Braving the Elements

So this vampire walks into a bar.

It's a sports bar, walls splattered with artifacts: the signed Aikman game ball under glass, the Wade Boggs bat with a hairline fracture propped over the bar, the Bill Lambeer blood-flecked jersey. Thick-necked frat guys in section five eye the vampire warily and order another pitcher. Blostov the vampire, featherweight wiry, hook-nosed and unibrowed, spots his vampire buddy.

"Yergi!"--jovial slap on the back─ "How's it hanging?" He draws nearer, sniffs. "God, what is that? Drakkar?"

"Better than smelling undead," Yergi mumbles, adjusting his Celtics cap. Hockey players skate across a vast video screen in a disembodied power play as Steppenwolf blares on the bar's overhead speakers. "Magic Carpet Ride," a favorite on karaoke night. Yergi slouches in a booth, staring not at the screen but at the lemon wedge smiling from the bottom of his beer glass. A dense freezing rain staccatos the bar windows.

Blostov looks around for the waitress, motions, leans toward Yergi. "I fed on Cynthia last week while she was taking out the trash─I caught her behind the Dumpster."

"Yeah, nice going. She's been walking around all night like a goddamned vampire. I've been waiting half an hour for my drink. And forget about ordering an appetizer."

Cynthia finally wanders over to their booth, bite marks palpable on her neck. She chews her gum and stares vacantly at the stainless steel napkin dispenser for a full thirty seconds. No reflection.

"Cynthia, you're looking a little peaked," Blostov says, trying to keep a straight face. "I'll have a daiquiri when you get a chance."

Yergi glares at him. "Another one of these," he says, motioning to his beer glass. A frazzled-looking Cynthia leaves without speaking─then leaves the bar entirely, not even bothering with her coat. Yergi looks out the window and sees her staggering in the ice-glazed parking lot, her pallid face lit by passing headlights. He notices Cynthia's hands, gnarled into claws. She's barring her budding fangs at cars as they inch along Route 20, an awkward phase she's going through.

"Looks like we'd better order up at the bar," Blostov says. "I'll be back in a jiff." He waits in line, staring at the mirror stretching behind the top-shelf liquor and the cash drawer, wishing for his face to appear just once in the glass. This reflectionless business isn't all it's cracked up to be. You can't see spinach in your teeth, wing sauce on your chin; you're forced to rely heavily on toothpicks, wet-wipes, the kindness of companions.

A section five flunky bumps into Blostov. "Nice cape, fag," he sneers.

Blostov returns to the booth seething with anger, downs his daiquiri in a single gulp, the little umbrella bumping like flotsam against his nose. "Stupid jocks," he mutters. "Why do they always think I'm gay?"

"It might be that frou-frou cloak you're wearing," Yergi says, "or the chick drink you're drinking, or the fact you hang out in a sports bar and don't know ass about sports."

"Just because I didn't get a brand-new bomber jacket for Christmas like some vampires. By the way, that cap totally covers your widow's peak..."

"I'm done with the slicked-back thing. It just makes me look like a Pat Riley wannabe." Yergi watches jealously as a couple jocks play the Golden Tee arcade game, every few seconds rearing back and punching the console. He thinks he might be good at video golf. "Actually," he adds, "I was thinking of getting some hair plugs--you know, grow my hair out, maybe curl it a little in back..."

Blostov isn't listening but is instead grabbing clumps of napkins from the dispenser and tearing them to shreds.

"Calm down, Blostov," Yergi says. "I'm sure the guy didn't mean it." A waitress brings a platter of turbo wings to the table adjacent theirs. The rich greasy smell wafts toward them, mingling with their own aroma of putrefying flesh. Yergi sprays his pressure points with cologne.

"Don't tell me to calm down," Blostov says. "You hide behind your jacket and ball cap, make fun of my cloak, but at least I take pride in my heritage..."

"Heritage? What heritage? We're the undead..."

"Whatever. I'm going to teach those guys a lesson." Blostov crouches in the booth, ready to spring. "Just because I like a good daiquiri once and awhile--it's no reason to question my manhood."

"What's it matter, anyway?" Yergi asks. "You're asexual." A heavyset woman plugs in the karaoke machine, taps the mike, does a soundless little shimmy on stage while a drunk at the bar whoops and claps.

"It's the principle of the thing."

"Please don't get us kicked out," Yergi begs. "This is the only place in town with decent wings."

But it's too late. Blostov has descended on the flunkies as vampires are sometimes wont to do, a dervish of cape and death-funk, fangs seeking purchase, spilled beer, chicken bones on the tiled floor, a cacophony of screams, frantic flights into the parking lot where cars mingle with other cars, gliding over ice, powerless in such vicious terrain.

About the author:

Poems of Daniel Pinkerton's have appeared or are forthcoming in New Orleans Review, Rhino, Indiana Review, Subtropics, Willow Springs, Hayden's Ferry Review, and Poetry East, while his reviews have appeared in American Literary Review, Shenandoah, Chattahoochee Review, and Pleiades. His fiction has appeared or is forthcoming in Quarterly West, Lake Effect, Arts & Letters, and the 2008 edition of Best New American Voices. He is the recipient of two Academy of American Poets prizes and an AWP Intro Journals award, a fiction finalist in the 2006 Flannery O'Connor Award competition, and a recent nominee for a Pushcart Prize in poetry.