This is how my vampire novel (the only one I will ever write) starts. -- H.K.
It begins with a kiss…
Donna sat on the kitchen floor, crying, her face hidden behind a veil of long brown hair.
Roland stood by the refrigerator, watching her narrow shoulders tremble with the force of her sobs and her small white hands shaking between her folded legs.
He went to the sink and rinsed the blood from his fists, drying his hands on his T-shirt. “I’m going out for awhile,” he told her. He opened the refrigerator, grabbed a bottle of beer, twisted off the cap and flicked it at her, making her flinch. “Is that okay with you, honey?”
She didn’t answer. Another drop of blood fell from her nose, further embroidering the dark red splash-pattern spreading across her naked thighs.
He left the house, slamming the screen door.
Shemp, Donna’s cross-eyed Doberman pinscher, started barking, tensing against the chain that tethered him to the side of the house - gnashing jaws sending droplets of froth into the heavy air.
It hadn’t rained in over a month and every step on the parched soil raised a puff of dust. Too hot - WAY too hot. Was this summer ever going to stop? He could never survive in a place like Texas. Florida. New Orleans. Fuck that shit. He thought, Hurry up fall. Hurry up winter. Gimme frost, snow and wind-chill factors. Gimme ice-fishing on Lake Pickerel...
Roland lowered himself into his battered brown Malibu. The rust-bucket. The BondO-mobile.
The gun was in the glove compartment. Check.
It felt like a Christ on a Crutch kind of day. He rummaged through crushed beer and soda cans, crumpled McDonald’s bags and clattering cassette tapes until he found the music he needed, Crime Pays When Pigs Die by Christ on a Crutch.
He started the engine, the sudden roar and backfire startling a brief rest in Shemp’s snapping clamor. What a pain in the ass that dog was.
He nestled the beer into his crotch, hit PLAY, and stomped on the gas, spinning his tires, sending huge plumes of pale yellow dust somersaulting into the air. The loud, rapid-fire music eclipsed Shemp’s yaps as Roland sped toward a smear of heat shimmering above the baked asphalt.
He drove to The Tornado Cellar, a sagging old bar at the edge of a dense pine forest, six miles north of Donna’s house. It was a crumbling old dive but it was the only dive in town and at least they had a pool table and decent tunes on the jukebox. When he pulled into the parking lot he realized he was hungry and wished he’d grabbed something from Donna’s fridge. The only food the Cellar sold was over- priced garbage behind the bar; pickled eggs, venison jerky, fried honeycomb tripe, shit like that. Not real appetizing, but the jerky wasn’t bad when you were shitfaced.
And he predicted he was going to get shitfaced.
He walked into the dark bar, removed his sunglasses and stood blinking a while. The cozy smell of spilled beer and stale cigarette smoke welcomed him like an old friend. The place wasn’t rocking yet - a couple of old-timers playing pool, Gibby and Marybelle bickering at the bar. He knew in a few hours the place would be crowded and loud.
Jimmy the Kid was behind the bar.
“Hey, Jim,” Roland said. He dropped his sunglasses, cigarettes and lighter on the bar and sat down, his breath coming out in a long, weary gust. “Gimme a Bud.”
“Oh, hey, Rol.” Jimmy grinned for a bit, a tense, tight smile. “Um,” he said. “I ain’t supposed to serve you no more.” He hunched his shoulders.
“What are you talking about?”
“I thought you knew. Boss’s orders. You been cut off for the rest of the month. I thought you knew.”
“When the fuck did this happen?”
“Tuesday. Boss says he told you you were banned for two weeks. Says you knew.”
“Bullshit! Nobody said anything to me!”
Jimmy shrugged, his gaze shooting around the bar, landing on anything but Roland’s angry expression. “Boss says he told you. Says you said okay.” He shrugged again.
“Yeah, well I don’t really give a fuck what the boss says. Just gimme a beer and quit giving me shit. Huh, Jimmy? I been through a lot today and it’s a fucking hundred and fifty degrees outside and I want a fucking BEER! NOW!” He’d meant to slam his fist on the bar, but misjudged and crushed his sunglasses. Fuck it. He swept them at Jimmy and they bounced off his crotch and landed on the floor.
Jimmy shrugged again and held out his empty hands. “Can’t, man. Sorry.”
The rage drained from Roland’s face and he smiled. “Okay, Jimmy. I don’t want to cause trouble. You’re just doing your job. Right?”
“That’s right. Hey, if it was up to me, I’d serve you. I don’t think what you did was so bad. Not worth getting shut off for anyway...”
“Um, refresh my memory, willya Jim? What exactly did I do?”
“You don’t remember?”
“It’s no big deal. You were drunk. You didn’t know what you were doing...”
“What did I do?” Aggravation had creeped back into his voice.
Jimmy’s eyes started darting again. “You. You, uh, pissed in the pool table. Left side pocket.”
“What?” Roland said, and then broke into booming, hysterical laughter. “Jesus Christ! Really? Ah-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha! Wow!”
Jimmy returned a nervous smile. “Yeah. Like I said, it’s no big deal but the Boss was pretty pissed...”
“I guess so! Ah-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha!”
Jimmy went: “Heh, heh.”
“Oh man... That’s priceless.”
“So, is the Boss around?”
“No. Not till tonight.”
“So why don’t you just slide me a beer on the quiet? Huh, Jimmy? What do you say?”
He shook his head. “Can’t, Roland.”
“Aw, come on. Be a regular guy. Just do me this one little favor. Huh? Please, Jim? Just one beer and I’ll be gone. I promise. Come on.”
Jimmy looked at him, thinking, unsure. He shook his head. “Naaah... I don’t think I should...”
“Jimmy, please. My throat’s about to die of thirst. One beer. On the hush-hush. Nobody’ll know. There’ll be a big tip in it for you. Come on, Jimmy. Jimmy? Jiiiimmeeeeee?”
Jimmy just looked at him.
“I’m dying, Jim. I mean it. Please. Do the right thing...”
Jimmy finally broke down, as usual. “Okay. But just one. And make it quick.”
“Atta boy! Yeah, sure, a quick one. No problem. Hey, thanks a lot, Jim.”
An hour later, Roland was well on his way to getting drunk.
His second prediction had also happened: the place had filled up. Dense cigarette fog hovered over the crowd like molten ghosts and guitar-fuzz psychedelia drifted from the jukebox. Ticks and clacks at the pool table. Laughter and conversation tumbled around him in a disordered roar.
He finished his eighth beer and thumped down his mug. “Gimme another, willya...”
Glen Masnyk had replaced Jimmy the Kid behind the bar. He’d served Roland without question, assuming the ban had been lifted - after all, Roland already had a beer in front of him when his shift started. But after Masnyk slid him beer number eight, Jimmy (the little fink) pulled him aside and Roland’s heart sank. Masnyk looked pissed and Jimmy cowered a little, explaining himself, and now look, here was Masnyk coming over, already shaking his head.
“I think you better get going, Roland. Consider yourself lucky you got away with as much as you did.” He removed Roland’s empty mug so he couldn’t smash it or use it as a weapon.
“Don’t fucken talk to me as if I’m a little kid,” Roland said.
“Okay, well, then leave then.”
“I am leaving. After I get another beer. I ain’t leaving until I get another beer.”
“You’re not getting another beer, Roland. Not from me.”
Roland flopped his hands on the bar and slouched. “Aw, c’mon Glen, don’t be like that. What’s the difference? The Boss ain’t around and I already had a buncha beers. The ban is broken. What’s one more gonna hurt?”
“Not the point. I asked you to leave. You can leave now, peacefully, or I can call the cops and you can leave with an escort. What’s it gonna be?”
Roland stared at him, thinking of ways he’d like to hurt him. Thinking of the best way to inflict the most damage and disable him quickly and efficiently. Then pound that insipid face to mush. Really go to work on the bastard, WHAM!
Masnyk seemed to sense what was spinning through Roland’s mind because he stepped back, reached under the bar and brought up a polished wooden fishing club. It wasn’t the first time it had been brandished in his presence.
The roar of voices vaporized and Roland looked around.
Everyone was staring at him. He flashed a broad grin at Masnyk and raised his hands. “Okay, okay. I’m going. Don’t have to get all threatening and shit.” He slid off the stool, wobbling with fractured equilibrium. “I got shit to do anyway, fuck you very much...”
He weaved through the crowd, through the smoke and stares and whirling guitars. When he reached the door he kicked it open and it clanged against the metal handrail outside. He slammed it behind him.