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| What Teeth
By Christopher Locke
Dad pressed his rubber paws against the dining room window and stared inside at the children. He
frowned behind his wolf mask and then turned quickly from view.
Tommy was in his pirate costume, and as he slowly led his little sister and brother through the dining
room, the red plastic parrot bobbed askew on his shoulder. Tommy carefully maneuvered around the
heavy mahogany table, but the patch over his left eye made it hard for him to navigate. Chloe piped up.
“Do you see him?”
“Shhh,” Randall said from the back of their line. He was dressed as Woody from Toy Story this year.
Chloe was Tinker Bell. She was always Tinker Bell. All three held orange plastic pumpkins in one hand like
lanterns before a storm.
Tommy turned toward his sister, trying to be patient. “You hafta be quiet,” he said. “The Wolf is near.”
Chloe swallowed and scratched her nose. Her nylon wings were stiff behind her head and made her
neck and face itchy, but she didn’t want to be a crybaby.
“But is he guarding the candy?” Chloe wanted to know.
“Shh,” Randall and Tommy said in unison.
“Where are my fearless treasure hunters?” It was Mom from the kitchen. Tommy almost had a heart
“Mom, we’re in the dining room. Have you seen the Wolf yet?”
“I don’t think so, but I’m sure he’s lurking outside. You better find all of his candy before he discovers
This made the kids move more quickly, bumping into each other. Mom peeked in from the kitchen and
smiled. She was dressed as Glinda, the Good Witch. For the past three Halloweens, they played this little
game before going out for Trick or Treat. She’s not really sure who came up with the idea, but the kids
loved it and her husband really got into the role as the Wolf, running around the house and popping up in
windows with a loud roar. He said he loved the looks on their faces, a kind of simultaneous blend of terror
The kids were charged with finding piles of chocolate gold coins in the dining room, living room, and
study without getting growled at three times through the windows. Three times growled and you were out.
Afterward, they’d go out for pizza at Papa Gino’s and then join their neighbors for a normal Halloween
stroll, avoiding the houses with their lights turned off, the kids running like a prison break up to the homes
that were clearly open for business. Mom usually talked to Susan and Carol about Chloe’s ballet classes,
Randall’s complicated IEP at school, and Tommy’s desire to be the next Wayne Gretzky. She never spoke
about how the suburbs were crushing the life out of her or the lack of good sex in her marriage. The
husbands dutifully fell back in the shadows and smoked and talked about work and sports, chuckled at a
few racist jokes if they felt they could get away with it.
“There’s some,” Randall shouted, pointing behind the woodstove in the living room. And sure enough, a
small pile of chocolate coins glinted mutely in their gold foil wrappers. All three were then on the pile,
“Hey, you’re taking them all,” Chloe pleaded.
“Randy, you have to share,” Tommy reasoned, grabbing the final two coins.
“I am. Hey, not fair!”
Mom stepped into the living room, ready to softly admonish. But past the kids and filling the far window
overlooking the porch, her husband stood looking at her, arms at his side, mask still on. She smiled. Her
husband turned to his right and walked out of view. Come on, don’t be such a spoiled sport, she thought.
You’ll have plenty more chances to spook them.
The kids gathered themselves and stood up. Tommy adjusted his parrot. That’s when the banging
On the left wall, a loud thumping ran quickly from the far corner of the house all the way down the length
of the home and then behind them. The kids squealed with delight.
“Hurry, you better run to the study. The Wolf is coming,” Mom cried.
“Follow me, guys,” yelled Tommy. “Mom, cast a protection spell!”
Mom respectfully tapped the air with her Glinda wand several times and the brood then zigzagged
around the love seat, past the La-Z-Boy, and into the study.
Outside, everyone heard the Wolf let loose with a big, nasty scream. Chloe covered her ears. Randall
looked at Tommy and smiled.
“He’s going to eat us,” said Randall. He was thrilled.
‘No he’s not,” said Chloe.
“Come on,” said Tommy. “Let’s find the gold. And stay clear of the windows!”
There were two windows in the study. One looked out on the driveway, the other out back toward the
garage. The room held a large writing desk, and a twin bed with a framed Red Sox poster hanging above
the headboard. Tommy sometimes found his dad sleeping in here mornings before everyone went off to
school. In fact, it was becoming a regular thing lately. Tommy didn’t like to think about that.
“I found them,” Chloe said. She was looking underneath the bed. “They’re all piled up on some books
The boys got down on their hands and knees and Tommy flipped the blankets up.
The gold coins were there, but they were stacked atop something. It was hard to see in the shadows.
“Randy, give me one of your guns,” Tommy said. He pulled his eye patch up.
“Cuz I’m gonna try and shove those little blocks out of the way.”
Chloe reached under and tried to grab the coins herself.
“Wait,” said Tommy. “Let me try.”
“No, I found them,” Chloe reasoned. Her stubby fingers brushed the stack as she strained.
They all heard a sudden and powerful SNAP under the bed.
Chloe yanked her hand back.
“Tommy,” said Chloe. She was sitting up and rubbing her fingers, unhurt but visibly scared.
“Whoaaaa, cool,” said Randall.
“Are you alright,” Tommy asked.
Chloe shook her head, affirmative.
“Randy, your gun!” Tommy held out his hand.
“Fine, whatever,” said Randall and handed over a six shooter.
All three got back down and peered under the bed. Tommy slowly poked the barrel of the gun at the
All three kids shrieked and Tommy let go of the gun. He quickly grabbed it again and pulled it out from
under the bed. The barrel was bent a little sideways, attached to a real-life mouse trap.
“I told you,” said Chloe.
“What’s going on in there,” asked Mom from the living room. “Are you breaking something?”
The Wolf was in the window of the study. He let out a horrible scream.
Tommy flinched and turned around, terrified. Chloe yelped and stood up, leaving the room with haste.
Only Randall seemed pleased.
The Wolf started banging on the side of the window frame, but very quickly. His arms were a blur and
the Red Sox poster bounced back and forth against the wall. The Wolf’s rubber mask swiped across the
glass, as if he were trying to bite through. Thankfully, the mouth didn’t move and the teeth smooshed
harmlessly against the window as a reminder this was all just play. Tommy then thought of the mouse trap
and felt nauseous.
“Okay, you got us, you got us. That’s one,” Tommy yelled at the Wolf. “Let’s get out of here,” he said to
Randall. The boys got up and darted into the living room.
Tommy didn’t realize he was still holding the plastic gun with the mouse trap attached at the end until
he saw Mom’s eyes widen. She was comforting Chloe who was hugging her around the waist.
“What happened to your gun,” she said. It was the first time Tommy could remember his mother
“There was a booby trap under the bed,” Randall offered. He slid his cowboy hat up and back.
“Who did this?” Mom snatched the bent pistol and gawked. “Tommy?”
“I don’t know! They’re all under the bed like that. The coins are on top too.”
“Don’t be ridiculous. Who did this?”
Chloe took her face out of her mother’s taffeta and looked up at her. “It’s true,” she said.
Pounding against the outside wall started again but this time it seemed to completely encircle the
home in just a matter of seconds. Then they heard glass break in the basement, followed by more
pounding. Chloe gripped Mom’s witch costume tighter. Tommy spun to his left, then around again. A
brightly painted Moroccan bowl fell from a hook on the wall and smashed against the dining room floor.
Chloe let out a small yelp. Mom grimaced; her husband surprised her with that bowl during their
honeymoon trek of North Africa. They had just made love by the light of a campfire in the desert, their tent
flap open to a sky teeming with endless stars both cold and distant.
“Okay, this is enough,” Mom said. “Tommy, stay with your sister. And don’t go near the bowl. I’m getting
“Dad’s in trooooouble,” Randall teased.
“Randy, stop,” Tommy said.
Mom went to the front door and stared at the doorknob. She looked back over her shoulder towards
the direction of the kids. She could hear them whispering. She let out a short, tight sigh and turned the
knob, stepping out into the driveway. A few brown maple leaves skittered past and then scrapbooked
themselves against the wire fence separating their yard from Susan’s and Hank’s; their bulldog had taken
to shitting in Mom’s iris bed and the fence was Susan’s idea.
“Is Chad doing his annual wolf-thing?”
Mom looked over at Susan smoking in her yard, and let out a hot breath.
“Yeah, he certainly is,” Mom said.
“He really has the spirit this year,” said Susan, smiling. “I could hear him from inside.” She put her
cigarette out on the bottom of her red Doc Martins and tossed the butt into a marble birdbath.
You’re so gross, thought Mom.
“Yeah, he’s…pretty enthusiastic. Did you hear a window break?”
Susan shook her head. “A window? No. Did he break a window?” Susan seemed delighted.
“Maybe. I don’t know.” Mom looked to her left at the garage. Everything was quiet.
“Well, we still meeting up at six o’clock? I’ve got to get the twins in their costumes. Of course this year
they BOTH want to be Luke Skywalker. What a…” Susan looked back and forth. “Pain in the ass, right?”
“I guess so. Okay. Say hi to Hank. See you in a bit.”
“Sure. And when you find Chad, go easy on him.” Susan laughed and went back in her house. Mom
could hear the bulldog bark as Susan closed the door. “Oh, be quiet you,” Susan said.
Mom turned and began walking around the house.
“Chad, hey Chad?”
She went around the boxwood and the lilac bush.
“Chad?” Now she was more annoyed than frightened.
In the back of the house, Mom stopped walking and put her hand to her mouth. The siding at the bottom
of their home was beaten, the aluminum dented and flaking. Underneath, the small basement window was
What the hell, Mom thought, and kept her hand at her mouth, inspecting the grass for broken glass. She
removed her hand from her mouth and touched the wall. What the fuck is wrong with you, Mom thought.
At that point she heard the back door slam and the kids scream in unison from inside.
Mom ran back around and to the front door. She threw the door wide open and rushed inside. Her
husband was sitting on the edge of the couch and chuckling, his legs crossed with him still wearing his wolf
hands and his wolf mask. The kids were kind of in this semicircle in front of him, laughing too.
Mom was confused. “What’s so funny,” she asked, looking at her husband, then the kids, and then back
to her husband.
“Dad’s just being a nut,” Tommy said, looking relieved.
“Nut, nut, nutty-nut,” Randall said in a funny voice and pulled his pistol out, pretending to shoot Tommy.
Even Chloe looked calm, happy.
But then Mom remembered the mousetraps. That was too far. Not funny.
“Okay, okay. Playtime is over. Chad, take off the mask.”
Her husband looked at her. He stopped laughing.
“Come on,” Mom said. “It’s over.” She moved toward him.
Mom grabbed the wolf mask by the ear and tugged. The mask came up and off quite easily. Mom was
confused. Underneath, her husband was wearing another wolf mask. But this one was darker, the fur wet
and matted. And it smelled sour.
“Chad,” she asked. She took one step back and dropped the mask. The Wolf opened his wolf-mouth
and Mom could see its pink tongue, the yellow teeth, its black and hideous eyes.
The Wolf was on her instantly and sank his teeth into her throat. They fell to the living room floor. The
Wolf shook his head violently back and forth and Tommy could see his mother’s eyes, wide and
unblinking, her mouth twitching. Blood began splashing up and against Mom’s cheek, pumping onto the
antique Tunisian throw rug beneath her head. The air smelled thickly like iron.
Chloe started screaming, frozen in place, and Randall’s mouth turned into a perfect black ‘O’. When
their father stood back up, blood spilling from his terrible jaws, he turned to them. Tommy thought about
Little Red Riding Hood, and how they all loved to read it together, the blankets up to their chins, Dad heavy
on the edge of the bed.
“What big eyes you have,” all three would say in unison. It was their favorite part of the story.
“The better to see you with, my dear,” Dad would say in a sweet voice.
“What big ears you have,” they’d say, nearly bursting.
Dad inched closer on the bed, the book closed in his hand.
“The better to hear you with.”
“What big teeth you have,” they’d finally say.
Then dad would get real close, just inches from their faces, his eyes bright and alive, and whisper: “The
better to eat you with.”
|About Christopher Locke
speculative fiction has
appeared in, among
Quarterly, Barrelhouse, Ink
Stains Anthology, New
Flash Fiction Review,
Flash Fiction Magazine,