By Christopher Glen Fuller
Tinkle of glass on the kitchen linoleum. Goddamn kids. Ms. Hathaway digs her old, dry knuckles into her old, stained sheets and pushes herself upright in bed. A baseball, she thinks. Mine now.
She checks the bedside clock. 5:32 a.m. Now why would the neighborhood boys be playing at this hour? Doesn’t matter. Those boys are about to receive the tongue-lashing of their lives (the one their parents ought to have given long ago) and Ms. Hathaway doesn’t care if she wakes up half the neighborhood delivering it.
She steps into her slippers, right where she left them, then sets out for the kitchen to assess the damage. Sure enough, a broken window, the one right above the sink. But where’s the baseball? Or Frisbee? Or model rocket? Should have brought her glasses.
Ms. Hathaway begins to prepare the sermon in her head, the list of sins committed against her by the unruly neighborhood boys of which the ruined window is only the latest. There’s her flower bed, stomped through. Her lawn, toy-strewn. Her sidewalk, chalk-scribbled and skateboard-chipped. Goddamn kids.
But the street is empty now. The cowards. Must have run on home, must have felt her wrath shuddering the earth beneath them as her feet met the floor.
There it is, the window breaker. And at first she thinks she’s right, that it’s a baseball, there on the linoleum under her table. Blurry without her glasses but the right size, and white, with a line of jagged red running along it its side.
She plants her old, dry knees on her old, stained linoleum and leans underneath the table to retrieve the ball. Her hand stops. Up close, something is off. The ball is the right size and color but its texture is, what? Fuzzy? Furry?
Then it moves, begins to split, to unfold itself like a bear trap. The red line along the ball’s side, the one she thought was stitching, becomes two red lines, spreading further and further apart.
Even without her glasses, Ms. Hathaway can see what’s inside. Shark teeth. Hundreds of them. Far too many to fit inside a mouth no bigger than a baseball. If it’s even a mouth at all. There is no tongue, no throat. Just teeth.
Ms. Hathaway decides she’s been too hard on those neighborhood boys. Incorrigible, yes. They stomp her flowers, trash her lawn, chalk and chip her sidewalk. Still, they aren’t so bad. Just kids, after all.
The mouth opens wider and wider, and Ms. Hathaway pulls her hand away slowly, wishing the neighborhood boys had hit a baseball through her window.