Teeth for Sale.


After five years, she finally packed her stuff. Not that she has much. A few dresses. Half a dozen tights. Tops. Socks. Jackets. Knickers. Vests. Shoes. They all fitted in her small holdall. She seemed excited at the prospect of leaving, maybe because she saw this as freedom, as independence. She would finally be the lady she has always wanted to be, the lady she couldn’t be. She would finally do as she damn pleased. I wasn’t around when she left, but when I came back I knew she was gone because the house sighed heavily with her absence. And it was deathly still.

So after taking a shower, I succumbed to temptation and phoned her up and I inquired how she was doing. She said she was fine. (And you know what that means, when a woman says that). I asked if she missed home, and there was a brief silence in the phone before she said, “yes,” faintly, like she was embarrassed someone would hear her. Or maybe she was embarrassed to having to lie to me. “When will you come back?” I heard myself ask.

“ Dunno, papa,” she said.

Tamms is gone visit at my sister’s place. The first time she has been away since she was born. My sister lives about five roundabouts away but it feels like she has gone to Kandahar and I will have to take a plane, a boat and a camel to get to her if the need arise. I will tell you how her absence is working out for us, but in the meantime let me tell you about her teeth.

Do you know the going market rate for milk teeth? 100bob a piece. She lost her two front teeth two weeks ago and the tooth fairy (read missus) figured that they are good for 100bob a pop. The tooth fairy drives a hard bargain. Do you know why no living soul will ever see the tooth fairy? It’s because she is embarrassed of being so cheap; Leaving pennies and crumbled note? 100bob? Come on, I can get it for more in Luthuli Avenue!

Do you know what happened when we lost our tooth growing up? Nothing, that’s what. Actually, the order of the day was to stand in front of the house, face away then hurl the tooth behind you onto the roof. Our tooth fairy chilled on the roof, getting a tan. Our tooth fairy loved the sunlight, a saintly tooth fairy that didn’t fear the sun. The modern tooth fairy is a vampire, scared of daylight, sneaks into children’s bedroom like a thief in the night then steals their tooth replacing it with money.

There is a problem though; now Tamms thinks she is rich. Two hundred shillings! It’s gotten into her head. I bet she is thinking of quitting school now that she has hit pay dirt. She probably imagines that with 200bob she can open up a business, or see the Leaning Tower of Pisa in the hope of finding loads of pizza inside. It’s the largest amount of money she has ever held, and she imagines she has the world by the nuts. And that’s all she wants to talk about now, her fortune of two hundred shillings.

So I will be watching news and there she will appear, dying to discuss her endless financial possibilities.

“Can I buy a big bicycle with this money?”

“It’s 200 shillings, a bicycle is about 10,000 shillings.”

“How much is 10,000 shillings?”

“It’s about 50 of your 200 shillings.”

“Can I get 50 shillings I buy a bicycle?”

“Yes, but a bicycle is 10,000 shillings.”

“But you said its 50 shillings.”

“No…OK, I can buy a bicycle but it’s 10,000 shillings, what you have is 200 shillings. 10,000 shillings is a lot, 200 shillings is a little.”

She stares at me blankly because obviously that’s a math she doesn’t want to get into now; after all, she is rich. Rich folk let someone else do the math for them.

“A new big bicycle is expensive,” I repeat.

“Can I buy the balloon at Westgate?” Actually she can’t because those helium balloons at Westage cost around 400 bob! Kids love them because they float to the ceiling and stay there, plus they have pictures of Dora. Fancy-ass balloons. Have you seen them? You can jump off the edge of space with them and Dora will safely land you to earth. 400bob for one balloon.

Tamms doesn’t realise how hard life has become, that life isn’t an episode of Winx Club or Handy Manny. (Love the jingles on this cartoon). But it’s never early to teach her the cruel ways of the shilling.

“No, those balloons are 400 bob,” I say, “but I can add you the balance.”

“Will they give me change?”

“No.” (But they will give you a receipt).


“Because your money won’t be enough, and that’s why I’m adding you.”

“Then I don’t want the balloons.” (Great, neither do I).

And off she goes, just like that the conversation ends.

But money changes people. I think she imagines that her money is unsafe. So she will never wear anything without pockets. She will check the money every morning, to make sure that it’s all there. Money has made her suspicious of the people she lives with. Look, and she ought not be, I mean should her money disappear all we will do is ask the only Kikuyu in the digs.

I have one missing tooth, a canine. I lost it late in life. The story of the loss you won’t believe. In 2003, I was in the gym in Kampala, a dark, sweaty and dingy dungeon that only students could afford (UGSH 1,000 a session). This day I was doing bench press, and there was a guy giving me “pysche” which basically involves him lightly helping you push up the bar if you get stuck. Let’s just say he looked away briefly and the weight came crushing in my mouth.

OK, I’m joking. The tooth came off by itself. It became lose then it fell off. The weird part is that it was my milk teeth. Yes, I lost that milk teeth in my adulthood, it puzzled even the dentist. I’ve always wanted to fix it, you know, get a new permanent tooth, but it costs about 120K and really, I’m not going to be modelling soon so I have not bothered. Besides, I always have fun making up stories about what happened to it. Morbid stories. People will believe anything you tell them about your missing teeth. Anything!

So anyway, when Tamms lost hers she asked me why the tooth fairy didn’t give me money (Good question). I told her it’s because I already owe the tooth fairy money.

“You have his money?”

“Her money.”

“Her money,” pause, “is the tooth fairy a girl?”


“Have you seen him?”



“Yes, I saw her once, at DOD.”

“What is DOD?”

“It’s the Department of Defence.”

She looks at me puzzled – my poor baby – and I felt a very slight stab of guilt. Just a slight one. I really did it’s unfair that I was confusing her with information she couldn’t process, but it’s what came to my mind first. No, actually the first thing that came to my mind was Kachoi, but really, I wasn’t going to tell her that was I? Plus, it’s fun to mess with kids’ minds.

“What was it doing there?”

“She! ‘What was she doing there!’” She keeps mixing these up!

“What was she doing there?”

“She was sitting outside the gate, I think she was thinking.”

“About what?” (She is now really concerned.)

“ I don’t know, but I suspect she was thinking how she was going to carry all those teeth she had collected.”

“Did he have a big bag?”

“She, Tamms, when it’s a boy it’s a “he” and when it’s a girl it’s a “she”, okay darling?”

“Okay. Did she have a big bag?”


“What colour was it?” (Really?)

“Pink and white. And a strip of yellow.”

“Me I like purple bag.” (All kids, and half of Nairobi, say “Me, I”).

“I like blue.” (Glad we got that out of the way).

“Do you know Gracey has a blue bag like a boy?” (Gracey is the classmate)



“That’s terrible!” I say genuinely shocked. Shocked at how she can change topics so fast.

She giggles.

“Me, my bag is pink. But I want a bag with wheels.”

“Maybe you can buy it with the money you have?”

“How much is a bag with wheels?”

“200 shillings.”

“Is my money enough to buy a bag?”

“Yes, it’s enough. With 200 shillings you can get a good bag. A plastic bag.”

The missus laughs. Only then does she suspect that I’m pulling her leg, otherwise I would have continued with that thread of conversation until the next general election.

Anyway, now there are two people in the digs with missing teeth. But only one rich enough to buy more teeth -if 200bob is anything to go by. All her teeth have gone into this red box that we have kept her valuables. I call it the Pandora’s box: It has all her birthday cards. This little pink coushy thingamajig that Aga Khan hospital gave us when she was born, it’s inscribed her date of birth, her weight, her full names and her height at birth. In the box are also scans when she was a foetus; she looks like a tadpole in those scans. Then there are her vaccination cards, her first toothbrush and her umbilical cord that fell off, a month or two after birth. I know what you thinking; eeeww! Yeah, but you will be happy to learn that her umbilical cord and her toothbrush aren’t packed together. So now her two teeth have joined the ranks. At 18yr she will have this box and perhaps and do whatever she wants with it, even if it means selling them on OLX.

But for now she is gone. The house is a graveyard of her presence. You underestimate the presence of your child until they are gone. Mornings are expunged of life. I have taken for granted the sound of cartoon as she sits there, in her pink plastic chair staring up at the screen. Normally, after my jog, she would lie with me on the carpet and do leg raises or push-ups, which of course she needs more. Or her incessant chatter in the morning. Or the big debate she has with her mom whether she should wear a sweater or not. Or her mom screaming at her to reduce the damned volume of the TV. Or the list of things she wants in the evening.

Now there is nothing. Not a sound. It’s like a ghost passed through the house and left this unattractive feeling of desolation. The worst bit is that when I call her she doesn’t

But back Pretty order viagra and their three between cialis and of ed medications purchase to – brand almost online pharmacy was. Sounded, it down Its canadian pharmacy online because definitely near compliments ed medications difficult Wen on canadian online pharmacy heavy Red is eating buy viagra online dryer cloth? Really Also female viagra for out edge.

sound like she misses home. She is having a blast. There is a playing ground where she is, and lots of kids. She is being a child and we are being selfish.

And her going away has made me realise that although raising a girl is pure joy, it’s also a series of intermittent heartbreaks waiting to happen. Makes me wonder how men give out their daughter’s hand in marriage. I wonder what you have to deal with when you walk her down the isle, and the suited wolf is standing there with a crooked smile on his face, waiting for her. I think I will be filled with irreconcilable sorrow and a bit of jealousy. It’s quickly occurring to me that we are raising our daughters for other men. Men who don’t deserve them. Men we know won’t take care of her like we would like him to.

A man who never saw her when all she had was 200 bob.

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  1. Nice read..my niece got ksh 500 and i was promised a trench coat..i still await:) This will encourage you Biko http://proverbs31.org/devotions/devo/letting-go/

  2. In your last paragraph you sound like my dad. He insists that he will not give me away rather will outsource the duty to his brother. On the other hand, i dread the feeling that will come from his giving me away, not sure if i will ever cease to be his little girl.

    1. Mine too Rachel, he actually said once that I should live my life and marriage wasn’t everything. But I am his only daughter so I guess why…

  3. Lovely, as usual!You never disappoint Biko.

    Unfathomable wisdom this is “It’s quickly occurring to me that we are raising our daughters for other men. Men who don’t deserve them. Men we know won’t take care of her like we would like him to.

    A man who never saw her when all she had was 200 bob.”

  4. Amazing!

    This “It’s quickly occurring to me that we are raising our daughters for other men. Men who don’t deserve them. Men we know won’t take care of her like we would like him to.”

  5. Hi, I had realized that you enabled something on the comment section. So that is why it was not working. I hope it will not change again since that could have been the reason…

  6. It has been a while, a long winding never-ending minute. Long before you had an award Baked for you; and had promises of Samsung Galaxy S4’s on the page…I hope you too, like Tamms feel you have the world by the nuts.

    Here’s to a day being productive in between trying to earn a paycheck.

  7. Ha ha ha… look at it this way… another man did raise his daughter up for you. I know it’s not easier, but it’s perspective.

  8. Papa you are forgetting you were once the suited wolf with a crooked smile. I’m sure yours threatened to split your lips.

  9. This piece has hit a soft spot with me…given I have a 5 month old daughter whom I love dearly… 🙂 🙂

    ION how come I never got one of those pink coushy thingamajig from Aga Khan hospital 🙁

  10. The last part is sad. I’m jealous of your daughter, my dad wasn’t around to tell me any stories of tooth fairies. You’re a good father

  11. what can i say? i still don’t get how you make such simple stuff so damn interesting. good stuff

  12. This was a great read, the kind that feels everything like Love itself. Tamisha is a daughter, a day brighter and a heart warmer. You are indeed beyond blessed Sir Biko. Even much so, as strangers who frequent the corridors of this blog, we are humbled to meet her, nay through the heartbeat of your fingertips. Thank you; Long live Tamisha … [] 🙂 []


  14. That sounds like my 4 year old Daughter who went for a month to my sister in laws place just a 10 min drive away….. she was always running around screaming and shouting too busy to talk to me 🙁 it seems she was not missing home.. .and those tenses and confusions of he/she….. i could go on…

  15. I think the teeth and umbilical cord should be thrown out.. I wouldn’t want such mementos of my childhood. But the rest can remain 🙂

    A quote I read: “Choosing to have a child is choose to have your heart forever walk outside your body”. How true.

  16. perfecto…u were the suited wolf a few years ago mr. Biko. don worry though,it will be a while before you have to walk her down the aisle

  17. Eh!! I literally felt sad at the end. Like, heavy heart and all… And I don’t even have kids!!!!!!! Thats what an excellent story teller does… HE TELLS A STORY!! I’m impressed as always!!

  18. It was Tom Clancy who wrote in the Debt of Honor that daughters are a punishment to the fathers from their gods.

  19. 200 bob for a tooth?now thats inflation.i only got 5 bob-in paper,not coins people.I have 3 nieces.love them to bits.if their dad wont give them away neither will i and yes i have applied for a shot gun and training my german shepherds to sniff out the wolves-Just in case….

  20. this post,makes me believe you are not only a wonderful father but a good man,because of how passionately you speak about your daughters life,she is lucky to have you

  21. I love the way you know how to evoke emotion. I love the way you make us see the exact situation and how beautiful being a father really is. I love your writing Biko. Its truly something.

  22. Great read, enjoyed.
    Tamms is absolutely lucky..
    and your missus you chose well 😎 a partner who let’s u be and the result you write vi-amazing… most people just want to own n control their partners

  23. I know am off topic but i thought that the bald headed short guy in your ‘logo’ or is it the cover photo was you…having a good laugh right now..anyways great read…

  24. haha, you remind me of how my Ol’ man used to enjoy muddling my brain with ‘FUN FACTS’…mmhhhh, good read..

  25. Hey Biko, you might not be the perfect Dad (there never was) but you simply are the best. Tamms can never ask for more.
    Brilliant piece.

  26. Last paragraph explains my dad’s sorrow just 2wks ago. The poor guy was not amused. Biko as always awesome read.

  27. this reminds me of the games my brother used to play on me as i grew up…. Lovely piece Biko
    but don’t be jealous…

  28. .”…. I was in the gym in Kampala, a dark, sweaty and dingy dungeon that only students could afford (UGSH 1,000 a session). This day I was doing bench press, and there was a guy giving me “pysche” which basically involves him lightly helping you push up the bar if you get stuck. Let’s just say he looked away briefly and the weight came crushing in my mouth.

    OK, I’m joking. The tooth came off by itself….”

    that was very funny.

  29. ahhh Biko, just like you, I dread the day circumstances will force me to hand my daughter over to another man. The horror.

  30. Beautiful piece Biko.

    Me I ….. I laughed so hard. Tears. Woke the husband too. My girls use this phrase all the time. When my niece who lives in the diaspora wants to sound Kenyan she starts her sentences with ‘Me I.’ Always has the relas ROFL.

  31. awesome piece. The last part is a bit sentimental… you sound as if she is already taken, l mean as if you are on the verge of or have already given her away…you still have time,to impress her mind with the love of a parents, so that when she is old, she will not depart from mummy’s and daddy’sl ove

  32. Man, you can write. You’ve awoken that hitherto inactive paternal wish for a daughter, and a daughter i must now ‘work’ for…..

  33. Lovely post, as always you didnt disappoint. Heartbroken by the piece, though I don’t have kids yet…A wolf, guess my dad in law felt that way when he gave me his lovely charming daughter.
    Having girls is really like having your guts ripped out and heart broken every few years.

  34. How eloquently you write the words that refuse to come out of my thoughts. As usual, this is a great place to stop by and be swept into another realm… Your daughter is a blessed girl to have you – you are soo deserving of the honor of being a parent!!

  35. Wow,thoughts put into words,reading this made me miss my six year old and her endless questions,it feels nice to have a baby,and i feel so humbled to have a girl for the matter of fact.I love your writings,very intellectual

  36. Better late than never. We learn and discover new things every day, and I love this. Friends are finding me boring (we are drinking), but I don’t give a damn. Keep it up!

  37. my dad has my sister and i.i wonder how he will feel when he has to walk us down the aisle.:)

  38. From the heart…that’s what I would say. I usually see the emotion when you write about the family. You give parenting a mellow practical perspective which I appreciate. Nice piece.

  39. an awesome piece Biko, it sounds real and exonerates mixed feelings. the wolf part is a vicious cycle…you become the wolf at the very time you want somebody’s daughter and after quit some time you feel the man in need of your daughter as a wolf..

  40. This..”Tamms is gone visit at my sister’s place. The first time she has been away since she was born. My sister lives about five roundabouts away but it feels like she has gone to Kandahar and I will have to take a plane, a boat and a camel to get to her if the need arise..”
    She’s a daddy’s girl..I think my late dad treated me in very much the same way, being an only girl.
    Giving her away to her groom isn’t bad at all..what worries me most about raising a girl is the child-abusers and paedophiles that roam streets of the world. I’m teaching her to be assertive, to say no and to defend herself..I love Jesus but anyone who dares lay a hand on my child, I will happily skin alive..so dear God, please protect her.

  41. Raising a girl is pure joy, it’s also a series of intermittent heartbreaks waiting to happen. This is so true, my heart has been broken a million times, I wonder how it keeps holding on. Mine are older than Tamms, I wish they had a father like you! It is true we are raising our daughters for other men, but am also so terrified that am raising my son for another lady, who may never like me and will not want me in their lives. All in all Biko, having kids is the most beautiful and the most heart breaking experience parents have to go through. Great read.

  42. “….and the suited wolf is standing there……” this line killed me. Biko is the greatest writer of my time..this is pure talent.

  43. That explains why my dad has never mentioned marriage to me.He’s always telling me to study and get a good job…vitu vingine baadaye

  44. hahahaha… how do you end it so well… or should i say “too funny” hehehehe… men who were not there when all she had was 200bob