When his last tooth fell we thought grandpa was done for. “Look at him. Won’t ever hunt again,” daddy said.
But grandpa got low on creaking bones, snarling toothless, and momma had a helluva time putting the leash back on him. Once or twice he even got his gums on her, and though she laughed you could hear the rage in those desperate suckings of his.
The fight was still in him. He sucked till his gums was raw.
“Shoot him dead,” sis said once.
We couldn’t afford screw-in teeth, and what dentist would’ve served freaks like us anyway, so maybe doing him like a dog would’ve been the right thing.
Anyhow, no one did it so grandpa lived.
We fed him burger scraps and cardboard soaked in grease mostly, and he ate up, rattling his junkyard chain as he did, then licking his fingers clean.
He got gaunt.
Somedays he stared at us with awful hate.
All the while his fingernails grew and his toenails got the thick fungus, and he hadn’t a place to sand either of them down because he didn’t get out on the cement much.
He never let anyone close enough to help. If you tried, he’d knock you over with his body and beat you with his head.
He did sis’s nose like that. Got her down and smashed her face.
She screamed something silly.
She hated him godawful after that, always giving him the boot when she thought wasn’t nobody looking.
Then one day grandpa got free. We all had got home from a hunt, carrying some grocery bags of meat, and he wasn’t there, just a busted chain.
“Well, I’ll be…” daddy said.
We thought he’d gone for good, and good for him, family after all, but he didn’t get nowhere but the attic. He sat up there six or seven days, working his toenails with some rusted clippers, getting sharp crescent moon pieces loose, then taking those pieces and stabbing them into his soft old gums so that the blood ran down from wound to yellowed tip.
The day he came back I was in the kitchen.
I heard him drop, then sis screamed and get off me you old freak fucker! and he must have got one of his fangs into an artery, because when I saw her she already was on the floor, trying to keep the spurting blood in her body.
But there ain’t no fingers tight enough for that.
He got momma next, slamming her from behind right into the glass coffee table, before biting out a chunk of her neck. Still throbbing when he spit it out. And the tabletop must’ve got wedged in her pretty good because she was sputtering nonsense when he finished her with the broken glass.
Daddy was outside by then.
Grandpa felled him.
Then he smiled. “You ain’t done me wrong, kiddo,” he said, and that was as good a winter as any in the old times. With no bellies wanting.