--IS THIS THING ON?
…I’m a big fan of Vampire Weekend. Their music is like nothing else. New album comes out in two weeks. I can’t wait. It got a whopping four and a half stars in Rolling Stone. Five stars is tops and is usually reserved for albums like Sergeant Pepper, Blonde On Blonde, Thriller, etc.
A while back, when I first discovered them, I wrote a story using the title of every song of their first album.
And I wrote this, too:
What was I doing with these kids? I was ready to kill any one of them.
“Ew! He’s licking my bloody nose!” Archer said.
“I’m a vampire,” Lewis said, “that’s why.”
“Let me have my own stupid bloody nose.”
“I must feast when I can.”
“Knock it off.” I wanted to be the cool dad, but the price was too high. I smacked Benjy, who was my own, pushed Lewis against the car window and glared at Archer, all in a millisecond, from the front seat, hardly taking my eyes from the road.
“He thinks he’s a vampire,” Benjy said.
“You’re so freaking stupid,” Archer said.
“Don’t say ‘freaking’,” I said. I saw their dopey stares. “It’s the same as the real thing.”
“What’s the real thing?”
“Who said that?” I asked.
Archer laughed and that was when I hit the car in front of me.
Her name was Glenda Henderson from Everett or Mukilteo and she couldn’t have been nicer. She said she’d been expecting the accident and when she read my confusion she explained how she’d had her cards read earlier in the day and that an accident loomed in her future. She was so relieved it was nothing more than a fender bender.
“The cards don’t lie,” she said.
My wife said I had issues. She knew me well, so I when I had a moment I gave her input a great deal of thought. She didn’t come right out and say it, but she implied things, that I was a lousy dad for one, that I was selfish. My career came first and she and Benjy were accessories, she pointed out. Why else hadn’t we had other children? I didn’t dare call her bluff on that particular because it had actually been me bluffing all this time.
I hated kids.
I couldn’t sleep. It wasn’t right what I was thinking and feeling about myself. I even doubted God’s grace if it spanned so wide.
In the morning I woke early because I was already up, if you know what I mean. “I’m not good with them,” I told Leanne as soon as her lids lifted. I didn’t even notice how horrible her breath smelled. “I’m clumsy,” I said, ready to confess every guilty sin.
“No you’re not.”
“I feel like it’s a sham, like I’m playing charades, acting. Maybe it’d be easier if I was gay. It’s ridiculous how I feel.”
“You just need to do it more.”
“What the fuck does that mean?”
“For starters, watch the language. You’re not nineteen anymore.”
The truth was I wished I was, I’d give anything to be nineteen again, the world wide open, no wife or job or chubby kid sopping up the last bloody drop of gravy with his porky pig fingers.
“You’re becoming bitter,” she told me.
“That doesn’t even make sense.”
“Well, think about it. Fathers aren’t bitter.”
“You mean ‘Good Fathers’,” I said, sinking so low as to add in the air quotes.
“It’s like anything—the more you do it, the better you get.”
I had a crack about sex ready, but let it pass.
“Okay, so what?”
I laid down the law then. I told the little shits that none of them were getting ice cream if their voices got too high, if anyone farted or punched or swore or gave anyone a wedgy.
They were quiet for a safe passage when Lewis started to moan.
“What the hell’s going on back there?” I said into the rearview.
“I’m dying. I need sustenance.”
“How do you know that word, sustenance? You’re twelve. Anyway, we were just at Burger King.”
“You don’t understand. I need blood.”
I smacked the steering wheel. “That’s it. Baskin Robbins is nixed.”
I watched Benjy and Archer punch Lewis, quite hard it appeared.
“Hey, take it easy.”
“I don’t even know why I’m your friend,” Benjy, my son said to Lewis. But I knew why. My son had two friends on the planet and they were both in the backseat.
Lewis did look pale, butter-white as if jaundiced. His mouth gaped open like a stroke victim.
“Leave him alone. Lewis, what’s the deal?”
“You don’t believe me,” Lewis said, his voice low and smoker-coarse.
“You can’t be a vampire,” I said. “They don’t survive in daylight.”
His yellow eyes widened. “So you believe in vampires?”
I was going to say, Of course, what do you think I am, stupid? I was a boy once, but instead this is what I said: “You’re really starting to piss me off. If you don’t knock this crap off, I’m tossing you out of the car.”
Archer jabbed him in the ribs with his elbow. “You’re ruining everything.”
“The next one that touches Lewis is grounded.”
“You can’t ground me,” Archer said. “You’re not my Dad.”
“You said ‘fuck’.”
“Indeed I did. Just go ahead and fuck with me and see what else happens.”
Archer blinked several times and then closed his eyes, his lip quivering as if he had Parkinson’s.
When I looked back at the road it seemed I hadn’t traveled more than a few miles. Where was I even going?
“Where the hell are we going again?” I said.
“You swear a lot,” Archer said. Benjy smiled. Lewis might have stopped breathing at that point.
“The party is somewhere on Seattle Hill. Mom gave you directions.”
“No she didn’t.”
“Yeah, she did.”
“You should have Mapquested it,” Archer said.
“Shut the fuck up,”
Lewis groaned, clutching his stomach. His breathing sounded thick and grassy.
“Stop screwing around,” I told him, but his eyes were closed.
“Lewis is such a pussy,” Benjy said, all three chins working on his grin.
“Watch your mouth,” I said. “Where the hell’d you learn to talk like that?”
The flashing lights pole-struck my heart as they always did, except this time they were really meant for me. I checked the speedometer and saw that I was going ninety. “Fuck me.”
“What’s the rush?” Officer Steadman asked.
“You know, I just lost sight of how fast I was going.”
I flinched, then grinned, easing into his familiarity.
“I’m a real fuckup.”
I realized he had a mustache when he glowered at me. “Nice mouth you got there. Kids hear you talk like that?”
Stunned, I shrugged and held up my palms.
He craned his neck into the back seat. “Hey boys.”
Archer and Benjy looked like a crocodile had just stuck its jagged jaws through the window.
“Whoa, that one in the middle don’t look too good.”
“He’s stupid,” Benjy said, his boy man-boobs jiggling.
“I need blood,” Lewis rasped.
“You feed these kids?” Officer Steadman asked me.
I was starting to get pissed. Write me the fucking ticket. “Sure.”
“Sure,” he repeated, coating the word with a lisp. “Hey,” he said, tapping Lewis on the chest. Lewis opened his eyes to half-mast, not alarmed whatsoever. “I’m going to call this one in.”
“That kid’s three sheets to the wind.”
“He’s not drunk, if that’s what you mean.”
Officer Steadman scowled, his whiskered upper lip twitching critter-like.
Benjy and Archer got out of the car and pitched stones toward the out-of-reach river.
I kept thinking about what would happen if Lewis died. He couldn’t die, could he?
I got into the back seat with him.
“Are you just fucking with us? Lewis, are you?”
He gasped, and fettered a spasm of air and skin. “I need, I, I need.”
Officer Steadman was on his phone. The boys were collecting stones. I pulled the neckline of my shirt to the side and leaned into Lewis, my neck tingling for the first time. “Here,” I said.