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What Big Teeth

By Ethan Ryan

Mommy's sick. I'm going to Grandma's all by myself today because Mommy wants to rest and get well.

Mommy says I'm almost a woman so I should start calling her Mother or Mom. But I like Mommy.

I wait for the B bus with my heavy bag full of food for Grandma. It's a warm autumn day but my knees knock together because I'm excited to be going on a trip for the first time all by myself, even if it's just across town to Grandma's house.

The bus takes a long time to arrive and when it does it's very full. There are some public school girls sitting in the front of the bus, which is supposed to be reserved for the handicap and elderly. The girls are wearing miniskirts and tank tops even though it's almost November.

They're giggling loudly and chewing bubblegum and I think one of them says something to the other two about my red hoodie which makes them all laugh like hyenas and I pay the fare and walk away from them quickly. Public school girls are crude so I pay them no mind. They might even be private school girls. They smell like perfume. They have an air of wealth, as Mommy says. Private school girls are even worse than public school girls because they can afford to be properly educated but they are content to be ignorant. I'm glad Mommy home schools me.

Most of the seats are taken and I could stand until I get downtown but my bag is heavy so I walk to the back of the bus, where there are two open seats. One is next to a young black man who is wearing street clothes and scowling out the window. I walk past him to take the other open seat, which is next to an older gentleman with salt-and-pepper hair. He looks like the mayor, except less manly and handsome. He's wearing an oatmeal-colored wool sweater, charcoal-colored wool pants, and coffee-colored sheepskin shoes. He must be comfortable. He has a book in his lap but he is smiling out the window. He also has an umbrella at his side, which is funny because there isn't a cloud in the sky.

He smiles at me and says, "Hello, lovely day today, isn't it?" He has big yellow eyes and big yellow teeth. He also has a queer accent. He's not from around here. I'm not supposed to talk to strangers but I'm also not supposed to be rude so I smile at the man and then stare at my lap.

He stares at me a little longer, then looks back out the window. I feel bad for not talking to him. He seems like a nice old harmless man. And I like his clothes. I can picture him wearing a top hat, like the men in pictures from the olden days. Dandies, as Mommy calls them. This man must be a dandy. He smells good, too, like salty pancake batter.

The bus stops in front of Stan's Package Store to let some people off and let some more people on. I haven't been paying attention to where I am and for a moment I worry I've missed my stop. I know by heart where I'm going but just to be extra sure I remove and unfold the piece of paper from my pocket which Mommy carefully detailed with Grandma's address and directions to get there.

"Are you going to Sunny Gardens?" the man beside me asks.

Startled, I fold up the piece of paper and stuff it back in the pocket of my hoodie.

"Pardon me, my dear. I didn't mean to pry. The only reason I ask is because I noticed the address there in your little pocket is the same as my mother's. It's a popular retirement community. It's a pleasant place, except this time of year it's a little drab, what with all the leaves in the courtyard falling off the trees."

The man's accent is strange. It sounds like he can't decide if he's French or German. The book in his lap only makes me more confused. It has a curious sounding title:
Lazzat Un Nisa. I'll have to look it up next time Mommy takes me to the library.

At first I keep my mouth shut tight, considering. Mommy says I'm not supposed to talk to strangers, but she also says I'm not supposed to be rude, and since this man's mother is Grandma's neighbor, he's not a stranger, so I explain that I'm bringing my grandma some food.

"Oh, that's great! What a good granddaughter you are. I bet she'll be so surprised to see you."

"She knows I'm coming. I go every weekend." I don't mention I usually go with Mommy. It's not like I'm lying.

The bus pulls to a stop at the Green and everyone piles off.

As I step onto the sidewalk the man looks at my bag with concern and says, "That bag of yours must be heavy. I could carry it for you if you like."

"Oh, it's not so bad. Thank you for offering, though."

"Thank you for thanking me," the man says with a toothy smile. I giggle a little and the old man laughs too. Then he licks his lips and looks up at the sky and says, "Wow, would you look at that! All those birds are flying down south. Off to see their grandmothers, too, I bet." We walk down the street together in silence for a moment. The sun is a hot golden coin, high in the sky. The old man uses his umbrella like a cane. His hand is very hairy.

As we wait for the light to change to cross the street the old man says, "What grade are you in?" and I tell him 6th grade, because that is the grade on my English textbook. 5th grade is the grade on my Math textbook, but I don't tell him that.

"And what is your favorite subject?"


"History! That's my favorite subject too! You see, I work in antiques," he says, and holds up his umbrella as if to explain. "I buy and sell antiques, but mostly I appreciate them. I love old things. They have history and memories locked up inside them. Like this umbrella of mine. This was once a prince's umbrella. Can you believe that? It's in perfect condition, too. It's quite lovely, isn't it?"

"Yes, it is," I say, admiring his umbrella, or at least trying to. It has a smooth wooden handle, but otherwise doesn't look too different from other umbrellas I've seen.

"You're quite lovely too, do you know that?" He winks at me and his grin is huge and I blush a little and look away, not sure what to say.

The light changes and we begin to cross the street. The old man taps the tip of his umbrella on the ground and whistles a happy tune. He's a very good whistler. I wish I could whistle.

The old man stops whistling suddenly and says, "That's quite a coincidence your grandmother and my mother both live in Sunny Gardens. Why, I was just there yesterday. Whenever I go to see my mother, I bring her flowers. Do you ever take flowers to your grandmother?"

Before I can answer he's pointing across the street to a flower shop and talking excitedly, saying, "You should bring your grandmother flowers! That would make her so happy. That's an excellent flower shop."

"I've really got to go get on the J bus," I say. "My grandma's expecting me. Besides, I don't have any money for flowers."

At this, the man stuffs his hand in his pocket and pulls out a crisp twenty dollar bill. "Here you go! You can always catch the next bus. Now go buy the best bouquet you can find."

"Oh no, sir, I can't take your money."

"Why of course you can! Don't be silly. Your grandma will be so pleased. Now go!" At that he slaps the money in my hand and pinches my elbow, which makes me giggle, and before I know it I'm in the flower store, marveling at their beautiful displays. I take my time choosing a nice bouquet. After all, that nice old man was right: if I miss the next bus, another one will come along soon enough. Finally I choose a small assortment of red tulips and blue irises. I think Grandma will love them.

I put the flowers in my bag, on top of all the food for Grandma. Then I wait for the J bus. I must have just missed the last one, because it takes a long time to come.

Grandma's door is unlocked, so I let myself in. It's very dark inside, which is odd because she usually leaves the window blinds up. Her apartment also smells bad, like rotting meat.

"Grandma?" I say.

"In here, dear," she calls from the bedroom. Her voice sounds strange. She must be sick, too.

"Grandma, guess what I've brought you!" I say as I enter her bedroom.

But Grandma does not reply, she just peeks out at me from under her covers. A candle flickers on her nightstand, and her glasses reflect the dancing flame. It looks like she has fire in her eyes.

I approach her bed slowly. Grandma sits up as I get closer. "Hello, dear," she says. Underneath the comforter and sheets, she's dressed in her fancy purple robe. She smiles at me. She looks so different it scares me. I even drop the flowers.

"Grandma, your ears are huge!"

"All the better to hear your honeyed voice, my dear."

I take a step closer, confused.

"Your eyes, they're enormous!"

"All the better to see your precious face, my dear."

I take another step closer, and Grandma reaches out her hand and strokes my cheek.

"And your hands are so big, and so hairy!"

"All the better to hold you tight, my dear." Grandma wraps her arms around me, pulling me in close. She's breathing heavily. I back away from her. She grins at me.

"Grandma, what big teeth you have! They're so yellow, and so… terrible!"

"All the better to eat you with, my dear!" she screams, and jumps out of bed. In a flash her glasses and bonnet fall off, and I notice all the hair on her arms and legs, and I see that she's not Grandma at all. She's a man. She's the old man from the bus!

I run from him but he chases after me. He's fast. My heart pounds in my chest. I'm almost outside, almost safe in the sunlight, but as I grab the handle he slams his shoulder up against the door, blocking my escape. I turn and run to the pantry to get to the backdoor, but I slip and fall. The floor is covered in something sticky and red. Blood. My eyes adjust to the dark and I realize Grandma is here too, naked, her limbs askew, a wet red hole where her neck should be, her breasts ravaged with teeth marks, her privates a bloody mess. Blood drips from the ceiling like rain.

He stands in the doorway, huffing and puffing. He strips off my grandma's purple robe and underneath he's wearing a black bra and panties, which are definitely not my grandma's. His chest is a forest of kinky black hairs. His panties cannot contain his excitement.

I grab for the doorknob, but it doesn't turn. I start screaming.

He laughs and says, "No one can hear you. Everyone here is old and deaf. Don't bother with the door. I've already made sure it won't open. We're all alone. Your grandmother was fun, but too gamey for me. I prefer my meat fresh and tender. I bet you're as delicious as you look."

With that he sticks his nose in my hair and inhales deeply. I can smell him again, that smell of salty pancake batter. I strike at his privates, which makes him howl. But before I can get away he's grabbed my hoodie with his hairy hands and thrown me down on the floor. My face is in my grandma's blood.

He licks at my neck. I can feel his groin on my butt, his teeth piercing through my flesh. Incredible pain fills my body, hot and nasty. Then nothing.


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