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  • Writer's pictureJ. Griffin Hughes

(Excerpt) from Ruby Red and the Vampire's Servant


“Hey, mister. Buy a girl a drink?” I was not surprised that she forgot our initial meeting when she approached me a second time. This often happens.


I turned to her and said, “Have you turned eighteen since last you asked?”


Then she remembered me. “Oh, hey, you… Mr. Coca-Cola Guy.”


“Yes, Miss Red.”


“Hey! You remembered!”


“That I did.”


“But it’s Ruby Red,” she corrected. “Not like a first and last name, just Ruby Red, the whole thing.”


“My apologies, Ruby Red.”


The girl grinned. “I’ll forgive you if you buy me a drink.”


I turned to the bartender. “Coca-Cola for the young lady.”


“Really? Oh, my God, you are unbelievable.” But when the bartender handed her the glass, she again made it disappear at once. “Ok, I’ll forgive you just a little bit, not as much as if you’d put rum in it, but some.”


“I shall try to persevere somehow,” I said and turned away.


“What? Hey! Wait, are you trying to get rid of me?”


Actually, I was. Her conversation distracted me from my observations. This seemed to gall her. Those dating handbooks that suggest the best way to get a woman’s attention is to refuse her yours apparently hold weight. But I had no intention of being rude to her. “Not at all.”


“Good, because you know, if you were, then that might hurt my feelings, and then we couldn’t be friends.”


She sounded as though she meant what she said, that we were going to be friends, but how could she? So far, our interaction consisted of her demanding that I spend money on her, an exchange of names, and mutual interest in a genre of music. Something in her tone made me think of schoolyard relations where one child approaches another and asks directly, “Will you be my friend?” Perhaps because of that innocence I felt a strange compulsion not to disappoint her.


“It would a shame to not be able to be friends,” I said.


“I know, wouldn’t it?” She grinned then deflated as a thought suddenly occurred to her. “Wait, what was your name?”


“Charles.”


“Oh, right. Charlie. Charlie… Charlie… Charlie… Oh, like in that Willy Wonka movie. That’s how I’m gonna remember your name—Chocolate Charlie. You know why?” She did not pause long enough for me to ask. “Because you’re sweet.” Once again she kissed my cheek before bouncing down onto the dance floor.


Ruby Red turned out to be one of those who followed every movement of Keltic Kult and almost never missed a show, so we saw a great deal of each other. I began to anticipate her arrival. Sometimes I went ahead and bought her Coke before she showed up. Then she began to anticipate my anticipation. If I failed to, she would greet me with a grin and say, “Hey, Charlie, where’s my Coke?”


We gradually exchanged personal details. I told her I came from Chicago. She told me she came from a small town in rural Massachusetts. Apparently, it “blew.” She told me her father worked in timber. I told her mine was a university professor. She explained that she hated seafood but loved fish sticks, and I agreed with her assertion that this culinary contradiction was “so weird.”


Our conversations usually occurred at the beginning of the evening, after which she invested her attention in young men with whom she could dance and drink and disappear into dark corners of the club. Occasionally she might return to the bar to catch her breath or lament the lack of suitable partnership.


“Men are assholes, Charlie. I mean not you. You’re not an asshole. I know you’re a man. You’re just not a… You know, not like them, like… I don’t know. You’re cool.”


I suppose it was a kind of compliment. The token of admiration never translated into any sexual interest towards me, and I was happy to not be faced with that complication. She appeared drawn to those who possessed wiry muscles and angry dance moves. In the months of our acquaintance, I saw her in the company of several such men, sometimes standing between two as one challenged the other for the right to her.


Due to the aggressive nature of her boyfriends, when things ended, they tended to end poorly. I once saw her shove away a suitor right on the dance floor. She returned to the bar, and he followed right behind. “What the hell? What the was that all about?”


Ruby Red spun around on her barstool holding the glass of Coca-Cola I had just purchased her. “That was me dumping you. That’s what that was.”


“You dumping me? Huh? That’s it? You dumping me?” Verbal comprehension was not his strong suit.


But Ruby Red remained defiant even as he towered over her. “Are you so stupid I got to say it again?” she said. “It’s over. Done. Thanks, but no thanks."


“Damn it, Ruby, I swear if you weren’t a girl I would mess you up something bad.”


“The name’s not ’Ruby,’ dumb-ass.”


“What? That’s what you told me? That’s what I been calling you for weeks.”


“And you were getting it wrong for weeks!”


I decided to explain, having initially made the same mistake myself. “Her name is not just Ruby. It is Ruby Red, both words together.” He looked at me in confusion.


“Who the fuck is this? Who the fuck is this guy talking to me? He like your brother or something?”


“He’s not my brother, he’s my Charlie!” Ruby Red shoved herself into his chest with such violence that the boy actually took a step back. “He’s my Charlie, and he’s awesome, and if you have a problem with Charlie, I will rip your tiny dick right off and shove it right up your stupid, stupid ass!”


Although he was twice her size, her ferocity made the boy back off. “Fine! Fine, you crazy bitch! I’m outta here.”


When Ruby Red returned to her seat, she apologized to me. “I’m sorry you had to see that Charlie. See what I mean, right? Total loser.”


“Indeed.”


It seemed Ruby Red had adopted me. She was like a stray cat who appears on your doorstep and for whom you decide to open a can of tuna. Continue to feed it, and even though you neither purchased nor raised that animal, it is yours, and you are its.


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