The alligator was known for its teeth mostly, but by teeth, people meant the whole mouth, but really the jaw, but jaws don’t sell tickets unless they belong to a killer whale or pig, but that’s jowls, I think. People paid to see the alligator’s teeth, not its snout or tail. The teeth, damn it. They fed it things they wouldn’t usually touch. Dead fish, hog entrails, a stray dog. They were ashamed of their own teeth. Blunt. Barely able to tear an over- cooked steak. They liked being ashamed. They liked imagining the alligator eating them feet first, watching the whole thing, the pain making them most alive at the moment of their demise. Demise isn’t the right word. Too old-fashioned, like an article of clothing one sees only on mannequins in museum exhibitions devoted to people who don’t understand teeth. Old people always wanted to know what the alligator would say if it could talk. Teeth like that, one of them joked, he’d say a mouthful, as if scent and sight and hunger weren’t name enough. Once, the alligator attacked a boat and the tip of a tooth chipped off. The man in the boat kept it and put it in his own mouth, where he tongued it like a one-word prayer. A word he loved but couldn’t say.

Jordan Sanderson’s work has recently appeared in burntdistrict, The Fiddleback, Better: A Journal of Culture and Lit, Thunderclap, and other journals. Jordan earned a PhD from the Center for Writers at the University of Southern Mississippi. He currently lives on the Mississippi Gulf Coast, where he teaches English.