You’d probably think “Grandfather’s Teeth and Grandmother’s Slippers” sounds like a strange title for a ghost story. You’d be right. It is actually two titles of ghost stories found in the same collection, “Haunts: Reliquaries of the Dead,” which I have been working my way through since last year (it’s taken me awhile because I usually only read “horror stories” in October when, after all, they are most appropriate…).
I’ve written often about how I enjoy coincidences and the little connections that seem (spontaneously) to form among the books and short stories that I read. So, naturally my radar “went off” when I got to the short story, “Grandfather’s Teeth” by Lisa Tuttle, in the collection mentioned above. “Haven’t I read another ’grandparent’ story lately?” I thought. Sure enough, last November I also read Sarah Pinborough’s “Grandmother’s Slippers,” and it was in the same collection. I thought the editor (Stephen Jones) of the anthology must’ve had a chuckle over that – two “grandparent stories” in one book!?
(Below: author Lisa Tuttle)
(Below: author Sarah Pinborough)
Each tale explores the premise that inanimate objects can be imbued with some remnant (revenant?) of one’s spirit after death. Though I enjoyed both stories, neither would make my favorites list for the year. “Grandfather’s Teeth” is the darker story of the two, but was, I thought, weakened by the lack of clarity regarding WHY the set of false teeth would be so malevolent. I even went back and re-read the early parts of the story, and there is only a vague reference that the grandfather was anything other than a victim of dementia.
“Dougie could remember when his grandfather had been a kind, gentle man who seemed to know everything there was to know about birds and animals, and who had taught him how to make a kite, but that soft-spoken, intelligent man had gone, replaced by a big, bad-tempered baby who wouldn’t even put his teeth in at mealtimes…”
Maybe it was not the ghost of the grandfather that possessed the set of false teeth; maybe they were evil in themselves, and that’s why he sometimes refused to wear them. Hmmm… I like that. Yeah, I think I’m going to go with that interpretation. 🙂 Grandson Dougie certainly found out they were evil, though, whatever the cause.
The other story, Grandmother’s Slippers, started out scarier but ended up with a much less gruesome touch.
Jason’s grandmother had been “dying for a long time” when she finally passed away. His mother is having more trouble accepting “Gran’s” passing, though. This is when Jason finds an old pair of Gran’s slippers in a downstairs cupboard. Not even her “latest” pair either, but one of thirty years ago. He takes them out and examines them, reminiscing. Later, he replaces the slippers and closes the cupboard door. Only to subsequently find it open and the position of the slippers changed. His efforts to dispose of them are unsuccessful, as they continually reappear. Jason realizes, or so he thinks, that they are somehow after his mother (for now, they are both staying in Gran’s house) and he senses there is some unknown, unfinished business between them that she is reticent to discuss. The climax occurs when he returns home one night to find muddy, “slipper”y (ha ha) footprints going up the stairs and leading into his mother’s room…
These stories are both worth a read, but not by themselves reason enough to buy this collection. There are however, other stronger stories that provide sufficient cause. Here is a link to where you may find it at Amazon if you enjoy a good ghost story. http://www.amazon.com/Haunts-Reliquaries-Dead-Stephen-Jones/dp/1569759847
What about you? How is your October reading going? What ghost stories have you read this month (or recently)?