All Sharp Teeth and Soft by Jessamyn Smyth

All Sharp Teeth and Soft

Jessamyn Smyth

A naked crone drying her silver hair with a blue towel looks me up and down, glares at my Lava Pants. She’s relentlessly beautiful: strong, weathered, soft, tough-expressioned. She says, gruffly: Why do you wear those.


Most people who interrogate me about this I ignore, or deflect with humor. Her—


Because I had a nasty spinal injury in 2007, I say, which I’m just recently starting to come back from.

What were you doing.

Martial arts, I answer. I threw someone, it went wrong. No one’s fault, just an accident.

I see her revise her opinion of me from foe to fellow.


What do they do for you. She asks this without the rising terminal so many here use whether they are asking a question or not.

The neoprene gives my pelvis and legs just enough lift that the bones stay nice and straight and don’t crush spinal nerves—right now, that allows me to go all in and swim hard when I couldn’t otherwise.

She nods. You do swim like stink, she says.

Thank you, I say, laughing. This is going to be my new favorite expression, I can tell.


She turns her back to me, shows me a lumbar scar. That’s mine, she says.

What happened there?

Disc ruptures.

They fixed it?



Nope, didn’t need to.

Good. No pins and hinges, then, either.

None of that, she says.



The pain, I say. People don’t know.

She gives me her gaze. Beira. Kali. Hecate. Black and creation.

I hide nothing in mine.

She nods, returns to dressing.



Some you consume. Some consumes you.



Glad you’re in the water with me, I tell her.

Her smile is the sound of fire cracking ice.


© Jessamyn Smyth


Jessamyn SmythJessamyn Smyth‘s writing has appeared in numerous journals and anthologies, received honorable mention in Best American Short Stories (2006), and has garnered a long list of prizes. Her books The Inugami Mochi and Gilgamesh/Wilderness are available from Saddle Road Press (2016), and Kitsune is available from Finishing Line Press (2013).