Friday, February 1, 2013

The Upside of Death

"I think dad's a vampire."

The second he said it, he wished he could take it back.  But there it was, out there.  The words just filling the small space of the car.  He felt like a dog caught in front of his own accident waiting to have his nose rubbed in it.

But instead Jack just said "...ok?"

It was dubious but not nearly the reaction he'd been expecting.  It somehow gave him strength to push forward.  Or, more likely it was the six beers he'd consumed back at bar, but regardless he was pushing forward.

"Just hear me out.  The first thing, obviously, is the cancer.  I mean who goes from stage four unresponsive to chemo to... sprightly?"

"Sprightly?" Jack chuckled at him.

"Yeah- I mean one second he looks like death warmed over and I'm waiting for the call to let me know it's time to rent a suit and the next mom tells me he's checked himself out of the hospital.  I came home expecting to find him on his death bed, like hospice or something and he's practically..." he searched for the word in his vocabulary but found the thought becoming increasingly fuzzy as the beers reminded him that he should be significantly more relaxed than he was.  Had it been seven?

"Practically what?" Jack prodded as he turned the wheel, lazily directing the car through the darkness of the woods on route 71.

"He's weird!" Chad announced.  It hadn't been the word he was looking for, not at all, but it conveyed the sentiment well enough.  "I mean he's laughing and making jokes and he looks a thousand times better- I mean, he looks paler but paler looks way better than that yellowish tint he's had-"

"That could be the chemo," Jack said.

"Huh?" Chad stopped short, nearly tripping over his tongue as he clipped the sentence.

"The paleness," Jack said as he glanced over at him, "Chemo."

"Right but the giddiness?  The animated stories?  I saw him pinch mom's butt in the kitchen while she was chopping up vegetables, for christ sake!"

"I'm still not seeing how any of this equates with vampirism.  Joy over being alive, sure.  But blood-sucking undead?  Not so much," Jack laughed.  He seemed more confident than Chad remembered him, more self-assure somehow.  His powers of observation seemed to be fading as his body settled into a state of inebriation.  Maybe it had been eight?

"Ok- well how about this, he didn't want any diner!"

"Again, chemo."

"How the hell does a dying man have that much energy when he's not even eating?  And- you know what?  Even without the whole dying part he’s 73!  Even without the cancer he shouldn’t be so… whatever.  And it’s not just me- mom’s freaked, too!”

“Well, he’ll bring her over soon enough,” Jack said off-handedly. 

Chad’s mind caught on the statement, a knee-jerk reaction pulling him out of the haze.  “What?”

“I mean around- he’ll bring her around to his way of thinking, make her see how this is a second chance and all that.” Jack flustered. 

Chad felt clearer than he had been since he first got into the car, a sudden burst of adrenaline making him paranoid.  “You said over.”

“Chadley, you’re drunk,” Jack diagnosed, placing a hand on his shoulder.

As soon as he touched him the dashboard in front of him seemed to go lop-sided and he found himself leaning into the supportive hand as struggled to keep himself upright.  “Yeah.” Chad acknowledged.  “How the hell did that happen?”

“Um, I believe they call it beer,” Jack laughed.  It was a crisp, clear sound.  Like he was assured of his wit.  So unlike the Jack he knew.  It had been years since he’d seen him for more than a dinner at Christmas or some other occasion, but still.  This confident, charismatic Jack was not the awkward, perpetually uncomfortable boy he’d grown up with.

“You’re being paranoid.”  He heard it more than thought it but a look over at Jack let him know he hadn’t said anything.  He felt himself loosing his grasp on reality, withering.  Jack’s hand on his shoulder suddenly seemed like more a hindrance than a help.

“But where were you?  You tell me we’re going to a bar to talk and then you disappear to the bathroom for… I don’t know, a long time.  What was that all about?” he asked, trying to push his hand off his shoulder.  He felt so weak.

Jack didn’t say anything at that, just took another turn and led the car down a bumpy gravel road.

“Where’re you takin mee..?” he could barely get the words out.  There was no way he’d had enough to be this plastered.

“Ok, so let’s just say that dad is a vampire and let’s just say that mom soon will be, too- would that really be the worst thing?  I mean think about it- no more cancer, no more arthritis, no more imminent death.  They could finally take that cruise.  Really, there’s no down side,” Jack argued, his voice lilting as if he were listing the ingredients of a cake.  He put the car in park and undid his seat belt.

“No,” Chad said.  He wasn’t a thousand percent sure what he was saying it to.  But a voice in his head was screaming at him to get out of the car, get away from him.  His body wasn’t moving.  He pushed himself with his last ounce of strength and his head lolled to side. 

Jack was bent over him, his shoulders rising and falling in short little bursts of motion as he emanated sucking noises.  The fog in his head seemed to clear and even as his life started to fade he was certain of one thing.  “Vampire,” he whispered.

Jack straightened himself, wiping his mouth on his sleeve.  He smacked his lips and then bit into his own wrist.  Chad saw blood welling forth from the wound as Jack brought it towards him.

“You’re more observant I thought,” he smiled.

6 comments:

  1. Well they do say that the family that plays together stays together...for eternity in this case!

    The line with the dog having his nose rubbed in it made me chuckle!

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  2. You know, I wonder how a vampire would react to chemo. Would it react at all?

    Oh well, there goes the investigation!

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  3. Wow, I've been off vamp stories for awhile, but that was thoroughly enjoyable! Really well done!

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  4. The family that slays together stays together? At least they'll all have a common interest now! I liked the contrast between the usual "family issues" talk and the underlying scenario.

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  5. Ah, I did wonder if Jack might know more than he was letting on. Very good!

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  6. Nice story! That would make an enjoyable video short as well.

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