Short Story Review: "Longtooth" by Edgar Pangborn
"Longtooth" by Edgar Pangborn is the first short story in the anthology "Otherworldly Maine." I recently picked up the anthology because it features several short stories by familiar and world famous authors. I had never heard of Edgar Pangborn, but I am glad I gave him a shot. This short story has the simplicity, country feel and eeriness one must demand from a supernatural story set in Maine. One might say that Stephen King set this standard, but Pangborn came first. King just perfected it and gave it a little more perversity, which certainly appeals to the modern reader.
"Longtooth" is the story of two men who find themselves at odds with a creature they cannot explain. They are the only free and living human beings who have encountered this creature. Therefore, they also find themselves at odds with the locals, who understandably think them crazy or lying. The situation would be one of simple Maine yarn spinning, were it not for the fact that the creature's actions have made it appear as if one or both of these men have committed a crime.
Through stories of subtle and brief encounters with the creature -- including its call and the messes it leaves behind -- Pangborn introduces the reader to Longtooth. It has an eerie call that neither man can attribute to local wildlife, despite their familiarity with the creatures that inhabit the local woods. Harp, the man who is particularly tormented by the creature, describes it as ape-like with long teeth. He says it spends most of its time in the trees and eventually comes to the realization that the creature's thoughts are similar to those of a man. It is purposely escaping detection.
There is nothing too gory, too daring or too in your face about "Longtooth." There are no literary theatrics. It pans out precisely as one would expect if something like this story actually took place. There are no heroes. There is no burgeoning love in the face of danger. There is no camaraderie born of necessity. It is just two men against one creature and the word of these two men against every local. Pangborn says through his narrator Ben, "My word is good." and I think he is right.