Fifty-Seven Pointed Teeth

The gang of boys swarmed upon Tootsa and swirled around him as they yelled and whistled and whooped. Some prodded him with sticks, while one boy climbed onto a rock in the shade of the canyon wall and sprawled there, watching. Tootsa recognized him.

“All hail Lightfoot!” Tootsa called. “Black wind in the night, ghost in the moonlight, shadow in the light, master of pointed teeth.”

Lightfoot sat up and slid off his rock. The other boys stopped running. At arm’s length from Tootsa, Lightfoot broke into a grin. “All hail Tootsa,” he said. “Twisted grass in the wind, stone in the path, dust in the water, pebble in the shoe of the dog warriors.”

With a whoop followed by a laugh he pushed Tootsa, who pushed him back, and they scuffled until they were both out of breath.

“What brings you back?” asked Lightfoot.

“Wealth beyond belief,” Tootsa said, grabbing a pouch tied to his loincloth.

“What kind of wealth could the son of a stonemason from the land of dried buffalo turds possibly have?” Boys hooted with laughter.

“The kind that will make the enemies of Maasaw dance with joy.” Tootsa found a flat stone and shoved smaller stones beneath the edges to level it. He placed his pouch in the middle. Lightfoot sat opposite him and the boys crowded close.

Tootsa loosened the pouch and shook until one human tooth fell out, filed to a point. The boys murmured with approval. Lightfoot looked at Tootsa with a grin. Then with a flourish, Tootsa emptied the contents of the pouch.

“Fifty-seven teeth from the mouths of twenty-three Maasaw Warriors.” Tootsa ran his fingers through the pile of pointed teeth, black stains of blood and shreds of flesh still clinging to the roots. He separated four and arranged them to the side. “These are from the mouth of Ihu.”

The boys gasped and Lightfoot leaned back as if he’d been shoved.

“Ihu is dead?”

“His heart cut out and thrown into a buffalo-dung fire.”

The boys erupted into shouts until Lightfoot held his hand for silence.

“How did this happen?”

Tootsa told the story of the great battle between the village fighters and the warriors, the deception of his uncle Raana, and how Tootsa had knocked and cut and pulled the pointed and filed teeth out of the dead warriors’ heads.

“That is a big story,” said Lightfoot.

“It’s a true story. These are proof.”

“That’s why it’s a big story,” said Lightfoot. “This will stir the underbelly of the canyon for weeks. What do you want for these?”

“I have thirteen friends in the side canyon to the south. They want help hiding from the Maasaw Warriors. They want to get as close to the High Priest as possible.”


“Because the time has come to cut off the head of the snake.”

Lightfoot narrowed his eyes and the boys looked at him with their eyes wide.

“Who are these thirteen?

“People made orphans by the sacrifices to the new star six years ago. I barely remember. But I remember two months ago when Ihu killed my father. For that, I will keep his four pointed teeth.”

Lightfoot stared across the canyon, where the west-facing facets blazed orange in the light of the setting sun.

“I didn’t know about your father. But I remember the new star,” he said. “That’s when I, too, became an orphan. Tell your thirteen friends that we will help. The belly of the snake will protect them while they dream of cutting off its poisonous head.”

Tootsa scraped the four teeth of Ihu back into his pouch and stood. “Wait here. I’ll be back.” He turned and raced up the side canyon to find the orphans.


Filed under #FridayFlash, Anasazi, Ancient Americans, Chaco Canyon, Chimney Rock, Historial Fiction

24 responses to “Fifty-Seven Pointed Teeth

  1. Pingback: #fridayflash report | dan powell – fiction

  2. Pingback: The Fat Man’s Chance « Anasazi Stories by Jeff Posey

  3. “Tootsa ran his fingers through the pile of pointed teeth, black stains of blood and shreds of flesh still clinging to the roots.”

    Awesome image. I actually cringed as I read this line.

    The dialogue read naturally. The tough talk of boys resonated, and didn’t come across as too adult-ish. Good job.

    • Anasazi Stories

      Kevin: Thank you very much for giving me your thoughts. I’ve worked hard on the dialogue for this time period and place, and for this age group as well, and I truly value your comments. I look forward to your next piece.


  4. KjM

    — “That is a big story,” said Lightfoot. —

    For this line alone, kudos. But there were so many. The greeting the Tootsa and Lightfoot gave one another was wonderful. The ribbing given to and respect felt between two such is captured so well.

    The boys approved the one tooth that came first. How much more must the 50-some impressed them?

    By the way, is there a naming problem in the paragraph that contains “Tuwa found a flat stone and shoved smaller stones beneath the edges to level it. He placed his…”?

    Well told, again, Storyteller.

    • Anasazi Stories

      Ack! You are absolutely right about the naming problem! I’ve fixed it, so it’s not visible anymore. I had to read it three times even after you mentioned it to see it. Amazing how blind we writers become to such things. (That’s why we need readers and editors.) “Tuwa” is the name of my protagonist in my novel-in-progress. “Tootsa” is the name of the main character in this short piece. I’m so used to writing and seeing the name “Tuwa,” I didn’t even see the problem. Thanks so much for pointing it out. Perfection is so dastardly difficult to achieve. Thanks for your other comments as well. I greatly appreciate your attention.


  5. I have enjoyed seeing how Tootsa has grown since last week’s piece. I will keep my fingers crossed that next week’s piece is another continuation.

    • Anasazi Stories

      Thanks, Tomara (I just finished your haunting piece about the Genetics Ward … I’m still kind of wiggly inside from it). Next week we get a peek into the mind of the big protagonist. So, continuation? Not really, but it’s absolutely related. I’m essentially using this blog as my writing worksheet to help me develop character and, to a lesser extent, plot. I examine characters from different points of view and in other situations than my novel work-in-progress. Is that frustrating or intriguing to you as a reader? Just curious. Thanks for reading and commenting.


      • I think it’s intriguing. It’s going to be hard not to fall in love with your other characters before we get to read the book. Protagonist who? 😉

        I look forward to reading your pieces each week. Thanks again!

      • Anasazi Stories

        I’m an idiot (running on too little sleep, I think). I meant “antagonist.” Next Friday we get a peek into the mind of the antagonist. Thanks for your thoughts, as always, and I look forward to your next splash of paint in the world you’re building. (Fun, ain’t it?)


  6. Jen

    Chilling to enter the minds of those who live daily with violence and bloodshed, yet retain humor and compassion.

    • Anasazi Stories

      Thanks so much, Jen. The Anasazi people, at various times anyway, lived through extreme violence, violence of the kind that we can barely imagine. I think of it much like the World War II bombing of London — as horrible as it was, people retained their humanity. Thanks for reading and commenting. Very helpful to me.


  7. The dialogue is vivid. I like the pacing: the wordplay giving way to a reveal, giving way to foreshadowing. I might like a little more description, both of the setting and of the inner world of Tootsa and Lightfoot for sure, and a deeper sense of who these boys are as a group, too.

    • Anasazi Stories

      Thanks, Judy. I appreciate your visit and comment. It’s always a challenge, isn’t it, to give just enough without giving too much. I like giving a hint and letting the reader fill in the rest, though you don’t do that too much, or the reader will feel lost or betrayed. And the danger is the reader will assume something that the writer will later contradict. I’m still learning. Your comment helps me learn, and I’m very appreciative of that.


  8. I find it interesting that he describes the contents of the pouch as “wealth beyond belief.” He well recognizes that he has the intangible wealth of respect, awe, power, and yes, even a little fear. Tootsa is very astute, and has the qualities of a charismatic leader. I get the sense that he is just now coming to that realization, and beginning to grow into it. It will be interesting to see how things develop from here.

    As to the craft of writing, I think you did a fine job here.

    • Anasazi Stories

      Jon: Why, thank you very much. He has indeed gathered wealth beyond even what he imagines or understands. I appreciate your examination and comments. Very helpful. And it feels good, too.


  9. I agree with Lightfoot. That is a big story. I can’t wait to see how this unfolds.

    • Anasazi Stories

      Thanks, Chris. This is one of those stories that could unfold forever, it’s so big. Yet it’s also simple: The greedy gain power to terrorize and control the weak — until, that is, one person can’t take it anymore and they set out to bring the whole thing down. There. I’ve given away my entire plot.

  10. Great continuation of the story from last week. Again your dialogue manages to be contemporary and evoke a time long gone. Kudos for that.

    • Anasazi Stories

      Thanks, Dan. I’ve long struggled over getting the tone of dialogue right for these characters. I’m pleased that it works for you, and your description of that is valuable to me. Both contemporary and evocative of a culture from long ago. That’s pretty much exactly what I was striving for, though I’m rarely sure that I hit that target.

  11. battypip

    Magical. Those boys are such a mixture of childish fun and maturity. What struck me was how Tootsa knew exactly which four teeth came from Ihu, that’s really effective.

    • Anasazi Stories

      Thanks, Battypip. I love that you were struck by Tootsa’s ability to pick out the four teeth of Ihu. I don’t know how he did that. I need to have a talk with that boy. Jeff Posey972.965.0849 cellOn Jul 10, 2009,

  12. The complexity of your story shows the reader both a lifestyle that is foreign to us and yet the underlying aspects of human nature that still guide us all. Great read!

    • Anasazi Stories

      Thanks very much, Laura. In spite of all the froth and terror we incite in one another due to our differences, human nature is, at its core, universal. And that nature is nearly perfectly balanced between the laudable and the despiccable. I think. I reserve the right to change my mind.

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