Joe R. Lansdale

The January Special Guest Writer is Joe R. Lansdale

Please feel free to vist Joe HERE

joe r lansdale


for Steve Mertz

by Joe R. Lansdale

Old Maude, who lived in alleys, combed trashcans, and picked rags, found the false teeth in a puddle of blood back of Denny's. Obvious thing was that there had been a mugging, and some unfortunate who'd been wandering around out back had gotten his or her brains beaten out, and then hauled off somewhere for who knows what.

But the teeth, which had probably hopped from the victim's mouth like some kind of frightened animal, still remained, and the blood they lay in was testimony to the terrible event.

Maude picked them up, looked at them. Besides the blood there were some pretty nasty coffee stains on the rear molars and what looked to be a smidgen of cherry pie. One thing Maude could spot and tell with an amazing degree of accuracy was a stain or a food dollop. Cruise alleyways and dig in trash cans most of your life, and you get skilled.

Now, Maude was a practical old girl, and, as she had about as many teeth in her head as a pomegranate, she wiped the blood off on her dress—high fashion circa 1920—and put those suckers right square in her gummy little mouth. Somehow it seemed like the proper thing to do.

Perfect fit. Couldn't have been any better than if they'd been made for her. She got the old, blackened lettuce head out of her carpetbag—she'd found the lettuce with a half a tomato back of Burger King—and gave that vegetable a chomp. Sounded like the dropping of a guillotine as those teeth snapped into the lettuce and then ground it to smith­ereens.

Man, that was good for a change, thought Maude, to be able to go at your food like a pig to trough. Gumming your vittles gets old.

The teeth seemed a little tighter in her mouth than a while ago, but Maude felt certain that after a time she'd get used to them. It was sad about the poor soul that had lost them, but that person's bad luck was her fortune.

Maude started toward the doorway she called home, and by the time she'd gone a block she found that she was really hungry, which surprised her. Not an hour back she'd eaten half a hamburger out of a Burger King trashcan, three greasy fries, and half an apple pie. But, boy howdy, did she want to chow down now. She felt like she could eat anything.

She got the tomato half out of her bag, along with everything else in there that looked edible, and began to eat.

More she ate, hungrier she got. Pretty soon she was out of goodies, and the sidewalk and the street started looking to her like the bottom of a dinner plate that ought to be filled. God, but her belly burned. It was as if she'd never eaten and had suddenly become aware of the need.

She ground her big teeth and walked on. Half a block later she spotted a big alley cat hanging head down over the lip of a trash can, pawing for something to eat, and ummm, ummm, ummm, but that cat looked tasty as a Dunkin' Donut.

Chased that rascal for three blocks but didn't catch it. It pulled a fade-out on her in a dark alley.

Disgusted, but still very, very hungry, Maude left the alley thinking: Chow, need me some chow.


Beat cop O'Hara was twirling his nightstick when he saw her nibbling the paint off a rusty old streetlamp. It was an old woman with a prune face, and when he came up she stopped nibbling and looked at him. She had the biggest, shiniest pair of choppers he had ever seen. They stuck out from between her lips like a gator's teeth, and in the light of the streetlamp, even as he watched, he thought for a moment that he had seen them grow. And, by golly, they looked pointed now.
O'Hara had walked his beat for twenty years, and he was used to eccentrics and weird getups, but there was some­thing particularly weird about this one.

The old woman smiled at him.

Man, there were a lot of teeth there. (More than a while ago?) O'Hara thought: Now that's a crazy thing to think.

He was about six feet from her when she jumped him, teeth gnashing, clicking together like a hundred cold Eskimo knees. They caught his shirtsleeve and ripped it off; the cloth disappeared between those teeth fast as a waiter's tip.

O'Hara struck at her with his nightstick, but she caught that in her mouth, and those teeth of hers began to rattle and snap like a pound full of rabid dogs. Wasn't nothing left of that stick but toothpicks.

He pulled his revolver, but she ate that too. Then she ate O'Hara, didn't even leave a shoe.

Little later on she ate a kid on a bicycle—the bicycle too—and hit up a black hooker for dessert. But that didn't satisfy her. She was still hungry, and, worse yet, the pickings had gotten lean.

Long about midnight, this part of the city went dead except for a bum or two, and she ate them. She kept thinking that if she could get across town to Forty-second Street, she could have her fill of hookers, kids, pimps, and heroin addicts. It'd be a regular buffet-style dinner.

But that was such a long ways off and she was sooooo hungry. And those damn teeth were so big now she felt as if she needed a neck brace just to hold her head up.

She started walking fast, and when she was about six blocks away from the smorgasbord of Forty-second, her mouth started watering like Niagara Falls.

Suddenly she had an attack. She had to eat NOW—as in "a while ago." Immediately.

Halfway up her arm, she tried to stop. But my, was that tasty. Those teeth went to work, a-chomping and a-rending, and pretty soon they were as big as a bear trap, snapping flesh like it was chewing gum.

Wasn't nothing left of Maude but a puddle of blood by the time the teeth fell to the sidewalk, rapidly shrinking back to normal size.


Harry, high on life and high on wine, wobbled down the sidewalk, dangling left, dangling right. It was a wonder he didn't fall down.

He saw the teeth lying in a puddle of blood, and having no choppers of his own—the tooth fairy had them all—he decided, what the hell, what can it hurt? Besides, he felt driven.

Picking up the teeth, wiping them off, he placed them in his mouth.

Perfect fit. Like they were made for him.

He wobbled off, thinking: Man, but I'm hungry; gracious, but I sure could eat.


"Chompers" was originally published in Rod Serling's Twilight Zone Magazine. It later appeared in Bestsellers Guaranteed, a collection of Lansdale's short stories published by Ace Books, and Bumper Crop, a collection published by Golden Gryphon Press. "Chompers" © 1982 Joe R. Lansdale.




































About Joe R. Lansdale

joe lansdale

Champion Mojo Storyteller Joe R. Lansdale has written novels and stories in many genres, including Western, horror, science fiction, mystery, and suspense. He has also written for comics as well as "Batman: The Animated Series." As of 2018, he has written 45 novels and published 30 short-story collections along with many chapbooks and comic-book adaptations. His stories have won ten Bram Stoker Awards. a British Fantasy Award, an Edgar Award, a World Horror Convention Grand Master Award, a Sugarprize, a Grinzane Cavour Prize for Literature, a Spur Award, and a Raymond Chandler Lifetime Achievement Award. He has been inducted into The Texas Literary Hall of Fame, and several of his novels have been adapted to film.

Frequent features of Lansdale's writing are usually deeply ironic, strange or absurd situations or characters, such as Elvis Presley and John F. Kennedy battling a soul-sucking Egyptian mummy in a nursing home (the plot of his Bram Stoker Award-nominated novella, Bubba Ho-Tep, which was made into a movie by Don Coscarelli). He is the winner of the British Fantasy Award, the American Horror Award, the Edgar Award, and ten Bram Stoker Awards.

His Hap and Leonard series of ten novels, four novellas, and three short-story collections feature two friends, Hap Collins and Leonard Pine, who live in the fictional town of Laborde, in East Texas, and find themselves solving a variety of often unpleasant crimes. The characters themselves are an unlikely pairing; Hap is a white, working-class laborer in his mid-forties who once protested against the war in Vietnam and spent time in federal prison rather than be drafted; Leonard is a gay, black Vietnam vet. Both of them are accomplished fighters, and the stories (told from Hap's narrative point of view) feature a great deal of violence, profanity, and sex. Lansdale paints a picture of East Texas which is essentially "good" but blighted by racism, ignorance, urban and rural deprivation, and government corruption. Some of the subject matter is extremely dark, and includes scenes of brutal violence. These novels are also characterized by sharp humor and "wisecracking" dialogue.

These books have been adapted into a TV series for the SundanceTV channel and a series of graphic novels began publication in 2017. Season 2 of the television series is based on the second Hap and Leonard novel, Mucho Mojo, and season 3, which premiered on 3/7/18, is based on the third novel, The Two-Bear Mambo. Much of Lansdale's work has been issued and re-issued as limited editions by Subterranean Press and as trade paperbacks by Vintage Crime/Black Lizard Publications.

His current new-release publisher is Mulholland Books. Lansdale also publishes with Dark Regions Press and Tachyon Publications, and with his daughter Kasey he has started a new publishing company called Pandi Press to control the re-issue and publishing of his older works.