It may not be Black Friday, but it feels like it. “Snakes and Snails” by Susan Tepper.
They keep the schoolyard under lock and key. It’s silly. Teachers all over the place and those aides who don’t know nothing but stand around, anyhow, like guards.
Susan Tepper has an uncanny ability to boil complex character down to its crucial elements, and she does not shy away from difficult truths. This story concerns a damaged man attempting to heal the suppressed wounds of childhood love-hate through vicarious interaction with his little darlings, the children he observes each school day on the playground. It’s a situation and character rife with tensions. One can only wonder how long the fuse will be.
And yet the story does not read like CSI at all. It’s very human, funny by turns, and always sharply observant of detail. We garner sympathy for this man even as we dread what we know he will reveal of himself as the narrative moves forward. It’s a guilty thrill to watch this guy work, and a shivery dread when he thinks: “I want to grab them and spin them around and tickle them until they fall down on the ground the spittle dripping off their chins from so much fun and laughter!”
Real monsters do not see themselves as monsters. They delude themselves into thinking what they want or need is good. Not like you and me. We see the truth of our motivations. We keep the real monsters under lock and key.
To say that I’m looking forward to the next installment in this narrative would be unfair. I’ve got my hands pressed over my eyes, if you want to know the truth. But if you want to know the real truth, my fingers are maybe spread a little.