This week’s album is The Cure’s The Head on the Door.
This week’s album is The Cure’s The Head on the Door.
This week’s poem is Spanish artist Picasso’s 17 august XXXV.
I hope it inspired you 🙂
By Joyce Kilmer
WE had hiked seventeen miles that stormy December day—the third of a four days’ journey. The snow was piled high on our packs, our rifles were crusted with ice, the leather of our hob-nailed boots was frozen stiff over our lamed feet. The weary lieutenant led us to the door of a little house in a side street.
“Next twelve men,” he said. A dozen of us dropped out of the ranks and dragged ourselves over the threshold. We tracked snow and mud over a spotless stone floor. Before an open fire stood Madame and the three children—a girl of eight years, a boy of five, a boy of three. They stared with round frightened eyes at les soldats Americans, the first they had ever seen. We were too tired to stare back. We at once climbed to the chill attic, our billet, our lodging for the night. First we lifted the packs from one another’s aching shoulders: then, without spreading our blankets, we lay down on the bare boards.
For ten minutes there was silence, broken by an occasional groan, an oath, the striking of a match. Cigarettes glowed like fireflies in a forest. Then a voice came from the corner:
“Where is Sergeant Reilly?” it said. We lazily searched. There was no Sergeant Reilly to be found.
“I’ll bet the old bum has gone out after a pint,” said the voice. And with the curiosity of the American and the enthusiasm of the Irish we lumbered downstairs in quest of Sergeant Reilly.
He was sitting on a low bench by the fire. His shoes were off and his bruised feet were in a pail of cold water. He was too good a soldier to expose them to the heat at once. The little girl was on his lap and the little boys stood by and envied him. And in a voice that twenty years of soldiering and oceans of whisky had failed to rob of its Celtic sweetness, he was softly singing: “Ireland Isn’t Ireland Any More.” We listened respectfully.
“They cheer the King and then salute him,” said Sergeant Reilly.
“A regular Irishman would shoot him,” and we all joined in the chorus, “Ireland Isn’t Ireland Any More.”
“Ooh, la, la!” exclaimed Madame, and she and all the children began to talk at the top of their voices. What they said Heaven knows, but the tones were friendly, even admiring.
“Gentlemen,” said Sergeant Reilly from his post of honor, “the lady who runs this billet is a very nice lady indeed. She says yez can all take off your shoes and dry your socks by the fire. But take turns and don’t crowd or I’ll turn yez all upstairs.”
Now Madame, a woman of some forty years, was a true bourgeoise, with all the thrift of her class. And by the terms of her agreement with the authorities she was required to let the soldiers have for one night the attic of her house to sleep in—nothing more; no light, no heat. Also, wood is very expensive in France—for reasons that are engraven in letters of blood on the pages of history. Nevertheless—
“Asseyez-vous, s’il vous plait,” said Madame. And she brought nearer to the fire all the chairs the establishment possessed and some chests and boxes to be used as seats. And she and the little girl, whose name was Solange, went out into the snow and came back with heaping armfuls of small logs. The fire blazed merrily—more merrily than it had blazed since August, 1914, perhaps. We surrounded it, and soon the air was thick with steam from our drying socks.
Meanwhile Madame and the Sergeant had generously admitted all eleven of us into their conversation. A spirited conversation it was, too, in spite of the fact that she knew no English and the extent of his French was “du pain,” “du vin,” “cognac” and “bon jour.” Those of us who knew a little more of the language of the country acted as interpreters for the others. We learned the names of the children and their ages. We learned that our hostess was a widow. Her husband had fallen in battle just one month before our arrival in her home. She showed us with simple pride and affection and restrained grief his picture. Then she showed us those of her two brothers—one now fighting at Salonica, the other a prisoner of war—of her mother and father, of herself dressed for First Communion.
This last picture she showed somewhat shyly, as if doubting that we would understand it. But when one of us asked in halting French if Solange, her little daughter, had yet made her First Communion, then Madame’s face cleared.
At once rosary beads were flourished to prove our right to answer this question affirmatively. Tattered prayer-books and somewhat dingy scapulars were brought to light. Madame and the children chattered their surprise and delight to each other, and every exhibit called for a new outburst.
“Ah, le bon S. Benoit! Ah, voilà, le Conception Immacule! Ooh la la, le Sacré Cœur!” (which last exclamation sounded in no wise as irreverent as it looks in print).
Now other treasures, too, were shown—treasures chiefly photographic. There were family groups, there were Coney Island snapshots. And Madame and the children were a gratifyingly appreciative audience. They admired and sympathized; they exclaimed appropriately at the beauty of every girl’s face, the tenderness of every pictured mother. We had become the intimates of Madame. She had admitted us into her family and we her into ours.
Soldiers—American soldiers of Irish descent—have souls and hearts. These organs (if the soul may be so termed) had been satisfied. But our stomachs remained—and that they yearned was evident to us. We had made our hike on a meal of hardtack and “corned willy.” Mess call would sound soon. Should we force our wet shoes on again and plod through the snowy streets to the temporary mess-shack? We knew our supply wagons had not succeeded in climbing the last hill into town, and that therefore bread and unsweetened coffee would be our portion. A great depression settled upon us.
But Sergeant Reilly rose to the occasion.
“Boys,” he said, “this here lady has got a good fire going, and I’ll bet she can cook. What do you say we get her to fix us up a meal?”
The proposal was received joyously at first. Then some one said:
“But I haven’t got any money.” “Neither have I—not a damn sou!” said another. And again the spiritual temperature of the room fell.
Again Sergeant Reilly spoke:
“I haven’t got any money to speak of, meself,” he said. “But let’s have a show-down. I guess we’ve got enough to buy somethin’ to eat.”
It was long after pay-day, and we were not hopeful of the results of the search. But the wealthy (that is, those who had two francs) made up for the poor (that is, those who had two sous). And among the coins on the table I noticed an American dime, an English half-crown and a Chinese piece with a square hole in the center. In negotiable tender the money came in all to eight francs.
It takes more money than that to feed twelve hungry soldiers these days in France. But there was no harm in trying. So an ex-seminarian, an ex-bookkeeper and an ex-street-car conductor aided Sergeant Reilly in explaining in French that had both a brogue and a Yankee twang that we were hungry, that this was all the money we had in the world, and that we wanted her to cook us something to eat.
Now Madame was what they call in New England a “capable” woman. In a jiffy she had the money in Solange’s hand and had that admirable child cloaked and wooden-shod for the street, and fully informed as to what she was to buy. What Madame and the children had intended to have for supper I do not know, for there was nothing in the kitchen but the fire, the stove, the table, some shelves of dishes and an enormous bed. Nothing in the way of a food cupboard could be seen. And the only other room of the house was the bare attic.
When Solange came back she carried in a basket bigger than herself these articles: (1) two loaves of war-bread; (2) five bottles of red wine; (3) three cheeses; (4) numerous potatoes; (5) a lump of fat; (6) a bag of coffee. The whole represented, as was afterward demonstrated, exactly the sum of ten francs, fifty centimes.
Well, we all set to work peeling potatoes. Then with a veritable French trench-knife Madame cut the potatoes into long strips. Meanwhile Solange had put the lump of fat into the big black pot that hung by a chain over the fire. In the boiling grease the potatoes were placed, Madame standing by with a big ladle punched full of holes (I regret that I do not know the technical name for this instrument) and keeping the potato-strips swimming, zealously frustrating any attempt on their part to lie lazily at the bottom of the pot.
We forgot all about the hike as we sat at supper that evening. The only absentees were the two little boys, Michael and Paul. And they were really absent only from our board—they were in the room, in the great built-in bed that was later to hold also Madame and Solange. Their little bodies were covered by the three-foot thick mattress-like red silk quilt, but their tousled heads protruded and they watched us unblinkingly all the evening.
But just as we sat down, before Sergeant Reilly began his task of dishing out the potatoes and starting the bottles on their way, Madame stopped her chattering and looked at Solange. And Solange stopped her chattering and looked at Madame. And they both looked rather searchingly at us. We didn’t know what was the matter, but we felt rather embarrassed.
Then Madame began to talk, slowly and loudly, as one talks to make foreigners understand. And the gist of her remarks was that she was surprised to see that American Catholics did not say grace before eating like French Catholics.
We sprang to our feet at once. But it was not Sergeant Reilly who saved the situation. Instead, the ex-seminarian (he is only temporarily an ex-seminarian; he’ll be preaching missions and giving retreats yet if a bit of shrapnel doesn’t hasten his journey to Heaven) said, after we had blessed ourselves: “Benedicite; nos et quae sumus sumpturi benedicat Deus, Pater et Filius et Spiritus Sanctus. Amen.”
Madame and Solange, obviously relieved, joined us in the Amen, and we sat down again to eat.
It was a memorable feast. There was not much conversation—except on the part of Madame and Solange—but there was plenty of good cheer. Also there was enough cheese and bread and wine and potatoes for all of us—half starved as we were when we sat down. Even big Considine, who drains a can of condensed milk at a gulp and has been known to eat an apple pie without stopping to take breath, was satisfied. There were toasts, also, all proposed by Sergeant Reilly—toasts to Madame, and to the children, and to France, and to the United States, and to the Old Gray Mare (this last toast having an esoteric significance apparent only to illuminati of Sergeant Reilly’s circle).
The table cleared and the “agimus tibi gratias” duly said, we sat before the fire, most of us on the floor. We were warm and happy and full of good food and good wine. I spied a slip of paper on the floor by Solange’s foot and unashamedly read it. It was an accounting for the evening’s expenditures—totaling exactly ten francs and fifty centimes.
Now when soldiers are unhappy—during a long, hard hike, for instance—they sing to keep up their spirits. And when they are happy, as on the evening now under consideration, they sing to express their satisfaction with life. We sang “Sweet Rosie O’Grady.” We shook the kitchen-bedroom with the echoes of “Take Me Back to New York Town.” We informed Madame, Solange, Paul, Michael, in fact, the whole village, that we had never been a wanderer and that we longed for our Indiana home. We grew sentimental over “Mother Machree.” And Sergeant Reilly obliged with a reel—in his socks—to an accomplishment of whistling and handclapping.
Now, it was our hostess’s turn to entertain. We intimated as much. She responded, first by much talk, much consultation with Solange, and finally by going to one of the shelves that held the pans and taking down some paper-covered books.
There was more consultation, whispered this time, and much turning of pages. Then, after some preliminary coughing and humming, the music began—the woman’s rich alto blending with the child’s shrill but sweet notes. And what they sang was “Tantum ergo Sacramentum.”
Why she should have thought that an appropriate song to offer this company of rough soldiers from a distant land I do not know. And why we found it appropriate it is harder still to say. But it did seem appropriate to all of us—to Sergeant Reilly, to Jim (who used to drive a truck), to Larry (who sold cigars), to Frank (who tended a bar on Fourteenth Street). It seemed, for some reason, eminently fitting. Not one of us then or later expressed any surprise that this hymn, familiar to most of us since our mothers first led us to the Parish Church down the pavements of New York or across the Irish hills, should be sung to us in this strange land and in these strange circumstances.
Since the gracious Latin of the Church was in order and since the season was appropriate, one of us suggested “Adeste Fideles” for the next item on the evening’s program. Madame and Solange and our ex-seminarian knew all the words and the rest of us came in strong with “Venite, adoremus Dominum.”
Then, as if to show that piety and mirth may live together, the ladies obliged with “Au Clair de la Lune” and other simple ballads of old France. And after taps had sounded in the street outside our door, and there was yawning, and wrist-watches were being scanned, the evening’s entertainment ended, by general consent, with patriotic selections. We sang—as best we could—the “Star-Spangled Banner,” Solange and her mother humming the air and applauding at the conclusion. Then we attempted “La Marseillaise.” Of course, we did not know the words. Solange came to our rescue with two little pamphlets containing the song, so we looked over each other’s shoulders and got to work in earnest. Madame sang with us, and Solange. But during the final stanza Madame did not sing. She leaned against the great family bedstead and looked at us. She had taken one of the babies from under the red comforter and held him to her breast. One of her red and toil-scarred hands half covered his fat little back. There was a gentle dignity about that plain, hard-working woman, that soldier’s widow—we all felt it. And some of us saw the tears in her eyes.
There are mists, faint and beautiful and unchanging, that hang over the green slopes of some mountains I know. I have seen them on the Irish hills and I have seen them on the hills of France. I think that they are made of the tears of good brave women.
Before I went to sleep that night I exchanged a few words with Sergeant Reilly. We lay side by side on the floor, now piled with straw. Blankets, shelter-halves, slickers and overcoats insured warm sleep. Sergeant Reilly’s hard old face was wrapped round with his muffler. The final cigarette of the day burned lazily in a corner of his mouth.
“That was a pretty good evening, Sarge,” I said. “We sure were in luck when we struck this billet.”
He grunted affirmatively, then puffed in silence for a few minutes. Then he deftly spat the cigarette into a strawless portion of the floor, where it glowed for a few seconds before it went out.
“You said it,” he remarked. “We were in luck is right. What do you know about that lady, anyway?”
“Why,” I answered, “I thought she treated us pretty white.”
“Joe,” said Sergeant Reilly, “do you realize how much trouble that woman took to make this bunch of roughnecks comfortable? She didn’t make a damn cent on that feed, you know. The kid spent all the money we give her. And she’s out about six francs for firewood, too—I wish to God I had the money to pay her. I bet she’ll go cold for a week now, and hungry, too.
“And that ain’t all,” he continued, after a pause broken only by an occasional snore from our blissful neighbors. “Look at the way she cooked them pomme de terres and fixed things up for us and let us sit down there with her like we was her family. And look at the way she and the little Sallie there sung for us.
“I tell you, Joe, it makes me think of old times to hear a woman sing them church hymns to me that way. It’s forty years since I heard a hymn sung in a kitchen, and it was my mother, God rest her, that sang them. I sort of realize what we’re fighting for now, and I never did before. It’s for women like that and their kids.
“It gave me a turn to see her a-sitting there singing them hymns. I remembered when I was a boy in Shangolden. I wonder if there’s many women like that in France now—telling their beads and singing the old hymns and treating poor traveling men the way she’s just after treating us. There used to be lots of women like that in the Old Country. And I think that’s why it was called ‘Holy Ireland.'”
Joyce Kilmer (born as Alfred Joyce Kilmer; December 6, 1886 – July 30, 1918) was an American writer and poet mainly remembered for a short poem titled “Trees” (1913), which was published in the collection Trees and Other Poems in 1914. Though a prolific poet whose works celebrated the common beauty of the natural world as well as his Roman Catholic religious faith, Kilmer was also a journalist, literary critic, lecturer, and editor. – Wikipedia
I recently reviewed David Smith’s excellent book, Letters to Strabo. David has very kindly agreed to give away a signed copy to three lucky Examining the Odd readers!
The competition will close on August 5th. I will then use the Rafflecopter random generator to choose three winners. Their details will be passed on to David and he will sign and send the books! 18+ only please.
Vampire democracy sucks. Literally. When it’s one vamp, one vote, the worst monsters can swing elections by turning random people off the streets into new vampires. Dylan is one of those random people. The power players in the city want his vote, but he just wants to be left the hell alone. Most of all, he wants to stop murdering people. That’s easier than it sounds when some people are seriously asking for it.
Dylan’s life as a vampire is gross, terrifying, disgusting, frustrating, sexy, painful, and that’s all just in the first night out.
Content Warning: This novel has graphic depictions of assault, murder, sex, bodily fluids, and sexual assault.
Author David A. Hill Jr. has very kindly agreed to share the first chapter with Examining the Odd readers!
CHAPTER ONE: GET RICH OR DIE TRYING
You know that story about the kid who put his finger in a hole in a dam to stop the flood? Bullet wounds don’t work that way. A finger, a hand, a shirt, it doesn’t matter—the blood flows hard. When it’s coming from your chest, every second feels like your last. You scramble. You panic. You spout off all the sobbing nonsense your oxygen-deprived brain can come up with. Your friends and family eat it up, and they spout the same bullshit right back at you. How it’s going to be okay. How the dead guy next to you is going to a better place.
I’m bleeding out. I grab at my chest, trying everything I can to stop the flow. Everything hurts—not just the bullet wound. The August pavement burns into my back. My back hurts because of fucking course my back hurts. I scraped my knee when I fell to the ground. I’m hungry. I wish my body could just focus on the gunshot. I wish it was like those stories where the guy gets stabbed but doesn’t know it until someone tells him.
The pain magnifies every sense. Sirens down the street sound like concert speakers pressed against my ear, and look like tie-dyed shirts off in the distance. Every time someone grabs my arms and legs, it feels like a punch in the face. My blood smells like the welding room back at the Honda plant I worked at a few years ago. Guys in blue jumpsuits lift me onto a stretcher. I feel a thousand pounds pushing down on my lungs. I feel like I’m drowning, and I tell them I’m not going to make it. They tell me to stop talking, that I need to try to relax. Save my breath, they say.
The next few minutes bleed together. The ambulance shakes hard. They shove an oxygen mask in my face. The lights blind me. They strap me down. Why do they need to strap me down? I struggle. They jab something in my arm. I tell myself I’m going to make it, and go limp. The breaths stop hurting. The bullet wounds stop burning. My vision blurs just a little more. I forget everything but my hunger. I’d murder for a burrito full of pastrami, mustard, pickles, and french fries. I have no idea how I’d eat it when my hands are covered in blood. But I want it. Then I don’t. My stomach turns over, and I want to throw up all over the EMTs, but I can’t. I can barely even open my eyes.
Minutes later, they’re carrying me they’re saying plenty. But I just hear shitty big budget action movie barking they run away from a CGI explosion. I try to look around, but it’s just white walls and blue jumpsuits as far as my eyes can see. I try asking, but it comes out as groaning and drooling.
They bring me into a room and swarm. Eight, maybe nine faces. They pull lamps like spotlights to beam down on me. It’s blinding. They’re hot as sun on the boardwalk. I feel like carnitas under the grocery store heat lamp. I groan. They spin the same bullshit. “You’re going to be fine.” They all tell me that. “Keep fighting!” That one’s my favorite. Fight. Tied down. Barely conscious. Numb. Bleeding out. But somehow, I’m supposed to fight. Do I tell my arteries to stop pumping? Do I slow my breath to conserve oxygen? I wiggle my toes. I feel like a badass. A fighter.
My eyes close. My eyes open. Every time they open, I see a little more blood on their scrubs and gloves. Every time my eyes close, they stay closed a little longer than the last. I hear the beep, the long beep like on TV. I wonder if they’re going to use those paddle things. They don’t. One of the women says, “We’re losing him.” I try to open my eyes. To tell them they’re not losing me.
I wake up in a dark, tight space. Something is on my face. I reach up and out. I am in a bag. I scream. I panic. I punch. I fight. Nobody answers, and after a few minutes I realize nobody’s going to answer. So I feel around the bag, and grab the zipper. It takes a moment of struggling since the zipper wasn’t made to open from the inside. It was still dark outside the bag. I kick out, and opened a door. Light cracks in.
I slide out on a metal shelf. Naked. Like a filing cabinet for corpses, just like on TV. What isn’t like TV is the bag. White, with blue trim. I expected a heavy black bag. Why wasn’t I dead? Don’t they embalm people down here? Do they do that before filing them away, or after?
San Jenaro does a lot of things well. Street cleaning? Great. Feeding the homeless? We’re better than average. But the hospitals are the pits. Filthy. Smelly. Disorganized. Underfunded. I poke around in the morgue. There’s no hint of life. This is fortunate, since my cock decided to raise full mast. This is the kind of bulging, bordering on painful erection I’d usually stop to do something about, but, morgue. I have a brief flashback to being on the ER table. I pat my chest, feeling for the bullet wounds. They’re gone. Replaced by the erection of a lifetime. Great.
Worse? Everything’s still bloody, caked with dry, filthy blood. Old blood and motor oil and cigarette ash and dust and whatever else was on the streets. I smell like a 7-Eleven dumpster. Without even thinking about it, I hit the nearest sink, and scrub my hands and arms until the skin hurts. But I still stink. My skin is caked with filth, and it’s so deep I feel like a boiling bath is my only answer.
I follow the signs to the stairs. As I round the last corner, the old steel door out of here, a security guard walks through. I I scramble back. I run tip-toed back to the morgue. I tuck behind support pillar. I close my eyes, hoping like hell he doesn’t come through. Then my mind focuses on him. He’s got fifty pounds on me, but I can probably take him. He’s healthy. Alive. Vibrant. As he walks toward the morgue, I hear every step. He opens the door, and I hear his breathing. Heavy. Maybe asthmatic. Then I hear his heart. It beats fast. Once and a half a second. About as fast as Beyonce’s “Crazy in Love”. The sound both soothes and exhilarates. I smile. I bob like I’m in a drum circle trance. I forget all the stress. I forget all the worry. I forget that minutes ago, I was dead on a slab. Everything in my universe existed for that sound. That beat. I wanted to take it within me. I wanted to move with his heart and get lost in it. And then the stomach growled. I growled. He heard me. “Is anybody flashlight across the morgue.
Wait. I growled?
“Fuck. I’m a vampire.” He definitely heard that.
“What? Who is that?” The guard says, and rapidly to every corner.
hunger kicked in. My in here?” He shone a
pans his flashlight
I hold my breath. I think about vampire things. I push my tongue to my teeth. Fangs? Check. They feel shorter than I expect. But I cut my tongue on them, so they can do the job. The job? Why am I thinking of biting this security guard? That’s sick. Are vampires immune to Hepatitis? And he’s a big guy. If he struggles, it’s going to make a hell of a mess. Or maybe my bite’s like in that game I played in high school, and he’ll get all orgasmic while I’m drinking his blood. Do I really want that big sweaty guy orgasmic in my arms? Not into bears. But it’s not a sex thing. Is it?
Fuck it. As the guard passes by my pillar, I turn on heel, grab him, and bite. The motion is way too comfortable, like I’ve been doing it all my life. Once I bite, I feel my fangs push up into my jaw, and I just start drinking like I’ve never drank before. It’s great. It’s like every terrible metaphor you can think of for good things. It’s like running into the bathroom on a cold day and pissing after you’ve been holding it in for an hour. It’s like you’ve just came inside someone, and you’re not quite ready to pull it out, so you just kinda sit there and everything tickles and you wonder if you can go again, and they clench up and squeeze your cock a little and life is perfect. It’s like that. And more. He didn’t seem orgasmic, but he also didn’t fight. He just kinda clenched up. He waved his arms a little bit and knocked over a tray table. But when I finally pull my face off his collar, everything in his face says scared. If that’s his orgasm face, I feel bad for anyone he takes home.
The heartbeat sound dies down, and I lower the guard to the ground. I see his little name badge. It says Tom Jones. Like the old actor. Or was he a musician? I don’t know. Tom Jones gasps. Whimpers a little. He’s alive, but his eyes keep drooping like I imagine mine did in that emergency room. I pick up his radio, and put my thumb on the button. I consider calling it in. But then I remember that I’ve still got to make it out. Besides, we’re in a hospital, right? If you’re going to get attacked by a vampire, a hospital’s the best place for that to happen. If he’s gonna live, he’s in the best place to do it.
In a fit, I grab Tom Jones’s pants, put them on, and pull the belt extra tight. I grab his shoes. On the wall near the door, I spot a hoodie, and toss it on. It’s all way too big. Like a kid in daddy’s work clothes. It smells terrible. But at least my erection’s gone.
It’s the dead of night. I check my pockets. Tom Jones graciously left me $65 and some change. Who carries that much cash? People who can’t get bank accounts, that’s who. Did I just murder someone who couldn’t even get a bank account? Fuck.
No. I didn’t murder him. I have no reason to think he’s dead. He’s in a hospital. That’s where people go to not die.
Unless they’re me.
I hop on a bus, and start home. My senses flare, and as the bus starts moving, everything becomes too much. The engine. The lights. The voices. The blonde girl closest to me talks into an iPhone. Last year’s model, with some Japanese cartoon girl on the case. From the phone, I hear some guy laughing. I know, just know, that he’s laughing at me. I want to kill him. I want to show him that nobody laughs at me. I grit my teeth. My fangs extend. This reassures me. Those fangs? They’re a gun in my hand. They’re power. I could grab and kill any single person on this bus, and nobody could do shit about it.
Holy shit, why am I thinking this? What in the fuck did these people even do? Calm down, Dylan. Besides, what are you going to do? Bite the iPhone? Crush it while hissing menacingly? You’d look like a jackass alpha male baboon, and she’d have to go argue about her phone insurance policy tomorrow. Does AppleCare cover bite damage?
The blonde’s conversation goes darker. She keeps trying to talk. He keeps cutting her off. She rolls her eyes, and pulls the phone a couple of inches from her ear. Whatever he’s saying, he’s pissed. I can hear every word, but I can’t understand them. He’s rambling. He’s guilty. He’s lying. But I don’t know the words he’s saying. He calls her Lyndsay. I can’t help but to watch her.
She’s had a long day; her makeup’s cracking around the corners of her eyes. Her eyeshadow’s a soft shimmering gunmetal over a black base, and it’s creasing bad. She looks at me and raises an eyebrow; I realize I’m creeping out on her so I turn my head. I can’t help it, and my eyes wander back over. The magenta on her lips is fading away. The dark liner is a little too obvious; I picture her clubbing or bartending or something in the dark.
Then my mind wanders. I imagine myself walking up to her in a bar, saying something clever. That magenta lipstick rubs off on a drink I bought her. We laugh, and I take her to a hallway. We start fucking, standing up, the way it happens in the movies but totally doesn’t work in real life. She’s wet, and warm, and perfect. I’m nailing her hard, lifting her up every time, and she throws her head back and tells me not to stop. I run my fingers through her hair and tug her back a little more. I bite down on her neck and keep on fucking her, and god damn it the erection’s back. I cross my legs.
Lindsay hangs the phone up and puts it in a purple faux snakeskin purse. I notice her shirt. A white, button-down blouse that’s been bleached a few too many times. It smells like dish water. Her hands are dry, and the red on her short fingernails is chipped all to hell. Black slacks. Definitely service work.
“Boyfriend troubles?” I say to her. God damn it, Dylan, you sound like an asshole. You look like a creep, in your stolen pants and XXXL hoodie.
“Yeah? I mean, kinda? Maybe?” She shakes her head. “I don’t know.” She sighs and looks across the bus, not at me.
“Sorry to hear it. Had a hard day myself. I’m Dylan.” Had a hard day myself? Dork. I hope I get vampire hypnotism or something, because I am so not smooth.
Wait. Hypnotism? That is not helping with the creepy factor.
“It happens.” She says with a shrug. “Look. My stop’s coming up.” She stands and forces the same smile I’m sure she forces a hundred times a night in whatever bar she works at.
“That’s cool. I just… I don’t want to sound like an ass, but since I stepped on the bus, I kept telling myself I had to try to talk to you. So…” Instinctively, I stand too. I look her in the eyes, like they do in the movies. Not trying to hypnotize her or whatever, I just can’t help but to look at her. “I just wondered if I could get your number? If not, that’s totally cool and I respect that choice.”
She looks either way. Away from my eyes. Then sighs, and pulls up her purse and takes out her phone. “You know, why not? Give me yours instead. I’ll text you.”
It worked all natural. Just Dylan smooth. Or did I accidentally hypnotize her? Maybe she would have given it to me anyway. Except there’s no fucking way, because I look like the Unabomber and I smell like… he used fertilizer bombs, right? I guess I smell as bad as him, too. But I don’t have my phone! It must be back at the hospital. I pat my pants, remembering I have Tom Jones’s phone. I pull it out, an old Nokia flip phone, hand shaking, and begin looking for the number in the settings. I notice the phone says it’s Thursday; it was Tuesday when I ate that bullet.
“I’ve got to get off here.” Lindsay says, sighing and edging toward the door. “What’s your number?”
“Sorry. I don’t call myself.” I find the settings. “It’s 555-555-5555.”
She dials and steps off the bus. “I’m Lindsay.” She says as the door’s closing.
“I know.” I say back, waving. I know? Oh my god I sound like a cretin. Worse off, I missed my stop. Lindsay’s stop was my stop. Maybe it’s for the best. I’ve filled my creep quota for this year already. Tom Jones’s phone buzzes. I look. “It’s Lindsay :)”
I take a deep breath and step off at the next stop.
Twenty minutes walking, and I’m home. I look at the old white house and march up the steps like I have a million times before. I put my hand to the doorknob. Mom’s car is in the driveway. I freeze. I can’t go back— I’m dead. Two days ago, the doctors or cops or whomever told her that she lost her baby. She’s probably not stopped crying once.
Then again, maybe it’ll help her if she knows I’m alive. Maybe I’ll walk in and she’ll hug me and everything will be all better. No fucking way. They file paperwork. I have a death certificate. How am I supposed to argue that? I don’t even know if vampires can go out in the sun, and government offices aren’t open at night. I shake my head and turn around.
But, it’s 4am. I stop. She’s asleep. Least I can do is get some of my stuff. Get out of these bags and into something that fits and doesn’t stink like formaldehyde. I pull the spare key out of the potted plant next to the door. The same key I’ve told mom to hide somewhere better a million times. I slip in and upstairs to my room. As I suspect, everyone’s in bed.
It’s silent in here. Sometimes a car passes by outside. But, it’s quiet enough that I hear every heart. Every breath. Mom’s in her room. Geena’s in hers. They’re through thick walls, but it still distracts me for a moment. Usually I can barely hear if Geena’s fucking her stupid boyfriend, let alone her breathing. I shake it off, and grab some clothes, and stuff them in my backpack. I look around, taking inventory. What else should I take? I grab my iPod; that might help distract me from all the fucking heartbeats. That’s it. Nothing worth taking. I worked my ass off to fill this room with shit, and now none of it means anything. The only thing I want—my bank card—is probably sitting in the morgue or in an evidence locker somewhere. And don’t they close your accounts when you die?
The room explodes with sound. Blaring. I jump and look around. A voice breaks out. “Lord knows, I can’t chayayayayaynge!” Fucking Freebird? Seriously? Then I realize; it’s coming from my pocket. I pull Tom Jones’s phone. The screen says “Mercy Medical”. Guess they haven’t found him yet. I hang up on them.
Freebird? Really? At least I don’t have to feel bad about killing
Damn it, Dylan. No, no, no. Killing people is wrong, even if they have a Freebird ringtone. And you don’t get to play that cool if that ringtone’s coming from the phone you just stole from the guy you just murdered.
I return to the moment, to my house, to Freebird, to my mourning family. I run. I hear movement in the other rooms. Mom. Geena. Both waking up. Coming to see who the hell is blasting Freebird in their dead son or brother’s room. I bump a lamp in the hall. That god-awful woodcarving of a giraffe that mom thinks is so “real” despite being made in China. I catch it as it falls, and I just fucking throw it. The cord rips out and it splits in half right next to mom’s door. I keep running, and I go out the back because knowing my luck, cops are already out front ready to take me to vampire jail.
“Dylan?” Geena shouts out her bedroom window. I look back. She sees me. “Dylan?!” She shouts again. I shake my head, and I run. I tell myself I’m not Dylan. I’m not the guy she’s looking for. I’m the guy who broke in and stole some clothes and an iPod.
That’s me. A burglar in my own fucking house.
Blood Flow is a modern gothic, a weird take on a vampire novel by David A Hill Jr. It’s an examination of democracy, modern culture, consent issues in vampire fiction, and what it takes to adapt to a rapidly changing world.