“Smile,” he says.

I turn from my hunt to see him, to meet his slime-slick gaze, his smile dripping with the ill anticipation that comes from a sadistic dressing-down.

“What was that?” I say, sweet as deep roots.

“Smile,” he repeats, leaning in, arms crossed and eyes glinting. “It’s polite. People will like you more if you smile.”

I laugh.

He is… discomfited, though he does not know why, and his smile shivers like a rabbit in the shadow of a wolf.

“I don’t think you want me to smile,” I say, giving him a chance, a chance, one brief and single chance.

“Don’t be over-sensitive,” he tries, as if he were in control at all. “I’m just trying to help you out. Such a pretty lady should know how to smile.”

I turn my body toward him.

He stiffens. “Yuh, uh, that, uh, you,” he spatters in incongruent syllables and in his modern foolish wisdom, he does not run, refusing primal urge to survive. He stretches a smile of his own – a twisted and panicked rictus  – and screams his final words: “What’s your problem? I just said smile!”

“As you wish,” and I smile, I smile, and my darkness seeps between my teeth to lap his flesh like melting cream and surf on sand, and his screams are sweet, brief, and oh so surrendered.

I was gentle, for he was right. A pretty lady always knows how to smile.