The Tooth Fairy squatted near the twisted cedar at the northern tip of her island, pelted by raindrops the size of dimes. Water fell from her necklace of blood-flecked teeth, struck her belly, and trickled down her thighs.
Tonight, she had finished her visits early—the eating of teeth, the excreting of coins—and awaited now the return of her sons in their night-black Santa suits, their eyes brimming with lust, their throats disgorging tales of ruffian waifs chased down and gobbled up.
Taking in the gray horizon and the dull thud of waves, she raged against heaven’s constraints. Try as she might, she could not again cross paths with the miscreant who called himself Santa Claus. Since their affair, broken off eight years before, such path crossings had been strictly forbidden. Nor, in punishment for her misbehavior, could she feel, once inside their bedrooms, the least menace toward the brats whose teeth she claimed. Done and de-coined, outside their bedroom doors, only then was her hatred given free rein. But vile thoughts went no further than the thresholds of those doors, leaving the gap-toothed rug rats untroubled in their sleep.
Bitter triumph that.
Zeus had disallowed wicked thoughts toward children on the day he blasted her womb with thunderbolts. A moment later her imps, from Gronk to Chuff, had blatted fat, bloody, and deformed from her charred sex. But the moment Zeus vanished from the sky, she labored to defy his injunction. It had taken years. She had started on the island and gradually pushed the geography outward. Seven years later, her hatred stretched to the outsides of house. Six months more and the boundary had advanced to the bedroom’s exterior. Beyond that, her efforts had failed. It left her choked with fury.
Then there was the North Pole. Something was shifting up there. She could sense it. Stirring and perturbations in that inbred little community might give her ingress. If she could no longer have the once king of the satyrs sexually, then she would destroy him.
Pan had once been hers, seduced and ensnared when their paths crossed one Christmas Eve. With each secret tryst in home or hidden hut, he had regained the goatish desire of old and deceived the fir nymph Pitys, who had flesh-doughed into a withered kitchen wench of a wife. Then had come his denial of their lust, followed by his ardor for that Rachel mortal, a tantalizing taste disappearing down the Tooth Fairy’s gullet. She had turned the woman into a giant coin and made her daughter suffer. Then the big blowhard in the sky, Zeus hidden behind white beard and robes, had pressed Pan back inside Santa, de-satyrized the elves, unsexed the Easter Bunny, and plagued her with thirteen stench-ridden brats.
She had always detested children. But atop the mountain of despised brats crawled the vicious brood Zeus had got upon her.
A dark blot appeared on the horizon, a faint buzz in her ears. Its pattern of flight belonged to her firstborn, the sleekest of a fat lot, the smartest of her witless bastards. As he took on form, three more blots stained the gray dropcloth of the heavens, then nine more.
Coming in, Gronk ripped off his blood-caked Santa suit and dropped to the beach. “Mother!” he exclaimed. So too Cagger and Clunch. So Quint and Bunner and Bay. So Prounce, Pum, Frash, Faddle, Zylo, and Zest. So likewise lackluster Chuff, her fattest, ugliest, and least engaged son, scorned by the others for his tepid embrace of evil. Each had brought her the leg bone of a child.
With their mommy they tumbled, suffering the pain she meted out and turning the sand red. When they had had their fill, they hunkered about her, dumb as posts.
“Boys,” she said, “I’m hungry for tales of mayhem.”
“Me first,” said Pum, “me first.”
Gronk socked Pum in the eye. “Firstborn first,” he insisted. “I bagged fifty urchins, Ma. I tackled the scurrying rats on the run and sucked terror from their skulls. In Bombay and Berlin, in Topeka and Tangiers, I grabbed them, tormenting and torturing and shoving them screaming down my gullet. The first was a big-boned beggar boy.”
The Tooth Fairy savored the details, repelled by the teller but caught by the tale. Chuff sat on the sidelines as usual, waiting his turn as the last teller while his brothers roughhoused for position. Eyes were blacked, flesh flayed, arm bones snapped and mended. “Hurt him,” she shouted as they tore into one another. “Hurt that scum bum.” She didn’t care who doled out or suffered injury. Violence trumped the niceties of identity.
At last the tales were told, including Chuff’s meager three child killings, which drew jeers and beatings about the head from the others. “Splendid, boys. Pain and death are the just deserts of every child. Theirs from the womb are the seeds of nastiness. The so-called good ones are simply better at concealing the blackness of their hearts. We’ll get to them, fear not.
“Does Mommy love you?”
“No!” they shouted.
“Do you love Mommy?”
“Love is a fable,” she said. “What force binds us?”
“Rightly do we fear and hate our differences. Sink your claws deep enough into them and you reach a common denominator of blood. Cling to mayhem. Adore the fist. Gullet and gore first, then sleep. Right, boys?”
Brutish concurrence befouled the air.
“Pan’s got it good now. But we’ll seek out cracks in his smarmy little community and shatter it. We’ll goad his elves. We’ll destroy Wendy’s respect for him. Gone all harmony there. And gone all harmony on earth, what meager amount exists. Generosity of spirit? It shall scarce be remembered, let alone felt and acted upon. We’ll continue humankind’s well-advanced corruption. Do I want to avenge myself upon Pan, to goad his hidden nature into the open? Of course. But more than that, I would shatter the Sky God’s complacency, undermining his faith in his own creation. Do these goals seem too ambitious? I tell you, they are within reach. The time is coming. I can feel it. The time when the earth turns, when we topple the big blowhard in the sky and take control. Gone all hope, gone charity, fragile myths of goodness and redemption exploded everywhere.”
Dull though her boys were, at this their eyes glowed.
“So nurse your bile. Bicker and brawl. Stay in shape, my sons, stay attuned. This is thy nature, this the destiny of humankind.”
At that, they rose up and retackled their mother. And mayhem most foul again stained the strand, as rain fell upon them in smacks and stabs from a gray-black bank of clouds.
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