Once upon a time, there was a boy named Luke. Luke was like most kids. He liked to ride his bike. He liked to watch movies. He liked to go swimming in the summer. He even liked candy.
But unlike most kids, he had a very specific liking to only one type of candy: lollipops. All of the other types — chocolate, gummy bears, jelly beans, candy bars, fruit chews — he wouldn’t even go near.
It all started when he was a little baby, not even one year old. His first tooth had just appeared. Everyone in Luke’s family was so excited. Especially Aunt Marge. She loved candy and she loved spoiling her nieces and nephews as soon and as often as possible. As a gift for his first tooth, which she called his sweet tooth, she brought over a cherry lollipop and handed it to Luke.
Once the flavors hit his tongue, his eyes opened wide, and his face lit up with pure delight. He couldn’t even speak yet, but he was already sure of it. Luke loved lollipops.
As the years went on, he ate more and more lollipops. It seemed like everywhere he went they were always available. At birthday parties, at the bank, at church, at Trader Joe’s, lollipops were readily rationed out. Let’s not even get into holidays like Easter and Halloween!
Luke’s father was not so happy about how often Luke was eating lollipops. He figured once Luke got to 1st grade, and was not spending so much time around his Aunt Marge, that the rate of sugary consumption would surely decline.
However, once Luke was old enough to attend school, he realized that even at school he would regularly get his lollipop fix! At least once a week it was someone’s birthday in the class, or there was some other school event to celebrate. Most of the other kids got cupcakes and other goodies, but not Luke. He had a special bag of lollipops stored away in the teacher’s bottom drawer.
This secret stash was provided by Luke’s mother with the instructions, “Luke just doesn’t like those other sweet things, so if he must have something to not feel left out, give him these instead.”
One day the teacher found Luke trying to steal lollipops out of the drawer behind her back. That is when she decided it was time for a lock. The teacher had a serious talk with Luke about how he better be careful with how much sugar he eats, or his teeth will fall out.
When Luke heard that, a little idea was planted in his mind. All of the other kids in his class had lost a tooth by now. But Luke had not. He had the brilliant idea to begin eating even more lollipops as often as possible.
The next day, he stopped by the general store on the way home from school. With the little amount of money he had in his pocket, he purchased a bag of 30 lollipops. As soon as he got home, Luke ran up to his room and hid the bag under his bed. For the next month, Luke had an extra lollipop every night after lights-out.
On the day after his stash had run out, something happened. He woke up, and not just one, but two of his teeth had fallen out! He was so excited he ran to his parents and showed them. The next morning, he must have had a visit from the tooth fairy, because he woke up with more money under his pillow. And what do you think he did with that money? He bought more lollipops of course!
This awful cycle went on for another month, and by then, all of his baby teeth had fallen out. The dentist knew how much Luke loved lollipops, and so on his next visit he told him, “Luke, gosh, you gotta knock it off with all these lollipops. They just make your teeth rot and fall out. It looks like you’re weren’t even brushing them anymore.”
Luke replied, “But they are baby teeth, they are supposed to fall out.”
“Not like this, gosh!” the dentist exclaimed.
The years went on, and Luke’s adult teeth came in just like he thought he would. They looked good at first. But Luke’s lollipop problem hadn’t stopped. Within a few years, his adult teeth began falling out too! By the time Luke was a grown man, he was left toothless from his lollipop craze.
He figured it was time for another trip to the dentist. When he laid back in the chair, and opened his mouth wide, the dentist’s jaw dropped to the floor.
“LUKE,” he said, “GOSH, what have you done to yourself? I kept telling ya, you better quit it with those lollipops. From now on, no more of those things, got it? They’re poison for ya, gosh!”.
Luke had to go through his adult life without any teeth. He even tried getting some fake ones, but he didn’t like the way they felt, so he never wore them. He made up his mind to never eat another lollipop again.
Many years went by and he was starting to get much older now. And even though it was hard to say no to lollipops, he knew it was for the best.
Then one day, he was walking along the sidewalk with his cane, now an old man. Something on the ground caught the sun just right, and it sparkled as we went by. He stooped down to look at it closer, with his worn eyes.
At first he thought it was a piece of trash, but upon closer inspection he realized it was something else entirely. Something he hadn’t seen in years and had sworn off a long time ago.
It was a lollipop! And not just any lollipop. It was his favorite flavor: cherry. It was big, and round, and looked delicious. In a moment of weakness, he couldn’t help himself. He snatched it up, ripped off the wrapper, and popped it into his mouth.
The flavor was even better than he remembered. Smooth and sweet, with a tart zing on the tip of his tongue. He may not have had any teeth left, but he figured all you really need is a tongue to enjoy a lollipop, right?
But it didn’t stop there. He went right to the store and bought several more bags. Soon he was back to eating lollipops again, but now for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and even a bedtime snack.
After another year of this went by, something terrible happened. He woke up one morning to find his tongue on the floor. It had fallen off in the night! He quickly wrapped it up in ice and drove to the dentist.
The dentist said, “I told you stop it with those lollipops, they’re poison, gosh!”. They tried to do an emergency surgery to reattach it, but it was too late. Luke had eaten too many lollipops and his tongue was ruined.
His teeth were gone. Now his tongue was gone too. And without a tongue, Luke couldn’t even talk in a way people could understand anymore. If he ever wanted to talk to someone, he’d write down what he wanted to say and show them.
But he decided to put his situation to good use. He visited all the schools in the area once per year, with his dentist, to talk about the dangers of eating too many sweets. Teachers began to cut back and monitor how much candy they were doling out on a regular basis. Soon the kids weren’t even wanting cupcakes or lollipops. They were asking for apples and kale!
The dentist was so pleased with how much the community’s dental health had improved that he gave Luke a job at his office as a dental assistant. Luke helped clean kids teeth and make sure they were in the best shape they could be. Whenever the kids would have bad teeth, or a problem with candy, the dentist would warn them, “You don’t want to end up like old Luke here, do ya? Gosh, no!”.
And so Luke spent the rest of his life committed to improving his patient’s dental care and promoting healthy snacks. And of course, he never had a single lollipop again.