Anyways, speaking of werewolves, I recently released a Tripleshot Series collection of werewolf stories. One of the tales was "House Rules." Short version: a werewolf and a vampire walk into a bar...
Recently, a good friend of mine posted an amazing sketch on his Face Book page. Coincidentally, it matches "House Rules!" Isn't that cool? Again, just me?
Okay, either way Robert has given me permission to post that very picture here along with the story so you folks could get an idea of what I'm talking about. (That and because I want folks to see how cool Robert's art is! WOOP!) Here is Robert's wonderful piece, "I Drink Alone" followed by my story, "House Rules."
You can catch more of Roberts cool art work at his page: http://www.robertelrodllc.com/
Enjoy cats and kittens!
|I Drink Alone|
It was a warm Monday night when Horace parked his hairy rump on his usual stool with as gruff an air as he could manage. He glowered an extra-glowering glower at the folks around him, most of whom moved one seat over. Huffing a few loud huffs, he crossed his arms and hunched over the bar, giving the barkeep his sourest look.
Jill, who had seen much worse glowers and much sourer faces, just smiled and asked, “What’ll it be?”
“Scotch, neat, and keep ‘em coming ‘til I say when.”
As the amber liquid flowed from bottle to glass, the bartender delivered the expected line. “Want to talk about it?”
“I don’t want to talk about it,” Horace growled. “I want to rip out someone’s throat about it.”
Without another word, Jill hooked her thumb over her shoulder, gesturing to the blackboard hanging behind her, to the list of bar rules. Recorded in chalk for easy alterations, rules came and went as quickly as the days changed, depending on the crowd’s mood and size and temperament.
But rule number one was always the same.
No killing anyone. No eating anyone. No exceptions.
Horace huffed again as he snatched up his scotch. “I ain’t gonna break your precious rules. Can’t a guy just have a drink?”
“Sure you don’t want to talk about it?” Jill asked, this time with a look of genuine worry.
Horace, who really did want to talk about it, shook his hairy head.
“Have it your way,” Jill said as she pushed the drink across the bar, then left the werewolf alone to sulk.
Horace regretted it as soon as Jill stepped away. She was a good woman … for a norm, that was. Most normal humans were unbearable company, all prattle and giggles and so much fresh meat. But Jill was cool. The chick seemed to be made of patience. She could sit through a century-long yarn told by an Elder beast without so much as a yawn, then turn right about and ask to hear the next one.
Of course, that’s why all the local creatures favored Jill’s Bar.
“Bloody Mary,” requested a shadowy form to Horace’s left.
Horace eyed the undead thing with disgust. He never did like vampires, and Larry was a prime example of why. As charismatic as an eel, not to mention as slippery as one, Larry was a vampire in both mythical and literal terms. He not only existed on the blood of the living, he also ran the only all-night used car lot in town. Few could resist his staff of vampiric salesmen or their mesmerizing sales pitches.
Jill slid a tall glass of dark red fluid across the bar, complete with straw, upon which the vampire slurped with greedy pulls. In moments, the glass was half empty, and the vampire leaned back with a revolting, bloody belch. He looked to Horace, narrowing his eyes as he asked, “What’s up your fuzzy rump?”
“Why are you not at the lot, hocking your lemons?” Horace asked.
Picking imaginary bits of lint from his dark jacket, Larry flashed a sharp smile. “My lemons, as you call them, are perfectly fine automobiles. Every single one comes with a money-back guarantee, and unlike some werewolves I know, every single one of them works.”
Horace lost his grin. “What are you trying to say, mosquito man?”
Larry also lost his grin. “I’m insinuating that you can’t keep a job, dog breath.”
“Tampon sucker,” Horace growled as he leaned closer to Larry.
“Rectal sniffer,” Larry hissed as he leaned closer to Horace.
“Break it up!” Jill shouted, at which the beasts both backed down. “You want to fight, be my guest. But take it out back. You’re disturbing my other customers.”
As Jill returned to her duties, Larry echoed the bartender in a high, annoying voice, “You’re disturbing my other customers …”
Against his better judgment, Horace laughed.
Without another word, Jill dropped what she was doing, went to the chalkboard and added rule number fifteen.
Mocking the bartender will lead to eviction from the park.
“Come now, Jill,” Larry said. “I was only joshing.”
“Yeah,” Horace added, feeling guilty for making Jill mad. “We were only kidding. Besides, ain’t no one listening to our ugly asses anyhow.”
“I don’t mind your pissing and moaning,” Jill said. “But keep the insults to a low roar and the claws retracted. Got it?” The bartender tapped a finger against this week’s rule number six.
Please keep hands, teeth, claws, tentacles and other appendages to yourself.
Horace hadn’t even realized his claws were out. He retracted them with no small amount of embarrassment. “Sorry, Jill.”
“Forget about it,” Jill said. “Just don’t make me call you down again. I’m about to get the second shift crowd in here. Try not to run them off if you can help it.”
The beasts agreed they would, at the very least, try.
As the busy bartender returned to her evening preparations, the werewolf returned to his sulking. A low rumble of thunder rolled across the room, dragging Horace’s rotten mood even lower. He hated rain. All rain ever did for him was mat up his fur and leave him smelling like a wet dog. Never mind the fact that when he ran about in the rain he was, essentially, a wet dog. He just hated smelling like one.
“It will rain soon,” Larry said.
Horace rolled his eyes. “Way to make an observation there, Captain Obvious.”
“What is wrong with you tonight?”
“I call foul on that one. You are way more tetchy than normal. Granted, you’re usually gruff enough to blow down more than your share of houses. But tonight? My friend, tonight I do believe you could blow down the Empire State Building.”
“Stop with the little pig references. Don’t force me into reminding you of the whole twinkling in the sun thing.” Horace knew it was a low blow, but he was in the mood for just such blows. Maybe even lower ones.
The vampire shivered at the threat. “Fair enough.”
The two beasts, immortal enemies in a mortal world, sat hunched over their respective drinks, sulking. Thunder shook the bottles on the shelves, tapping out a Morse warning of the oncoming storm.
“So?” asked Horace.
“So what?” asked Larry.
“Why ain’t you at the lot? Or ain’t you in the mood to suck the money from folks’ wallets?”
The vampire smiled wryly. “Well if you must know, the economy has seen a downturn in vehicular purchases. I decided to let the lads have an extra night free to offset the poor sales.”
Horace stared at Larry, wondering why the thing always spoke as if he were addressing a roomful of college graduates and not normal everyday folks.
The vampire gave a little sigh. “I had to close the place an extra night because we are losing money.”
“Oh,” Horace said. It was a candid admission to hear from a vampire. If there was one thing the undead loved more than drinking the blood of the living, it was taking their money. “Sorry to hear that.”
“I’m sure you are.”
They fell quiet again, sipping at their respective drinks, mulling over their respective problems. Thunder rolled about the place with all the subtlety of a hungry bear looking for its first meal of the spring.
“So?” Larry asked.
“So?” Horace asked.
“So what brings you to the bar on a Monday night?”
Horace bristled. “Can’t a guy just come have a drink? Why’s it got to be an issue?”
“I’m sorry, I just thought with the little lady at home—”
“She’s gone,” Horace growled, then downed the rest of his scotch in one burning gulp. He motioned to Jill for another round.
“Gone?” Larry asked.
“Yup. Maureen left me.”
“Tough break,” Jill said as she topped off his glass.
“No kidding,” Horace growled.
“You kids have been married forever,” Larry said. “What happened?”
Horace snatched up his glass, swirling the liquid about as he wondered if he should bare what was left of his meager soul to the vampire. After a few bitter mouthfuls, his tongue made the choice for him, loosening enough to share his sorry tale. “I’ll tell you what happened. Mack Johnson happened.”
Larry narrowed his eyes at Horace. “The mailman?”
“You want to talk about it now?” Jill asked.
Horace nodded, supposing he did. He might as well, since these two felt like listening. “I came home from the plant early today, ‘cause she’s always whining about me not spending enough time with her. I was gonna take her out for dinner and … you know … do married stuff with her. Treat her nice. Take my time. Cuddle afterwards. You know, stuff like that.” Horace paused, needing a swallow of scotch to admit the next bit.
Another roll of thunder shook the bar.
“Sounds like you had a nice evening planned,” Jill said.
“I did,” Horace confessed. “But when I got home I found her … already … you know … doing married stuff … with Mack.”
Larry drew in a quick hiss of sympathy. “Ouch.”
“Yeah,” Horace said. “In my house. In my kitchen. In my breakfast nook. I didn’t even know you could get into that kind of position in a breakfast nook.”
“What did you do?” Larry asked.
Horace eyed the vampire again. For a change, the undead thing was hanging on the werewolf’s every word. “I came home to find some other dog burying his bone in my wife. What was I suppose to do?” He paused just in time for a deep grumble of thunder to give him all the dramatic effect he could have hoped for, then finished with, “I beat the tar out of him.”
“Good for you!” Larry shouted.
“Nice one,” Jill said with a wink.
“Yup. Beat him all the way from my breakfast nook to his mail truck. You can’t imagine how much it slows a guy down when his pants are around his ankles.”
“Oh yes,” Larry said, then chuckled. “I’m afraid I can. Unfortunately I have, as they say, both been there and done that.”
Horace smiled. “Got the T-shirt to prove it?”
“Horace, my old friend, I have a whole casket filled with a variety of shirts to prove it.”
“Figured as much. So, to make a long story even longer, I chased his truck all the way to the end of Maple Drive, shouting about what I’d do to him and his pecker if I found either of them inside of my cheating slut of a wife again.”
“Then you went back home and kicked the cheating slut of a wife out?”
“Nope. I came back to find her packing.”
“Packing?” the vampire asked in disbelief. “My God, man, she should have been on her knees, begging for your forgiveness!”
“I thought so too, but she said it weren’t the first time she had the bastard, and wouldn’t be the last. She said I weren’t attentive to her needs. That I didn’t validate her, whatever the hell that means. I tried to tell her about my evening plans, but she said one special day wasn’t enough to make up for twenty years of neglect. She called me … she said … aw geesh, Larry, she called me a fat, hairy loser!”
An awkward silence followed his heartfelt confession. It seemed the entire bar had been listening and was moved to grieve his sorry condition with him. Thunder emphasized the absence of conversation as a light rain danced on the windows and rooftop.
Jill refilled Horace’s glass with something a bit stronger. “On the house.”
“For the record,” Larry said. “I have never considered you fat.”
“Gee thanks,” Horace said. “But she’s right, right? I am a hairy loser.”
“Hairy yes, loser no. Why, you’ve kept that job at the plant longer than any other job.”
Even when he was trying to help, Larry sounded too slick, too practiced. Horace winced at the comment, then decided that if he were going to bare, he would bare all. “I didn’t come home early to surprise the wife.”
“I got fired.”
“Yeah. You see what kind of loser I am.”
“No, I see how much we truly have in common.”
Horace choked on his drink at Larry’s words. He coughed and sputtered, even allowed the vampire to whack him on the back a few times until the booze finally went down the right hole. “No offense, but what in the hell is that supposed to mean?”
The vampire gave Horace one of his overly dramatic, bone chilling sighs. The kind of sigh that reminded one of moonless nights. Of wind rolling across dry gravestones. Of dying and death and everlasting undeath. “Because I didn’t just close the lot for the night. I’ve closed it for good. We’ve hit rock bottom. I’ve had to declare bankruptcy.”
“Wow, man. I’m so sorry.”
“As am I.”
The pair fell quiet to the echo of the driving rain and the pain of their aching worries. Drink after drink they drank, getting drunker all the while.
“Look at ush,” the nearly sloshed vampire slurred.
“No thanksh,” the very wasted werewolf mumbled.
“Once we ushed to be sho great. Sho terrible. Now what are we?”
“A shet of fat, hairy loshersh?”
Larry sighed again. “I remember when I ushed to shup at the veinsh of kingsh.”
Horace whimpered. “I remember there wash a time I could rip a man ta shreadsh with jusht my bare handsh.”
“I remember when people ushed to fear ush.”
“I remember when people ushed to want to be ush.”
“And I remember when you used to whine a lot less,” Jill said.
The pair looked up to find the bartender standing over their hunched, moping forms.
Jill frowned as she shook her head at the two of them. “I’ve been at this game for a long, long time. I’ve served drinks to humans, non-humans, angels, demons, beings from dimensions that I don’t even have a name for. I’ve seen a lot of things come, and I’ve seen a lot of things go, but I have to say you two are the sorriest excuses for a bunch of immortals I have ever had the misfortune to come across.”
Horace hung his head and suspected Larry was doing the same.
Jill wasn’t impressed by their contrition. “You two have seen and done stuff that would melt the mind of a normal human like me. Yet here you are, sitting on your fat, hairy asses, whining about the good old times. Well, they’re gone. They’ve been and they ain’t coming back. But just look at the pair of you.” She lifted Horace by the chin to face her, frowning at what she saw. “When’s the last time you shaved? Or brushed those fangs? Or took a shower? Good grief, Horace. No wonder your woman was boffing the mailman.”
Horace scowled, jerking his hairy mug free of her grip. “That’sh jusht low.”
Horace considered her insult for a moment before he admitted, “Yeah … but shtill low.”
“And you,” Jill said, turning her attention to the brooding vampire. “You used to sup on the veins of kings and now you’re crying because you can’t sell used cars anymore? Really? Did you like the lot that much? ‘Cause all I remember is you complaining about it twenty-four seven.”
“While I didn’t love it,” Larry said, sitting up and trying very hard not to trip over his drunken dialect. “It wash my bread and butter. Or rather my blood and … more blood. Point being it wash a comfortable occupashon that kept me in housh and home and hemorrhagesh. Thank you very mush.”
Jill parked her hands on her hips as she stared at the swaying pair. “Point being it was comfortable, which is what you two have become lately. Too comfortable. Christ, I’ve seen kids’ toys more frightening then you knuckleheads.” And with that, she left them to their collective funk.
Which they proceeded to revel in, posthaste.
After a few more drinks and a little more rain, Larry said, “She’s right, you know.”
“I know,” Horace said.
“I have let myshelf get too confortable.”
“Maybe Maureen didn’t want validashun sho much ash shomeone she could be proud of.”
“What do we do now?”
All at once, and for no apparent reason, the vampire started to giggle. The giggle elevated to a chuckle, which bloomed into a guffaw until the vampire was outright laughing. Horace found himself swept up by the infectious sound, and before he knew what was happening, started to laugh too. Even thought he had no idea what he was laughing at.
“What’sh sho funny?” he asked.
The vampire said, between peals of laughter, “I jusht had thish vishuli … vishualish …vishon of you chashing a mail truck down the shtreet.”
When Horace realized the vampire was laughing at him, he stopped laughing. Instead he narrowed his eyes at Larry. “Whatsh sho funny about it?”
Larry tittered like a schoolgirl. “Come on, hairy schary. You don’t think itsh hilarioush? Itsh a mailmansh worsht nightmare, it ish. Imagine being chashed by a big, fat, shmelly, hairy dog!”
When Larry put it that way, it did seem kind of funny. Horace started to chuckle again. “Yeah. You shoulda sheen the look on his fashe.”
“I bet if he had hish pantsh pulled up, he’d have shit ‘em!”
Hearing the ever-proper vamp cussing did it for Horace. He started laughing as hard as Larry, until the two were arm in arm, laughing and drinking, reminiscing once more. As they continued their jokes at Mack Johnson’s expense, Jill added another rule to the fluid list of tavern laws.
If you came here to lick your wounds, prepare to share your story.
Then prepare to get over it.