The case of the missing retainer UPDATE: Case Closed

As a good detective, your first job is to secure the scene. This involves shuffling to the curb in pajamas at dawn to drag the garbage can back to the side of the house.  The aroma of litterbox looms heavily in the humid air. You are filled with hope and disgust.

You interrogate each potential witness separately. Your husband texts “I don’t have it!” The exclamation mark might normally arouse suspicion, but his alibi is airtight: he’s out of town. You get to the perpetrator/victim’s younger sibling before she’s even out of bed. No, she hasn’t seen it either. The cats both look guilty but they always look like that. Actually, the one cat looks guilty while the other probably looks hungry. You release them and they slink off to stalk the fish tank and eat a little kibble.

Your key witness is pretty sure she last wore the retainer the night before last. She isn’t sure where she was when she took it out. The hot pink case you couldn’t miss if you were blind sits on the bathroom counter empty, like a missing child’s shoe found by the side of the road.

Your witness isn’t sure when and where she last saw her retainer. It might have been on her bedside table. It might have been on a placemat. You’ve been at this game long enough to know grabbing her by the collar while crying why in god’s name don’t you remember? Why?? won’t get any answers, though it might make you feel better.

When you re-read the victim’s statement, you keep going back to the part where she said I hope I didn’t throw it away in the bathroom. You didn’t get this far ignoring hunches. You can no longer put off the garbage like the snakes in Pee-Wee Herman’s heroic pet store rescue scene. You must go in.

The garbage does not disappoint. You don’t find the retainer, but it is even more disgusting than anticipated. What even is that one thing and where did it come from? You check under the bed, in drawers the victim clearly hasn’t opened since 2011, the top of the refrigerator, the mailbox. You frisk the cats but they misinterpret and purr.

When you get to work, you fight the urge to check the garbage can beneath your desk because the only way it would be there is if you were in on it the whole time.

You clear the schedule for the weekend. You plan in your head how you will sift through each bag of garbage, plus the recycling bin, wearing purple kitchen gloves and a handkerchief over your nose to stifle the stench. You make a note to do this somewhere private so the neighbors don’t send someone by with a butterfly net.

You scribble notes in your steno pad: check the lego bin; strip the victim’s sheets and wash them, killing two birds with one stone; look over by the fireplace, which is where you saw a cat batting something around the other day and assumed it was a bug but now you are not at all sure.

You are a very good detective and you will find it. A retainer doesn’t just vanish into thin air. Well, maybe that one time in 1988 when you put your own retainer on a plate for safekeeping while eating a sandwich on the back deck and then, for reasons unknown to anyone, shook the plate over the bushes and stones below. As one does.

You never got over that, obviously, but it helped make you the great detective you are today. You’ve told this cautionary tale to your daughter many times, assuming only those who don’t know history are doomed to repeat it. You do not recall your parents looking for your retainer as obsessively as you did then and now, those maddeningly translucent white whales.


Update: at approximately 5:12pm, you will apprehend the retainer inside a tan fleece blanket located on the victim’s bed. After giving the blanket a good shake, you’ll hear the sweetest ‘thunk’ on the carpet that you ever did hear. Knowing that you will not have to spend your Saturday sifting through garbage, you will order a celebratory pizza and cry out TGIF, MF! The vexing, useless ability to make a retainer vanish into thin air was not passed down to at least one of your offspring, after all.

24 thoughts on “The case of the missing retainer UPDATE: Case Closed

Add yours

  1. lol I’ve worn a full upper denture since my late 20s during my drinking periods I would often wake up with no teeth. Typically during travel for work because god forbid I lose my teeth in a hotel in another state!

    Panic would set in and inevitably they would be in the dumbest places, put there in a blackout for “safe keeping”. Maddening!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I keep hoping she’ll remember some odd, helpful detail, like ‘of course, I put it in the junk drawer so I wouldn’t have to go all the way upstairs’. A teenager’s distracted fugue state is not all that different from what you described.


  2. I had a grown-up friend whose 7 year old son gave her retainer to a girl he liked in his class. Because, nothing says love like your mother’s heirloom retainer.

    Good luck! Don’t forget to be on the lookout for a little crooked-toothed boy hanging around making goo-goo eyes at your daughter.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I friggin’ hate retainers. Mostly the having to wear them. I can’t even remember where mine went. Good riddance, I say.

    Still, it’s good you found your daughter’s. Before spending your Saturday digging through the garbage. Nice job.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. So pleased you found it! This story reminded me of the time I took my retainer out as a seventeen year old when I was in the cinema with my boyfriend. Because …… kissing 😁 Utter mortification when my parents picked us up from the cinema and I realised I’d dropped it in there. Had to go back in, and yes, I did find it under the seat.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Great storytelling here, Kristen. But that’s no surprise of course! We had the same thing happen here with the youngest’s wallet which had $60 of birthday money. I turned half the house upside down. He was staying at his cousins’ house, so they all were looking. No dice. I asked my boy countless times where did he see it last. He had no idea. I had given up on it. But then one morning he said “oh yeah, I think it’s in the trunk of Zia’s car (his aunt)”. I texted her and told her, and yup, there it was. She said it was wedged in tight and never would have seen it. That kid, I tell ya.

    Anyway, great stuff again here, Kristen. Lots of fun reading this!

    Liked by 2 people

  6. really laughed at so many parts- esp at work! wanting to check the trash there…
    and it does take sleuth work to find items like these- but the retainer losses must be big business – ha

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Create a free website or blog at

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: