BAD SMILE • by J.C. Towler

“Mommy, I don’t want to go to Mrs. Winter’s.”

“But you love Mrs. Winter.”

“Mr. Winter scares me.”


“At nap time Mr. Winter says if we don’t be good and take long naps he’s gonna eat us. Then he shows us his bad smile.”

“Mr. Winter is just being silly. Get in the car, please.”

“No, I don’t want to go.”

“Jessica, don’t make me count.”


“That’s a good girl.”

“Mommy, my seat belt’s too tight.”

“You are getting to be such a big girl. Better now?”

“Yeah. I want to stay with Daddy.”

“Big girls aren’t scared of silly games.”

“But what if Mr. Winter eats me?”

“Honey, he is not going to eat you. Please stop kicking my seat while I’m backing up.”

“I don’t like his bad smile. It gives me scare-dreams.”

“Did Mr. Winter do something to you? Did he touch you?”

“No. He makes the bad smile and growls.”


“Yeah, like when Rusty hears something outside our house. Maybe Rusty is growling at Mr. Winter.”

“I doubt that.”

“Can I stay with you today?”

“No, Mommy has to work. We’re here now. Be my brave girl.”

“I don’t want to go.”

“Don’t whine, Jessica. I’ll tell Mr. Winter not to scare you anymore.”

“But, if he’s a monster he might eat you.”

“He’s not a monster.”

“Are you going to suit him?”

“You mean sue him?  No.  I’ll just talk to him. Here’s Mrs. Winter.”

“Well hello, Becky. You look very professional this morning.”

“Hi, Anne, thanks. Big court day.”

“How’s Miss Jessica doing?”

“Good. My husband and I really loved the collages the kids made yesterday.  May I speak to you for a moment in private?”

“Of course. Jess, run inside. I’ll be right there.”

“But — ”

“Don’t make mommy count, Jessica. I promise I’ll talk to Mr. Winter.  Go inside, please.”

“Okay. Kiss. Bye, mommy.”

“Bye, honey. Have a good day.”

“Is there a problem, Becky?”

“It’s Mr. Winter. He’s doing something at nap time that scares Jessica.”

“Oh, I am sorry. He watches the children while I get things ready for the afternoon activities. He’s just supposed to sit and read to them until they go to sleep. What is he doing?”

“He does something to scare them so they’ll sleep.”

“His side of the family is all boys. He’s used to that sort of rough and tumble. I’ll have a word with him.”

“I don’t want to trouble you, Anne, and you’ve got a roomful of kids to watch. If you’d like, I can speak with him.”

“Well, certainly. He’s in his room. Knock loud, he’s a little hard of hearing.”

“Thank you, Anne.”


“Hey there, come on in.”

“Hello Mr. Winter, I don’t know if you remember me. I’m Rebecca Palmier, Jessica’s mother.”

“Come in, Becky, come in. How could I forget? Your daughter is the spitting image of you. Same blue eyes and she’s always dressed so pretty. She really takes after you.”

“Yes, thank you. We’re very proud of her.”

“I’ve got a fresh pot of coffee in the kitchen if you’d like some.”

“I’ll just be a minute. I’d like to speak to you about Jessica.”

“Such a good girl. She’s my favorite, don’t tell anyone.”

“Mr. Winter, the game you play with the children at nap time is upsetting Jessica. I’d like for you to stop.”

“Why? It’s nothing. Just a little something to get them to sleep.”

“Perhaps, but it frightens her, which doesn’t help her sleep. Defeats the purpose, don’t you think? And she’s having nightmares.”

“It’s just a game, Becky. Played it with my kids and grandkids all the time to settle them down for naps.”

“I understand. Still, I’d like you to stop playing the game with Jessica.”

“But how can I get them to sleep? Those kids won’t settle down unless you give them a scare sometimes. I’ve raised five boys and have four grandsons and it worked with all of them.”

“What is your bad smile, Mr. Winter?”


“Jessica says you show them your bad smile. What is that, precisely?”

“Oh, well, I have these fake teeth… here they are. I just pop them in like this and gif da kids un of dese… grrrrr! Then I stomp around a bit. I tell ‘em the sandman monster can’t get ‘em if they keep their eyes closed.”

“I see.”

“They’re just plastic teeth. They don’t look very real.”

“No, they don’t. But I’d like you to stop, all the same.”

“It doesn’t bother the other girls.”

“I’m not concerned about the other girls.”

“I don’t see why this is such a big a deal. It’s better than drugging them up on Ritalin or whatever they give kids these days. I flash them the teeth, make some faces, and then they are quiet for an hour or two.”

“There are other ways, Mr. Winter.”

“Well, this old dog likes his old tricks.”

“I see. I believe you are going to make me count, Mr. Winter.”

“I’m sorry?”

“Look at me for a moment.”

“I don’t see — ”

“One . . .”

“I — Jesus, Becky what’s wrong with your eyes?”

“Two . . .”

“Oh my God, your face! What the — ”

“Mr. Winter, if I get to ‘three’ you are going to see my bad smile.”

“Please, no!”

“I take it you’ll stop.”

“Yes! Never again, not with anyone! I swear. Please, don’t hurt me.”

“Stop crying, Mr. Winter. Here, have a tissue. Sometimes grown-ups need to settle down, too.”

“I’m so sorry.”

“You frightened my daughter, Mr. Winter. I’m hoping she will forgive you eventually and forget all about this. She’s growing up so fast and, as you say, she does take after her mother.”

J.C. Towler spins tales of mystery, suspense, science fiction and is particularly fond the deep, penetrating horror tale. The Outer Banks of North Carolina is his home which is odd considering he’s afraid of the ocean and doesn’t eat fish. His latest suspense story “Lottery Winner” appears in Your Darkest Dreamspell, available at Amazon and other fine retailers. You can check out “The Fall” at and “Scales” in the Monstrous: 20 Tales of Giant Creature Terror anthology.

Rate this story:
 average 5 stars • 1 reader(s) rated this

Every Day Fiction

  • Well, that scared the crap out of me!

    I’d better give it a five before I see J.C. Towler’s bad smile.

  • Oh my God! “Don’t make me count …” takes on a WHOLE new meaning.
    I loved this story.
    I wish I could give it more than 5 stars!

  • Thanks for this, JC. I was drawn in by the ‘normalcy’ of the story’s beginning’ unsettled by the sudden build up of tension’, then pleasantly shocked- and relieved- by the ending. Good stuff.

  • Five stars, buddy-oh. That’ll show you to scare little kids, Mr. Winter!

  • Ellie Tupper

    I LOVED it! Such a nice, satisfying twist (says the mommy).

  • Wow! Loved this! Not too many can write an all dialogue story that’s so perfect. Never saw that ending coming!

  • R.A.S.

    Very creepy. Loved the all-dialogue format, and you made it work without using any dialogue tags. Well done.

  • 5 *****
    Its all been said
    B 4 me

  • Ah, the power of misdirection. Sweet *and* creepy. Nice work.

  • I love a good creepy story. What a great tale!

  • Roberta SchulbergGoro

    I like the interesting development of the mother’s character through dialogue, but I thought the ending of the story was a child’s play letdown. Agree with Rumjhum though, I never saw that end coming.

  • Oh, that is chilling! Yikes. I don’t want to be anywhere near *any* of these people! Great story. *runs away*

  • A nicely fearful tale, J.C. A 5 from me on this early morning. Your misdirection was superb.

  • Erin Ryan

    This was great. You kept the story moving well, and I loved the “Don’t make me count/okay” foreshadowing with Jessica.

    A humble suggestion from one who writes a lot of dialogue: I do think it could have been a bit more condensed at the end, from “Please, no!” A few lines could be cut from that conversation, and that would make the last line even punchier.

  • Outstanding! I love the story being told with all dialog. It’s tough to do and you’ve done it with masterful skill.

    Loved the ending.

  • Jen

    Nice twist, J.C! Didn’t expect that at all.

  • Adam Armour

    My favorite in a long while. Great.

  • Margie

    Well, I didn’t see that one coming! Loved it!

  • It may have been creepy, and I usually don’t like creepy stories, but Mr. Winter deserved it! I love the fact that Becky is a protective mom with a surprising ability to protect her child. I feel a sorry for the kid having to see her mom’s bad smile, but if she’s going to be just like her mom . . . then I guess she’ll learn to use her scare power wisely.

  • Kim

    Nice one! You held me all the way to the end.
    Great pacing, nice twists.
    You employed a clever tactic using all dialogue.
    I liked the alternative avenue to storytelling.
    Keep ’em coming J.C.

  • I loved this story! The dialogue and the actions (“stop kicking the back of my seat” – you must have kids) are very realistic, and I didn’t expect the twist at the ending.

    Also, in so many stories the Mom is either a victim, a villain, or dead, so I was pleasantly surprised to see Mom as the hero.

  • Robins Fury

    How clever to conduct a story with dialogue only! Not many stories can carry it off. Well done! Very surprised the mother was the scary one in the end. And to think I used to “count” with my boys!!!

  • fishlovesca

    I thought the plot was fine, carried off well. I loved the part about his putting in the teeth and scaring them to sleep, but I really doubt that would happen, so the whole premise is shaky and obvious from the get-go. The dialogue was overdone. At the beginning there’s too much business with the child, at the end there’s too much business with the wife, then too much business with the man. Trust your reader.

  • Rick

    Captured me from beginning to the surprise ending. 5 stars.

  • Alvin

    Nicely done J.C. I’m not sure I agree with 23. I do with 14. I got a little confused when the conversation changed from talking to the child back to Mrs Winter (“Is there a problem Becky?”) It seemed abrupt, which happens when there’s no description of action, as is the case with dialogue only. It was the only transition I bumped over. A great challenging write though. Thanks

  • Nice, i enjoyed it plenty.

  • Most excellent, J.C. The direction it was headed was so obvious I figured you’d do something different (I’d been disappointed if you hadn’t), but didn’t know what until the end. Sweet.

  • Eeek!

  • J.C. Towler

    Thanks all who read and voted. I was frankly anticipating taking a beating on this one, since it wanders into a odd style of storytelling, being a dialog-only piece.

    Erin (14), you feel my pain. I had more versions of the ending than any other aspect of the story. The two lines after “Please no…” could probably go and it might have sharpened up the finale. Keep feeding me those dialog suggestions.

    Fish (23), I’ll just have to chalk it up to not being able to please all of the people all of the time. Thanks for your read and taking time to comment.

    Shelle (21) Of course I have kids…the girl has a bionic leg that jars the fillings in my teeth sometimes when she lets fly from the back seat. Moms are always heroes! I hope one of the deeper emotions I plucked at here was that protective nature. Who wouldn’t want to be able to sprout fangs and bite some fool’s throat when he’s messing with your kids?


  • I disagree with a number of the others, I didn’t like the the “all dialogue” format. It felt clunky and bumpy to me. I suppose it’s an accomplishment to be able to do it, I’m not sure I could, but then I’m not sure I would want to.

    The ending was good, a bit of a surprise. I’m not sure exactly what that mother was … not sure I want to know!

  • Steve

    Great story, JC. The all dialogue format really works for this one. I think it gives the story a vague sense of normalcy and then compels the reader through the urgency of the twist at the end. Keep up the good work.

  • Kind of creepy don’t read it to small childern just before bedtime. Sort of like the kid said he didn’t want to go to Europe and the mother said, shut up and keep swiming.

  • fishlovesca

    On the contrary, I’m very easy to please.

    All that’s needed is good writing.


  • Love the all-dialogue aspect of this story. These are sometimes difficult to manage. The twist was a good one. I like it.

  • Loved the end, John. I didn’t expect it.

  • John, what a hoot. Ol Mr. Winters sure had that coming. Straight dialogue was pulled off well. Loved it. Thanks.

  • Marguerite

    Cool story John. Good, tense build-up to a nice, surprising ending. Love the dialogue.

  • Paul Graham

    Great ending. Loved the dialogue-only. Great job.

  • Wow, I loved the surprise ending. I was thinking maybe Mr. Winters would be the “monster” but instead it was the mom. As someone else said, gives a whole new meaning to counting down…

  • Laura

    good story. enjoyed the reversal of the bad face. would you please describe the mother’s bad face more? you gave description to the old man’s and i’d like to know what the mom’s face looks like to scare the old man. thanks.

  • Haha! Great stuff! “Don’t make me count” worked very well before the reveal, but even better afterwards!

  • DeborahB

    John, I voted on your story some time ago, and thought I left a comment. I don’t see it. Hmm. Anyway, I love the transformation. Very clever, very, very clever.

  • Mary B.

    Oh, my goodness! I loved this one! Don’t make me count! Mwahahahahaha!

  • I think the all-dialogue works because you always know who’s talking. This is quite neatly done. At the very least, this is a good lesson on how when you don’t need dialogue tags. I gave this a 5.

  • Bravo for having the guts to submit a pure dialog story! Not only is the dialog clear and edgy, your twist is brilliant.

    Well done, John.

  • i keep wanna reading it again and again..

    dont make me count as a totally new meaning now..


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  • Chris Edwards

    Very late in discovering this, but what an excellent use of dialogue. Great creep factor running all the way through!

  • Very late in discovering this, but what an excellent use of dialogue. Great creep factor running all the way through!

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