"I am the grammarian about whom your mother warned you."
Since I’ve had so little time to write or come up with blog posts lately, I thought I’d toss this up here. It’s another character interview with one of the characters in my vampire novel. I did another one awhile back for a writing challenge, and found it so much fun I’m doing them for more of my characters. I’m not holding to the same requirements as before; this one is way over 1000 words and pretty free-ranging, which suits this character.
Neko is Andrej’s oldest friend (and also another vampire), although he’s not around much. He pops up unexpectedly every few years or so in Andrej’s life. He’s a little less predictable than Andrej, definitely more dangerous, so rather than meet him out somewhere Andrej offered his apartment for the interview. That way if things got out of hand Andrej could step in and remind Neko of his manners. It wasn’t that I didn’t trust Neko… yes, yes it was. I knew Andrej would be keeping close tabs on the conversation even though he was in another room.
“So Neko, it’s nice to see you. Thanks for taking time to talk with me today.” I noted he was in his usual biker gear, bandana on his head, with the ever-present dark glasses. I wasn’t sure if he was coming or going.
“Yeah sure, nothing else going on,” he said and grinned broadly.
“Let’s get to it. What would you like to know?” he said cheerfully. Leaning back in the chair he lit a cigar, puffing on it to get it started. He was in a good mood, almost jaunty.
“How ’bout we start with where you’re from,” I said. I got the feeling he was going to try to keep the upper-hand throughout our little tête-à-tête, and I’d been around these guys long enough now to know better than to fight it.
“Greece. Originally anyway. But you know that was so long ago, it’s like asking the ocean where it’s from.”
“Well, the water that’s in the ocean, you know. It comes from everywhere, it’s not just one thing. It has many sources; many different rivers and what not feed into it. It keeps circulating, moving around.” He gesticulated with his hands, making a swirling motion.
“That’s rather philosophical. I guess that means you’ve done a lot of traveling.”
“You could say that.” Again with the grin.
It was clear to me why he and Andrej were such great friends. Like attracts like and all that. I started to wonder if Andrej had coached him ahead of time. Nah, now I was being paranoid. I offered him a cup of coffee.
“No thanks, never touch the stuff.”
“Oh, sorry. Andrej drinks it all the time. Tea? Or what you do you usually drink?” I don’t know what I was thinking asking a vampire that question, but he let it go, surprisingly.
“Even at breakfast?”
“Breakfast? Who the hell’s up at that hour? I don’t get up until a decent drinking hour.” He stretched his legs out and puffed on the cigar, looking very pleased with himself.
“Incredibly, some of us actually like mornings.”
“I could fix that for you.”
My turn not to take the bait. I countered instead with, “So is this your usual look?”
“What?” He looked down at himself as if checking to see if his fly was open.
“I mean the whole biker persona.”
“Yeah, why?” He checked inside his jacket, brushed off his shoulders as if he was worried about dandruff or lint.
“Just curious. Don’t you think that some people find it a little off-putting?”
“People like you, maybe. Not the kind of people I’m usually around.”
“What does that mean?”
“Nice little girl like you? What are you doing slumming around with us anyway?”
“For one thing, I’m hardly a little girl…”
“Matter of perspective.”
“…and I don’t consider it slumming. And for another thing, this interview’s not about me.”
“Oh all right.” He sat back and watched me, waiting for the next question.
I knew Andrej’s story of how he had become and vampire and because of that I hesitated to ask the circumstances of Neko’s transformation, although I really wanted to hear it. I’m sure he knew it was foremost in my mind, what with their ability to read minds and all, but as he didn’t seem to want to volunteer the information I held my peace, unwilling to risk ruining his good humor.
“What kind of people are you usually around then?”
“The kind your mother warned you about.” He did the most ridiculous mock menace face imaginable, raising and lowering his eyebrows like Groucho Marx, the cigar only strengthening the image of Groucho in my mind.
“I bet you have a lot of fun with that,” I said.
He shrugged. “It’s just the way things worked out. Believe it or not, I’m not always in such a good mood, and doing what I do means I don’t have to be.”
“So the biker look is strategic then?”
“Not entirely. It’s who I was before, but I can’t exactly show up for the jobs I do looking like a Sunday school teacher.”
“Why not? I would imagine with your abilities you could pretty much wear whatever you liked and get the job done.”
“Oh no, this is partly show biz, see? It’s all about appearances. After awhile I’ll do something else, and dress for that part. Things have to change every so often, you understand.”
“I suppose so, or there’d be a lot of questions you couldn’t answer.”
“You got it.”
“Which begs the question – Does anyone know about you?”
“Noooo,” he said. “Can’t have that. It’d spoil all the fun.” Again with the wicked grin.
“You really are enjoying this, aren’t you? I mean the whole being a vampire thing.”
The smile faded a tiny bit, and he became thoughtful. It felt like several minutes passed before he finally spoke. “You adapt,” he said. “Whether you think you can or not, you do, because there is no other choice. In life, there was always a choice. But not now. So you adapt, and you learn to find ways to survive it and more than that, ways to enjoy it.”
I must have looked skeptical because he went on, “You would, don’t doubt that for a minute. You can’t spend eternity in self-loathing, allowing human mores to govern you. They don’t apply anymore. We can play the part, but we’re never really a part of it.”
I shifted in my chair. There was pain, regret even in his voice.
“Does that make it easier to do what you have to do?”
Without my needing to elaborate, he knew what I meant. “No, not really. What I mean is, I don’t find it hard to do. Like I said, you adapt. Your self-preservation instincts take over and you just survive however you have to. For instance, I could drink your blood right now. For me, it’s second nature.”
Subconsciously I put a hand to my neck, which made him laugh.
“Don’t worry, I promised I’d be on my best behavior with you. Matter of fact, I have something for you.” He reached down behind the chair, pulled up a single white rose and held it out to me.
“What is this for?” I asked as I accepted it. I noted there were no thorns on the stem.
“Just something I like to do.” He leaned over and took my other hand and kissed it. I raised an eyebrow at him as he sat back down. “You like flowers, don’t you?”
“Do you know the language of flowers? White roses symbolize purity, among other things.”
I had no idea what to say to that, or where he was going with this.
“I’ll tell you what, why don’t you see what else you can find out about them, and we’ll talk again later? I need to get going, duty calls.” He rose and called out, “Gotta go, buddy. I’ll talk to you later.”
After we said goodbye and he walked out the door of the apartment, Andrej came out of the other room with an ‘I told you so’ look on his face.
“You know why he left, don’t you?” he asked.
“I think I have a pretty good idea,” I said. “I was getting dangerously close to being the house special this evening.”
Andrej chuckled. “And speaking of dinner, you ready to go? I have a nice little place picked out for this evening, I think you’ll like it. I would have cooked something here, but you know I don’t keep food around.”
Now I laughed. “Yes, I remember.” I grabbed my coat and we headed out.