Short Story
                                                                      By Cynthia Hendershot

      The first thing was the blood. Always the blood. Oozing out of my mouth, dripping like small raindrops
from the stained plaster walls. Then there was the scream. Where it came from I don’t know. I don’t think I’ll
ever know. It doesn’t matter though. It was then when I realized. It was something I had known all along. I
had known from dreams.

      There was a table and we were all sitting around it, playing canasta and drinking Bloody Marys and
then there was the face of Dimitri, shining and handsome, my dream lover I had spent so many glorious
nights with. When I saw Dimitri, I saw the blood, then felt it. Like always.

      Dimitri had a sad story. He had been raised in an orphanage in Kiev. He had been a victim of
radiation experiments. He had lived a lonely life as a research scientist trying to study the poison that had
made him sterile and crazy. And he was beautiful.

      Dimitri liked me because I was dark. He liked that I would not be a stupid woman with vacuous
conversation and silly ways. And I had liked that he liked me as myself. The blood did not matter at first. Or
ever, really.

      There he was at the table when I thought he was dead, machine-gunned down by the Russian mafia,
but I should have known better. Dimitri was tougher than that, than anything, really, except the blood. But
the blood turned out to be good in the end. It turned out to be our friend.

      And it was silly at the restaurant that first time in Memphis, trying to make small talk when all we really
wanted to do was talk about deep things and make love. The small talk faded away like smoke
disappearing in a finely-crafted blue glass. And I was glad. I was relieved.

      There is a way of seeing that only Dimitri and the blood could show me. A way of seeing that all the
boredom and frustration was only a veil that could easily be ripped apart, a fine black lace veil that was an
irritation to me. Everyone else we knew embraced the veil, but I wanted to burn it in an ornate fireplace, a
fireplace that had photos behind it of people long dead and forgotten, a fireplace that hopefully would
spew sparks and burn the whole house down. Hopefully.

      Before Dimitri I was struggling. Every day was like a hell that only people could create. My only refuge
was in dreaming. And it didn’t matter what the dreams were. If it was a dream about chasing my cat
across a field, or kissing Harvey Keitel, or about being lost and naked on a deserted road, they were all
beautiful like smoke in a blue glass. The only thing, really when Dimitri told me that I didn’t ever have to be
small again, I saw the blood. It was on my white hands when I busted open that glass cell. And I tasted the
blood, sweet as champagne, sweet as the taste of his lips.

      And he was beautiful with large brown eyes and curly black hair and a worn cashmere sweater from
the 1960’s with exactly four moth-eaten holes in it. And I kissed his skin. And I saw the blood and I saw it
covering my face so that I disappeared. And I was content.

      At that restaurant in Memphis he told me a story. A vampire was tired and decided that he wanted to
become a bread maker. He baked his bread day and night, making beautiful marble rye loaves. One day
two strangers walked into his cottage. The vampire had transformed into a cat. The thieves stole six
loaves of the bread, but left one for the black cat watching them judgmentally and curiously from the
wooden table. Two days later the men passed by the vampire’s cottage. He came out and confronted
them. He beckoned for them to come close. He put his strong arms around both of them. He whispered to
them that he should kill both of them for being thieves, but he would spare their lives because they left one
loaf for the cat. The two men ran back to their village and slit their own throats with a sharp steel knife.

      Then there was the radiation. At the orphanage Dimitri had been given oatmeal from the government
every day. It was hot and tasty and dosed with radiation. He had lived. Many had not. At age eight, he
watched his friend Vladimir vomit daily, lose his hair, and then die, a skeleton devoid of blood. Dark eyes
and a pale body.

      And the blood was good. After kissing or talking or dancing or watching a movie, I would see the
blood cover my face. It was reassuring until Dimitri went away, or so I thought. When he went away, killed
by enemies from his country, the blood went away too. So I had to bring it back. In a warm bathtub with
Tylenol p.m. and champagne, I cut. I wanted to slip away, but someone found me. I don’t even remember
who it was. So, I ended up at a table playing canasta when Dimitri came back to me. The blood covered
the table and everyone sitting there, like an explosion of Bloody Marys and then I embraced him again. I
touched his face and stared into his eyes and I laughed. I laughed so hard that it became a scream.
About Cynthia Hendershot

Cynthia Hendershot is the author of City of Mazes and Other Tales of Obsession (Leaping Dog
Press). She has published fiction and poetry in magazines such as Gargoyle, Bakunin, and
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