âtownâ consisted basically of one main street. There were a couple of diners, a gas station, a library. A knitting shop. I passed a couple of clothing stores that looked like they hadnât changed their window displays since the 1950s. The mannequins were dusty, and looked even more tortured than usual. Never mind about the clothes.
I had breakfast at one of the diners; eggs on white toast, bottomless coffee. I deliberated on pancakes, but wasnât happy enough. Nor was I feeling sorry enough for myself to warrant cheering up via comfort food. I had what I deemed a manâs breakfast, minus the bacon (too salty, and pigs are just so damn loveable). Then I went and sat in the library.
I found a book on Egon Schiele, sat at a table and looked at the pictures. Egon is Guntherâs favourite artist. He took me to an exhibition of Austrian expressionists on one of the rare occasions we stopped in a city. Heâs pretty good at locating retro movie theatres, too. He likes to try and get us a cultural fix every now and then. We once found an arthouse cinema in a town so tiny all it seemed to have in it was this cinema. We saw Betty Blue. Now thereâs a chick who latched onto a man and was truly crazy. Iâm not that out there. Besides, I didnât feel like I was latching on until after the fact. Seems to me like I was invited.
I sat there and read about the life of Egon Schiele. He and his wife both got sick and died young. His artwork must have been pretty shocking for his day, because itâs semi-pornographic by todayâs standards, but then, what a fucking bunch of prudes everyone is today. I donât think Egon would have cared either way. In his words (written in calligraphy on the inner sleeve of the book), âArt cannot be modern; art is eternalâ.
I find Egon Schieleâs paintings to be a touch haughty. I can see why Gunther likes him. But out of all those old expressionists, I like Richard Gerstl, who committed suicide young and left barely any work behind to show for it. Gunther says I have highly advanced tastes. But itâs pointless to write about art when itâs not there for people to see.
Checking the motel again for signs of Gunther was a compulsion I tried to but could not resist. I meandered a little, but there was no point in kidding myself, I really wanted to just make a bee line for the room, so thatâs what I ended up doing.
He was sitting up in bed with his ankles crossed, smoking a joint. He hadnât even bothered to take off his shoes. But then, in a dump like this, who cares?
âHave a good time?â he droned, evenly. Goddamn the King of Cool. I just looked at him.
âSpend all the money?â Just as cas.
âNo,â I stammered. âSome of it. I had eggs.â I shrugged. âAnd stuff.â
He smiled graciously. I knew he could tell I was upset. And it seemed like such a weakness, all this raw emotion of mine. He beamed down on me from that filthy rooms-by-the-hour motel bed, looking like someone had stretched a Buddha. All long and thin, exuding calmness, kindness.
He handed me the joint, in a slow fluid movement. I took it, and flopped down on the bed next to him. We both stared straight ahead in silence. God knows what he was thinking; I was wondering where the fuck heâd been these past few days. He couldnât possibly have dames everywhere. Besides, I donât think Guntherâs libidoâs all it used to be. He keeps to himself, and I coax him out.
After weâd passed the joint back and forth and Iâd had several good tokes, it struck me how perfectly the vampire scenario explained the unexplainable absences. If I had to duck out and slaughter some semi-innocent victims for the purpose of sucking their blood, I wouldnât tell my loved ones, either.
We switched the TV on and watched the news. Some little girl had gone missing in the next town over. And the next county had been
Teresa McCullough, Zachary McCullough