Authors: Camden McInnis
Ah, you know, I’m sure that’s only the depression over my break up with Sarah talking. The fact is, I need to get out of Sleepy Creek, and I need to get out of here as quickly as possible.
I pull up in front of Stan and Billy’s pop -up trailer, and as usual, Stan’s standing out in front of it taking a piss while waving and smiling at me. This has been our morning ritual ever since I got my driver’s license. At first, seeing Stan’s junk made me a little sick. I mean, who wants to see some guy taking a piss so early in the morning (I’m sure there are more than a few guys who are into that kind of thing, but I ain’t one of them.), or any time at all, really? And as if on cue, Stan’s slightly older and chubbier doppelgänger came out from the other side of the trailer and punched his little brother in and told him to pull up his pants, which he thankfully did before getting into the cab of my crappy old Datsun.
“I swear to God,” I said as I turned the truck around and started heading toward town. “I think that little thing of yours keeps getting smaller and smaller every time I see it.”
“Your mom doesn’t seem to mind it all that much.”
“Well, mom’s always had a soft spot for helpless little creatures.”
The joke was almost like our version of Who’s on first? and we’d been repeating it virtually every day for the past two years. I had to admit, I was going to miss it.
Chapter 3: True Love Will Find You In The End
There is nothing more excruciating than the last day of school before summer break. But you know what’s even harder? The last day of school before you move on with the rest of your life. To be honest, I had no idea why I even bothered show up today. Hell, I don’t have a clue why any of us bothered showing up today, but virtually every member of my graduating class is here today. And, yeah, it’s great to see everybody, but damn does the day drag by. My only relief comes when the bell for first lunch rings.
Sleepy Creek High has two separate lunch periods. If you’re lucky, you get first period at 11:10. If you’re not so lucky, you have to wait until 12:20 to snack down. Up until this year, I always had second-period lunch with Stan and Billy. But for some reason or another, I got switched over to 1st period lunch for my senior year. Upside was I didn’t feel like I needed to start gnawing my arm off around 11:30, but the downside was that I couldn’t pal around with Stan and Billy, and I was stuck eating lunch with Ali and Steve.
Ali and Steve are my other two closest friends in town, and since the 8th grade, the two of them have been joined at the hip. Yeah, Ali and Steve are my annoying cute couple friends, and when I was going out with Sarah, it wasn’t that big of a deal to hang out with them. In fact, it was kind of fun because it almost seemed like the four of us were like middle-aged married couples who did everything together. But ever since the break-up, I’ve found their cutesy couple bullshit to be absolutely insufferable. Don’t get me wrong, I’m happy that they have each other. I’m happy that they’re planning a future together—including a kick ass trip to Europe this summer—but most of the time I wish they would get their heads out of their asses long enough to realize that their shenanigans were annoying the piss out of me.
After grabbing my lunch, I headed to our usual table out in the quad and noticed that only Ali was sitting there and she was dressed entirely in black from head -to-toe and glumly staring down at her mac 'n' cheese and moving it around with her fork but not actually eating any of it. The last time I remember Ali wearing nothing but black—Ali literally wears her emotions. If she’s happy, which she generally is, she looks like she’s dipped herself in a rainbow. But if she’s sad, out comes the blacks and grays—her grandmother had died. I kind of dreaded sitting down across from her because I knew our lunchtime conversation would consist of me playing 20 questions with her as she sighed and sniffled. If I had any common sense whatsoever, I’d turn tail and head back into the cafeteria and avoid this whole mess. But I guess I’m just a sucker for punishment.
“Hey,” I said as I sat down, stuffing a quick bite of mac into my mouth before I attempted to pry whatever woe she’s suffering from out of her. “What’s with all the black? Did another one of your relatives die?”
She stared up at me, fixing on me with her crystal blue eyes and narrowing them like she was going to jump up from her seat and take a bite out of my neck for even having the audacity to speak to her. But her gaze almost immediately softened and cloud over with barely contained tears.
“What’s wrong?” I asked with real concern. Ali may wear her emotions, but she rarely, if ever, expresses them.
“You haven’t heard?” She asked, her voice crackling with emotions.
“I broke up with Steve.”
It was almost like someone had punched me really hard in the chest and knocked all the wind out of me. Never in a million years would I ever think that Ali and Steve would ever not be together. Seriously, they were like Peanut Butter and Jelly, Nachos and Cheese, Bacon and Eggs, whatever and whatever.
“What happened?” I asked after the initial shock of what Ali had said washed over me.
“The stupid asshole was cheating on me!”
“Yeah, it was with some girl in Riverside. The fucking jerk got her pregnant! Can you believe that?”
Ali started crying and I rushed over to her side of the bench, slinging my arm over her shoulder and pulling her into me. We sat like that for 15 minutes, me playing the part of the comforting best friend and Ali playing the part of broken-hearted girlfriend. But, to be honest with you, on the inside I was jumping up and down with joy. Not so much because I wasn’t going to have to put with all the cuddly cuteness of Ali and Steve, but because Ali was single again for the first time in 3 years.
You see, like Billy and Stan, I’ve known Ali my entire life. In fact, I’ve known her even longer than that because our mother’s were best friends in high school and remain so to this very day. For the longest time, Mine and Ali’s mom constantly joked about sitting us up in an arranged marriage. When we were little, we would both make funny faces and both say eeeeemwwww when our mothers brought it up. I mean, when it comes right down to it, we’re about close to family as either one of us have. But the thing is when we started to develop and our mothers would make their time-worn joke, we stopped being grossed out by it and we started eying one another like we were pieces of meat.
At least until Steve entered the picture. After that, we went back to pretending we were grossed out by one another. And I know that I should only be thinking of Ali at this particular moment as nothing more than a friend in need of comfort. That I should forget about how good her hair smells or about how soft her skin is. I shouldn’t be thinking about her standing in front stripped down to nothing but a pair of six inch high heels. But I can’t help myself, because, at this extremely vulnerable moment, all I can think about is my future with Ali in it.
“Hey, look,” I say as she wipes the last of her tears away, “Fuck that guy, he doesn’t deserve you.”
“I know … It’s just, it hurts. I mean, I trusted him.”
“Well, forget about him. Shit, forget about high school. How about you go out to the Gulch with me and the guys tonight and we’ll get you so fucked up that the loss of brain cells will make you completely forget about Steve for the rest of your life.”
“Yeah, sure. I think getting hammered might be just what I need.”
I give Ali another hug and try to push thoughts of her straddling me in the back of my truck out of my head.
Interlude: The Good Old Days
There are far too many of my kind who pine for the good old days.
They long for a time when this great country was nothing but miles and miles of unbroken wilderness, where you could walk for days at a time and never encounter a single living soul. They miss the times where there was nothing but them, the night sky, the full moon, and the stories the natives whispered about us around campfires to scare their children so that they would stay close to camp when the heat and light of the fires finally died down. There are even members of my own clan who speak wistfully of these centuries long past.
Personally, I think anyone who thinks about those times of superstition and disease with any type of fondness is straight up talking out of their assholes. I've been here in the Americas going on 300 years. I was here when the new world weren't nothing but a smattering of poxy Quakers running from England with their tails between their legs like a whooped dog. I remember when New York City and Boston were no bigger than medium sized towns, and when somebody got killed or went missing, the entire city knew about it and they would come out in force searching for the missing or for the person who did the killing. Sure, you had the plague at the time--particularly in the seaport towns like New York and New Orleans--where the sick and the dying made for an easy meal. But if you just so happened to find yourself in a town where the pox or the plague hadn't touched it, you needed to make your kills quick and move on before anyone notices you, or otherwise you just might find yourself staked to the ground and screaming for mercy as the dawn peaked over the horizon and the sun began to smolder your skin.
Naw, as far as I'm concerned, the good old days are exactly where they belong. Me, I absolutely love the 21st century. I love it that you can walk through virtually any city in the middle of the night and not a single soul is going to look at you cross-eyed. I love electric lights, movies, television, computers, the internet. I love all the cities where you can hunt to your hearts content and all the bodies you leave behind are nothing but a statistic, just another John or Jane Doe on some spreadsheet being kept by an anonymous city clerk.
Oh, and I can't tell you how good vaccinated, healthy blood tastes. After centuries of doing nothing but drinking the blood of the sick and dying—which was pretty much anyone my kind were able to dine on back in the "good old days”—drinking good, healthy blood is almost like a delicacy. Even the dopers, drunks, and whores are all nice a clean thanks to free clinics. But my favorite prey is the innocent, the people who’ve never known a bit of struggle. The types who live in fine houses, who go to the doctor on a regular basis, eat fat rich fried foods, and yet complain about how difficult their petty lives are. The middle class makes for a tasty meal, particularly if they’re of the track home variety.
The suburbs are like an all you can eat smorgasbord.
The cute little town of Sleepy Creek me and my clan are shacked up in ain’t exactly track home territory, but it’s close enough. All I know is, me and the family are gonna have a hell of a good time over the next couple nights. And who knows, maybe we'll end up adding a few members to the tribe?
Chapter 4: The Gulch
If you listen to Sleepy Creek's old timers, the Gulch parties have been going on since the end of World War II and the first of the soldiers who were shipped off to Europe and the Pacific started coming home. As far as being the big bash at the end of the school year, I can only tell you the stories my mom and Oscar started telling me at the beginning of my senior year. They started telling me stories about the Gulch because of the insane number of marriages—and the pregnancies that inspired them—happened because of the parties at the Gulch, including my own.
My mom told me the stories jokingly at first, but as the year progressed, the stories started taking on a darker tone, and before I knew it, I was sitting down in our kitchen with Oscar giving me the birds and bees talk and sliding a box of condoms over to me when were done. I almost wanted to laugh because Sarah and I had been having sex for almost 2 years.
But I got where they were coming from, I had my whole life ahead of me, I was starting college in the fall, but I also had a girlfriend I thought I was in love with and booze tends to loosen inhibitions and make you forget to slide on a rubber. And even though I was no longer in love—well, not really, but she wasn't in love with me anymore—I was still carrying around a wallet full of the rubbers Oscar gave me just in case one of my classmates decided to fall in love with me. Obviously, I was hoping that person was going to be Ali, but at the moment, I wasn't feeling all that picky, especially since the very drunk girl I was talking to was none other than the woman of my dirty, dirty dreams, Melanie Dupree.
Melanie's family was the wealthiest in Sleepy Creek thanks to her old man's 3 car dealerships in Riverside and Lancaster, and she was the one who was providing the 6 kegs of beer to 200 of our fellow classmates. Like just about everyone in my graduating class, I'd known Melanie my entire life. When we were little, she'd always been the chunky girl with the great personality and a Chris Farley sense of humor. She was basically the girl most likely to be your best friend right up until the summer she turned 15. Melanie and her family spent the entire summer with family in Florida, and when she came back, she'd lost 80 pounds. Well, I won't say that she lost them, they just moved from her waistline to her bust line. She was still the same old Melanie with the sparkling personality and great one-liners, but now her body matched her brain and she became the secret desire of every boy over the age of 12. Unfortunately, Melanie was a staunch Catholic and insisted that she was saving herself for marriage.
Not that I wasn't turning on the charm in an attempt to see if her spectacular rack lived up to my wet dream version (Yes, I'm not ashamed to admit that almost every time I had the broken down car dream, I'd have to change my sheets.) of them.