Lucretia’s New Mattress
by Danielle L. Parker
“Dmitri,” said my wife, with that Certain Tone all husbands learn to dread, “We have to TALK.”
I suppose the sinking stomach effect is purely psychological in a vampire. I felt it all the same. It wasn’t a sensation I’d anticipated this evening. The night had begun just fine. I’d had an especially tasty breakfast, served by my wife’s own dainty white hand, of soufflé a la Debutante, followed by a warm chaser of vintage (pre-smoking) Marlboro Man, a richly masculine libation my wife knows I am especially fond of when I retire to the recliner. I had about half an hour before I departed for my nightly stint at the hospital laboratory, and the night ahead looked good. The Las Vegas Vampire Chronicle was open on my knee and my wife perched lovingly on the arm of my chair, running her fingers through my hair, and — well, obviously it was Too Good To Last.
I folded my newspaper in resignation. “What is it now, sweetie?” I said indulgently. “You want a new dress for that dinner with the Paleys? You know, frost-face,” and here I tickled her delightfully thin ribs with my finger, “I haven’t got that raise yet, but we can afford a new dress. Take the checkbook and go down to Madame Ghoul’s and buy whatever catches your fancy, hmm?”
I was still getting kisses, which, although I’d have enjoyed their effect normally, were beginning to cause my heart to palpitate nervously (I speak figuratively, of course). My Beloved Spouse giggled.
“You’re a sweetie as always, hubbykins,” she said, playfully piercing my ear. I had to shudder with the sheer thrill, although I was getting a little apprehensive. “But I can get by without a new dress, honey.”
It was going to be bad. I began tapping my fingers on the free chair arm. “All right, Lucretia,” I said. “What is it this time?”
Lucretia instantly abandoned the chair arm for a Pose in front of the fireplace. I stared. I honestly wasn’t sure what was coming now. That’s why I love the gal, I suppose — every century’s a surprise.
“Look at me,” she commanded. “Just look at me, dear. Don’t I look... tired?”
I looked. I’d taken about a century to get used to the latest look, actually. It isn’t easy to perm and color a vampire’s hair, given that it isn’t really growing, so I’d complained about the expensive orange curls a few times, but Lucretia liked it. The carmine lips were natural, of course. Really, I couldn’t see anything that hadn’t been there since at least 1955, but I said what husbands always say in these situations. “Um... no. You look nice, honey. Nice.”
It was the wrong answer. The fangs flashed, and the claws (bright red and expensive too, as I ought to know) came out. “I look tired,” she hissed. “Exhausted, to be exact. What else would you expect after 208 years on the same dirt?” She drew a deep breath (we’ve never lost the habit, I’m afraid) and leaned down to spell it out for Stupid. “MATTRESSES, Dmitri. We need new MATTRESSES.”
I jumped out of my comfortable recliner in agitation. “Now look, Lucy...“
For my pains I got a needle fingernail stab in my chest. “I’ve slept on the same bed so long it’s growing fresh body hair,” she hissed. “The dirt’s stale. We’ve got to replace it. Mina Paley just redecorated, and I have to admit, the place looks good. She looks good. No wonder. She gets a decent day’s rest-“
“The Paleys were vampirized in New York City in 1932,” I yelled, dancing from foot to foot and accidentally knocking over my mug of Marlboro Man into the carpet. I couldn’t help thinking I only had two bottles left, which made me really bad-tempered. “They’re native Americans. Dirt’s easy for them to replace! We’re going to have to go back to the Old Country. Do you have any idea how much it’s going to cost to take a trip to Transylvania?”
“I won’t have that nouveau nosferato queening it over me,” my wife snarled. She must have realized from my expression that something stronger was still needed. Her face screwed up, and there it came: the WAIL...
I knew when I was finished. “Make the reservations,” I said hollowly, racing for my lab coat and car keys. “We can do it next month if we save every penny. Good night, dear. I’m off to work.”
I was so agitated that I forgot my lunch and had to cadge a few spoiled lab samples from work. But by the time I got back, exhausted and starving, my favorite blood pudding was waiting for me. And Lucy was purring like a vampire turned loose in the blood bank. It was done. We were on our way to Transylvania next month.
The last time I traveled from the Old World to the New (although this was the other direction this time) had been on a wooden sailing ship, and though Lucretia was still annoyingly nostalgic about that brawny sailor on the quarterdeck, I remembered the aftertaste of weevils and salt pork all too well myself. Thank goodness for the modern day instead! We traveled light, the first time we’d ever left home without Home Comforts (in the form of those boxes that ensure a good day’s rest). But we were touching down on Home Soil, so I figured the opportunities for resting should be pretty good.
I had to admit, even I was getting excited by the time the plane landed. But I couldn’t show it much, for Lucy (a delectable child, even at her age, which I’d better not mention here if I value my UnDeath) was squealing like one of those mechanical puppies in the toy shop. I got her calmed down enough to disembark, and we bumbled into the passenger terminal with our six carry-on bags (I told you she gets carried away) and the sack of stuff she’d bought while waiting for our plane. I was sure I looked like an ambulatory luggage cart already.
Something went off in my eyes then and nearly blinded me. Lucy let out a shriek. I had a bad moment myself, thinking I’d miscalculated the time difference and landed us in daylight... but no. It was a flashbulb. I could hear an unctuous voice, sounding a lot like my local funeral director, and my name somewhere there in the suavity.
“Aston Yelena welcomes Count and Countess Tepes to their ancestral home of Transylvania,” the voice oozed. Something hot and sticky clasped my hand, which, as I came out of my daze, resolved itself into a sense of a human (breathing variety) hand. “Live for Channel 13!”
I dropped all the bags. Actually it wasn’t my fault, because Aston Yelena, a tall, portly, aftershave and perspiration scented gentleman who looked like he needed a good bloodletting to lower his cholesterol, squeezed in between myself and my wife and got both thick arms around us. I still wince when I think of the newspaper photo that came out the next day. Lucy had her mouth open in a silly round O, and somehow I was hanging in midair, pinned helplessly against Aston Yelena’s sweaty side... and we both looked like Deer Trapped in Headlights. It was an apt metaphor. Modern Day Transylvania was about to hit us.
Everything that happened between the airport and (finally) the hotel room is still pretty jumbled in my mind. I could glimpse faces — in between flashes. Some of them were fleshy pink, and lots of them were thin dead whites. The flashbulbs kept going off and blinding me. There were cheers and a sort of odd, synchronized clapping — and in fact, when the madly popping strobes would let me, I could see official looking badges pinned on a lot of shirt and dress fronts. There was no doubt about it. The Transylvanian Office of Tourism had turned out in force for us.
I was losing it. Lucy was responding to Mr. Yelena’s sticky hand and syrupy flattery with the most outrageous lies (and giggles) I’d heard since our courtship. I didn’t entirely blame her for the wild stories, though. Who’d want to admit on national television that the prodigals had returned home only to dig up fresh dirt? But the giggles and the handholding had to stop. It was time I showed my fangs.
I put my hand in the middle of the Don Juan’s chest and shoved him back into the arms of the nearest TV cameraman. There was a gasp from the crowd. “Ve Are Exhausted,” I said regally. “Ve Must Rest. And — if you keep handling my wife I’m going to rip your throat out. Savvy, buster?”
The intended effect was spoiled by the fact I was still seeing mostly red flashes, and almost fell over the nearest dropped flight bag as I leaned threateningly forward. Someone with a badge pinned on her chest got my arm and guided me soothingly forward. I could see enough that I could recognize a face that was plastered everywhere — even on that badge. It was old Dracula himself, my elderly Uncle Vlad, as glam as a twenties lounge lizard, holding various temptingly arched damsels in his lustful arms.
He was EVERYWHERE. By the time I reached the limousine I was wincing. Couldn’t they have left that disgusting old lecher off the walls? I mean, the amount of vampirizing he did and still does, he’s an embarrassment. Ever wonder why so many vampires are female? Uncle Vlad. He was the original Bad, Bad Boy. I felt like sinking into the floor, especially with Lucy beside me — he’s on my side of the family, worse luck. I’d had a hard time convincing her that the taste didn’t run in the blood in the first place.
I thought we’d manage to get some peace and quiet in the hotel room, but no. The room was as tasteful as home — Las Vegas, that is. The beds were overdone, ornate coffins, and there on the walls was — You Know Who. The black and red décor hurt my eyes. And worse yet, when I went to the bar and poured Lucy and myself a much needed drink – there was something wrong with the blood. Really, really wrong.
My wife spat, sending flying red goblets everywhere. “What on earth is this?” she shrieked. “Dmitri, are you trying to poison me?”
Copyright © 2005 by Danielle L. Parker