Sharpest Teeth in the Swamp

Myna Chang

Every morning, Uncle Leon’s out there baby-talkin’ his favorite gator, Ethyl. “Who’s the smartest girl? Yes, you are,” he coos in his old-man grull.

I’d pull the pillow over my head but Cousin Tommy Dob’s already bouncing his dodgeball, boing on the kitchen floor, boing on the porch, boingboingboing against my bedroom wall.

What good’s an alligator farm if you can’t use it to dispose of an annoying cousin now and then? I drag my fingernail across my teeth, clickety-click click, to drown out the boinging.

“He’s too dumb for my Ethyl,” Uncle Leon says when I try to recruit him to my way of thinking. “Digesting Tommy Dob would lower her IQ.”

But I’m sure he’s considered it, too. Sometimes he watches Tommy Dob bouncing that ball, boing against the snake traps, boing on the boat dock, boingboing against the gate to Ethyl’s pen. I know Uncle Leon’s thinking how glorious it’d be to hear nothing but the snap-gnash of the gators ripping into their mid-morning rats, boing-free.

“Gators in pen #4 are already stupid,” I observe, clickety-click.

Uncle Leon squints at me. “Not the sharpest teeth in the swamp,” he grunts.

I nod eager understanding and scoop up a bucket of fancy freeze-dried squirrels, an extra treat for the gators in gratitude for their disposal services. “Tommy Dob, come help me!”

He bounces over, boingboing, and grabs a stiffified squirrel tail. “How come the gate’s open?” he says.

A wave of #4 Stupid Gators surges around us, and I wonder, clickety-click, if I forgot to latch their pen last night? Hungry jaws crack wide, their stupid yellow teeth glinting snappity-gnash in the early breakfast light.

“Don’t you worry, Ethyl,” Uncle Leon coos. “I won’t feed you any dumdums.”

Myna Chang writes flash and short stories. Her work has been featured in X-R-A-Y Lit Mag, New World Writing, Reflex Fiction, Atlas & Alice, Writers Resist, and Best Indie Speculative Fiction 2020. She is the winner of the 2020 Lascaux Prize in Creative Nonfiction. Read more at or @MynaChang.