Herb the Vampire
My name is Herb Shapiro. I’m fifty-two, single, and going bald. The last time I saw my doctor he said I was overweight and a high-risk candidate for diabetes. Of course that was before I became a vampire.
It all started when I was at a convention in Las Vegas. My company got me a room at the Imperial Palace on the strip. I wasn’t a gambling man, but on this one particular night I was feeling rather lucky. I was in the Nomiya Lounge drinking my lone bottle of Manischewitz Cherry. It wasn’t on the wine list, but they happened to have some in the back when I asked them about it. I was wooed by a pretty face on a spry fifty-six year-old, or at least that’s what she told me her age was.
“So what’s a piece like you doing in a place like this?” She was pretty upfront about it all.
I almost choked on my wine. “Ex-excuse me?”
“Oh, where are my manners? I’m Grace,” she smiled. She looked like a sweet and spicy Helen Mirren. I would take her on the spot if not for the fact that she was well out of my league.
“H-Herb...Herb Shapiro,” I squeaked out.
“Wanna tell me why you’re in a place with a master bartender, and you’re drinking Manichewitz?” she smirked.
“Well...I really don’t drink...much, and uh this is all I really uh...know about...” I mumbled.
“You’re funny,” Grace chuckled. “You wanna get out of here?”
“Well I was going to go to the buffet for dinner, but if you had something better in mind...”
She smiled. “Yeah, I do. Why don’t you come up to my room?”
And just like that I was on my way to do possibly naughty things with an attractive middle-aged woman. The way I was raised it was the men that always did the talking. Maybe Grace was a feminist or something.
I won’t go into details about what went on in that room as you wouldn’t want to be grossed out by the sexual antics of a balding middle-aged man with rolls of fat on his chest. That didn’t seem to bother her in any way at all. Maybe she thought I was an easy target. Maybe she was just taking pity on me. Whatever her crazy reason I was fine with that.
The next morning she dropped the news to me. “Oh by the way, you’re a vampire now,” she said as she was styling her perfectly cropped snow white hair. Then she kicked me out of the room, and that’s the last I saw of her. Thanks for not asking me, nafka darling! I packed up my suitcase and headed back to Dallas.
Was this her idea of a sick joke? Does she just lure men into her hotel room, infect them, and then dump ‘em back on the street? I decided to check with my doctor to see if she gave me any strange diseases.
“Erb Shapiro?” said a voice from the nurse’s office.
“It’s Herb, and yes I’m coming,” I grumbled as I wiggled my stubby five-foot-six body out of the waiting room chair. Apparently no one around here has any friends named ‘Herbert’. I followed the nurse into the doctor’s office.
What seemed like an eternity later the door opened.
“Welcome back, Mr. Shapiro,” Doctor Crates said as he snapped on a rubber glove. “So what seems to be the problem?”
“Well I went to Las Vegas, and I think I came down with something.”
“In Vegas?” he asked.
“Yeah. I’m really tired and I drink a lot of water, but I’m still thirsty.”
The good doctor smiled as though he knew something I didn’t, and then stuck a thermometer in my mouth. “Okay, uh...unbutton your shirt please.”
He pressed the icy cold stethoscope against my chest. I took some deep breaths, or at least as deep as an overweight middle-aged man living in a polluted city could do. Doctor Crates gave a confused look on his face, took off his stethoscope and grabbed my wrist.
“Something wrong?” I asked, trying to shift the glass tube in my mouth.
“...Yeah, you got no pulse.”
“Um...Is that bad?” I asked nervously.
Doctor Crates pulled the thermometer out.
“Seventy-six degrees? … that can’t be right,” he muttered.
“So what do you think?” I asked.
“Well it’s the funniest thing...You’re clinically dead.”
“I feel fine.”
“Well you’re not fine, Mr. Shapiro! You’re dead!”
The news hit me like a house of bricks, or at least it would’ve had I not been somehow expecting it. I decided I needed to get back to work, but it was around lunchtime and I was feeling a bit peckish. It was just then that I saw a sign.
All of a sudden there was a little voice inside me saying “Go for it!” Maybe I was a vampire; a fat, balding, middle-aged vampire. I wondered if human blood is kosher. I’d ask Rabbi Cohen, but I’m sure he’d shake his head disapprovingly at me and that’s the last thing I’d want. I waddled up to the counter to see a middle-aged woman with wild curly red hair and ruby red lips mashing a stick of gum between her teeth.
“Yes, sir?” the woman at the counter muttered.
“Well um...you see I uh...” I stammered for the words.
“You need blood?” she interrupted.
“Uh yeah,” I said, surprised that she knew exactly what I wanted.
“What kind you need?” she asked, not even batting an eyelash.
“Uh...B positive...I think?”
“O positive is cheaper,” she said.
“O positive is cheaper since it’s more common,” she was being rather nonchalant about this whole ordeal. Apparently she’s gotten the fresh-eyed reluctant vampire before.
“Uh, yeah. That sounds good.”
“$18.50,” she said. “Do you need a straw?”
“Yes, please,” I said meekly. I gave her a $20 and she got change, which I promptly dumped into the Lymphoma donation jar. The blood was cold and looked like a plastic bag filled with fruit punch. I stuck the straw in the bag like I was poking into a juice box and started sucking. While it was cold, and tasted a little like licking a steel fence, it did have somewhat of a berry flavor to it. I sucked the bag dry as discreetly as I could, stashed it under some newspapers in a trash can, and hopped on the train back to work.
It takes 22 minutes to get from the Walnut Hill station to the West End station downtown. I work in the Bank of America building; the one that has a neon green outline at night. I’m an underwriter of life insurance policies at FENRIS Mutual of Texas. Yes, I recognize the irony of a vampire writing life insurance policies. If you don’t know what an underwriter is it’s basically a person who determines how feasible it would be to insure something, and how much it should cost the customer. A lot of the calculations that go into the formula are done on a computer, so my job is mostly to make sure all the paperwork is in order. It’s not a very exciting job, but in this economy I’m just happy to have a job. You’d think that when you become a vampire your job is to...you know...be a vampire and drink blood. Unfortunately, blood doesn’t pay the bills, so I need this job until my 401k kicks in and I can reinvest it in some high-yield funds.
By the time I got off the train I was feeling a bit of a spring in my step. Colors were brighter and life, or whatever passed for life, was just a little bit easier to deal with. It was as if I suddenly got the body of a thirty-year-old.
“Hi, Herb,” Becky, my co-worker said as she held the elevator open for me. Becky was the only person at the company I really cared about. Maybe it was because I fancied her. I think she was in her late forties, but I couldn’t be sure, because she acted like a sunny teenage girl. Her sandy blonde hair puffed up in curls always bounced a little when she walked.
“Good morning, Becky!” I practically sang a tune in her direction. The rest of the day went swimmingly, like it was just good to be alive...or undead...or whatever.
I made my visit to the blood bank a regular occurrence, stopping there in the morning for a nice...err breakfast before I went to work. They always see me coming, because I wear rather loud plaid suits. Gloria, the woman at the blood bank counter, knew me by name. “The usual, Herb?” she’d ask like a faithful bartender. I went five days a week for my dosage, spending a hundred bucks a week on meals. I even started looking forward to Monday mornings just for that pick-me-up. Due to my cheery attitude and quick fingers I got a promotion at work.
I asked Becky out on a date, and we went dancing one Friday night at the Green Gecko Club over in the Deep Ellum. I hadn’t danced since I broke my legs in the auto accident many years before, but that night I was as limber as ever. Afterwards we were making our way to the train station when we were suddenly confronted by a somewhat threatening individual. I say somewhat threatening, because he must have been in his late seventies and he looked a little worn out.
“Die, you monster! You will pay for your crimes against humanity!” he said.
“That’s no way to speak to a young lady!” I retorted.
“I meant you!” the man said, brandishing a sharpened piece of wood.
“Wait a minute,” I said. “I think there’s been some mistake.”
He flashed a stainless-steel crucifix in my face. “There’s no mistake. I’ve seen what you’ve done. I’ve been following you for the past month. All those people who must’ve died to get your precious blood.”
“You know that blood banks get their supplies from donors, right?” I said.
“Oh, but that still doesn’t excuse all the people you seduced and killed! I’m glad I’m going to stop you tonight before you kill this innocent old woman!”
I slapped the crucifix from the old man’s hand. “I demand you apologize to this charming young lady at once!” I scolded him.
“I’m...I’m sorry, ma’am,” the man stammered.
“Now would you calmly explain who you are and what you’re doing?” I said.
“Well I’m a vampire hunter, and you’re a vampire, so...you know what I gotta do,” he muttered.
“Herb, is there something you’re not telling me?” Becky asked.
“Becky, I haven’t been entirely honest with you,” I said, turning to face Becky. “I am a vampire, but I’m not evil or anything. I don’t kill people. I don’t break any laws. I make sure to go to temple every Saturday.”
Becky remained silent for a few seconds, then nodded approvingly. “Yeah, I’m okay with that.”
“Alright,” I said. “Becky, you should stand back while I do battle with this nefarious vampire hunter.”
“N-Now hold on,” the old man said. “Are you sure you’re a vampire?”
“I’m pretty sure. At least the one that turned me told me so.”
“Well I mean...I see you walk around in the daytime,” he said.
“The sunlight does bother me a little bit, but that’s why we have sunglasses and hats.”
“But, you didn’t react to my crucifix!” he stammered.
“Your stainless-steel crucifix is just a chunk of metal. Why would I be afraid of that?”
“Really?” he said. “They told me it was silver. I paid thirty bucks for this.”
“My father was a jewelry maker. Trust me. That’s stainless-steel.”
“Okay, but that still doesn’t explain the fact that you can walk into a holy temple without dying.”
I sighed. “Look. I’m still the same person I always was. I just happen to be a vampire too. I don’t want any trouble. I just want to leave this place a little better than I found it.”
“Well...okay. Sorry to intrude. I’m...gonna go now. Have a nice night,” the old man mumbled.
And with that we parted ways.
So just remember that if you encounter a vampire, werewolf, or anyone that may look kinda scary maybe you should get to know them first before you try to kill ‘em. You never know, you might make a new friend.
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