The Price Of Knowing
(Calvary Cemetery – Photo by Joe)
We were at a cemetery late one evening last week and Benny, “the cigar store Indian,” had stopped to talk with an old woman whose name was Margaret. She was at the grave site of her husband and son. She said her son Robert, dead over twenty-five years, was a vampire. Now I’ve seen many odd creatures in my life, but I refuse to believe that there exist immortal fiends of the blood-sucking order. Yet when I spotted a hand rise from the loose soil at Robert’s graveside while we talked, I was in no mind to see the point proven either way.
“Time to go,” I had said and grabbed Benny by the arm, before either he or the old woman noticed the hand, which suspiciously had begun its ascent at the precise moment the sun fell behind the buildings to the west.
I had wanted to drive off and leave the alleged blood sucker and his mother. In the way of a clean get-a-way were my two other friends, the pizza and Chinese delivery guys(aka num and nuts). Their faces were scrunched like they were going to hurl. I knew they had seen the hand. For the record, my lady friend(LF) was standing right behind them, but she was browsing Facebook on her cell.
Num and nuts launched into the oddest, most prolonged screams I had ever heard. They began in the lower octaves, very closer to a moan, and then their voices rose like the siren of an oncoming fire truck.
“The high road awaits!” I cried and crashed past num and nuts who danced out of the way like skeletons on a string. My LF had looked up in bewilderment and saw my smiling face. “I’m starving!” I cried and stuck my tongue out. “Let’s get to your sister’s and eat!”
Num and nuts high-tailed it around her and clambered into the back seat. I slung Benny in with them and opened the passenger door for my still befuddled LF.
And then Margaret let out a harrowing scream. It was like something exploded in her bowels, and entrails shot from her mouth. Such a cry of pain, it was like a knife to my soul.
I cursed and went to get her.
Through the gloom, I saw what must have been Robert. He pushed up out of the grave aside his mother who had fallen to her knees.
Robert scrambled to his feet with stiff and unsure motions. Tall and wiry, as he walked his shoulders rocked side to side, while he clenched his butt cheeks.
My adrenaline had kicked into overdrive, but I still paused though not by my own volition.
It was a gruesome and unholy sight, made worse because it was a mother and her child. “The hall of records” in me had to absorb and catalog it. My body seemed to float aimlessly for a moment.
Margaret had turned milk-white. Her mouth was open, though she had grown quiet.
A yellow light flashed. I turned to see a pickup truck come up the road with a flashing yellow light on its roof. A bright spotlight affixed above the driver’s side door lighted on us.
I turned and got a better look at Robert. He didn’t walk fast, but seemed in a hurry. Each stride seemed to have him nearly stumble. Arms were pressed to his sides, and his hands trembled. I saw that he had long, curled fingernails.
Months ago I had seen a homeless man by South Street that had the same odd stride as Robert.
“Hey, hey–!” a man called from the pickup truck.
Robert flopped straight down to his right as if someone had tackled him. He began to crawl on his crooked elbows and knees. The motions were much smoother than when he was afoot.
“–Place closed an hour ago!”
I waved to the man in the pickup, gathered Margaret from the ground and put my arm over her shoulder and led her to the car. It was a late model Cadillac, parked near our Camry.
She seemed as fragile as a newborn. There was very little if any spark in her eyes. She was in no condition to drive.
I had no choice but to drive her home and told Benny to come with me. I had expected her to say she lived in Long Island, which would have meant she was going to be chauffeured to the nearest Mickey D’s. She said she lived just a few miles away.
Benny got in the back seat and fixed his gaze out the window. I was furious that he had us take him to the cemetery that night, so he could “talk with a spirit.” I was certain it was really Robert, whom he had brought us to see.
A minute or two after we pulled out of the cemetery, Margaret seemed to be doing a little better. Her head and shoulders shook only a little. It could have been a sign of age. She broke the silence with an impassioned tone, “I just want Robert to stop. Is there anyone who can make him stop?”
Benny glanced my way, only to divert his gaze when our eyes met.
Between mucous filled breaths, Margaret repeated her words.
“We will help you,” Benny said with an air of believability. “In any way we can, we will help you.”
I glared at him. He smiled.
We pulled up out front of Margaret’s house, and she asked how she could reach us. Benny began to rattle off my LF’s cell number. I cut him off mid-number and gave Margaret my work number. My boss at the demolition company usually picks it up, and he’s a lunatic. I imagined him giving her a quote of five grand over the phone to “demo” her son, who’s a vampire. And I can hear him telling me, “I don’t know what da’ f—-k a vamp’pyre is. Just knock it da’ f— down and throw it in the f—-ing truck.”
When we got to my LF’s sister’s house in Greenpoint for dinner, I threw the car in park and said I needed to speak to Benny alone. I didn’t meet my LF’s glance as she got out of the car, but knew she looked at Benny as if to say, “don’t worry.”
I hate the way my LF views Benny as a sweet, old homeless man. The fact is that he has innocent eyes and a schoolboy smile, and knows how to use them on her.
“You took us there on purpose,” I said, my arm hanging over the back of the seat. “Don’t try and tell me otherwise.”
“I didn’t know we would find a vampire.”
“Yes, you’re right, we need to find—”
“F— you!” I said and repeated it before he could speak. His face reddened. “You live to torture me. Don’t you get it that I don’t want me or my friends involved in your little adventures. How many times do I need to say it before it gets through to you?”
“You’ve seen Robert before,” Benny said, evenly. “Right.”
My gaze grew steely and detached. I wasn’t going to answer. I wanted to forget Robert. I wanted to forget that the night ever happened.
“On South Street, you’ve seen him,” Benny said confidently.
Benny said nothing for close to a minute as he seemed to let the silence quell my emotions. A car slowly came up the street that was lined with streetlights, and lit doorways of handsome brownstones and walk-ups. I wondered if it was a pizza delivery car in search of an address. He parked out of sight.
I gazed about for something else to capture my interest.
“Though he has no need to be, Robert can be deadly if provoked,” Benny said, and then his voice slowly faded to a whisper. “What you need to understand, like it or not, is that there is a price that comes with knowing. It doesn’t have to be death.”
I tensed for a moment, then was taken by how the dark was so clear and crisp. I wished for all dark to be that way.
Here are all the posts in this series: Episode Twenty-Eight – April/May 2010 – “Something to do with Vampires”