What About the Other Vampires?
a guest post by Scott Burtness
Vampires really are cool. They live in exciting places, have excellent diction, and always throw the best parties.
There have to be other vampires, though, right? Ones that are a little rougher around the edges. These vampires aren’t celebrated very often in pop culture, but that doesn’t mean they don’t deserve a story now and then.
I guess that’s why I like Herb Knudsen so much. A lonely truck stop diner cook and mediocre bowler, Herb was as bland as cheese curds without ketchup… until he became a vampire.
Now he’s fumbling with his newfound abilities, and learning the hard way that being special isn’t easy. Sure, the local stripper wants him, and yes, he is a lot better at bowling... But he can’t drink beer, the bodies are piling up, and his best friend Dallas is getting suspicious.
Here’s an excerpt from Wisconsin Vamp, a tale of booze, billiards, bake sales, blood, bowling, babes, bar fights and karaoke. If you would like to read more, you can find it on Amazon or visit my FB author page.
It was hard. Everything was backward, mixed up, out of sorts. Herb was used to trying to overcome his mediocrity, striving and inevitably coming up short. He had never been good at anything, but now Herb felt like he was intentionally shoving square pegs into round holes. He’d line up a shot, instinctively adjusting each muscle from the pressure of his index finger on the side of the cue to the amount of weight on his left big toe, pose in statuesque grace, ready himself to execute perfection, a direct challenge to an imperfect world. And then he’d catch Dallas’s eye and crumble. Shift his grip a fraction of an inch, bring his other foot forward just a tad, lean a bit further to the left, belt holding the pillow under his shirt pinching his back. And just like that, perfection would shatter, the cue would slide forward, the cue ball would streak across the table, meet its intended mate in a brief, shocking kiss, only to have both careen off in opposite directions. The cue ball would wind its way inevitably toward a terrible lie, while the other ball would narrowly miss the intended pocket and spin off to rest someplace worse than where it was before. Herb would curse, his frustration genuine if for reasons other than what the guys expected. He could’ve made that shot. He could’ve made them all and finished this game ten minutes ago if only Dallas would let him. But no, he had to play his part, be his little piece in Dallas’s hustle. He had to play badly. Meanwhile, Dallas would curse, roll his eyes, say bits like, “Oh thanks Herb, why don’tcha gift-wrap it for them while you’re at it,” and other disparaging remarks. Then he’d drop one or two himself, just enough to keep the game close.
Donnie turned out to be a decent player, dropping two or three and always leaving Dallas a tough lie. But Dallas wasn’t a schmuck when it came to bar pool, and he’d been shooting at Stein’s since Helen was in a training bra. To the outside observer, in this case Stanley, it looked like a really close game with Dallas and Herb always chasing the lead but never quite getting there. Finally, Stu dropped the 8-ball, narrowly avoided scratching and started strutting around the table, cockle-doodle-doing like a rooster.
“Beers! Beers! Beers!” Stu and Donnie high-fived while Dallas made a show of kicking chairs and complaining about the slope of the table. Herb just stood glowering, fingers clenching the cue like the Boston strangler practicing for a night on the town. Stanley looked at him, an odd expression on his face, but Herb hardly noticed. Watching Stu and Donnie grin and Dallas muck around like a bad soap opera actor was making his blood boil. Visions of taking the 7-ball in his hand and cracking it against Stu’s temple made his breath come fast and stomach clench. He could see, smell, taste the blood and bits of crushed skull in that greasy mullet, like ripping the skin off a dog with your teeth, getting bits of fur and grass and sandy earth in your mouth, each giving its own flavor to the rush of life and power as it runs down your jaws, coats your tongue. Oh yeah, Herb salivated. Gonna rip that mullet right off your head. Bet you won’t be feeling so prancy then. He’d suck him dry and watch those dumb, arrogant eyes go blank and all that life, all that blood, would be his where it rightfully belonged.
“Upset stomach, Herb? You g-got the acid refluxes, huh?” Stanley appearing in Herb’s field of vision was a bucket of ice water on the fire building inside of him. He realized that he had been growling, actually growling like a feral beast, and quickly coughed and forced a burp.
“Oh, uh. Yeah, I had some...” visions of the neighbor’s dead pug flashed briefly across his mind, “...bad goulash earlier. Must be repeating on me.” Herb rubbed his pillow-clad stomach for effect.
“Seltzer. Soda crackers. A tuh-tablespoon of Pepto, maybe a piece of white toast unbu-bu, dry. That’ll fix you right up, sure will.” Stanley’s remedy proclaimed, he smiled and clapped Herb on the shoulder. “Make sure you w-watch that, Herby. Chronic acid reflux can cuh-cause throat cancer, and that’s a nasty way to go.”
“Thanks Stanley.” Herb was struck by how much he meant it. Crisis narrowly averted, Herb walked over to the table and got ready for the next round. He and Dallas would play the hustle, they’d squeeze a few bucks outta the Vikings fans and call it a night. And Stu, with his puffy mullet and stupid Vikings jersey would never know how close he’d come to falling a few links down the food chain.