Like A Rock
Just A Demo
I was eager to replace my over-ambitious Anniversary Edition… Why Chevrolet opted to celebrate 50 years of Corvettes by releasing an inferior model was beyond me. The suspension was irksome and the only improvement worth mentioning was that ‘Anniversary Red Metallic’ was a sexier color than ‘Torch Red’. Any photo I’d seen of Torch Red taken during the day reminded me of crayons and fire trucks.
I’d driven by Shreveport GM no less than once each week since I was still waiting for the vanity plates for my dud…
When they finally placed a new Corvette on the platform in the showroom, I wasn’t going to waste any time wanting one.
After Bobby tried, and failed, to purchase the new model, I didn’t have a choice but to go to the dealership personally.
I’d been inundated with Vampire drama when I first rose and being delayed in my plans was more annoying when I considered it had been more than a fucking year since ‘The Great Revelation’. One would have thought the whining would have stopped by then. I practically hung up on Pam when I pulled up to the showroom just ten minutes before closing.
Thankfully, the bulk of the vultures had left for the night. Unfortunately, the most appealing of the staff in the showroom seemed too busy entertaining a man with two small children to notice I was there. The man had taken the children to the Red River Revel and they were discussing the experience…
Phenomenal tan, bright blue eyes, deliciously tight blouse and short skirt… Her golden blonde hair was swept into a loose bun at the nape of her neck and her makeup was modest… She was, without a doubt, the most tempting ‘salesman’ I’d ever laid eyes on.
When the woman became aware of my presence, she kissed the children and promised to be home shortly…
As they walked out, she leaned against the reception desk and raised her eyebrows. “Sookie DuRone. How can I help you?”
“I’m here to purchase a 2004 C5.”
She shook her head ruefully. “Sorry. The only one we have is a demo.”
“I’ll take the demo then.”
“Sorry. The owner says ‘no-can-do’. You aren’t the first guy to walk in here asking… hell, you aren’t even the first guy to ask since lunch. Mind if I ask why you want the ’04 when you have the ’03 Anniversary?”
“The suspension on the ‘03 is better on Rosebud.”
I was expecting to explain Rosebud was a sled, but she giggled, “Well, what kind of mod have you done?”
“I know mod is short for modification. I haven’t done any. I spent $60,000 on it. I should be able to drive it as-is.”
She nodded slowly as though she was mentally translating her response into idiot terms. “You can drive it as-is… or you can take it to someone who knows something about high performance vehicles because straight out of the showroom, she’s got soft springs and sway bars. The F55 suspension was designed to increase the driver’s feel of the road. Good for Humans. Bad for Vampires… Try taking it out of Turbo. Tour is gentler.” I wasn’t going to debate car parts with a sales-girl.
“How do I contact the owner?”
“I’ll gladly pass along a message, but I’ll warn you now, he’s going to turn you down. He’s called dibs on that one.”
“I want to speak to him personally.” I’d glamour the asshole to sell it.
She shrugged. “I’m not just telling you ‘no’ because I don’t want to be hung up doing paperwork… You basically have two options.”
“Oh really? What are my options then?”
“Well, if you can’t wait two months to do your over-compensating with an ’04, I can put you in something like a new Denali tonight or you can run across the street to Furnan Motor Sport. I could see you on a Harley.”
She unapologetically nodded. “Well, you obviously aren’t a motorhead because you’d have taken your Vette in for mods… You’ve been driving around in a cookie-cutter car. You bought it to show off…”
“I’ve been driving Corvettes since ’97. I’ve never had a fucking problem.”
She raised her eyebrow and snorted, “I’ve been selling them since ’99… and you spent sixty grand on image. Suck it up. It’s still a beautiful ride. If your panties are that twisted, write a letter to Chevrolet about your complaints. Be sure to sign it ‘the Princess and the Pea’ since you’re whining about sensitivity.” Whining? Princess? Bitch.
“Are you this rude to all of your customers?”
“I think you’re mistaking the truth for harshness, sir. I’m sorry I can’t sell you the car you want. Why did you wait until ’97? Was it the larger cockpit and higher ceiling you were waiting for?”
“Then if you aren’t over-compensating for something by driving a Vette, then why not try a Denali on for size. It’s more fitting for a guy your size anyway.”
“Just give me the owner’s contact information.”
“So you can glamour him to sell you his car? Not a chance. How about the standard ’03? It doesn’t have the F55 so it’ll be just like your ’02 when it comes to handling.”
“If you recognize me as a Vampire, what makes you so sure I won’t glamour you to give me the information, or the car for that matter?”
The look she gave me was deadly as she snarled, “You go right on ahead… that would be the only way you’d get that information out of me.”
When I took an experimental step towards her, just to test her reaction, she folded her arms under her breasts and lifted her chin resiliently. “You’re certainly cheeky… it’s a shame you don’t have as much acumen as you do sass.”
She was completely unimpressed as I approached. “What are you, like 800, 900 years old? It’s a shame you haven’t learned better than to underestimate people.”
“If you weren’t so mouthy, I might be interested in you.” That was a lie… as mouthy as she was, I was still interested. The husband and children hadn’t even affected that. There was a lot to be said for a bold personality.
“That makes us even. If you weren’t being a pussy about suspension, I might entertain an offer. Go ahead. Glamour me, asshole.”
I stared her down, taking advantage of the fierce glare she was giving me, and bending to loom over her and push, “You’re going to give me the contact information for the owner of this dealership.”
She smelled incredible. Just inches away… as though her hair had absorbed sunlight.
She raised her eyebrows and parted her lips as though she was going to answer me…
She punched me… her little fist shot up between us and into my chin with enough force to surprise me… my fangs sliced through my lip.
She snarled, “I can put you in a Cavalier or an Aveo too. Might be more fitting.”
“You just punched a Vampire and now you’re taunting me?”
“Oh boo-hoo. You tried to glamour me, jerk off. Get over yourself. Go out to Patriot GM and bully them for your new Vette.”
I growled, “You must not be very good at your job. You’re supposed to be friendly to the customer.”
She giggled. She punched a Vampire… and then giggled as though she wasn’t on borrowed time.
“I tried being friendly. I suggested you have mods done to improve your driving experience.”
“Friendly salesmen don’t suggest a Corvette is an over-compensation…”
“For serious shortcomings, yeah…”
The salesgirl’s attention was drawn to the parking lot when her husband’s Tahoe parked next to my Corvette.
As the man jogged into the showroom, she warned, “You’ll behave or you’ll get it again.”
I growled, “What makes you think I’d give you that chance?”
She rolled her eyes, ignoring me to ask her husband, “Forget something?”
He nodded and kissed her cheek as he walked past her studying the floor. “I’d lose my head if it wasn’t attached. Only a tard would let me take her kids to a fair… There it is. Hunt dropped his T-Rex. I’m really leavin’ this time, sis. See ya in a bit.”
Did he say ‘sis’?
She nodded. “I’m about to take this guy for a test drive in a Denali. I’ll be home as soon as I’m done with him.”
On his way towards the door, he offered, “I don’t know what kind of mods he did on the Vette, but the Denali’s really smooth for something so big.”
The door was still swinging when she raised her eyebrows and blew a raspberry. “See. I told you. A Vette needs mods. Do you want the test drive or not?”
No. I wanted a new Corvette.
“Can I test drive the demo?”
“There’s no steering column. It’s. Just. A. Demo.”
I growled, “Why didn’t you just say that?”
“I told you it was just a demo. The lot will be full of drivable Vettes in seven weeks.”
“Can I reserve one?”
“Yes… I’m pretty sure I told your day-guy that too.”
“What makes you so sure it was my day-guy?”
“Stuffy troglodyte named Burnham. Looks like he’s got a rod up his butt. He said his Master wasn’t happy with last year’s model and demanded I sell the demo for a discount to make up for your dissatisfaction.”
“It seems like I need a new day-guy.”
“Why? I think his social skills are just as splendid as his Master’s.”
“I’m blaming him for why you’re behaving so belligerently.”
“He didn’t try to glamour me.”
About that… “Why didn’t that work?”
She shrugged. “Got me. I just can’t be glamoured. I hadn’t been working here for long when someone tried to glamour me to ignore that they weren’t old enough to drive. Of course, now I know the poor thing was turned when she was really young. The guys in Parts & Services clued me in.”
The poor thing?
“The mechanics back in our shop. Weres. A few of them are anyway… Look, it’s pumpkin time for me. What’s your plan?”
She nibbled her lip and rolled her eyes up to look at the ceiling while she considered her answer. “Well, I can schedule you for a meeting with a mechanic about having mods done on your Anniversary. It might be worth it to you since the new models have the same F55 suspension you aren’t happy with and Chevy went back to the crayon color… You can take a standard ’03. We have yellow and black right now… You can test drive something else… And you can reserve a new ’04…”
“What have you heard about the handling in a Viper?”
She giggled, “It’s about the same, and you’d probably be cramped in the smaller cockpit.”
“Is there an Anniversary edition here that’s already been modified? I don’t know if I want to go to the trouble of having modifications done if I’m not guaranteed a marked improvement.”
She rolled her eyes and snorted, “You’re such a baby… My son wasn’t this upset when I took his training wheels off of his bike…” She bent over the desk to take a purse from a drawer and fished out a key chain. “Let’s go.”
“You have an Anniversary?”
“A modded Anniversary, yes…”
“What are you overcompensating for?”
“I won it for leading in sales this year.”
“Does punching customers sell a lot of cars?”
She giggled, “As a matter of fact, it does.”
As soon as we were through the showroom doors, she tossed her keys to me and pointed towards her Corvette.
The only differences between our cars were that she had a Barksdale Air Force Base decal on her windshield and her vanity plates read ‘BITE ME’.
There must have been a dozen car keys on her chain and just as many house keys. Of the car keys, all of them were Chevrolet, but only one had the Corvette logo.
“How many cars have you won for leading in sales?”
“Four… I only kept three though. The Tahoe is the family car, my grandmother unofficially has the Venture, and the Vette is what I drive to work. I’m kinda stuck with it. Apparently, it’s poor form to sell them. I caught a ton of flak for selling my first one, even if it was to family.”
“It was yours, yes?”
“Yeah, and it paid for my pool… so screw ‘em. The other sales guys get nasty when I ask them what I’m going to do with four cars.”
I chuckled, “Reminding them of their short-comings?”
She shrugged and lowered to her seat. “You need to move the seat back before you get in so you don’t feel like you’re in a Scavenger’s Daughter…” Once the seat had been moved back as far as it could be and I was seated, she offered, “I’m singlehandedly unraveling the intricate fabric of feminism, one co-worker at a time. If you ask them, I’m a frigid bitch who flirts with her customers so they’ll buy cars.”
Hence the message on her vanity plates, no doubt.
“If I ask you?”
“I’m willing to go as far as saying I take advantage of the gifts God gave me to make sure my boys have a roof over their heads and food on their plates. Anyone who expects me to apologize for that can kiss my butt.”
Her God had obviously been very generous. And to think, if I’d approached her differently, I might have been blessed with flattery and flirting instead of a mouth full of my own blood.
“Is that all it takes to get that invitation?”
She rolled her eyes and reached for her seatbelt. “First you try to glamour me, and now you’re flirting… Seriously. I can’t sell the demo to you. Start the car. I have dinner waiting for me.”
I turned the key and I immediately felt and heard the difference between our cars.
Before I could say anything, Sookie giggled, “High performance air filter and muffler…”
“The cockpit noise in mine is…”
“Deafening? I’m sure. It drove me nuts too.”
“Was it in the shop for long?”
“An afternoon. I used some clout though. The guy who did the work owed my brother a favor.”
“The one who has a ‘tard’ for a sister?”
She shook her head. “No. He’s a carpenter. My other brother was a mechanic until he started selling Harleys.”
“Who prepares dinner for you?”
“My brother took care of that. He bought all my favorites at the Revel… Are you fishing for info about me?”
She snickered, “I still can’t sell you the demo… Feel free to take her up on I-20 so you can open her up, but the tickets are all yours.”
I backed out of the parking space, sure her modifications would be less impressive once I drove over the divot between the dealership’s lot and the asphalt of the public street…
Someone could have gotten whiplash from the jolt in my car, but Sookie’s mods softened the lurch substantially.
She giggled again, “Edelbrocks IAS shocks and Faulken tires. Just wait until you hit 90 on the highway. Even as potholed as I-20 is between here and my house, I feel like I’m flying.”
“Hurrying home to a boyfriend perhaps?”
She laughed, “Oh my God! Hurrying home to my boys. I’m single, now stop!”
“Someone, quite recently in fact, suggested I underestimate people… In an effort to correct any assumptions I had… When I arrived at the showroom, you seemed to have the company of your husband and children…”
“My brothers take turns babysitting on Saturdays so Gran can do her flea markets and DGD stuff. Well, technically, they take turns being in charge of what they both do with the boys on Saturday. My grandmother watches the baby during the week and my oldest is already in school.”
“Was his father incredibly short as well? He looked too young to be in school.”
She furrowed her brow and jokingly warned, “Heyyyyyy, watch it, stretch. He’s only five. He started Kindergarten in September and as soon as he was tested, they bumped him up to 1st grade. Little turd told his teacher that Eric Carle was ‘for babies’ and took a copy of the Aeneid to class.”
I chuckled, “I prefer that myself. Had you read it to him or did the dust jacket seem exciting to him?”
She raised an eyebrow at me. “It’s his favorite. He loves epic battles, journeys, struggles. Little warmonger.”
“You have a five-year old who reads Virgil.”
She shrugged. “I blame my tastes while I was pregnant. I went on a classics jag. If it was written before Christ, I read it.”
“Don’t most women crave certain foods?”
“I did that too, which is why the pages of my classics are smudged with cream horns.”
“Did you crave the same thing with both children?”
She snorted, “This is starting to feel like an interview. Your turn. How many children do you have?”
“One. She’s centuries old and she’d rather read children’s books than the classics… In fact, if I were to enroll her in school, I doubt she’d allow testing because she’d quite enjoy story time and crayons.”
Sookie pulled a disgusted look and scoffed, “You’re calling your only child an idiot?”
“No. Not at all. She simply enjoys more lighthearted pastimes. She claims she wasn’t allowed to have a childhood because she was being groomed for society. She plays ‘dress up’ and drags me to Disney movies.”
She snorted out a laugh and offered, “That… A Vampire? Not what I’d imagine… not at all.”
“What do you imagine then?”
“Being bored out of your mind… The whole ‘same shit, different night’ thing, I guess. My grandmother plays this game with the boys now that y’all are in the open. She calls it ‘the Vampire news’. Over breakfast, she’ll read an article to them and then laugh drolly and say something like, ‘remember the good old days when… people waited days for the Pony Express instead of whined about their Motorola service?’ It’s all a tie in for a history lesson. They eat it up. Anyway, what do you do?”
“I spend most of my nights being bored out of my mind. I sit in my bar and watch people make fools of themselves.”
She blinked in rapid succession with a stunned look on her face. I left her to construct a sentence while I enjoyed being able to take the ramp onto I-20 at 50 miles per hour without feeling like I was going to roll her car.
She finally asked, “That’s you? You’re the Sheriff? I punched the Sheriff? And… ohhhhhhmyyyyyyGoooooood… the bar? Your child has a thing for Disney movies and… Fantasia. Fangtasia. That’s you?”
“The Disney connection is applicable when you consider I feel like I’m trapped on the It’s A Small World ride. I’m surrounded by annoying pseudo-Humans.”
“At least you have an excuse to leave the house though, right? And trust me, there are worse places to be than a bar.”
“Even though my bar celebrates all the Vampire clichés simultaneously?”
She snorted, “That’s your fault, buddy. It’s your bar. If you don’t like it, change it. I mean… even if you restyled it as something of a donor lounge, it might be less annoying.”
She shrugged. “Well, yeah… I mean, I’m sure you’d still have the looky-loos, but changing it to a ‘donor lounge’ from a ‘Vampire theme-bar’ kind of draws the line in the sand, you know, making it clear that they’re volunteering to be dinner instead of inviting them to treat y’all like a new zoo exhibit…”
She continued, “I get it though, the original intent… Making some cash while being ‘out there’ so Humans can kind of symbolically mingle with Vampires like you guys have been doing for God knows how long, but I’m guessing you didn’t take Human behavior into account.”
“What did I miss?”
“That Humans are stupid. The ones who show up to prove the point Humans can dance with death and walk away are the ones Human society disregards. Fangtasia customers aren’t doctors or lawyers. They don’t have 401Ks or mortgages. They’re waitresses and stock-boys… I read an article about you being a Mr. Big type in the area. Local folks were all like ‘holy shit, a Vampire owns that?’… You had the businessmen already. It’s not like they can tell you to piss up a rope. They’d be killing themselves financially. So those businessmen who smile even though they’re terrified and shake your hand with sweaty palms, they’re the ones who misrepresented Humans. Haters are always gonna hate the new minority, and the mindless drones are always going to rebel from the mainstream and skirt the fringe of society in an effort to identify themselves via the new bad boys. If you really wanted to send a message, you should’ve gone for the Presidential hopeful charade and vied for the middle class votes.”
“And how would I have done that?”
She shrugged again, as though she wasn’t aware of how much sense she made. “Jobs. You can always get the middle-class with jobs. Car dealerships, malls, office buildings, construction companies. It’s all about paychecks.”
“I already have that. Most of my investments are along those lines.”
Her lip curled, “That sucks… you got stuck watching metal-heads and emos dance when you could’ve just been public about what you already had…” When her phone began ringing she reached for her purse and sighed, “Now you’ve identified local Vampires with the slag of society, like focusing on a bee’s sting instead of their honey,” just before she answered her phone, “Hey, what’s up?”
After a pause, a child’s voice asked, “Watcha doin’?”
“I’m showing off my air filter and cool-guy shocks to a customer.”
The boy asked, “He din’t get mods?”
Fuck. A child knew Corvettes need to be modified.
“No sir. He didn’t get mods. What are you up to?”
“I’m gonna eat yer funnel cake.”
Sookie gasped, “Oh, no you’re not! I’ll feed you to Werewolves if you eat my dessert! Uncle Jason said you had two already.”
The boy cackled, “When ya gon’ be home then?”
“It’ll be a bit, but I’ll be early enough to play Round Robin before bed.”
I offered, “If you don’t need to return to the showroom, I can drop you off.”
“And how do you propose to get back to your car?”
“It’s nice out. I’ll fly.”
She eyed me carefully for a moment before asking, “What do you think, Cort, is it smart to let a Vampire know where I live?”
The boy hummed while he considered it. He finally chirped, “Might’s well. He got yer car an’ yer plates an’ yer real name. Sookie, plus DuRone, plus BITE ME, plus lim’ted edition car. Damage is done.”
She giggled, “You make a fine point, little man. I’ll be home sooner than I thought.”
“K. I’m still eatin’ yer funnel cake…” He giggled, but then he ended the call.
Five. The boy was five years old… Five? Yes, my only recent exposure was limited to atrociously behaved children in malls, but five-year olds didn’t rationalize. They had fits when they weren’t running amuck spouting nonsense.
I’d heard adults who couldn’t communicate as well as ‘Cort’.
I asked, “How soon do you expect him to be promoted to the next grade?”
She blushed, “Glamouring, flirting, complimenting my kids… I still can’t sell you the demo.”
“I’m sold on the mods… Seriously, is he really only five?”
She nodded. “He talked early, probably because his mom never shuts up… Just take the exit for southbound 71.”
It was the first time she avoided eye contact with me.
“Just off of Golden Meadows. Bayou Estates.”
“I have a house there.”
She giggled, “It’s a small world after all…”
“Apparently… What street?”
“Daisy Circle. We moved in about five years ago. I got the job at the dealership right after I had Cort. The commute to Shreveport from Bon Temps was kicking my butt.”
“My house is barely a block away, but I haven’t used it… It’s been close to ten years.”
Bobby had been there on a monthly basis, shuffling the cars from my various safe-houses to make sure they’d start if I needed them.
She snorted, “You own a mall and a house in that neighborhood? Ohhhhhh, somewhere quiet and unassuming, right?”
I nodded. “Quiet neighborhoods full of families who all know one another. You’d be surprised how much security a nosey neighbor can offer.”
She seemed to be thinking about that for a moment before shaking her head. “No. I don’t think I’d be surprised at all. The house I was raised in is in the country and it could burn down and go unnoticed for days. I knew Mr. Nichols was cheating on his wife before she did.”
“Someone he works with.”
“Adultery is a better spectator sport when it’s with the maid or the babysitter. Someone they let into the house on a regular basis. It’s like watching a bad soap opera. Angst-ridden conversations about guilt and clumsy encounters in the laundry room.”
She raised an eyebrow and smirked, pausing before she shared, “No. It’s more fun when it’s from left field. The ‘family man’ with a flamboyant boy toy, or the bi-curious soccer-mom. The timid housewife with a lover who likes to be tied down and whipped, or the guy with a fetish for pregnant women so the only time he doesn’t have a preggo on the side is when his wife is knocked up. Those are hilarious.”
I wasn’t going to argue… but those situations were more difficult to monitor for the entertainment value.
“Do any of those apply to you?”
“Nope. When I first moved into the neighborhood the neighbors had several conversations about which one of my brothers was my boyfriend, or if we were swingers. Poor them, finding out we’re family. How boring.”
I joked, “The nerve of some people.”
She giggled, “I know, right?”
“Since you seem to be avoiding the topic, how is it that you’re a single mother?”
“Only because you seem to be skirting the topic.”
She rolled her eyes and sighed, “I got pregnant while I was in high school. I married Cort’s father right after we graduated, and he enlisted. His big reason was so I’d have prenatal care. We didn’t even have time to find our own place before he shipped out. Of the eight months we were married, he was gone for seven of them, and that was cumulatively. He didn’t come home from Kuwait. I knew the life insurance wasn’t going to last forever, so I quit waitressing and took a job as a receptionist at the dealership. I sold a Monte Carlo my first day there and the rest is history… A couple of years later, my cousin turned up at my house and dumped her newborn on Gran while I was at work. She didn’t stick around to explain, but a few weeks later some lawyer brought adoption papers to me… Fast forward a few years… I won’t date anyone who can’t maintain eye contact with me, I won’t date anyone who hears I’m a single mom and assumes I’m just easy, and I won’t date anyone who competes with my children or family for my attention…. There you have it. That’s why I’m single. Happy now?”
“Not really. Maintaining eye contact with you is a chore.”
She snickered, “Yet doable.”
“Only because I detest being eye-fucked by stoned mongoloids… Was there no one else to take your cousin’s child?”
“My parents died when I was little and I was raised by my grandmother. It wouldn’t have been fair to expect her to start over with another orphan… and, at the time, my Aunt was dying of cancer. I’d brought her to live with me so Gran and I could take care of her. She lived long enough to see Hunter’s first birthday and died a few weeks later.”
“You were working to support your fatherless son, elderly grandmother, and abandoned cousin while tending to your dying aunt.”
Yes, I was surprised. I didn’t think people cared for their own anymore.
“I had help, my brothers and grandmother… we rally well. And seriously… tell me something about you. I feel like I’m on Oprah.”
“I collect books.”
She laughed, “So do I. Love a good adventure. Once I read one, I can’t let it go… I’m re-re-re-reading Shakespeare right now. It was my aunt’s favorite, so her birthday inspired the jag. You?”
“I read The Corsican Brothers last night. Monte Cristo is in my car. I planned to read that tonight.”
She cleared her throat and offered, “That’s one of my favorites… The D’Artagnan Romances too. Re-read those just before I started up on Shakespeare again.”
“Do you go on ‘jags’ often?”
“Yeah. When I read a book by a certain author, I usually go through their works, so it’s easier to stay in the period. Like running a Bronte sister or Jane Austen marathon, and then burn through all the Sherlock mysteries… So I don’t get confused between Victorian and Edwardian eras. Not so much with new books, but… then again, I haven’t read many new books worth re-reading. Normally, if I read a new novel, I end up going back to the classic that inspired the themes that the new one recycled.”
I chuckled, “I do the same thing… but I have a short list of favorites I’ve read more often.”
“What’s on your nightstand?”
I raised an eyebrow at her. “Asking about my bedroom already?”
She blushed and puckered her face before clearing her throat. “My grandmother always said you can learn a lot about a person by what they keep on their nightstand.”
“The nightstand next to the bed I most frequently use has a photo of my child, she placed it there, the charging cord for my phone, and a copy of Les Liaisons Dangereuses. Before I started my Dumas ‘jag’ I was reading Pierre Choderlos de Laclos. You?”
“I don’t need one.”
She hissed, “Shit. I want to be a Vampire when I grow up. I can’t get the right wattage bulb. It’s either too low or can cause a sunburn.”
I chuckled, “Are you afraid to tell me what’s on your nightstand?” as I took the ramp onto 71-South.
“No… A lamp, currently at sunburn wattage, a picture of the boys from our Independence Day cookout, and the alarm clock I live and die by. I always read for longer than I plan to and get less sleep than I need.”
“When I sold the first car I won, I bought an antique ‘Complete Works of Shakespeare’ for my aunt. It’s no First Folio, but she loved it. The damn thing’s huge, so it’s chillin’ on my bed because it would tip over my nightstand.”
If Pam was allowed to have ‘boners’ because of clothing, then I was allowed to have one because Sookie knew what the fuck a First Folio was.
Beautiful, ballsy and literate… When did that start happening in the same place?
“Does your nightstand have drawers?”
“Yup. It’s full of toys too…”
She giggled, “Legos, Matchbox cars, little dinosaurs… Whatever I find on my way to bed.”
That was no fun.
I actually blew a raspberry at her. “Tease.”
She laughed, “Sorry. I’m boring, remember?”
She was anything but boring.
“Are you? What color are your sheets?”
“At least I tried.”
“What about you?”
“I’m not wearing any.”
She cackled, “I mean your damn sheets!”
“White. Baths or showers?”
“Depends on my mood. You?”
“Showers. I could be convinced to take a bath though.”
“I bet. Batman or Superman?”
“I don’t know. You need to get your head out of the gutter and that was the first thing that came to mind.”
I glanced down at her lap. “My head was anywhere but in the gutter.”
She blushed again and cleared her throat. “Batman. Superman is only cool because he’s an alien. Batman is cool because of his ingenious gadgets.”
“Back to toys.”
She sang, “Legoland… Do you have a desert island item?”
“Do I have company?”
“If you’re alone on a desert island, why wouldn’t you want anything with you?”
“Because I fly. I’d wait for good weather and leave.”
“Damn. Is that a Vampire thing or just a you thing?”
“A me thing. I know of other Vampires who fly, but not all of us can.”
“Wow. I was going to cheat and say my purse, by the way. I have a bunch of helpful items in there.”
“You know I can fly. Do you have any hidden talents? Other than your amazing art for salesmanship, of course.”
She hummed for a moment before offering, “Other than that, no. Not really… Of all the Vampire clichés, do any apply to you?”
“Other than drinking blood and seducing buxom blondes?”
“I wear a lot of black. Human clichés?”
“Other than being a country girl who got knocked up in high school?”
“I’m two-faced. I smile through a lot of stuff when I’d rather scream.”
“Is that a Human cliché? I do that.”
She giggled, “Probably not as often as I do… You lack the cleavage that inspires most of the reasons for my private screams.”
I shook my head. “Are you doing that intentionally? You say ‘private screams’ and….”
“You’re like… Pervus Maximus, the Titan of Lechery.”
I laughed, “I believe dedication is vital to success. Top or bottom?”
“Bottom. I’m lazy.”
I chuckled, “Trying to dissuade me?”
“Is it working?”
“No. Do you moan or whine?”
“I sound like a cat being swung on a tether.”
Lie. She was a talker, if ever I’d met one.
“What a coincidence. Me too…” As I turned onto Golden Meadow Drive, I asked, “Have you ever done anything that could be considered exhibitionism?”
“Does giving birth at Wal-Mart count?”
“Nice try. That was a movie…”
She snickered, “Busted.”
“Yes, you are… Are you a true blonde or just a summer blonde?”
She giggled, “I can’t remember. I have to wax to keep the crabs from getting out of hand.”
She’d gone too far out of her comfort zone for that joke… she covered her mouth and laughed quietly into her hands until her eyes watered.
I chuckled, “Nice. Very ladylike.”
She shook her head, still giggling, “My Gran would’ve whacked me for that one. I think I felt it.”
“Make it up to me. Tell me you have an oral fixation.”
“Ewwwwwwww. Mouths were meant to spread the word of the Lord.” She’d even exaggerated her accent and tone to sound like an evangelical nightmare.
“For helping those less fortunate than us. Doing God’s work.”
She managed to do it again, and with a straight face, no less.
“I don’t suppose your hips were meant to be used as handgrips… and your ankles weren’t meant to be pinned at your ears.”
She ran her teeth over her bottom lip and cleared her throat. “Thank God we’re here. I’ve got nothin’ for that… That one, with the Silverado.”
“Am I getting to you?”
Her son bolted through the front door and ran towards the car.
“Yep. Church it up. Kid present. No double-entendre. No innuendo.”
“Unless you let them watch porn, I doubt they’d read between the lines at their ages…”
The boy knocked on the window on my side of the car. I could barely see him over the door.
“Wha’s yer name.”
He grabbed the handle and opened the door… and then grabbed my wrist. “Nice to meet you. I’m Cort. C’mon in, Eric.”
Sookie gasped, “Corbett Beauregard Stackhouse DuRone, that’s rude. You can’t just go around grabbing people like that.”
I let the boy lead me and snorted, “Perhaps he’s misbehaving to punish his mother for saddling him with such a long name. No wonder he’s such an accomplished reader.”
She barely managed to get out that they were all family names before he said, “He can fly, Mommy. Uncle Jason forgot the ladder.”
She groaned, “Oh my God… Eric, I’m sorry.”
“What am I being used for?”
For every step I took, the boy took four… and Sookie ran after us as quickly as her skirt and heels would allow.
Cort explained, “The bulbs in the den. They’re blown out.”
Sookie mumbled, “Vaulted ceiling… Cort… You’re setting a bad precedent. What if I made you tie everyone’s shoes because you’re short?”
“Tha’s not a par’llel. Tall’s got nothin’ to do with this.”
I offered, “He makes a fair point.”
Just before we reached the front porch, the boy stopped in his tracks and released me. He looked up and sighed, “Eric, since you can fly, would you mind changing the bulbs in the den for me? I need to see my pizza so I can pick off the mushrooms.” When Sookie cleared her throat, the boy added, “Please… With blood on top?”
Sookie shouted, “Cort!”
“What? Vampires can’t eat cherries!”
He made yet another fine point.
I chuckled, “I don’t mind. Far be it from me to let you consume mushrooms. Do you know what they use to farm them?”
Cort grabbed my hand to resume towing me and shouted, “YES! That’s why I stopped eatin’em! You can’t wash those things enough.”
Sookie sighed, “I told you, mushrooms from a grocery store aren’t grown in that kind of compost. If the USDA won’t sign off on rare beef, they aren’t going to let grocery stores sell mushrooms grown in poo.”
As I was pulled through the foyer (past a living room on one side and formal dining room on the other), Cort snorted, “I saw a mushroom growing in poo, Mommy. I can’t un-see that!”
When I chuckled, Sookie mumbled, “Don’t encourage him.”
We passed a hallway and entered the kitchen to see Sookie’s brother standing at the counter… he looked like a deer in headlights as he waved at me without taking his drink away from his mouth.
Cort barked, “Eric, tha’s the guy who forgot the ladder. Uncle Jason, this’s Eric. He’s gonna fly up an’ change the bulbs.”
I glanced over my shoulder and asked, “Am I allowed to laugh at that?”
Sookie shook her head. “Go ahead. He knows he’s adorable.”
We cleared the kitchen, stepping down into the large den lit with a collection of relocated night-lights and lamps… There was plenty of room for a large sitting area and an old table that seemed to be dedicated to art supplies. Sookie’s entertainment center wasn’t lacking in any regard and I wasn’t sure a house where two small children lived could have been more orderly, but what suddenly had the bulk of my attention was the room adjacent to the den.
A set of double doors opened to an enclosure of books. No drywall to be seen. Books. From floor to ceiling. From what I could tell the only furniture in the room was a king-sized bed, on a pedestal of more books. And the small child I’d seen carried by his uncle was lying on his stomach in the middle of the bed, with a novel.
A small paperback, but still, a novel.
Cort was born and ‘a couple years later’ Sookie’s cousin abandoned her newborn…
Three. The child was three and reading a novel. It occurred to me that the boy could be studying illustrations, but given that Cort’s favorite story was the Aeneid I didn’t consider the possibility for long.
Cort called, “Hunt. A Vampire’s here. He said he’d fly up and change the bulbs, so I said he could have you for dinner.”
Before I could discourage that kind of joke, ‘Hunt’ snapped, “WEEDING!”
Sookie huffed, “Hunter, we have company. Don’t be rude.”
The boy seemed to be ignoring her for a moment, but finally began sliding to the edge of the bed slowly (still reading), and finally flipped the book over to save his place.
Goosebumps. It wasn’t a Greek classic, but I was still sure it wasn’t meant for children his age.
Fuck, I was rusty.
He approached me with his hand out. “Nice’a meet you. I’m Hun’er Lyndon Sackhouse D’Rone.”
I shook his hand and reciprocated, “Likewise. I’m Eric Northman.”
Suddenly, the boy looked stoned. “You weally a Fampire?”
“You weally gon’fly?”
“Not really. I’m just going to hover. There isn’t enough room inside to fly.”
Cort blurted, “That’s it! I wanna be a Vampire!”
Sookie giggled, “You know, he doesn’t need a reading light either?”
The children collectively gasped and Hunter asked, “Night fision? Sooooo coooool.”
“It makes up for the fact that sunlight would kill me.”
Cort and Hunter’s eyes rolled up while they considered it and piped, “Worth it,” in unison.
I added, “And I can’t enjoy funnel cakes.”
They didn’t hesitate. “Deal breaker.”
I chuckled, “I have to ask, what supports that mattress? I need that bed…” in every one of my safe-houses. I could surround it with favorites and having a selection that size would drown out Pam’s soap operas.
Sookie tilted her head towards her brother. “Jason’s creation.”
He offered, “Ten-gallon buckets of concrete, framed up by bead-board so the books don’t get knocked back. Whole thing’s topped with plywood and a basic box spring. Bed’s just a mattress covered with a pillow-top. It’s a red-neck special once ya break it down, but it looks nice done up with Aunt Lin’s quilts.”
Sookie added, “Our Aunt didn’t like being out of circulation back in the bedroom. Since the ‘office’ has its own bathroom, she had her own reading nook during the day. The den’s open to the kitchen, so she got to be part of everything even if she wasn’t up to being vertical.”
“Lucky woman…” Really. Over time, I’d watched hospices and asylums become dumping grounds for the infirmed, forcing ‘loved ones’ to die surrounded by sterile strangers. It used to be that quarantining an ailing relative was one of the gravest insults imaginable. Because I’d been having too much fun to spoil it by darkening the mood, I asked, “Where are these bulbs?”
Cort jerked his thumb over his shoulder to bring my attention to the spine of the sofa where a box of ‘long life’ bulbs was already waiting. Presumptuous.
“Right there! Do you play Round Robin?”
I didn’t have a clue what that was, but thanks to the way Sookie closed her eyes and shook her head slowly, I couldn’t have been more curious.
I took the box of light bulbs from the sofa and drifted up slowly. “You’re going to have to explain ‘Round Robin’ to me.”
Cort chirped, “It’s like water-relays and chess had a baby. Look, we got mosaic ‘round tha pool. Chess boards. Ya move’a piece, then swim ‘cross to tha next board. Ya switch colors every time, so you end up playin’ against yourself.”
I glanced over to the wall of French doors leading to the patio… the small black and white mosaic tiles surrounding the pool were arranged in a checkerboard pattern, eight tiles deep.
Hunter added, “Person witha most Kings wins an’ winner picks tha bedtime story.”
“I’ve been playing chess for a very long time, but I can’t say I’ve ever played that way. It sounds like fun.” Especially the bedtime story.
Sookie’s face started glowing.
Cort asked, “Wanna play? Uncle Jason’s gotta date so he’s not stayin’.”
Sookie explained, “He doesn’t have anything to swim in.”
I offered, “Actually, my house is close enough I could run over to get a suit. Round Robin sounds like much more fun than my original plans for the evening.”
Cort pumped his fist and asked, “Wha’ was tha plan?”
“Bully a salesman into selling a new Corvette to me, then allow idiots to watch me read.”
While Cort laughed, “Ya picked tha wrong salesman to bully,” Hunter shook his head and snorted, “Hate that, when people wash me weed.”
I chuckled, “Then you see how my evening seems to be turning around, yes?”