly weird scenario, admittedly, and there were always precocious skeptics who enjoyed throwing cold water on the Tooth Fairy legend. Still, there was no denying that the coins being left being were real enough to buy comic books with, which was all that counted. For most kids, challenging the tradition didn’t seem worth the time and effort involved when a comic book was in the offing. As with Santa Claus, there seemed no immediate need to resolve competing speculations about where gifts left behind under cover of darkness actually came from.

Anyway, I took the sporadic disappearance of a tooth or two from my friends’ mouths to be a curious phenomenon, but it never occurred to me that the process by which they were being extruded involved voluptuous sensations that I wasn’t being told about.

Then my turn came.

It began as little more than a mild localized soreness of the gum at the base of the tooth in question. Pain was too strong a word for what I was feeling. The soreness was in no way excruciating; it was obviously nothing to write home about.

But like the New Testament’s John the Baptist, that initial soreness was preparing the way for better things to follow. Anticipating that development could have been exciting, but since I had no idea what was coming, I took the mild irritation as nothing more that one of the myriad instances of soreness that have always come with being a kid, like mosquito bites and the knots that would rise from your head when you misjudged the height of an overhead obstacle and were punished with a blow to the skull.

True, there were pleasures to be had when you scratched a mosquito bite. And at a certain stage of its healing you learned that pressing firmly with your knuckle against a knot on your head could feel good at the same time that it hurt. Pain and pleasure sometimes intermingled in a way that felt almost sinful.

So as the gum in which my loosening tooth was embedded became ever sorer and ever more delicious, my preacher’s kid training told me that I would do better not to announce publicly what I was experiencing.

So I went about my life with as deadpan an expression on my face as I could manage. I felt the tooth wobbling ever-so-slightly and ever-so-pleasurably all day. It wobbled while I played with my puppets; it wobbled while I fingered through comics at the drug store spinner rack, searching for new issues of Batman or Uncle Scrooge. And when I sat in my chair in Miss Margaret’s first grade class, the wobbling was unremittingly underway.

But far be it for me to let on.

I couldn’t simply ignore it, though. The sensations were too compelling. In fact, they became even more compelling if I urged the wobbling on with my tongue. Pushing the tooth further and further from its normal upright position elevated the pleasure with each thrust of my tongue. The gum at the tooth’s base became increasingly inflamed as I “worried” the wayward oral appendage. Back and forth, back and forth, always with my deadpan defending me from the shame of wanton enjoyment.

Why did I want to do this? Would Miss Margaret think less of me if she knew what forbidden indulgences I was allowing myself to quietly experience? There was no way of knowing, so I kept my lips sealed—literally as well as figuratively.

But then I found myself approaching a point of no return. As I pressed my tongue more forcefully, the angle between tooth and gum became greater, and the gum’s intoxicating tenderness more pleasurable. The gratification derived with pushing the tooth’s limits began making my head swim.

I knew that if I urged the tooth outward any further, I would be unable to keep my pleasure secret. The tooth was nearing perpendicularity in relation to my throbbing gum. It was all but horizontal.But I couldn’t stop myself. My inflamed gum was soaring with primal gratification. The lure of some ultimate outcome refused to be denied. It’s root wasn’t ready to turn it loose, but the inflammation of my protesting gum refused to forego the pleasure underlying the pain.

Every brain has a spot called the “Pleasure Center” that, once stirred from slumber, will rise from its cerebral bedding like a lion roaring atop a cliff. The Pleasure Center will take his human where the pleasure center wants to take it. Considerations of sinfulness become laughably irrelevant. Fear of discovery loses its hold.

If I pushed my tooth any further, it would protrude from between my lips into the unforgiving outer world. It would become visible to others! Everyone would know about the private gratifications I had been assiduously hiding. Miss Margaret would notice the gleam of bony white enamel forcing its way into view. What would she think? Would she be unable to ignore what she saw? Would her talk about the letters of the alphabet fall by the wayside?

But there was nothing I could do but surrender. My Pleasure Center would have its way with me as the world watched. So I sat there in my first grade chair, a baby tooth unabashedly poking out from between my child’s innocent lips, as I relished a level of pure sensual pleasure that I had never before even known was possible.

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