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.”

“Why?”

“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.”

“Okay.”

“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.”

“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?”

“Sorry?”

“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 Spinetingler.com and “Scales” in the Monstrous: 20 Tales of Giant Creature Terror anthology.


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