I previously read a couple of short stories by Daniel Polansky, so his name on this one caught my attention just as much as the promise of a vampire-related tale, which is one of my favorite horror tropes.
Baby Teeth is the story of a vampire infestation in a small town, related by the an adult Graham reminiscing on his teenage yers: back then, his schoolmate Penny died of a mysterious illness and after the funeral Graham felt the need to go back to the funeral parlor, where he was stunned by the apparition of a pale-faced Penny, who however approaches him with a “tangled mess of canines broken glass torn aluminum dirty needles half-sharpened razor blades” before being impaled – by a stranger, named Hercules – clearly a vampire hunter.
The story goes on by depicting the strange alliance between the grumpy Hercules and Graham, whose intimate knowledge of the realms of Dungeons & Dragons predisposed him to acknowledge the supernatural with easy acceptance. Graham is the classic “nerd”, more interested in books than sports, and a couple of veiled mentions hint at some hazing by the stronger boys, but when he understands that a vampiric threat might have been claiming victims in his town for decades, he’s eager to help Hercules in his endeavors. Not that it’s an easy feat, because, in Graham’s own words, he’s not hero material, and yet we see him being quite invested in the search, even when his fears – and his feelings of inadequacy – might get the best of him.
Baby Teeth feels almost like the outline of a larger tale, and it would be easy to ask for more, but still it’s an intriguing story with a good pace and some interesting character work, confirming me that Daniel Polansky is an author to pay close attention to.