Short Story
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            What if You Met the Real Thing?
                                                                  By Rose Titus


  “Is Shade your first or last name?” Duffy wondered out loud as he wolfed
down his burger.  “Like, when the professor calls out names --?”  He was an
overweight young man who wore a satin jacket and sweatshirt with the logos
of his various favorite sports teams.

  “Last,” he answered simply.  The untouched coffee sat in front of him
getting cold.  He had agreed to come to the cafeteria with the rest of the
small group that sat near him in Professor Garabaldi’s night class.  “First
name Wilton.”  Wilton dressed plainly; new blue jeans, a steel gray cotton
cable knit sweater under a brown leather jacket.

  “So, like, what do you think of Garabaldi’s class?”  Ashley asked in an
excited voice.  She wore a black leather cropped jacket, tight black spandex
pants, a spiked black leather dog collar, along with deep red lipstick and dark
eyeliner.

  “Yeah,” mumbled Eddie, who sat next to her.  He was casual while she was
overly made up, baseball cap on backwards, one gold stud earring, baggy
jeans, and high top sneakers, “So, how d’yah like this Medieval folklore
thing?”

  “Well --” Shade began, and he thought carefully before continuing.

  “Like, it was so cool tonight,” Ashley interrupted, “This class on vampires.  I
loved it!  I can’t wait ‘til the next class.”

  “You are fascinated by that sort of thing?” Shade asked her quietly.

  “Yeah.  Like, it would be so cool, I mean, to meet a real one!”

  Eddie laughed, “Knew you would say that.  You’re spookier than that crazy
professor is!”

  “Shut!  Up!”  She swatted at his hat with her well-manicured hand,
displaying multiple silver rings and black nail polish.  “What do you think,
Wilton?”

  He thought a moment, so he could answer carefully, “If his theory was
correct, that the legends of vampires are based somehow in reality, and that
there are still a few in existence in this century,” he hesitated, “Well, maybe
his ideas about them are all wrong to begin with.”

  “What d’yah mean, all wrong?”  Duffy asked with a mouth full of food.

  “Let us say, in theory,” although Shade appeared to be as young as the
rest of the people at the table, he sounded somehow older, more mature, “If
vampires do in fact exist, then why is Professor Garabaldi, and why is
everyone in general, so very certain that they are all such terrible
monsters?”  And he still did not touch his coffee.  “What if they just live much
like the majority of people?”

  “They’re all such monsters ‘cause they drink blood!  Ain’t that scary enough
for yah, Wilton?”  Duffy reached for a handful of fries.

  “But Duffy, humans are not the only living creatures that can supply blood.  
Isn’t it logical that any large mammal would suitable?  There is a
slaughterhouse at the edge of this town, isn’t there?  So it’s a good location
for--”  he stopped.  “After all, you eat meat.  Are you a terrible monster?”

  Duffy didn’t answer.  Instead he continued to attack everything on his plate.

  “Like, yeah, that’s right,” Ashley said.  “I never thought of that.”

  “This whole entire conversation sounds real weird to me,” Eddie sipped his
coke and stated that he longed for a cigarette but that he was trying to quit.

  “Think of it this way, Ashley,” Shade looked directly at her.  “If vampires do
exist, in this century, then they must work, pay taxes, vote, worry about crime
and social disorder, and worry about the economy and the environment, just
as must as everyone else does.  They could have families, hopes and
dreams, like everyone else.”

  She looked at him.  He was good looking, and his face was fair like ivory,
and his hair was dark like hers.  But he was unfortunately just so normal.  
She giggled, “But it’s the power!”  She stressed the word power.  “That’s what’
s so awesome.  The power over others!  And I like it that they dress so cool,
too!”

  “Oh that’s right,” he sighed, “the legend of some ancient and wise immortal
master vampire who controls a vast legion of undead as well as his mortal
slaves.  Now that is truly precious, isn’t it?  I know someone who loves that
story.”

  Ashley giggled again and reached into her black leather purse for a stick of
gum.  She offered it to him.  “But is has to be like that!”

  “No thank you.  And it isn’t.”

  “Wilton.  If you weren’t so damn good looking, you’d be depressing me right
now.”

  “So, hey,” Eddie broke his silence, “Why do you take this class anyway?”

  “Actually, several months ago, there was an article in the local paper about
Professor Garabaldi.  It said that he researches vampires, for real.  Or so he
believes.  So then I signed up, to research Garabaldi.”  Shade leaned back in
his chair.  The artificial light from the ceiling above reflected in his luminous
eyes, “I was curious to meet with him, before he left for Romania.”

  “So, like, what are you gonna do after the semester?”  Ashley seemed to
just like talking to him, Shade noticed.  And he found it amusing.

  “Nothing much.  Just go back to all the many other dull things I’ve been
doing.”

  “You are so damn normal!” she complained.

  “So are you, Ashley.”

  The two boys laughed in unison.  Duffy nearly choked on the last of his
food, “What?  Her?  Normal?”

  “I am not!” She shot back.  And then she laughed too.

  “Yes you are, Ashley.  You don’t know it yet, but you are.”  He stood up and
tossed his styrofoam coffee cup into the trash.  It was full and it splattered as
it landed.

  Finally Eddie tossed away his half empty cold drink and Duffy got up to put
away his tray as well.  “Yah know, Wilton,” and Duffy pointed directly at him,
“You are almost as strange as she is.  But you’re okay.”  He turned and
walked out of the cafeteria and Eddie followed him.  “See yah next class.”

  He watched as Ashley gathered together her things, her oversized purse,
her disorganized notes and textbooks, “Ashley?”

  She looked up and smiled, “Yeah?”

  What if you met the real thing?”

  “What?  I’d be scared to death if I did!”  She suddenly looked frightened,
then she smiled again, “Besides, it ain’t real.  It’s just that crazy old
Garabaldi.  He did too much dope in the sixties.”  And then she left, following
the boys into the parking lot.

  And finally he did the same.  He left the cafeteria and headed into the dark
parking lot to his car.

  The drive home was uneventful.  He pulled up into the driveway and
unlocked the front door of the restored Victorian home he shared with a few
others, and entered the dimly lit hallway.  Mariah came quietly around the
corner to greet him as he put his leather jacket away in the closet.  She wore
her velvet wine colored dress and carried her silver gray tabby cat, “Well?  
Anything interesting happen tonight?”

  He bent to kiss her  pale cheek, “Not really.  No.  Garabaldi leaves the
campus right after class and just goes home.  I will catch up to him,
eventually.”

  “Calvin wants to see you,” she bent to put the cat down.

  He sighed, “I’ll just tell him the same thing, then,” and he proceeded
upstairs.

  Calvin was sitting at this desk as he usually did late at night, processing
other people’s taxes and going through their volumes of paperwork so he
could advise them how to manage their finances.  The radio played softly in
the corner of the small dark office.  He looked up from his computer screen,
“Come in, Wil.”

  He drifted in slowly and sat down, sinking into a very much worn out leather
chair, “What’s up, Cal?”

  “Any contact with our friend yet?”  He took a sip from a mug that was next to
the keyboard.

  “Not yet.  He just lectures very excitedly about legends of the terrifying
undead, sounds as if he really takes his stuff seriously, almost always wears
the same tweed suit, carries this overstuffed worn out falling apart brief case.  
Typical full of himself academic.  Then he just wanders back home after
class.  Has no life.  Office hours are morning and afternoon.  But, I did find
out where he usually parks.  I was thinking of catching up with him as he goes
to his car.”

  “There’s an idea.”  Calvin agreed, “Then you can meet with him, help him
correct his so called research project.”

  “I’ll need to catch up with him before he leaves for Eastern Europe.  He
expects to find something of importance, discover his obsession in either
Romania or Hungary,” he paused and inhaled, “Still ticked off with me, Cal?

  “Oh how could I be ticked off with you?  I’ve been putting up with your
idealism for nearly a century.  And maybe you’re right.  It’s no longer the dark
ages.  Maybe it’s finally time to stop hiding in the dark –“

  Wilton smirked, “Thank you, oh great and powerful master vampire –“

  “Oh just shut up, Wilton.  As if seniority did get me any respect around
here.  The least you could do is go down to the refrigerator and get me a
refill.”

  Wilton got up from the soft chair and took the mug off the desk, “I owe you
that at least, for putting up with me.  And you know what, Cal?  I think
Professor Garabaldi scares the hell out of his students.”