The other kids got coins for their teeth, but when my little sister’s fell out my grandfather snatched them up before she could put them under a pillow. He kept them in a leather bag tied to his waist until he had the set. The last one, a canine, fell out right before her sixth birthday in a plop. His hand trembled under her mouth, and he croaked with glee and rubbed it between his wrinkled fingers and muttered how strange it was they had all fallen out so soon. My own had gummed-in until I was twelve and a quarter, and I had the mint to prove it. That night, he went into the yard and dug a little hole. In the morning, the bag around his waist was gone, poof, like he never had it at all. Little sister wailed for her teeth back, because she’d grown at least thirty coins by her estimation, and there was a dolly in a window she spied months back. But no matter how much she pleaded, and how much she made her voice the screech of a banshee, and how much wet she could scrounge up from her eyes, he would not tell her where they were. All he would say is she had not been truest blue, and there were consequences to fibbing. When I asked what he meant, he said only that he had seen her throwing rocks at the steel bear traps, and they’d shut their teeth when there was no meat in their maw. Why else would my sister’s teeth fall out so soon if she’d had flesh to chew? Those little teeth were hungry, and hungry things bit unless they were buried. When I could not stand little sister’s wet fish-face anymore, I went into her room and took her to the window and pointed out the little lump of disturbed earth where her teeth had been placed. She hooted and wanted to go out there and pull them out of the earth, but it was raining, and I told her to let them soak a bit first, like the roots of a sunflower, and we would get them in the sunlight. She smiled at me and said I was being silly-willy and went out her window into the dark. In the morning, my mother stirred raisins into porridge and told me she was sorry there was nothing heartier. The wolves had eaten all the rabbits outside. I ate it happily until I heard a holler from my grandfather’s room and ran to his door. He sat on his bed holding his hand to his face. There were marks on his skin, ugly little indents, red and pink, and weeping trails of blood running to his elbows. My mother put her hands on her face and asked what took a bite, but he said he did not know. Behind me, my sister grinned ear-to-ear, said it must have been a beast.
A.A. Balaskovits is the author of Magic for Unlucky Girls (SFWP) and the forthcoming Strange Folk You’ll Never Meet (SFWP). Her work has been or will be featured in Best Small Fictions, Indiana Review, Story and many others. She is the co-editor-in-chief of Cartridge Lit and can be found on Twitter @aabalaskovits
Photography by: Neslihan Gunaydin