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August 15, 2022

Faux Fangs, Part 1

By Beverly Pauley

Rutherford Zucks sat up from his repose and yawned. His eyes were streaked with red. Light green flannel pajamas draped his small, stooped shoulders. A hand dotted with brown spots reached forth their long, bony fingers to pick up thick-framed glasses lying on the nightstand. Two glasses of water contained sets of false teeth, one with fangs and the other without. His face was pale, almost a light gray pallor, and his cheeks were sunken. His white hair, so thin one could see his pink scalp, was disheveled. He looked to the bedroom door and yelled, "Brent Field, come here, I need you." He closed his eyes in weariness, both from the physical gruel of long years and chronic depression of his existence.

A young man stepped into the room. "Yes, Master?"

"Please help me out. I'm feeling poorly," he explained.

The young man reached a strong, firm arm around the frail man and lifted him out of the coffin in one swift motion to a standing position. "Do you want to see what it's like outside?"

"Yes, open the curtains," he answered. A long, deep sigh escaped his thin lips. The moon and stars hid their faces behind clouds in the dark sky. "How awful it is to remain an old man. These defective genes! I curse the day I was transformed. What cruelties I must endure."

Brent asked him, "Master, do you wish to go out for a bite or wait till you get to the work at the parlor?"

"To tell the truth, I'd rather have a good, stiff shot of whisky," he said, deep in thought. "It has been so many years. . . how many years has it been? I can't seem to remember."

Brent left him standing at the window and returned with a glucometer and testing strip. He pointed to the sofa, and the older man sat down on the middle cushion. "Hold your finger still," he said. A prick brought forth a dark blood droplet to be placed on a testing strip and then inserted into the glucometer until a beep announced its completion. The young man looked at the number and declared, "Yep, you're a quart low."

The older man's eyes flashed with anger. "None of that, just calculate how much blood I need."

"Hmm, I'd say a whole cup right away."

Red liquid gurgled in a water cooler in the living room corner. Brent measured it in a black cup and placed it in the Master's trembling hands. The older man's lips were stained crimson as he drank. His pallor began to disappear, replaced by light pink in his cheeks, and he stood up. "Now, that's more like it."

A hanger hung over the door knob holding a black suit coat and trousers, white dress shirt and black bow tie. He raised an eyebrow in question to Brent.

"The mortuary called. Two clients arrived this afternoon," he answered. Brent helped him with buttons and brought him false teeth without fangs. Rutherford's cheeks plumped out, no longer sunken. His other set of teeth were dried and placed in a small box, which he dropped into the front pocket of his jacket.

Outside, Brent warmed up the new red truck's engine, special ordered from Roanoke two months ago. He was about 5' 10" tall, four inches taller than Rutherford and 35 pounds heavier. The young man worked at the local library during mornings with fewer patrons, his only outside source of human contact. This working arrangement allowed time to read and indulge in internet surfing. His needs were few, so most of his paycheck was stashed in a shoe box under his bed.

Brent wore jeans most of the time. Today he wore a mint green shirt. Two other shirts, identical in style, in shades of yellow and tan comprised his working attire. Red hair, green eyes and a multitude of freckles gave credence to his Irish heritage. He had just celebrated his 22nd birthday and possessed a face that seldom smiled. Pizza was his favorite food, and he was careful to eat it hours before the Master rose so the aroma would not permeate the air. Brent stepped on the gas and revved the engine.

Rutherford locked the front door and held onto the strap, pulling himself up into the truck. The funeral home was a 10-minute drive from their mountain home. The old home place lay hidden in the tall mountains, thick with trees and brush off the main road. His mother was buried behind the house in her lush garden.

The older man closed his eyes and stated, "Spring is almost here. Did I ever tell you about my Momma's spring peas? I think that's what I miss most. And a thick, juicy deer steak, and her homemade strawberry ice cream so cold and soothing on my tongue."

He looked at Brent and said, "I envy you. Sometimes life doesn't seem worth the trouble. One day I will indulge my fantasy, lie down on Momma's grave and take a sun nap."

Brent's eyes were filled with concern. He stopped the truck behind a large building. The mortuary stood white and pale, reflecting the lifelessness inside.

Rutherford said, "Brent, be here early to pick me up. I'll have another cooler refill tonight."

"Okay, I'll catch a few winks and be back before dawn." He waited as the older man got out of the truck and enter the building before he pulled out.

Lying in his bed, Brent set the alarm in case he overslept, which would be deadly for Rutherford, and looked at the photo of the Harley Davidson motorcycle in Biker Magazine. His eyelids grew heavy, and he yawned, yielding himself to the dream world.

Rutherford set about his embalming duties in the prep room. He knew the routine well, even though he now worked now on an "as needed" basis. A chocolate allergy forced him to be careful in filling his water cooler with needed sustenance from men, preferably. Tonight, however, he took his dinner break from a larger woman since her family brought a high-collar dress for her viewing. An older man, the other customer, wanted to go to his reward in his favorite t-shirt with his neck in full view.

Brent arrived an hour before dawn, walked upstairs to carry down the heavy container with its sloshing liquid within. Rutherford followed more slowly down the stairs. Time was of the essence in preserving his nourishment. Soon, the water cooler was gurgling in the living room corner; and Rutherford, in his cozy warm pajamas, lay in his coffin for a much needed rest.

Later that evening, moans came from within the coffin. Brent rushed into the room feeling alarmed and confused. He opened the lid and heard the Master wince as he rubbed his aching head. His hands were swollen, and he scratched itchy, red splotches on his arms. "What's wrong, Master?"

"That darned woman must have eaten chocolate. Run and get my allergy pill."

Upon returning, Brent helped him to the couch, and Rutherford was careful not to rest his head on his Momma's crocheted doily placed on the back. He put the pill on his swollen tongue, took a big swig of blood, and sent Brent for an ice bag for his head. Brent checked his blood sugar level later and found it was high. "You'll have to fast for the evening and hope it goes down to normal."

Rutherford leaned his head back and stated, "I wouldn't wish this on anyone -- well, maybe the ex-wife." He closed his eyes as he recalled angry words and painful insults she inflicted on his dear mother. "I need to put some flowers on Momma's grave just as soon as I get better."

About 4:00 a.m. Rutherford pushed back thick shrubs standing guard on a garden that would be adorned in warmer weather with pink and red roses planted long ago by his Momma. Two dead roses lay on her grave before a heart-shaped headstone. "Oh, Momma, if only you were here." He wiped a tear escaping his eyes and running down his pale cheeks. He laid down on her grave to rest and was awakened just before dawn by Brent Field's gentle shaking of his shoulders.

That year Spring burst through the bitter cold of a long, hard winter. Daffodils peeked their heads out to greet the warmth of the sun. Butterfly wings fluttered in delight above yellow flowers. The aroma of freshly chopped ramps hung heavy in the air. Hand-painted signs tacked onto telephone poles announced the forthcoming ramp festival, promising these tasty delights baked in chunks of buttermilk cornbread, boiled in steaming pots of pinto beans and fried with round, thin slices of potatoes, all served with generous portions of red squirrel and gravy.

Rutherford Zucks had enjoyed many a plate piled heavy with ramp dishes, topped with a dollop of his Momma's hot pickle relish. Man, that had been some good eating! Now, the smells made his skin break out in hives and his stomach feel nauseous. He didn't need to look at the calendar to know the arrival of May, now a curse to him with that noxious odor of ramps offending his nose and forcing him to leave his mountain home for weeks. His watery eyes told him so. He felt as if the ramps were a blanket, threatening to engulf and suffocate him even as he lay in the sanctuary of his coffin. His stomach felt queasy, and his throat burned.

Seated on the couch, Brent asked a question, interrupting the Master's deep thoughts. "Master, shall I pack for the vampire reunion?"

"No, last year's reunion sucked. I'll never go back," he answered. "No respect any more. Treated me like an old man, even called me Grampire. I guess 'cause I put in the wrong teeth and nearly gnawed that neck raw before it hit me what was wrong." Hot spots of red shame adorned his cheeks as he remembered his humiliation.

"But, Master, we can't stay here. Where can we go?"

"Never mind me, I'll just take a sun nap on Momma's grave. I'm just too tuckered out to go on," Rutherford stated.

Brent said, "Master, I have an idea. I saw a magazine ad that said Biker Week starts in Florida in a few days." His eyes sparkled. "And I could go to the library internet for driving directions and a motel near a funeral home in case you need to dash in for a bite."

"Okay, for your sake, I will," he answered.

The next day was a flurry of activity for Brent as the Master slept. When Rutherford arose for the night, there stood Brent -- grinning like he just won the lottery without putting out a dollar for the ticket. He handed the Master a cup of blood and said, "Look outside."

Brent's eyes sparkled as he pointed to a Harley Davidson Fatboy tied in the back of their red pickup. Brent stood there, attired in black leather jacket decked out with silver buttons and zipper pockets. He wore jeans and black-toed riding boots with a silver buckle. At his side, he held a half-shell helmet with "Born Wild" air brushed on it. Over his red hair, he wore a red, white and blue do-rage. "What do you think, Master? Isn't it awesome?"

Rutherford laughed and stated, "Yes, it sure is."

"And everything is packed and ready to go. Just waiting on you. There's an emergency thermos under the seat."

"Okay, Brent, we've got a long ride. Let's get going."

Rutherford felt wide awake and alive. He enjoyed the sounds of the night and freedom of riding on the long highway. Brent was a good driver and enjoyed driving the truck on its first long trip. He set the cruise control and cranked up the radio listening to country music. He stopped only to get some hot coffee. On the road again, about 5:30 a.m., a siren blared and Brent looked up in dismay. "Oh, no, I forgot to set the cruise control again." He pulled over to the side of the highway. Rutherford didn't need to look at his watch to know it was getting late. In exactly 45 minutes, it would be twilight, followed shortly by sunrise at the break of dawn.

The policeman looked into the truck and asked, "Is he all right? He doesn't look too good."

"He's my uncle. We're going to the beach to get him some fresh air, sir."

"Okay, let me see your license and registration. Please step out of the vehicle," the policeman instructed Brent.

Brent stepped out with the papers, and Rutherford drummed his fingers on the seat. The policeman inspected the documents under flashlight illumination. He looked at the motorcycle in the back of the truck and asked, "Is that a tool box down the side of the truck? It looks like it's six feet long."

Brent explained, "It's a special ordered tool box."

"Any contraband in there, son?"

"No, sir, nothing in there but an old blanket," he answered.

"Well, let's open her up. Looks strange to me."

Brent got the keys from the ignition and unlocked the tool box. A musty smell permated the air. Inside was an old blanket covering the whole length. A small square pillow lay in the top corner. Inside the truck, the older man looked up at the sky and then his watch. He rubbed his chin and looked out the cab window. Brent closed and relocked the tool box.

The policeman spoke, "Well, go on, son, and get that old man to fresh air. Just watch the speed."

Brent thanked the officer and started the truck. Rutherford stated, "That was close. We need to stop soon. Maybe it's time for me to call it quits. I'm so tired. Just bury me beside Momma."

"No, Master, I found a real nice hotel and biker bar near a funeral home. Just think of the warm moonlight and walking along the ocean. It will renew your spirits," he said. "And you can ride on the back of my hawg. Just think of it!"

Rutherford noticed Brent's rare smile. "Okay, maybe a change of scenery and new blood will help me." Brent sighed in relief. Rutherford continued, "And I want me a pair of those flip flops, bright yellow, to walk on the beach and bask in the moonlight."

Brent's eyes were bright with excitement. He said, "And I've always wanted to try one of them green drinks with a little umbrella."

Seeing a secluded place, Brent pulled the truck over and stopped. The two men got out and stood at the back of the truck while Brent unlocked the tool box. He helped Rutherford into the tool box where he laid down on the blanket covering dirt from home. He lowered his head gently on the pillow. Brent checked the straps holding the motorcycle.

Rutherford crossed his arms on his check and spoke, "Brent, this might be fun after all. You say we're near a biker bar? It's been ages since I had me a good beer."

To be continued ...

To purchase a copy of Beverly's book, Gothic Bedtime Stories, contact her at P. O. Box 803, Alderson, WV, 24910 or by email: hbpoe(at)excite.com. The cost of the book is $15.00 -- mention the Piker Press for free shipping.

Article © Beverly Pauley. All rights reserved.
Published on 2008-09-22
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