Scott was at his parents’ house, setting the table for dinner. His father was in the kitchen, cooking something. His mother appeared a moment later and tried to take the plates from his hands.
“You shouldn’t do that,” she fussed.
“It’s not like I’m contagious, mom,” he said, feeling annoyed.
“Yes, but still….”
“Let the boy do it,” Scott’s father said, coming into the dining room carrying a smoking-hot skillet in one hand and a spatula in another. He started putting hamburgers on each plate. Scott wondered why he didn’t wait for the buns, but he didn’t say anything. In fact, he suddenly realized that his dad was dead. But for whatever reason, he was alive now. He had been allowed to have one last dinner with his family before he had to go back. Scott wanted to tell him what he hadn’t had time to tell him before.
“Dad, I hope you know I love you.”
His dad looked a little surprised. “Of course, Scottie.”
Scott hugged him, and his dad hugged him back tightly and patted him on the back. “You’re a good boy. You’re my son. And I’m proud of you.”
Scott felt tears of pride and happiness well up in his eyes.
Scott woke up when his tears wet his pillow and his face. He sat up and turned on the lamp beside the bed, bringing light into the pitch-black of his basement bedroom.
He wiped his face with the top of the sheet, sniffing.
That hadn’t been the first dream he had had about his dad. In all of them, he realized that his father was dead, but his mind made up some excuse for why he happened to be living at the moment. In any event, he always took the opportunity to tell his dad that he loved him—as if he could make up for not getting a chance to tell him before he died.
Scott glanced at the clock; it was less than an hour before he had to get up anyways. He knew he’d never go back to sleep.
He felt incredibly lonely and wished Josie was with him. He wondered if she was awake yet—he thought she got up earlier than he did, so she could get some things done while it was still light. Finally, he gave up and reached for his phone and called her.
“Hey, Scott,” she said when she answered. She sounded tired.
“Did I wake you up?” he asked anxiously.
“No, I’ve been up for the last hour throwing up.”
“I’m sorry. Do you need anything? I can bring you something in a little while, if you need it.”
“I think I’m okay,” she said warily. “I just feel like shit. But I’ve been feeling this coming on for a couple of days; I think I must have a bug.”
“I understand. Stay home.”
She half-laughed. “I wasn’t planning on coming in. I was just waiting for it to get a little later before I called you. So, what are you doing up early?”
“I had a dream about my dad,” he admitted.
Scott told her about the dream and the others like it.
“You know,” Josie said thoughtfully, “the rabbis say that sleep is like 1/60th of death, and that when we go to sleep, our souls actually leave our bodies, and dreams are… like visions of other realms… or something like that. In any event, dreams aren’t wholly real, but they’re not wholly made up, either.”
“So… what does that mean?”
“Well, I don’t know what a rabbi’s position on your situation would be, but I, personally, think that you can talk to the soul of your father when you’re asleep. And I think that he can hear you.”
Tears sprang to Scott’s eyes again.
“I think it’s a good thing you dream about that,” she continued. “Maybe if you do it enough, you’ll feel like things are balanced between you and your dad—it will feel like you’ve said everything you needed to say to him and you won’t feel like things were left incomplete.”
“And you think that he can hear me?” Scott asked hopefully.
“Absolutely. I think he’s there with you. I think you… conjure him up, if you will, because your heart longs to be with him. He comes because you call to him, and he’s there just so you can say what you want to say.”
Scott had to wipe his face with the sheet again. But before he could say anything, Josie spoke hurriedly. “Sorry, Scott, I’ve got to go.” And the line went dead.
Poor Josie. He didn’t envy her that part of being human. Since he had become a vampire, he had not suffered from any illness. The closest thing he had felt to sickness was when he drank Michael’s extra-bloody Bloody Mary and the liquor had hit his stomach like a ton of lead.
He got up and watched the evening news for a little while. Po was curled up asleep on the couch and barely cracked an eye open to look at him, before going back to sleep. Scott had long since given up trying to keep him off of it, and, instead, put a blanket down to try to keep the worst of the golden dog hairs off the upholstery.
But, when Scott go up and started getting ready for work, Po hopped off the couch, slowly stretched, shook himself out, and was suddenly a ball of energy. Scott could hardly put his shoes on for Po jumping up on his hands.
“Po, down!” he commanded.
Po got down, ran around in circles for a minute, chasing his tail, then he was right back on Scott.
There was a reason why every drawer in the apartment and office had a lint brush in it.
He managed to make it up the stairs without Po tripping him, and as soon as he opened the basement door, Po dashed out and went clattering down the hallway for the front door. Scott got a regular bottle of blood out of the refrigerator—he had a few bottles of good-quality stuff that he got from Gus, the chef he had met in Nashville, but he tended to save that for special occasions, because it was none too cheap—and he poured it into the coffee pot to warm. Then he got a leash out of a drawer in Josie’s credenza.
Po was sitting by the front door, waiting on him. As soon as Scott approached, he jumped up on the door.
“Po, no! Down!”
He got down, but whined the entire time Scott was attaching his leash.
At last, Scott opened the front door. He felt the familiar tug of his arm nearly coming out of the socket as Po sprang forward, straining at the end of the leash.
“You act like I never take you out,” Scott muttered, as Po half-dragged him down to the end of the block and to his first stop: a round boxwood bush.
In fact, Po acted like every day the world was made anew—like everything had changed since he had been asleep, and he had to go explore it all over again.
Scott waited while Po sniffed the bush and found out who all had been there before him. Then he lifted his leg and left his own mark.
It was like Facebook for dogs. Or maybe that was “Facebush.”
Speaking of which…. As he walked Po along their usual route—Po’s nose to the ground, sniffing out all the news—Scott slipped the leash over his wrist and pulled his phone out of his pocket.
“Time for me to see what’s happening, too,” Scott said to no one in particular, before being sucked into the World Wife Web.
Occasionally someone would drive by and honk. Scott would absentmindedly raise a hand and wave. Everyone in the neighborhood was used to seeing him out, wearing his suit, and walking Po at twilight. One day, after he had passed two ladies sitting on their front porch, he heard one of them tell her friend that it was time for her to go home and lock all the doors if the vampires were out and about. The other lady scoffed.
“That’s just Scott, the lawyer. He’s probably more likely to sue you than bite you,” she said with a chuckle.”
“I don’t care,” the other one asserted. “They give me the heebie-jeebies. They shouldn’t be allowed to just… wander loose. Especially at night.”
“I like it,” her friend said firmly. “And I hope everyone in town knows he comes through here every night. It keeps the punks away. You notice no one’s messed with my mailbox since he came.”
Scott had just smiled as he walked out of hearing range. He made it a point, though, to greet both of them every time he saw them. The one lady was always pleasant, but the other one looked like she might bolt.
Scott crossed the bridge and sat down on a bench next to the walking trail that followed the little river. He let go of Po’s leash, letting him run down to the water to get a drink. He never wandered too far away, and he always came when Scott called, so he wasn’t too worried about it.
Scott noticed that Josie had posted on Facebook about being sick. Her mother—who he only knew through Facebook—had replied with a snarky, “I hope your vampire boss lets you take a sick day. It’ll only get worse if you don’t rest. And drink plenty of fluids!”
Josie’s mother always referred to him as “your vampire boss.” Scott wasn’t sure if she was in total denial that Josie was dating Scott, or if she hoped to somehow shame Josie with the constant reminders that Scott was her boss.
Scott posted a reply below hers. “Yes, her vampire boss told her to stay home. He’s surprisingly squeamish when it comes to vomiting.” Scott always referred to himself in the third person when replying to Josie’s mother, as if he could shame her into referring to him by name.
So far, she hadn’t shamed Josie into dumping him and he hadn’t shamed her into calling him by his name, or at least acknowledging that he was her boyfriend.
A moment later, Josie’s brother Michael replied with, “LOL.”
Josie and her siblings—Michael especially—got a kick out of seeing Scott dueling with their mother. In fact, Josie actively encouraged it. Maybe she thought it was good practice for the real battle that was coming up. Michael and Ariel’s Hanukkah party was less than two weeks away. Then the gloves were going to come off and shit was going to get real.
Scott wasn’t sure if he was raring to go at it, or if it made him sick to his stomach. Sometimes it depended on what mood he was in. Sometimes it was both.
After a few more minutes of reading through everyone’s post—his friends list was sadly short after he had de-friended everyone in his family but his cousin Darren and his wife, Patty—Scott whistled for Po.
He saw Po’s head shoot up, over the embankment. A moment later, he was running up the hill, the leash trailing behind him.
He was wet up to his back.
“Po!” Scott fussed, picking up the wet leash. “Why do you always get in the river, but you act like I’m killing you when I give you a bath?”
Po replied by vigorously shaking water everywhere.
“Ack!” Scott said, trying to turn away. But it was too late; there was water all over his suit.
“Okay, no more running loose for you,” Scott said. Po looked up at him with a happy face and wagging tail, clearly not understanding a word Scott had just said.
He suddenly felt guilty. Why should he take away Po’s happiness? All he had to do was put on some regular clothes before taking him for a walk, then change into his suit when he got back to the office. He’d have to spend a little less time on Facebook, but Po would be so much happier with a little freedom.
“I don’t know who’s worse about giving me the guilt trip,” Scott mumbled as he and Po started to walk back to the office, “you or Clarice or Josie.”
Read the entire series–The Bloodsuckers: Vampire Lawyers of Middle Tennessee