You try to lead a normal life, well as normal as possible, but as a Jewish vampire (kosher yet) I was having difficulties. Three hours after I moved into my new home on Mockingbird Lane; yes, I know it’s where the Munsters lived, but that was total fiction — they were a bunch of hicks — anyway, back to my afternoon. A neighbor arrived late in the day with a soggy brown cake. Mind you, it was winter and the sun had just set so it was safe to open the door to suburban homemaker Brenda McCarthy, who announced she lived in the house next to mine. Lucky me.
“Hi neighbor! Bart and I saw the moving truck here all day, but we didn’t see hide nor hair of you! Soooo,” she said, stringing out the word, “here’s a little welcome present! I baked it myself,” she said, proud of her misshapen slab of sugar, butter, and flour. “The Hospitality Wagon should be coming around tomorrow. I’m on the committee and told them to be here at two, is that okay?”
Was she freakin’ kidding me? In the middle of the day? That definitely wouldn’t work.
“And you’re going to have to give them your last name for our records; it only says Plage on the mailbox. Gee, I hope I’m pronouncing that right,” Brenda said.
“Just perfect,” I said. “It means ‘beach’ — my parents were French,” I said, repeating the idiotic instructions from the Count.
The Count, a notorious social climber who knows from nothing, only gave me a first name, saying a French moniker would sound “more classier” — his grammar, not mine.
“You’ll tell people your parents were French,” he said in that obnoxious holier-than-thou tone of his. I’m pretty feisty for a female vampire, but you cannot cross the Count. It’s just not done. “I need you to infiltrate suburbia to find out if it’s suitable for our kind. It’s part of our ‘cross-culture mission’,” he said. Since the Count doesn’t know his ass from anyone’s elbow, least of all his own, I let it pass and took the job.
So now I’m standing here with Betty Crocker and since I wasn’t real fast with the human repartee I came up with the first thing that popped into my mind.
“It’s Vein. Veinstein, I mean. I’m Jewish. And thanks for the cake, but I can’t eat it. I’m kosher and a vegan,” I said, blurting out a lie along with the truth.
“Oh? But there’s no meat in the cake and it’s vegetable oil, not butter,” Brenda said with that “love me, love my cake” look in her eyes.
“My mistake. I meant I’m allergic to gluten and White Zinfandel. I love meat,” I said, wangling my way out of the conversation.
“Then you must come over for a barbecue tonight. It’s been such a warm winter and we want to take advantage of it. I won’t take no for an answer! Bart, that’s my ever-loving hubby, wanted to meet you, but he’s watching football or some other manly sport. See you later. Eight o’clock, and don’t bother bringing anything; we have a box of great steaks that my sister sent us for Christmas. How do you like yours?” she said, moving her head from side to side, trying to sneak a peek into my living room. “Rare. Very rare. See you then,” I said. “I have a ton of things to do.”
Like planning her demise . . . and not for the usual reasons. Brenda was blond, rail-thin, pale, and short, and definitely not worth the bloodletting; I just didn’t want her snooping around.
Since I had nothing in the house to snack on and the only Jewish deli in town closed early on Friday nights, I made some coffee and had a sliver of Brenda’s cake, which she insisted I take. Wow! It was fabulous! I’d never tasted anything like it in my several hundred years of being undead. I wondered what she put in it; I’d have to ask tonight at the barbecue. While I was changing out of my black tights and tee into a swingy black jersey dress, I felt pretty good. Calm. Covering up my identity wouldn’t be that difficult, and I might even let Brenda live. I’d be affable this evening and blend in with the neighbors.
When I arrived the party was in full swing and the smell of beef cooking over an open flame was tantalizing. I’m certain it wasn’t kosher meat, but I did make exceptions outside the house.
“Well, you must be our new neighbor, Plage,” said the chef, who identified himself as Bart. “Go get yourself a drink and I’ll have the steaks ready in a jiffy. They’re not kosher,” he confessed, confirming my suspicions, “but I bet you can cheat once in a while. Rare, right?”
“Thanks, Bart. Actually, make mine medium if it’s not too much trouble,” I said, surprising myself. Being affable was one thing, but asking for meat that wasn’t dripping with blood? Why would I put in that request? Before I had a chance to mull it over, Brenda grabbed ahold of me and introduced me to her crowd. I almost felt guilty looking for a nice thick neck because these people were so hospitable and friendly. Even though I was due for a transfusion I decided to wait it out a bit until I was sure of the donor.
After dinner we sat around in Brenda’s colonial/post-modern living room with a La-Z-Boy type of sofa where six or seven people could recline at once, and our hostess sliced up another cake, identical to the one she’d brought over to me. I couldn’t resist. I had to find out what was in that confection.
“Brenda, I’ve never tasted such a delicious cake. I simply can’t identify the exact flavor. Do you mind revealing your secret?” I said with just a hint of a smile, not wanting to bare my incisors.
“Everyone loves Brenda’s cakes!” said a plump woman named Marly, a prospective gourmet meal ticket for me although the thought of performing a phlebotomy on any of my newfound friends was now making me queasy.
“Oh, you all make such a fuss over my cake, but it’s really simple; I chop up dried figs and add them to the batter,” said our hostess. “Plage, are you okay? You look all flushed.”
Flushed? A vampire? That is one shade we don’t turn. And I was far from okay. I almost passed out on the spot. Figs! That was the one food that is Kryptonite to all vampires. It kills our abilities and powers, including being able to turn into a bat, which has been quite useful throughout the centuries. On the other hand it might be nice not to have to sleep in a coffin.
It was too late to overturn the events of the evening because even one small bite of a fig would humanize a vampire. I’d felt strange after my afternoon nibble, but now it was coming on in full force. After a short coughing fit I addressed the group sitting in the room with me.
“I’m fine, Brenda. Just remembered I was supposed to go to services tonight; I’ll be sure to get there tomorrow morning,” I said, hiding the true force of my discovery.
“Plage,” said Rhona Friedman, my back-door neighbor, “why don’t I pick you up and we’ll go together.”
“Thanks Rhona, that sounds lovely. If you wouldn’t mind, do you think we could stop at Macy’s afterward? I need some new sheets,” I said, and took another bite of cake.
Carol White is a novelist and playwright. Her latest book is “From One Place to Another.”