New Teeth



By Simon Rich

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Laugh till you cry in this new collection of stories from the award-winning “Serena Williams of humor writing” (New York Times Book Review) about raising babies and trying  not to be one.
Called a “comedic Godsend” by Conan O’Brien and “the Stephen King of comedy writing” by John Mulaney, Simon Rich is back with New Teeth, his funniest and most personal collection yet.
Two murderous pirates find a child stowaway on board and attempt to balance pillaging with co-parenting. A woman raised by wolves prepares for her parents’ annual Thanksgiving visit. An aging mutant superhero is forced to learn humility when the mayor kicks him upstairs to a desk job. And in the hard-boiled caper “The Big Nap,” a weary two-year-old detective struggles to make sense of “a world gone mad.”
Equal parts silly and sincere, New Teeth is an ode to growing up, growing older, and what it means to make a family.


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Learning the Ropes


I am me own master and commander. I serve no king and fear no God. I would sooner cut a hundred throats than heed one order from a living man. When I strike, I take no quarter, for there be no mercy in me heart, just cold, black ice. Me cutlass is me only friend. The devil is me brother. I don't recycle. When I'm done with a bottle, I just be throwing it out. I am Black Bones the Wicked, the most evil, fearsome pirate ever known.

The only man I trust is me first mate, Rotten Pete the Scoundrel, and I only trust him as far as I can keep me eye peeled on his hook hand. Rotten Pete is so rotten, he'd sell his mother for a piece of eight. He's got a black beard right up to his eyes, and he loves to keep it slick with dead men's blood. One thing about him is that he be lactose intolerant, so there be certain things he can't be eating. But other than that, he has no weaknesses, and like me, in his heart there be no mercy, just the cold, black ice, like I be having.

For years, we be charting a bloody course across the briny blue, looting every schooner fool enough to drift into our ken. When we capture a prize, we spend all the plunder on grog and sing shanties until dawn. Then we go somewhere that be open early serving breakfast. And everyone gives us dirty looks, because our table be loud, but we do not care, because we be pirates, and what makes pirates pirates is we only ever think about ourselves.


Our tale begins on the Delicious, a three-masted frigate built for shipping sugar biscuits. We'd hornswoggled the captain into crewing us by claiming we was common merchant seamen. But as soon as we sailed past the breakers, we whipped out our pistols and announced our true intentions.

"Ahoy!" we said. "We be pirates!"

At this point, the crew got angry at the captain for crewing us, and he got defensive-like and said, "How was I supposed to know these gentlemen were pirates?" And his crew pointed out some "red flags" me and Rotten Pete be having, like our peg legs, and our eye patches, and the parrot I be keeping on me shoulder, which always be saying, "Shiver me timbers," which be a pretty pirate thing to say. And the captain's face turned red-like and he admitted that he probably should have been getting him some references.

So, anyway, we made him walk the plank, along with all his hoity-toity educated officers. And that's when I took out me treasure map. I'd won it in a dice game against Blackjack the Crazy, and it gave us directions to all the buried gold in the known world. I nailed it to the mainmast, and we gathered around and stared at it in the boiling midday sun. And after some time, I cleared me throat and said, "So, does anyone here be knowing how to read?" And there were some groans and cursing, and I realized maybe it had been a mistake to be killing all the educated officers.

In any case, with our treasure quest at a momentary standstill, there was nothing to do but get three sheets to the wind. So Rotten Pete broke into the captain's berth by smashing the door down with his face, and we drank up all the grog and sang ourselves some shanties, with me singing the main parts, and Rotten Pete doing all the harmonies, and we were trying to work out a difficult bridge section when we heard a strange howling noise coming from the deck. It could only mean one thing: we had ourselves a stowaway.

Now, me and Rotten Pete don't take too kindly to freeloaders. So as soon as we heard his yapping, we loaded up our pistols with the hardest bullets we could find and went up to blow the man down. The wailing was coming from a broken crate of sugar biscuits, and we were gearing up to blast the thing to bits, when some clouds parted aloft, and in the white-bright moonlight we could see two little eyes peering up at us, and that's when we noticed the stowaway be a little girl.

She was smaller than a seaman's duffel, with a tiny freckled face and a scraggly mess of hair, as wild as a clump of kelp. She wore the rags of a street urchin, and her body was smeared with crumbs and bits of sugar. She'd wandered on board from the docks, we guessed, to get at all the biscuits, and now here she was, stuck with us pirates at sea.

Now, I expected her to cower at the sight of us, because she be so small, and we be so big, and also, we be pirates. But instead, when she saw us, her lips stopped their quivering, and she sniffled a few times and blinked away her tears. And then, very slow-like, she held up her arms, squeezed her chubby fists, and looked me in me eye, and said, "Up?"

And Rotten Pete turned to me slowly and said, "Arr, I think she be asking you to pick her up." And I shook me head and snorted and said, "Arr, that be ridiculous." And Rotten Pete said, "Arr, why does it be ridiculous?" And I reminded him that I don't heed orders from any living man. I would sooner cut a hundred throats. That be like one of me main things. And Rotten Pete said, "Arr, but it's not a man, it be a little girl." And I said, if he wanted to pick her up, that be his business. And he said, "Arr, then I guess I will be the one of us picking her up, even though I be having a hook hand, and it be harder for me to be lifting things." And I knew he be trying to be passive-aggressive, but I did not say anything, because when he be doing that, I just be ignoring it.

And so Rotten Pete picked up the small girl, and we took her to our berth, and we wrapped her in a blanket and dried off her face, and we stared at her for a while, not really sure what to do. Because we'd been through squalls and mutinies together, been shipwrecked, shot, marooned, and left for dead. But having a kid be different. It's like, there be no manual for this.

And then the small girl started talking, and she said that she be three years old, and that she be hungry for more biscuits. And Rotten Pete pulled me aside and said, "Arr, what do you think, should we be giving her more biscuits? She has already been eating a lot of biscuits today. Maybe we only give her half a biscuit and also be making her say please first?" And I said, "What the hell is going on? We be pirates. We should just throw her overboard and feed her to the sharks." And Rotten Pete winced and said, "Arr, come on, we can't be doing that." And I asked him if he be getting soft. And he said, "Arr, no, I just be thinking, you know, if we toss her overboard at night, the sharks will come, and they might crack the hull open with their fins." So I groaned and said, "Fine, she can stay aboard tonight, but there's no way she be sleeping in our berth." And he said, "Arr, then where will we be putting her?" And I said, "Arr, we can just stick her in the hold." And he said, "Arr, it be dark down there, she will be scared and scream." And I said, "Arr, if she be screaming, we'll hear her and go down." And he said, "Arr, so will you go down when that happens? Or are you expecting me to go down?" And in the end we decided we be taking turns going down.

And it was a night like no other I have lived through, louder and more vicious than the blimeyist sou'wester. The small girl kept crying, and asking us for biscuits, and when we finally gave in and brought her some, she started asking both of us for dolls. And I kept telling her, "Arr, we be pirates, we don't be having dolls," but she would keep screaming. And so eventually, to shut her up, I gave her me peg-leg and said, "Here, this be a doll," and that worked for a spell, but then the crying started again, and Rotten Pete went down, and when he came back up, he started building something out of canvas, and I asked him what he be doing, and he said, very quietly, "Arr, I be building a doll bed for her peg-leg doll, because it be needing a bed, like how she be having a bed. It be part of the game that she be playing with her doll. And also, just so you know, the name of her peg-leg doll be Peggy, so if she be asking for Peggy, that be what she means." And by dawn, I had made up me mind that sharks or no sharks, it was time for the girl to walk the plank.

So I waited until Rotten Pete was snoring-like and I climbed over him and down into the hold. And when the little girl saw me, she held up her hands and said, "Up?" And I gave her a crooked grin and said, real ominous-like, "Arr, I be lifting you up all right." And she smiled, because she be too young for understanding subtext.

And I grabbed me peg-leg from her and screwed it back on. And she laughed and said, "Peggy spin like ballerina," and when I ignored her, she said it again, and again, and again, and again, until eventually I said, "Arr, yes, she be doing pirouettes," because it just be easier to go along with her. And as she wrapped her little arms around me neck, I noticed that her hair had a smell like biscuits, and I wondered how much of that was the biscuits she be eating and how much of it just be the way she be smelling natural-like, like how some kids just be smelling sweet, like cookies. And I realized that's probably why some parents be calling their kids "cookie," because they be small and sweet, just like a cookie. In any case, it was time to commit murder.

So I started walking aft, to toss her off the poop deck. And I was almost past the mainmast, when she pointed and said, "I see X!" And I stopped in me tracks and said, "Arr, what did you say?" And she pointed again and said, "X! I see X!" And I followed her tiny finger with me eye, and that's when I saw what she be pointing at.

The treasure map.

And by this time, Rotten Pete had climbed onto the deck, and when he saw me with the girl, he squinted and said, "Arr, what you be doing?"

And I grinned and said, "Arr, just spending some quality time with me favorite little girl in the whole world!"


So it turned out that the girl knew letters, and not only that, she knew all the sounds that they be making, like "P" be for "princess," and "S" be for "sparkles," and "L" be for "lollipop." And using this inside information, we were able to sound out some words on the map, and start to make it tell its golden tales.

Sometimes it be slow going. The girl would tell a couple of letters—"this is 'T,' this is 'R'"—but then a seagull would land on some rigging and she'd run off, chasing it. And if there be a bunch of seagulls, then she'd be getting excited, and soon she'd be pretending like she be a seagull, saying "quack, quack," and flapping her arms like wings, and sometimes it be hard to redirect her.

But then I figured out the trick of bribing her with biscuits, and pretty soon I had her doing letters all day long. And after a week or two, I figured out the first spot where I thought there be some treasure, a tiny island off the coast of Malta, or as she be calling it, "mermaid, apple, lemonade, tiara, apple."

So I set our course and had me men bear down, and before long the lookout was shouting, "Land ahoy!" We rowed our swift longboat ashore, and sure enough, the treasure was just where the map had said it was, right under the "X" for "xylophone."

And so we dug up the shiny golden coins, and bit them with our teeth like we be doing, and made fast to port, where we traded them all for grog. And Rotten Pete said, "Arr, maybe we should be trading for some other stuff, too, while we're here, like baby carrots and yogurts and things that are healthy-like for the small girl." And I said, "Arr, she has biscuits," and he said, "Arr, she can't be eating only biscuits, she will be getting cavities and scurvy." And I said, "She can eat whatever she wants because she be a pirate." And that is when I told him me big plan, which was that I was going to be raising the girl in a cool way so that she be ending up cool. And instead of making her follow rules like a landlubber, I was going to teach her to reject conformity and rebel against society and also to listen to cool bands. And Rotten Pete said, "Arr, I think maybe this new philosophy of yours be something we should be discussing together in private." And I said we could be doing that some other time, because right now it be time for a pirate feast, and I opened a fresh crate of biscuits. And Rotten Pete sighed, real dramatic-like, and walked back belowdecks. And I fed the girl the biscuits and taught her some jigs, and we stayed up all night, laughing and dancing with no cares or worries in the world.

And so we kept on sailing, from island to island, scooping up treasure and crossing all the "X"s off our list. And by the end of the month, we'd plundered so much loot that the hold almost busted from the weight of all the gold, and the carpenter had to patch the cracks with caulk. And meanwhile, the girl, she be becoming increasingly pirate-like. Like, for example, she started saying "Arr" a lot, which, I'm not sure if you're aware, is a word we pirates like often to be saying. And one sunny afternoon, in between treasure stops, I taught her how to whistle with two fingers, in the pirate way, and she got so good at it, I could hear her clean across the ship, and it got to be a kind of joke between us, like I would whistle, and then she would whistle, and we would whistle back and forth, and it became like an inside thing that we be doing. And I gave her some pirate things to wear, like a red scarf for her head, which was actually only a napkin, and a cutlass for her waistband, which was actually only a small dagger. And when Rotten Pete saw her with the dagger, he said, "Arr, she'll put an eye out." And I told him to relax, because that just be an expression, and he said, "Arr, it is not just an expression. We both have put eyes out. It be a very common maritime accident, and it has happened to both of us and fully changed our lives." And the girl got scared-like and started to hand Rotten Pete her dagger, but then I stuck two fingers in me mouth and whistled. And the girl whistled back and refastened the dagger to her waistband.

And later that night, I was singing shanties in the berth, and I noticed that Rotten Pete was not doing the harmonies like how he normally be doing. Like technically he be doing them, but he really be phoning them in. And I thought about letting it go, because I knew if I be saying something, it would be leading to a fight, and I was just not in the mood. But then he started hitting all these obviously flat notes, especially during the "yo ho ho"s, and eventually I just looked him in the eye and said, "Is there something you be wanting to say to me?" And he said, "Arr, no." Because he always be making me drag things out of him. But after some prodding, he threw up his hook hand and said, "Arr, I am just tired of always having to be the bad guy with her." And I told him that it was not me fault that he be so neurotic-like. And he said, "Arr, it is not neurotic to try to give her a few rules." And I reminded him that we be pirates, and pirates hate rules. And he said, "Arr, I be aware, but she's not a pirate, she be a small girl who needs structure and routine to feel safe, and she be on this ship for months, and we do not even have her on any kind of sleep schedule." And then he started listing all of the things that I be doing wrong, like how me biscuits be giving her tummy aches, and me cursing be setting a bad example, and me stories about me graphic murders be making her traumatized-like, and I said, "Arr, or maybe you just be getting jealous, because she be liking me more." And the moment I said it, I knew that I be pushing things too far, but it be too late to take it back, so I just be doubling down, and from that point on, the fight just grew and grew, getting darker and murkier, like the waves in a mighty squall. And it got so bad we decided to bunk in different berths that night. And of course I know the old saying, about how a captain and first mate should never be going to bed angry, but I just be thinking to meself, "Arr, we are never going to resolve this tonight, we are both extremely tired, let's just try again tomorrow when we both be more clearheaded-like."

So I crawled out of the berth and climbed down to the lower deck, and that is when I see the water. It be seeping on up through the hold, dripping and drabbing through the waxy sealing. And when I open the latch to take a look, it be rushing out so quick, it almost knocks me peg leg loose. And when I peer down into the hold, I see the whole thing be flooded, and the small girl be sitting atop a keg of grog, just bobbing around, confused-like.

So Rotten Pete ran down and grabbed her while I sounded the alarm, ordering all hands on deck. And we manned the pumps and bailers until dawn, with the ship listing almost to beam ends. And it got so bad, the only way to keep us from a death roll was to counterflood the hold, and by the time we got the ship to sail straight, we be losing all our hard-won treasure, every single bit of gold sinking down to Davy Jones's locker. And it was the most painful moment of me pirate career, not counting that one time an octopus bit off me leg.

So I started cursing at the carpenter, because he said he'd caulked the cracks, but we ended up having more holes than a dragnet! And he swore that he'd sealed all the leaks, and said that there must be some "new holes." So I said, "Arr, well, there's going to be one more new hole, and it's going to be the one I be making in your chest when I be stabbing you there, right now, real hard-like!" And as I said it, I knew it was not me greatest "kill line," but I did not care, because I be so angry. And I took out me cutlass and was gearing up to cleave him to the brisket, when I caught sight of the small girl's dagger, the one that I had given her, and noticed the tip was smeared yellow.

So I bent down so I could look her in the eyes, and I said, "Arr, I am only going to be asking you this once. Were you making holes in the caulk?" And the small girl started crying, and she shook her head, and I said, "Arr, now you be lying about it, too? That be even worse!" And that's when I felt a hook on me shoulder, and I turn around, and there be Rotten Pete. And he says to me, "Arr, just calm down, it's not her fault." And I said, "Arr, what are you talking about? She just lost all our treasure!" And Rotten Pete said, "Arr, I have heard about this, it be called 'limit testing.' She be acting out because she be craving discipline, and this be what happens when the environment be too permissive-like." And I said, "Arr, so you be blaming me?!" And Rotten Pete whispered, "Arr, maybe we should discuss this somewhere else, and not in front of the small girl," and he smiled at the girl and said, "Arr, me and Black Bones just be having a discussion, and this be a healthy thing grown-ups be doing, and everything be okay," and the little girl sniffled and nodded. And I rolled me eye and said, "Arr, I guess you be perfect, and I be horrible, congratulations." And Rotten Pete said, "Arr, I am not saying you be horrible, I am just saying that this proves that she be wanting rules." And I said, "That be ridiculous, she hates rules!" And Rotten Pete said, "Arr, or maybe you just hate giving them to her?" And the whole crew went "Ooh," which kind of spurred Rotten Pete to keep on going, and he pointed his hook at me and said, "The reason you never be disciplining her is that you be afraid that she won't love you. You are worried that she will be rejecting you, like how you felt rejected as a child, and this is why you need to be in therapy, because this all be going back to your parents' divorce, which you never be dealing with." And I said, "Arr, I don't need to be dealing with anything! I'm a pirate!" And he said, "Arr, or maybe you're a pirate so that you don't need to be dealing with anything." And the crew said "Ooh" again, even louder this time, and I said, "Arr, I be done with this bullshit."

And I told Rotten Pete that if he think I be such a bad captain, maybe I should just abandon ship. And I grabbed me duffel and threw it in the longboat. And Rotten Pete said, "Arr, don't do this, you'll regret it." And I told him I would be fine, because I was taking the only thing on the ship that meant anything to me, on any emotional level. And the girl smiled at me, and I said, "Arr, not you, the treasure map." And I ripped it off the mainmast. And I reminded Rotten Pete that there still be one "X" left, and it be the greatest "X" of all—the site of the legendary Dead Man's Chest. There be more gold in that chest than in all the other chests we'd found combined, and this time, I wouldn't have to be sharing it with the likes of him! And I laughed in his face as I lowered the longboat down into the sea, because I knew his waterlogged ship could never keep pace with me. The rest of the treasure would be mine, and there'd be enough to keep me in grog for a lifetime.


  • "Rich presents parody, absurdity, observational wit, the sudden shift in a familiar premise, and a surprising touch of sweetness and charm throughout... [New Teeth is] so consistently funny, so exceptional in its imaginative use of parody as to be near genius. A fertile mind provides many smiles in this entertaining collection—and more than a few out-loud laughs."
    Kirkus Starred Review
  • "With the riotous New Teeth, Rich once again sets out to tackle a universal topic: growing up. Rich provides some hilarious insights into parenting in short stories like “Learning The Ropes,” which sees a pair of pirates co-parent an adorable little stowaway. He questions an aging man’s relevance in a story about a superhero put on desk duty, and tells a biting story of found family in “Raised By Wolves.” As he comes to terms with being a dad, Rich doesn’t lose his touch for fantastical constructs that tap into all-too-real feelings."—AV Club
  • “Silly. Satirical. Humorous. Absurd. Hilarious. Simon Rich's work everywhere from the New Yorker to "Saturday Night Live," inspires effusive praise in its unique depiction of life.”—Zibby Owens,
  • “Brilliant and bizarre…Darkly comic and graciously earnest, New Teeth offers provocative takes on our unpredictable world.”—Alta
  • "The book every fun-loving reader needs after a tough year, this humorous collection of 11 stories showcases sincerity, insightfulness and self-aware laughs."—Shelf Awareness Starred Review
  • A triumph of sustained humor…. Rich’s humor is enhanced by his generous, hopeful heart…. Analyzing why it’s so pleasurable to read Simon Rich is about as helpful as analyzing why it’s so fun to spend the night with an unexpectedly excellent blind date. It’s better to do it than to talk about it. —Sarah Lyall, NYT Book Review
  • "Every new arrival from Simon Rich, a former SNL writer whose works inspired the series Man Seeking Woman and Miracle Workers, is cause for celebration. His long short stories are often high concept with premises that anyone else would make corny and cringy. He is unfailingly, unselfconsciously clever, with joy permeating his work."—Vulture
  • "This is Rich’s singular style: combining otherworldly plots with contemporary reference and verbiage that propel a reader forward to see what in the hell he comes up with next….The majority of Rich’s stories contain morals that are never planted too deeply for a reader to spot, making this work as instructive as it is imaginative. But it is his rich display of playfulness that lets us know that we are in the hands of a writer who has never lost the love of storytelling."—NYTBR Editors' Choice selection
  • There are laugh-out-loud moments in NEW TEETH, to be sure, but there are also moments of quietly witty introspection or reflection...The only question for readers is if you swallow this collection whole, or bite off bits and pieces to savor every time you need a little levity.—Book Reporter

On Sale
Jul 26, 2022
Page Count
240 pages
Back Bay Books

Simon Rich

About the Author

Simon Rich has written for “Saturday Night Live,” Pixar and “The Simpsons.” He is the creator and showrunner of “Man Seeking Woman” (FXX) and “Miracle Workers” (TBS), which he based on his books. His other collections include Spoiled Brats and Ant Farm. He is a frequent contributor to The New Yorker.

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