Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Night Shifted, by Kate Paulk

What if vampires WEREN'T the creepy blood-lusting monsters Bram Stoker described? What if they were regular folks who had one bad date too many?
Well, that's what I found out when I was loaned this short story by my fellow Mad Genius Club fan The Real McChuck. Seems it's rather difficult to live a normal life in Houston if you are a regular guy, and a vampire. The benefits (including the speed and muscle power) just don't offset the hassles of trying to get a college schedule consisting of nothing but night classes meeting after dark. Frankly, as a person who scranched my way through taking night classes for three degrees at Georgia State University, I might recommend moving from Texas to Atlanta, but then again, it seems that everybody else in the country has already had that idea, to judge from the traffic, so I'm not going to offer that as career advice. Just, you know, you always have options, even if you are a vampire. Heck, I saw plenty of undergrad art students that might have been vampires, and this was as far back as 1977, when nobody was goth yet. I don't think any of the business students were vampires, although they were all night students, and I'm pretty sure the psych majors were mostly harmless. The school of journalism, though: well, all bets were off.
So, our hero, the hapless vampire and truly a nice person, by the way, does what the rest of us do: he gets a job to pay the bills. Mind you, he is somewhat restricted, because the daylight thing? It's a deal killer. Not to mention a vampire killer. Fortunately, he has a boss who will cover for him on those few days when sun intrudes on the graveyard shift in the job he finds to be most convenient: clerking in a convenience store. It's not all bad, if you don't mind working hard part of the time (and being bored out of your gourd, part of the time, but that doesn't enter into the story). There are some regular customers who make the store a part of their routine. And by the way, this is a true-to life description. I used to work the night shift at the Pig in Macon, and there were cops who would drop by nearly every night, which worked in my favor once when I got lost downtown and ran a red light while looking for a street I recognized.
But in the Houston convenience store on the night shift, it gets weird one night. Yeah, even more weird than a vampire ringing up slurpees. A pitiful, scrawny, frightened little snip of a girl walks through the front door and tries to kill the vampire, because, well, they are evil, ya know? Except this one isn't, so it's really good that the girl (going by the name of Anna, although it COULD be an alias, nobody checked her ID) is so marvelously ill informed about what kills vampires, and is pretty incompetent at what she does know. Really, the only thing she accomplishes is to make a mess.
And then the plot thickens...
It's a short, sweet little story, and well worth a buck for those of you who have one. Kate's humor shines in this one, and that's a really, really good thing. I happen to like warped, and this is just warped enough to make me smile. In my brain. I don't really smile with my face at anything, except my kids and especially my grandkids, or when I tell my gift-from-God, happily-ever-after trophy wife Vanessa, the elegant foxy praying black grandmother of Woodstock, GA a long involved explanation of something and then tell her I just made it up. That will, rarely, make my face smile. But Night Shifted definitely made my brain smile.

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