(content warning – implied child harming)
She entered the nursing home room. It was impersonal, clean and smelt of decay. The passing of the flesh to decay. It had that disinfectant smell mixed with urine and sweat. She sat on the chair that was just on the wrong side of comfortable. Looked down at the man in the bed. Wrinkles within pale blue pyjamas. Frail. More skeletal than flesh. She took his hand and squeezed it.
Eyes flickered open. Delayed recognition. Then a weak smile. Eyes closed.
“I came as soon as I could. You know. I’m so busy with the kids. And work.”
“Busy. I know,” came the whisper of a voice. Like a birdsong caught in the wind.
“And we’ve been clearing the house. Going through things. Getting things ready.”
“It’s just we found something. We found something when clearing the garage.”
He opened his eyes. Looked intently at her.
“Yes. It was in an old brown box. Pushed to the back. On the top shelf.”
“It was full of envelopes. Brown envelopes.”
“We opened them.”
“When were you going to tell us dad? When were you going to tell us about it?”
“I wasn’t. It was my thing.”
“My thing?! Those envelopes were full of teeth! Teeth!”
“Why dad? Why?”
“It was just my hobby. My thing.”
“But children’s teeth. What happened to them?”
“I just collected them. They didn’t need them no more.”
How could he not understand what he did was wrong? How could he be her father?
“You took the children’s teeth?”
“It was relatively painless.”
“Yes. When I first started I wasn’t so skilled. I was nervous. Impatient. It hurt a lot.”
“I bet it did.”
“But as I practised more. I go better. It was over quick.”
“But it is still children. It was still their teeth.”
“They didn’t want them. I knew I was doing the right thing.”
“What about mum? Did she know about you hobby.”
“She knew. She understood.”
“She knew it was something I just had to do.”
“But why keep the teeth?”
“I don’t know. To remember. To remember them all.”
He squeezed her hand.
“Don’t swear. You know I don’t like swearing.”
She looked down. Wanting to get away. From this beast. This man. Her father.
“Don’t worry. I kept yours too. In a box.”
She pulled her hand away.
“And your sister’s.”