fiction from college: gerlock the somewhat vampire
August 6, 2011 § 1 Comment
I’ve unearthed a story I wrote in 2005. That places me as…a college sophomore. It’s me riffing on Terry Pratchett or John Cleese or something.
Gerlock the Somewhat Vampire
By P.F. Montgomery
Gerlock was a vampire, more or less. It was his decision; as such intimate matters really ought to be. The paperwork had all been drawn up by a terribly spindly notary public with mismatched eyes and a suspicious tan. All that was needed at this point was a little renown, a sordid, tawdry notoriety. Legends. Lore. Lies. Gerlock decided that he’d start on that front as soon as the notary got through all the tedious protocol.
“You’re bald,” said the notary, daintily stamping the Note of Vampireship.
“Your eyes don’t match,” replied Gerlock, “One grey, one blue. Doesn’t add up.” He snatched the papers from him and tried to fit them all into a crumpled manila envelope. There was some resistance, so he ended up shoving them under his left arm. He had no inclination of just how silly he looked with one arm pinned to his side and the other gesticulating wildly about.
The notary appraised him once more.
“You’ve got an absurd handlebar mustache.”
“Maybe I do.”
“Looks like oily black liquorice.”
“I should eat you. Devour you for your insulin.”
“Insolence you mean?”
“Mine’s a fine mustache.”
The notary would have listed a number of reasons–and gladly–as to why the mustache was certainly not fine. The lack of symmetry, for example. The greasiness, sleaziness, twistiness, tackiness. But he was eaten before his crooked index finger could be raised in protest.
Gerlock the vampire pocketed the mismatched eyes, made a mental note to drop them off at the doll shop for mending (Just didn’t add up), and skulked out of the office with a new, handily notarized, lease on life. Or lack there of.
He trundled through the streets quite pleased with himself that day, booting far more small children into the gutters than usual. Paging through history tomes and diaries, you would be hard-pressed to find accounts of creatures ever being so perfectly gleeful. Exchange gleeful for deranged and it would still hold true. At one intersection, Gerlock even decided to add a quarter’s worth to a horse cart’s parking meter to save a stranger from receiving a ticket. Two blocks later he realized what he’d done and raced back to the scene, spending the better part of an hour attempting to pry open the mechanism to reclaim his coin. When this proved fruitless he decided to simply set fire to the cart, having decided it was the only truly evil thing to do under the circumstances. He managed to unlatch the horse from the vehicle only after an inch of its tail had been singed. This was fortunate indeed, for it was that very horse that carried him to the village community center when he collapsed from smoke inhalation.
Gerlock remained in the trauma ward of the community center for the remainder of the month of April. During this time he kept extensive records of a nautical voyage that he obviously hadn’t been involved in aboard a vessel christened the Queen Joseph. It was around the 23rd of the month when nurses began referring to him as “The Commodore”, which he assumed to be an affectionate title until he noticed that they accompanied it with both pointing and laughter.
“They wouldn’t have survived the Ivory Coast,” he told himself as he snuffed the candle each evening. Even if the context was fictional, he knew that the sentiment was galvanized in truth. These people were against him. They just didn’t want to accept their own weakness in comparison to possibly one of the most sensational vampires in all of West Village. And if they’d gone on this voyage, which hadn’t actually happened, they would have abandoned ship and died. Because the ship would have been extremely tall.
So it was with great reluctance that The Commodore stepped out onto the foursquare court one sunny Wednesday morning.
“You’re not fooling anyone,” came a voice from the tetherball area behind him. Gerlock made use of his heightened vampire senses. It was definitely a female voice, probably a woman. She was young and, he wagered, most likely a girl. He assumed she had short black hair and a beret, but this was because she’d already come around in front of him.
“You’re not really a vampire,” she said flatly.
Gerlock bent down on one knee to reply. He then realized he was now shorter than the girl, which was not what he had originally intended. He raised himself up a bit so he was about an inch taller than she, letting his bent leg sort of dangle awkwardly. It was uncomfortable. He let out a long, pained sigh and stood up again.
“The fact that you are out in the sun proves my point,” the girl continued.
“This conversation has grown tedious,” hissed Gerlock. “Please provide me with a listing of the various cookies you are selling and I shall politely turn you down and send you on your way.”
“I’m not selling cookies, Admiral,” she answered rather stiffly. “I am a grown woman of nineteen volunteering my time at the community center. I’m a temporary lifeguard at the pool.”
Gerlock thought about shuffling up to his room to get the Note of Vampireship and possibly his memoirs but decided against it. This was a grown woman, presumably taken by his charms. The essential tactics here were to simply speak to her womanly sensibilities. He needed to show he was genuinely interested in talking about her and nothing else.
“Have you read my memoirs about the many sharks I’ve killed?” he asked, perhaps too loudly and close to her face.
A red bouncy ball rolled past her. Someone blew a whistle from far away. Water dripped from the tusk of a frozen wooly mammoth jutting out of a mountain some nine hundred miles in the opposite direction.
“Anyways, I don’t think you should be going around saying things like you’re a vampire. Lying” said the girl, ignoring his question. “I had a boyfriend who was an actor. He died on crusade in the Holy Lands.”
“Did he say he was a vampire?” asked Gerlock.
“No. He lied to me about another girl,” she answered. “That’s why he died.”
“You said he was killed on crusade,” said Gerlock, raising his index finger, glad to have cleverly spotted a continuity error.
“I’m on the draft board,” she said.
Gerlock laughed with her. He sorted out the punch line several hours later. “I see your point and I’m with you. But I’m not lying. I’m a vampire and I am going to be playing foursquare now.”
She made a humming sound. Then she glanced towards the community center hut far behind him. “Won’t you need other players for that?” she asked. “Not that it matters.” She took a towel from her shoulder and held it out to him. “Just a suggestion.”
It was at this point that Gerlock realized he was almost entirely naked.
“The physical therapy guys have been trying to track you down for a couple hours now,” the girl explained. “You weren’t taking kindly to the exercise pool.”
Gerlock frantically covered himself with the towel, making sure to create impressive billowing effects in the right places. “Well, I don’t see why I should have been naked in a physical therapy pool in the first place.”
“You never actually reached the pool, and were fully clothed when last seen,” replied the girl. “My name is Chlorine. They named me that before they came up with the chemical. It’s easy to remember though. I make it safe to go in the water.”
That was the last thing he heard her say. Not because she’d turned and left on that dramatic cue, but because two burly and androgynous physical therapy nurses had taken him by the shoulders at that very moment. And as he was dragged back toward the thatch and adobe community center, he noticed, for the first time, the stunning green dress she was wearing over tattered jeans with no shoes.
“I’m a vampire. I felt you should know,” he told his roommate upon returning to his flat.
“This is terribly sudden, though not completely unexpected,” replied Rudy, who happened to be a raven.
Gerlock explained how economical the new lifestyle would be. How he rather enjoyed the taste of blood anyway, his insomnia, the slightly Hungarian inflection to his telephone voice.
“It just makes an awful ton of sense,” he said, beaming. “I’ll be going out shortly for some new cloaks and some whale product to slick back my hair.”
“You haven’t any hair to slick, Count Hasty-Britches,” Rudy reminded him. “Where have you been all month?”
“Please hold questions until the end, bird.” Gerlock was pacing about the room adjusting portraits of himself and moving umbrellas from one elephant foot umbrella stand to another. He acknowledged that it was impossible to try and remain still, so he embraced the manic furniture rearranging by tossing on an apron. “Vampirism. Delightful! I feel so terribly alive now that I’ve embraced the V!”
Rudy considered this from his perch atop the vacuum cleaner.
“Does this affect me directly?” he asked after a few days. “Please think carefully before you answer.”
The vampire took the rest of the afternoon to formulate a response. It was a fair question after all. He scrawled it out in the back of a Sherlock Holmes compendium from his grandfather’s collection. Proper essay format aside from his swollen Victorian paragraphs that seemed to rage like literary tempests for entire pages at a time.
The answer, decidedly, was no.
“I’m not here to judge,” the raven mused, bowing his head. “Though, alternatively, I don’t know what I am here for otherwise. I suppose I was purchased with the intention that I’d make a reasonable pet.” A small raven tear slid from his eye and took up lodging on the top of his beak, remaining there when he lifted his head to acknowledge Gerlock once more. Rudy knew that the tear was there, but because of his cranial structure he could not technically see it. His shame was multi-layered.
“Your eyes have become moistened,” said Gerlock. “Why do you cry, bird?” He considered dabbing away the teardrop from Rudy’s beak, but became transfixed by his own reflection in the tiny spherical pool. Thus he remained frozen in a narcissistic gaze, missing Rudy’s following answer entirely.
“You are my dear friend,” the raven sniffled. “And I wonder why you have come to this juncture in your life when you feel it is necessary to make such changes. And though you have insisted otherwise, I truly do believe you have no further use for me.”
“I’m sorry?” said Gerlock.
Rudy went flush. “Well, don’t say it if you don’t feel an apology is warranted.”
“No, you see, I wasn’t paying attention,” replied Gerlock. “I was thinking about a joke I’d heard. I missed what you’d said completely.”
“What joke was it?”
“Not so much a joke, but a funny situation.”
“Can I hear it?”
“The funny situation.”
“I don’t understand that reference.”
“You’d just said that—“
“Can you just say it over? The thing about why you were sobbing like a woman? I’ll make sure to pay attention this time. Even if it’s boring.”
Rudy frowned. He could still feel the dampness on his beak, but it felt warmer now. He cleared his throat and started his monologue again. He raised his voice whenever he sensed that Gerlock was drifting out of concentration. He also included a parable about a woman of loose morals and an assassin who bred attack jaguars, hoping to enliven the speech.
“You’re entirely reasonable,” promised Gerlock. He thought for a moment. “I think I know what you need, Mr. Man.”
Over the next thirty seconds, Gerlock performed a brief and tightly choreographed jig that had always served to cheer up the bird. It was called the “Silly Gremlin Shuffle”, and though it was a routine ripe with politically incorrect references to the gremlin culture, it was developed before the time when prejudice had become inherently wrong.
“Can I be a vampire too?” asked Rudy, hopefully.
“Not in the slightest,” said Gerlock. “This is my thing. Join a club or go on crusade or be a werewolf. This is a one vampire household.”
“So this is an elitist society, is it?”
“You wouldn’t know because you’re not in it, are you then, bird?”
They didn’t speak to each other for a very long time. Some archivists have speculated that the schism lasted for a year. These archivists should be fired or should at the very least stop huffing glue and archive file dust. They didn’t talk for a day. But in fairness, it seemed much longer to both of them as they were indeed the best of friends.
It should probably be mentioned that they met in the South of France many years before several people were born, but after the rest of the people were already milling about the world on their own respective business. At that time, Gerlock was known as Gerlock the Cleaver. This merely meant that he was a landscape man, but was very intense about it. Ironically, Rudy had always just been a raven (ignoring, of course the few seconds in a Vietnamese magic shop when he had been, chronologically: a turkey vulture, frilled lizard, false fire place, Florida panther, first edition copy of Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar, and a bag of rusted farm equipment). Suffice to say, at the time, he was a Raven called Rudy.
All that really matters about this glimpse into the past (and France) is that Gerlock and Rudy have been through many scrapes together and have always managed to root their way out. For the sake of momentum, we shall bypass the origin story and surge forward.
“Did you say something?” asked Gerlock, reaching his hand into the space between the cushions of the sofa in search of forgotten nickels. “Because if you did, I don’t care.”
“There’s a gypsy woman in the pumpkin patch beyond the cabbages,” whispered Rudy. His entire head was engulfed between slats of the Venetian blinds. “She’s trying to make off with number 14.”
“I was never fond of that pumpkin,” Gerlock replied absently. “I like when they come out with the scary eyes and teeth already on them.” He started up from the couch and headed to the windows. Rudy was flapping furiously to hover in place at his vantage point. The vampire slid easily into position below him so that the raven could set down on the top of his head.
“ I’ve forgotten. What are we looking at?” Gerlock hissed.
“Gypsy girl in the produce section,” said Rudy, trying very hard to sound like a sniper. “Very beautiful.”
The vampire flourished his hand flamboyantly and stomped his foot. “Reveal!”
Rudy poked his head out from the blinds and peered downward. Gerlock remained very still. “Reveal!” he shouted a second time.
The raven sighed and fluttered over to the tilt cord, opening up the blinds so that Gerlock could see through to the other side.
“I am besieged by horizontal lines dissecting my vision.” The vampire snarled. Rudy took hold of the lift cord with his beak and rolled up the blinds entirely. Gerlock could now enjoy a panoramic view of the backyard garden. There was some sort of gypsy women towards the rear of the property in the vicinity of the pumpkins. He would have to ask Rudy about that at some later date.
“You do well in the upkeep of the…agriculture, these days,” said the vampire to the raven.
“It’s a boy from the neighboring farm who does that,” admitted Rudy. “He’s quite efficient.”
“What do we pay this wretch?” inquired the vampire. “And what of this intoxicatingly beautiful gypsy girl trouncing through our pumpkin patch?”
“He is given no fee, only his fill of the greens, complete artistic freedom regarding planting patterns, and two sacks potato on holidays,” explained Rudy. “As for the gypsy girl, I can honestly say I hadn’t noticed her until you mentioned it.”
“Keen vampirical senses, bird,” Gerlock said with a wicked smile. “Prepare the stallion. I wish to communicate with this woman of the hills.”
“You don’t see that as being a bit excessive?” asked Rudy. One look at the vampire was enough to know that he was quite serious about bringing out the stallion for a journey of only a few yards. He hurried out of the room and up the stairs to the attic where the stallion Rumblefuss was kept.
When he returned, Gerlock was playing with a small toy car that apparently had the extraordinary capacity to drive vertically up a kitchen wall. He was using a falsetto voice to play the character of the girl in the passenger seat. “Sandy!” he whispered. “We’re gonna’ make it because I love you more than any girl’s ever loved a boy before.”
“Yes. Well,” Rudy said, clearing his throat, causing Gerlock to pocket the car immediately. The raven gathered up his thoughts and continued. “The stallion will be down in a moment. He’s finishing up a mosaic.”
Normally a stallion of the likes of Rumblefuss would never consider residing at a cottage like Gerlock and Rudy’s. But Rumblefuss was a horse of a different color. He was a vibrant white stallion with impressive brown splotches for accent, but that’s not what you should take from “horse of a different color”. He was an acting student at the local university but could not afford dormitory expenses on his meager scholarship. As the campus was only a slow gallop away, the cottage was an ideal place for quiet study. This term was particularly difficult because he was trying to rid himself of several fine arts requirements all at once. Mosaics are notoriously taxing on those of us with hooves.
It was not long before they were ready to head out. Gerlock wore his darkest cloak and widest brimmed hat. Rumblefuss scraped his hooves against the rain gutter alongside the porch in a futile attempt to remove the feathers, beads, and puzzle pieces he’d accidentally glued to himself during his latest project. Rudy flew in slow circles high above the girl in the pumpkin patch, a silent and stealthy scout.
Gerlock took a running start from the porch door and leapt awkwardly onto the back of Rumblefuss. He would be riding bareback today as he always did. In fact, today he would stand. Rumblefuss was just wide enough that the vampire could stand on him without teetering from side to side.
Rudy took this cue to make his descent. He took his riding position on Gerlock’s outstretched left wrist like a proper falcon. “She seems to be confused,” he reported. “Looking for something other than a pumpkin.”
“Foolish girl,” hooted the vampire. “Nothing in a pumpkin patch, save for pumpkins!”
“There are rabbits there as well,” Rudy pointed out.
“Gourds,” added Rumblefuss.
“Yes. Pumpkins, rabbits, and gourds,” Gerlock allowed. “Nothing else though.”
“Perhaps a snake,” the stallion suggested. “Or a wonderful shiny amulet she lost in a storm.”
“I am not prepared for all of these possibilities,” said Gerlock with a haughty sniff. “I wish to change course. We’ll need supplies. To the village!”
Rumblefuss rotated to face the driveway, trampling several heads of lettuce and the neighbor boy’s bicycle. Gerlock made use of his most regal posture. He held out his left arm in front with Rudy balanced like a hood ornament. His right hand was held before his sneering face, fingers curved as if he were holding some invisible orb. One tip of his mustache was swirlier than the other.
“Who’s to say that the girl will still be here when we return?” Rudy asked without turning back.
Gerlock closed his eyes very tightly and bit his lip. He began jumping up and down on the back of the stallion in a furious temper tantrum. Finally he stepped off from the horse, landing on his knees.
“My KNEECAPS!” he howled. He keeled over, still clutching at his bruises. After a few minutes he staggered to his feet and went to the other side of the cottage where he kept the boat he was building for the day when he would shun a life on land and become a great explorer and pirate king. He untied the blue vinyl tarp that covered it and spread that out on the grass. Taking one corner of the vast waterproof sheet, he began walking out to the pumpkin patch.
She was indeed terribly beautiful and was capable of ruining the minds of ten thousand men by merely stepping into their plain of vision. She was a rare and exotic commodity. Without even making eye contact, he walked past her, letting the tarp drop over her and the surrounding pumpkins. He did not tether it to the ground, as he was too preoccupied with how clever the solution was. And there was also the agonizing pain in his knees. Hopefully the wind would not pick up.