The Man With Yellow TeethMay 4, 2011 at 9:46 pm | Posted in Stories of my childhood | 4 Comments
Tags: Shannon Moeser
First Published in Island Writer Magazine, Volume 9, Issue 1 (Spring 2011), pages 21-23
The car moves slowly.
“Do you have far to go, girls?” the man asks.
We have another mile. We’ve already walked one mile coming from Sunday School. Still, I don’t answer the man. Mommy told me not to talk to strangers. But Lenora answers him. “We’re going to Cambridge Street.”
“Hop in,” he says, “and I’ll drive you.”
I whisper to Lenora. “We’re not supposed to take rides from strangers.”
“It’s okay. There are two of us.”
I’ve just turned seven. My friend, Lenora, is a year older and about three inches taller than me. Mommy says she is tall for her age.
She gets into the car. I don’t want to walk home by myself, so I follow. Lenora sits next to the man and I squeeze between her and the door, my arm close to the door handle.
He isn’t a big man so I’m not too scared. When he speaks I see he has yellow teeth that look icky.
Quickly we drive down Kootenay Street and turn left at Cambridge. Lenora talks to him; I don’t.
“There’s the house,” I say, reaching for the door handle.
But the car doesn’t stop. It’s not going fast but I’m afraid to jump out.
“Would you girls like to see the race horses at Hastings Park?” the man asks. “I’ll bet you like horses. Would you like to see their stables?”
I love horses and have watched maybe a hundred races at Hastings. Mommy takes me twice a week during racing season. Sometimes I see horses close up in the paddock before a race but I’ve never seen their stables.
Lenora has never seen a horse race, so she says “yes” right away. It won’t take long. Hastings Park is only three blocks from our houses.
I don’t say anything. Part of me wants to visit the stables and part of me is worried about this strange man. I keep my hand near the door handle.
The car moves quickly down Cambridge, turns left at Cassiar, then right onto a muddy road lined with stables. The road is bumpy so we slow down. I see horses but no people. Then we stop. The man says something to Lenora and puts his hand on her white panties. I push the door open, jump out and run.
Mud squishes beneath my shiny black shoes. Run faster! Watch out for the muck on the path. Is he following me?
I don’t turn around to see what’s happening to Lenora. Escape! That’s all I think about. Then Lenora catches up to me, breathing hard. Her long legs move faster than my short ones. She had wiggled away from him and jumped through the open car door.
We hear horses neigh and snort and thump, then muffled voices in some stalls. Other people are here! I slow down, breathe deeper and finally look behind. The car is gone.
Lenora and I walk swiftly up the mud road, not stopping until we reach Cassiar. I’ve never crossed Cassiar without holding Mommy’s hand.
We watch the cars speeding by, then Lenora says, “There’s a break. Let’s run.”
After reaching the other side of Cassiar, we climb three steep blocks. My shoes and socks are splattered with mud but I’m not worried. Mommy won’t scold me. We got away from a bad man.
I’m puffing when we reach the bottom of our lane. Mommy is standing with her back to us, looking up the lane we are supposed to be coming down. I call and she turns around. When we reach our homes, which are in the middle of the block, Daddy and Lenora’s parents have joined Mommy. We’re almost an hour late.
“Where were you?”
The questions come in a rush as we tell our story. Mommy takes me inside and gives me milk and cookies until the police arrive.
I tell my story as clearly as I can, but when the police ask about the man, all I can remember is that he has yellow teeth. I don’t know much about cars, so I can only tell them it was dark blue.
Mommy says Daddy has a special way about him, that he makes friends easy and can always find out what he wants to know. I know that he’s smart and it’s hard to keep secrets from him. When the police leave, Daddy says, “They think they know who it is and where he lives.” And Daddy knows too. I don’t think the police were supposed to tell him where the man lives, but they did.
Later, after supper, Daddy takes me out to the car.
“No Torgy, don’t,” Mommy pleads. “Let the police handle it,”
But Daddy doesn’t stop. He is going to beat up the bad man. Daddy needs me to make sure it is the right man. All I have to say is “yes, that’s him” or “no, that’s not him.”
I’m happy to go. I want to see the bad man get beat up.
We drive to the end of Kootenay, then down a road overlooking the railway tracks. Although only a few blocks from our house, this street seems so different from ours. It’s narrow, with cracked pavement and no sidewalks. We stop in front of a small house. Unpainted. Tiny windows. Daddy walks to the door and knocks, but no one answers. No car in the driveway.
Over the next two weeks, we return to the house four times. No one answers. On the last visit, Daddy looks in a window and when he comes back to our car, he says, “It looks empty.”
Too bad. I was so hoping to see Daddy beat up the man with yellow teeth.
For the rest of the summer, Mommy walks me to Sunday School. One evening, while helping me put on my pyjamas, she says, “I guess you’ve learned your lesson.”
She means that I have learned not to accept rides from strangers. But I knew this before we got in the car. The lesson I got from this adventure is “don’t be a follower.” Walk alone. Someone may be older and bigger and still be wrong. That’s what I learned.