Category Archives: vampires

Chapter 3: Waking In My Car

Shivering, I awoke in my car. Parked in my driveway, the interior smelled of autumn forest. Sort of a rotten pine scent with overripe blackberries. So cold. Raising my seat to its nearly upright position, I realized that the steering wheel was on my left. Since it’s not an English car I began slowly to worry about what had happened since lunch. Or even at the restaurant since I couldn’t remember having eaten . . .

Outside my car window it was dark and fuzzy or foggy. I rubbed my eyes, it was foggy since I could see my hands clearly enough. Fully dressed, freezing and prickly beard, I looked like I woke up late and wasn’t going to make it to work on time.  Keys in the ignition made a tinkling as I tried opening the stuck shut door. I grabbed them. Putting them in my breast pocket, I pulled my cell phone out first and checked the time.

On the face of the phone it was 5:05 am and the app displayed a picture of the moon with no clouds around it. The door didn’t budge, but leaning into the driver’s seat, I lashed sideways with my shoulder and it burst open. In another life I must have been a fire fighter. Cool morning air rushed in, yet it was much warmer than inside the car.

I welcomed the morning, and stumbled out of the car falling to my knee. Stiff and cranky I stood up and stretched. My back cracked in 3 places which was unusual. Turning to shut the door, I noticed frost on the window, door handle and hood of the car. It was on the roof and doors and as I pulled the door open again, it was on the inside and outside of the windshield. What was that about?

I shut the door and clicked the fob. My grass wasn’t icy. My walkway was clean and dry. Passing to my neighbor’s car, it wasn’t covered with frost. Just mine. And it was hoar frost. Like my windshield was covered with short wispy baby’s hair.

Inside my little house in Camdten Gardens near San Diego State I stretched and felt rested enough. Made sense I guess since I must have slept since late afternoon yesterday. But where had I been. Thinking about it gave me a headache, but not thinking about it, made me feel at ease and free. That made me uneasy and anxious. So I set to wondering about why I didn’t care where I’d been and that gave me less of a headache than thinking where and what I’d in fact been up to since yesterday afternoon.

Placing my thoughts directly on the frosty hair that had been on my car gave me a migraine complete with swatch of plate glass window running through the upper right side of my visual field. I was going to have to find an answer in a more unconventional way. With the volume down I turned on the TV and switched over to Netflix. Perhaps an episode of Voyager would give my headache a rest. I closed my eyes and listed as Captain Proton saved the Galaxy from invasion yet again.

Suddenly I was back at Dansk, a young dark haired woman sat down in front of me as I was devouring my pancakes and those wonderful sausages. “You don’t want to raise your cholesterol like that, besides, it’s time to start your diet.” I put down my fork and finished chewing and swallowed. Wearing a Donna Karan business suit not quite à la Ally McBeal, she smiled at me. Dark wavy hair caressed her shoulders and lay across her clavicles. Golden brown eyes stared into mine. I believe she said, “I can see why Annika likes you.” But the sound of it to my mind was like it was fading away as she spoke or did her lips even move. Between my ears it echoed for a couple of moments saying “Annika likes you, Annika likes you, Annika likes you over and over.”

If I answered her I don’t remember it. If she ever said anything else I don’t remember it officer. But there were no police, I was interrogating myself. I could feel my body was running free now, like in a dream when you’re running across a field of grass just before you start to fly away. Not like the dream when you run and run but you go nowhere, but like I was running and running and there was a beautiful woman and either I was chasing her or she was chasing me. But I don’t remember what she looked like. Sandy blond mane or black and wavy, it seemed to me that there were both in my dream.

Maybe I was chasing one and the other was chasing me. I began to think it was more like running in a circle so that you are simultaneously doing both; chasing and being chased.

Door opened and I awoke. Annika walked in and laughed at me. “It’s 10 in the morning and you’ve missed half your work day?” Which was true, I usually started at 6am in order to handle the east coast business before starting on the central, mountain and pacific times.

“What?” I almost shouted at her.

“Don’t sweat it,” she said, “I called at 6:30 to see if you wanted to do breakfast and they said you weren’t in yet. So, I waited a couple of minutes, called back and said you were sick today and that you wouldn’t be in until tomorrow, so you’re cool like school.”

“Really?” I was gradually remembering the prior day and my head ached less for having slept through half a season of Captain Janeway’s trek through the Delta Quadrant of our Milky Way. I wanted to ask about the stethoscope but thought the better of it. Perhaps the preferred mode of inquiry would be to help with the wedding planning and see how much of had in fact been done.  Were we really going to the Wedding Chapel by the Sea, was there really an Italian string quartet coming to play her processional music down the little chapel’s aisle?

But she was so beautiful and she was here and smiling in scrubs with little . . . were those flecks of blood on her shirt? She caught me staring, “Oh that, I was visiting with a friend in the E.R. and got blood sprayed by the gsw victim of the day.”

“It’s not ketchup?” I asked.

She let out a maniacal laugh continuing, “you got me, dang I thought you might fall for it, yes of course it’s ketchup and I’m sure I’ve sat on mustard too.”  As she turned and showed me her butt there was in fact a yellow spot not unlike what you might expect if you had sat on mustard. Pulling her light cotton pants tight, I couldn’t help smiling. I felt a bit more relaxed, and embarrassed, and those didn’t usually go together but just now for the first time, they did.

“Listen, I’m going to go and change, then we’re going to go have breakfast.” Peeling as she walked away, I clicked off the TV and watched her reflection disappear down the hallway.

“I’ve got your back!” I yelled out.

“What?” she answered walking back into the hall wearing a tan sweater.

“I’ve got your back,” and I thought curses foiled again.

“Oh, great, I guess.” She headed back into the bedroom. No, she hadn’t yet moved in, but as a fiancée she’d taken drawer privileges even though she was a traditional girl and when she visited, I was appointed to my slumber on the couch. My friend Scott gave me the book called, She’s Just Not That Into You, but I haven’t read it yet. I was pretty sure he was wrong anyway, women who aren’t into you don’t make wedding and honeymoon plans.

“Dude, she is, she totally is, but she’s a traditional girl.” I’d handed the book back but he wouldn’t have it, he just shoved it into my briefcase instead.

“If she doesn’t want you before the wedding, she won’t want you after either. She’s up to something.” He’d said. But what? I’d wondered. I’m not rich, not famous, not going to be. I’m lumpy dumpy and kinda funny, so maybe just maybe she was really in love.

Momentarily the dim and distant memory of seeing her kissing the used Vampire Insurance salesman was edging in on my good feelings. There she was leaning over my shoulder from the back of the couch pressing the bell of a stethoscope on my chest. “You’re alive!” She cried out.

“Where did you get that?”

“From my boyfriend.” Smiling she continued, “there was this young doctor that washed out of the program and he gave all of his gear away to hospital staff before he left making sure not to give any of it to any of the doctors or other interns.”

“What?” I asked, well that was odd coincidence.

“I heard you met with my cousin Martin about the insurance.”

I felt such a relief. Then I felt a creeping anxiety coming up my spine. Why should I feel relieved that all this set of coincidences should come together all at once. And I still couldn’t think about my car without the swatch of glassiness spilling across my vision like spraying and freezing water on a windshield. Damn, there it went again.

My right eye squinted shut, “your cousin is our used vampire insurance salesman?” I asked. My head began to feel better.

“Yup.” Annika furrowed her eyebrows at me, “he thinks you’re paranoid and told me to marry someone else. He’s an ass but he’s family. How did you find him bytheway? That’s an odd coincidence.”

“I couldn’t have said that better myself,” I said. “He’s like, I don’t know, cagey about everything, he even said that he didn’t know you.”

“Oh, hmm, how did you get to ask him about me? That’s even weirder . . .”

“I was I don’ know, embarrassed. So I was looking for an insurance agency out of the way, you know, off the beaten path and found him.” I said. Yawning I stretched, and saw that she was still waiting for a more comprehensive explanation. “Well I heard him on the phone say that he’d just gotten a referral from Annika his best referrer. So, I asked how he knew you and he said he didn’t and claimed he’d said Anita. But I know better, he plainly said Annika.”

Annika tied her hair in a pony tail and asked, “Well, did I tell you to go to him?”

“No, I found him on my phone.”

She crinkled and sniffed hard, “well, he’s an a-hole, and I think he’s been in sales for too long. Come on, I know this great little restaurant.”

And I still couldn’t think about that car anymore.

Til Next Time . . . 


“We’ve got a live one, yes from Annika, she’s our best referrer.” Martin Springafalt looked up surprised to see me walking back in.

“Um, you have an Annika who works for you? Is that my Annika, I mean that’s a rare enough name.  You know.” I asked. I was nervous, pausing too long before adding the “you know” but my Annika, how could he know her?

“Oh no,” he smiled and shrugged his shoulders. “That’s Anita. What can I do for you?”

“Well I had just gotten to my car and noticed that the binder says there is an exclusionary period of three months.” His mouth smiled again. “What’s that about?” I asked.

“In case you’re related to a vampire or have a good friend who is a vampire and you’re both trying to buck the system . . . it prevents fraudulent collusion, that’s all it is.”

“What! What do you take me for?” I asked but he just continued to smile like nothing was amiss.

“Mr. Lyssna, it’s sort of like the suicide exclusion on page 7 of the policy and two paragraphs down on he binder’s page 2.” He said.

“But I’m high risk.” I protested.

“Exactly why you should go home and forget about the binder and in 90 days you’ll be covered. If you don’t start the policy today, then your 90 days won’t start until that later date when you do start it. You know I once bought a dental insurance policy with a 90 day exclusion and was angry that I couldn’t get in for a cleaning for 3 months, just like you. On the 95th day, do you know what happened, bam, broken molar. I was sure glad I had that policy.” Leaning back he smiled a relaxed smile and put his hands behind his head and interlaced his fingers. Was he trying t to fly away? Teeth cleaning? Really? Does that work on everyone? I guess it probably did because it was working on me. But I was starting to think that Mr. Springafalt was no more than a used vampire insurance salesman.

“Where do you work?” he asked me.

“Conway Ritter Financial Systems downtown office. I’m uh, an accountant there. Annika works the hospital across the street. She manages the cafeteria, that’s where we met, in the cafeteria at the hospital, across the street.”

“That’s nice, and if you’re truly concerned,” That’s nice I thought, if I’m truly concerned with my next dental cleaning. Nope, I’m more concerned with my next hematectomy, you know, dialysis by vampire. He continued “then spend a lot more time at work. A well lit public building downtown is not the kind of place that vampires are going to haunt, even for your blood type.”

“You seem to know an uh, an awful lot about vampires.” I said to him. I remember specifically looking him in the eyes while saying it. That he knew more than the general public and it seemed to me that he also knew more than the average vampire insurance salesman.

Smiling again but with a sense of utter peace in his eyes, he said, “well, I do take my continuing education very seriously. But I do have a new appointment arriving soon so if there’s anything else?” Mr. Springafalt stared at me hard waiting for me to leave.

“Referred by Anita?” I asked, I could feel my heart racing. I was still sure that he’d said Annika but the door was creaking shut when I was walking in, my own foot falls could have masked the sound.

“Yes, that’s right Ms Chavez, that agent is our best referrer.” He sighed and confessed that he had some errands to run before his new appointment arrived. So, I left with my binder that immediately covered property damage, and my 90 day exclusion and my high risk factors for vampire attacks.

I drove around the sleepy village of La Mesa looking for a Starbucks. Maybe if I joined the coffee achievers I’d feel revved up and calmed down. Of course if I changed my mind they do have great hot coco and they do have garlic bagels.

Finding a restaurant at the base of a hill called Dansk, it had an inviting outside dining area covered with trees near the sidewalk. On the sign read, Scandinavian Breakfast. That sounded good so I parked and went inside. Once sitting I noticed the Starbucks was located across the street. Okay so I’d sacrificed good coffee for what was clearly and even greater plate of pancakes and sausage. Somewhere in heaven surely there was a lonely angel leaning over a cloud and soaking up the aromas from this little cottage restaurant among the La Mesa woods.

I ordered a coco. I didn’t feel like achieving much except to eat breakfast for lunch and to try to sweep away the uneasy feeling that I’d just been had for $102 and 51 cents.

As I sipped the not so bad coco and waited for my meal, tall tanned and Thor-som walked up to Starbucks and flicked a cigarette into the street. I leaned back in my chair to put a tree trunk in between us.

Looking into the windows he was pulling out his iPhone and checking messages. Annika walked up to him and putting her hand on his shoulder they kissed each other cheeks French-style and walked into the Starbucks.

So there it was, Annika wearing full scrubs and a stethoscope around her neck was his star referrer. I had just thought that everyone in a hospital wore scrubs but . . . a stethoscope? Since when do you put one of those up to a dishwasher?

She’s like a really specialized ambulance chaser. Sifting the high risk blood types and sending them to the used vampire insurance salesman, I wondered how much of a commission he paid her. I wondered if he was her boyfriend, husband or cousin.

Kissing on the cheeks isn’t normal in La Mesa, not among everyone but foreigner’s do it enough. Still I didn’t guess they were French. Afterall, his name was as Scandinavian as my breakfast.

Clearly I was a mark and not a fiancé. So why was she hiring caterers and a string quartet? Maybe she did want to marry me. Perhaps she didn’t hire anyone and only said that she did.

Well I had no idea, but after spending $102.51 I couldn’t afford to miss breakfast. I thought I’d just finish my food first and then jaunt on over and just walk up and sit down with them. Say nothing and see what they did. That was my plan.

Of course, it didn’t work out that way.

More Later

Vampire Insurance

I entered Martin Springafalt’s Vampire Insurance Agency at about 10:00am thinking that I must be safe, it was a bright Summer day and the place was well lit. Besides the garlic bagel with garlic cream cheese should ward off even a swarm of tourists from New Jersey.

“Good Morning.” From behind the big desk the tall blond man greeted me. Square jawed and thorlike, his golden hair swung into his face as he stood up. From the desk the little sign flashed that his name was Martin Springafalt. “It’s nice to meet you.” His large right hand waved at the seat in front of me.

“Well, I’ll get right to the point . . .” but he cut me off.

“You want vampire insurance.” Martin smiled and pulled a couple off brochures off the reception desk’s display and lay them in front of me. I was aghast, this was going to be more expensive than I’d thought. Along with the usual property damage rider and undead riders there were werewolf and faerie riders as well.

“I was just looking for the standard policy really, I . . .” was cut off again by Martin.

“Look, Mr?”

“Lyssna, Johnathan Lyssna.”

“You’re in a high risk category Mr. Lyssna?”

“Yes, well, AB-” I said. My voice shook as I did. The last thing you ever want to do is shout out at midnight that you’re taking a thousand dollars from an ATM in downtown LA. Or that you’re AB- when vampires have been reported in the area.

“Then you already know how important coverage is. Let’s take a little time because even the standard policies have major differences now, new wrinkles. We’ll have to go over those before you know what you’re looking for. Are you married Mr. Lyssna, have children?”

“No children yet, but soon to be married, my fiancée, Annika, would like to be sure that we’re covered immediately. Because well . . .”

“One never knows.” Mr. Springafalt opened a brochure describing the main types of standard coverage. “Pay special attention here, of course you’re getting the property damage rider, it’s cheap and the amount of property damage from vampires is typically minimal. Sometimes you cannot even tell how they got in.” Clearing his throat he pointed at the 3rd page. “You see, up until here the policy is your standard term life insurance policy, but from here, you see three contingencies.”

I could clearly see them. “Option one, I die and the standard term life pay out goes to my beneficiaries.”

“That’s correct. But see here?” Mr. Springafalt pointed at option two with his long fingers and lightly tanned hands. “What if you live?”

“By ‘live’ you mean as an undead, is that right?” I asked.

“No, on very, let’s say extremely rare occasions, you just live, you’re not undead, you’re not dead and you just live and they don’t come back and finish the job. Perhaps the vampire in question is himself extinguished or doesn’t like the taste of your blood, who knows. In any case you’re alive at least three weeks later.” He smiled and was shaking his head at the same time. “Apparently they don’t like leftovers.” Martin paused and looked at his fingernails for a moment. “But what kind of life would that be?”

“I, I uh, I don’t, I don’t know.” I had this momentary vision of, what if Hugh Grant were a lonely chubby fat guy with a fiancée buying vampire insurance in a farflung suburb of San Diego. I had to get a grip on myself.

“Most people experience acute hemophilia for the rest of their lives including joint pains, head aches, muscle pains and difficulty maintaining your weight.”

“Really, sign me up for that one.”

Martin Springafalt smiled and quietly said, “as I said it seldom works out, my mom made that same joke but when the vampires got her she died.” He looked out the window for a moment and a single tear ran down his cheek. “Listen, it’s the least likely outcome but the most expensive, so it’s the first coverage I always recommend, it’s not going to add much to the policy because it’s so unlikely.”

I felt fidgety and darted my eyes from brochure to brochure to keep them busy. “Now if I end up joining the ranks of the undead does it still pay my fiancée?”

“Of course it can, but recent legislation which has already passed through the courts gives us two more options.”

“What? Really?”

“Yes, you can have the policy pay to you directly, to your undead self, as a secondary form of viatical contract. As a member of the newly undead, you’ll need a bit of scratch to get yourself started out. Nice quiet country estate, your own little bit of grave yard, heavy duty security systems, of course complete privacy, and 100 head of cows or if you prefer, sheep.”

“Are you serious? I think I saw a ranch like that on the way into town today. Do vampires really eat cows and sheep?”

“No, not at all, but most people don’t know that.” Mr. Springafalt rubbed his nose. “And that ranch is the old Draklesayer ranch, perfectly harmless. They have a graveyard there because that’s how old the ranch is, it predates the cemetery in town.” I must have looked incredulous because he continued, “yes, the livestock in the plan are just for show, unlike our neighbors down the road.”

“What’s option number three?” I asked.

“You’re going to like this, option three is a combination of one, where your beneficiary is paid a percentage of the pay out, plus then the rest up to 50% is used to hunt you down and stake your undead corpse to a tree where you’ll be crucified to the sun the following morning.”

“Does that hurt?”

“How should I know, but you’ll be dead anyway so what would it matter. I have heard though that they scream for hours and hours, most of the morning in fact. It takes quite a while to burn a vampire with sunlight, even longer if it’s raining.”

Explained as fast I could that I was truly shocked. I remembered that a woman two weeks earlier had accused her husband of being a vampire. Her boyfriend had him staked to a tree and burned him the next morning with gasoline. She almost got away with it because the boyfriend was the local firechief but the sheriff smelled the gas and that was that. “Did they have one of these policies?”

“Um, well yes, the Vastras, I sold them the policy. And I’m glad to say that we didn’t pay a penny on that policy to Mrs. Vastra. We paid the 50% of the policy which would have gone to Mrs. Vastra directly to her children’s guardian after she went to prison.”

“I think I’d rather have the money and the sheep.” I mused outloud.

“A wise choice,” answered Mr. Springafalt. “Now the faeries really are quite rare enough and we’re nowhere near England, and the werewolf rider is probably also something you can skip without more thought as the nearest forests are at least an hour away in the local mountains and they don’t drive when they’re changed.”

After punching numbers on an oversized calculator he said, “if you want a binder right away, as you stated earlier, then the policy downpayment is $102.51 payable in cash. You’ll be immediately protected that way. When you see your Annika next you’ll be safe in the event of any untoward encounters with vampires. What duhyah say?”

“And if I do, maybe I’ll get lucky and I won’t live through it, and I won’t die either.”

Mr. Springafalt smiled, “I hear it’s all a matter of if they take a liking to you.”

To Be Continued . . . .