Phil tromped into the kitchen and sat down to the right of Whitney, far out of Grandpa’s viewing range.
“Oh, curse my dreadful manners,” Phil said. “I’ve interrupted your dinner. What are you all having?”
“Lorraine’s famous cheesy tuna noodle casserole,” Larry said.
“Tuna noodle casserole,” Phil said. “That sounds positively scrumptious…or at least it I think it does. I don’t know what’s good and what’s not any more. All I know is I keep seeing all these commercials for the most decadent foods. Cheeseburgers stacked with bacon, doused with barbecue sauce and cardboard containers filled with fries that you can douse with ketchup. None of this was around when I was eating and thank goodness. I dare say I’d be as big as a house if it had been. How you all keep your trim figures is beyond me, Larry excluded of course.”
Larry checked his watch. “It took you a whole minute to make a fat joke. You’re slipping, Phil.”
The guest turned to the lady of the house. “Lorraine, I had the worst day today. I was stuck at my desk so long working on the Barrett account that I didn’t have a single free minute to whisk myself away to the butcher shop. I don’t suppose you’d have a little something lying around your refrigerator for me, would you?”
Lorraine smiled. “As it just so happens, I do.”
“Splendid!” Phil said. “Lorraine, you are a gem. What Larry did to deserve you, I’ll never know.”
“I don’t know what I did to deserve you either, Phil,” Larry said.
Phil chuckled. “Oh Larry, you haven’t lost your bourgeoisie humor.”
Lorraine went to the fridge, opened the door, and looked around inside. “Where did I put it?”
Phil looked at Pop, who was too busy watching the bikini babes to look back. “Good evening, Elder Lumpkiss! How are you this fine night?”
Larry pointed to the TV. “He’s preoccupied.”
Phil scoped out the babes. “Yes, I see.” He turned to Whitney. “And good evening to you, Little Lumpkiss.”
“Hi Mr. Fitzpatrick,” Whitney said.
“Still trying to make a go of it in the punk rock scene?” Phil asked.
“Yeah,” Whitney replied. “I’m sorry if we woke you.”
“Oh, it’s quite alright,” Phil said. “And I do apologize to you all for the fuss I made, it’s just that, you know…when I can still hear it while I’m inside the coffin then it’s too much.”
“I never would have called the authorities, I’ll have you all know,” Phil said. “I simply adore you all too much to do that.”
“We’ll keep it down next time,” Whitney said.
“There’s not going to be a next time,” Larry said. “The garage concert hall is closed.”
“We’re between practice locations at the moment,” Whitney said.
Lorraine sat down and handed Phil a plastic container filled with a red liquid.
“From our pot roast last week,” Lorraine said. “I figured you’d drop by sooner or later, so I saved it.”
“Such a peach,” Phil said.
“It’s old,” Lorraine said. “I hope that’s alright.”
“It’s more than alright,” Phil said. “Like me, it just gets better with age.”
The guest opened his mouth wide. His eyes looked menacing as a set of fangs popped out of his mouth. He popped them into the lid of the container, proceeded to suck, then stopped when he noticed everyone was staring at him as though he had committed a social faux pas.
Clack! The fangs retracted into his mouth. “What? I couldn’t have farted.”
“Phil!” Lorraine said. “My Tupperware!”
“What about it?” Phil asked.
“You ruined it!”
“I thought it was disposable.”
“No,” Lorraine said. “You can wash it and use it again and again.”
“Huh,” Phil said. “Three-thousand years and I’m still learning something new every day.”
Phil closed his eyes. “I’m making a mental note, Lorraine. In my mind, I’m telling myself to not forget to purchase that delicious dish next door a new Tupperware set. Yes, it’s etched into the deepest recesses of my memory and so, it shall be done.”
Lorraine snickered. She stood, fetched a glass, and carefully poured out the cow’s blood, then popped a straw into the glass.
Phil looked at the straw with disappointment. “Kind of takes all the fun out of sucking but oh well, when in Rome, as they say.”
The guest slurped up a dose of blood, then let out a satisfied, “Ahh!” He then turned to Whitney. “So, Little Lumpkiss, have you booked any gigs?”
“Not yet, no,” Whitney said. “Unless you count the school talent show.”
“I do,” Phil said.
“We’re trying to discourage her, Phil,” Larry said.
“But why?” Phil asked. “If one has a dream, then one must grab it with both hands and never let it go…especially if you’re mortal. Mortal lives are so short, you know.”
“You want to keep waking up at the crack of dusk?” Larry asked.
“Not especially,” Phil said before turning back to Whitney. “Perhaps you could practice at the domicile of one of those philistines I saw tidying up the garage. I assume those are your bandmates?”
“We’re trying to discourage her from getting to close to humans, Phil,” Larry said.
Phil ignored the man of the house. “Your father has more rules than the Magna Carta, though he may have a point here. Tell me one of those two imbeciles aren’t a potential love interest, Little Lumpkiss. I’m not one to tell another they can do better if they can’t but in your case, you surely can.”
“We’re just bandmates,” Whitney said.
“Good,” Phil said. “You’re much too young to be tied down anyway.”
“Dad says I can’t date humans anyway.”
“Jeeze Whit,” Larry said. “Just air all out our dirty laundry for everyone to see, why don’t you?”
“Hmm,” Phil said as he sipped the blood, his cheeks sucking inward as he did so. “Your father and I agree on very little but I must say he and I see eye to eye on this one.”
“Really?” Whitney asked.
“Surprised?” Phil asked.
“Yeah,” Whitney said. “You’re so well-traveled, Mr. Fitzpatrick. So educated, so…”
“Old,” Phil said. “Yes, I’ve seen just about everything but I speak from experience when I say that species should stick to their own species.”
“Thank you!” Larry said.
“Some of it’s just common sense,” Phil said. “For example, you never want to get involved with an ogre, Little Lumpkiss. A baby ogre will tear it’s way out of a non-ogre’s womb like a vulture devours the corpse of a lonesome, long forgotten corpse left to dry out underneath the hot Sahara sun. I’ve seen both happen and they aren’t pretty sights, believe me.”
“I don’t think I’ll be dating an ogre,” Whitney said.
“Ah,” Phil said. “But the humans pique your interest, do they? It’s natural. Vampires and werewolves have so much in common with humans that it’s easy to forget we aren’t human. I, myself, have been with many humans. It’s fun at first to get to know someone knew, to rekindle the flames of passion that you had assumed had grown weak and dull inside you years before. But inevitably, they get old, and wrinkly and not very good looking at all. Oh, you try to move past it but eventually, they start asking questions about why you’re not aging, so you have to fake your own death, preferably in some kind of tragic explosion, the more dramatic the better, and start a new life somewhere else.”
“Werewolves age,” Larry said.
“That you do,” Phil said. “You, more so than others, my dear boy.”
Phil turned to Lorraine. “Do get him on a diet, dear girl, I worry about him so.”
“I’m right here,” Larry said.
Phil sipped his blood. “Yes, you are. Say, where’s the other young one? Boy Lumpkus.”
“Playing video games across the street with the Jenkins girl,” Larry said.
“My,” Phil said. “Your wee ones seem to have developed a case of human fever.”
“We’re hoping it’s a phase,” Lorraine said.
“It’ll pass,” Larry added.
“I’d tell you to stick to other werewolves, Little Lumpkiss,” Phil said to Whitney. “But then again, I’ve never been romantically involved with a werewolf so whether or not they make good paramours, I have no idea. I’ve never been interested because the idea of trying to sleep next to a being that could rip off my arms and beat me with them gives me the heebie jeebies.”
Lorraine chimed in. “That’s what I said!”
“I always knew you were the smartest Lumpkiss,” Phil said.
“Mr. Fitzpatrick,” Whitney said. “I have a question.”
“Proceed to ask it,” Phil said. “Though I offer no guarantees that I am in possession of an adequate answer.”
“I’m not saying you should,” Whitney said. “But in theory, could you like, you know, go out to Hollywood and glamour a music company executive into giving me a seven-figure record deal?”
Lorraine gasped. “Whitney!”
Larry pounded his fist down on the table. “The Treaty of Stuttgart!”
“Now, now, Lumpkisses,” Phil said. “Nothing wrong with a child having an inquisitive mind. If they don’t ask questions, they’ll never learn.”
“She knows,” Larry said. “I’ve told her about the Treaty of Stuttgart a million times.”
“Yes, Larry,” Phil said. “Heaven knows if there’s one thing I do enjoy, it’s one of your fascinating lectures regarding the Treaty of Stuttgart.”
“It’s nothing to joke about,” Larry said.
“Everything is something to joke about, dear boy,” Phil said. “Whether or not the joke lands is another matter entirely.”
Phil addressed Whitney’s question. “In theory, yes. I could do that, very much so. But alas, if I’m not willing to put all of supernatural kind in jeopardy by using my glamour powers to hypnotize a billionaire into transferring all his funds to me or to make Racquel Welch my plaything, then I’m surely not going to use it to help you with your little band, what was it called again? Sex Puke?”
“Sexual Vomit,” Whitney said.
“How quaint,” Phil said.
“See?” Larry said. “Even Fitzpatrick has sense enough to know better than to use his powers and risk the humans finding out about him.”
“He could fight them off,” Whitney said.
Phil laughed. “Oh, child, I admire your enthusiasm. A few dozen here and there, yes but all of humanity? Unlikely.”
“I really don’t like where this conversation is going,” Larry said.
“You’re so human-whipped, Dad,” Whitney said.
Larry frowned. Lorraine looked mad. “Whitney!”
“Well!” Whitney said. “We’re better than they are, aren’t we? We’re faster and stronger than they could ever dream of being, aren’t we? We could go out, right now, walk into a bank, bite all the guards in half, rip the door right off the safe and help ourselves to all the cash and everyone would be powerless to stop us and yet, here we are, living in this crap hole…”
Larry turned red-faced. “This is a perfectly fine house! It’s more than I ever had when I was growing up, I’ll tell you that.”
“You could live in a palace!” Whitney said.
“The Treaty of Stuttgart!” Phil said.
“Bah!” Whitney said. “I wish I could wipe my ass with the Treaty of Stuttgart!”
“Young lady, you don’t know a thing about the world and if you keep…”
Whitney interrupted her old man with the coup de grace. “You pump shit out of the ground for a living when you could easily be living like a king.”
Larry’s eyes turned yellow. Lorraine ran her hand up and down her husband’s back until he took a deep breath and calmed down. “Not in front of the neighbor, dear.”
Larry’s face and eyes returned to normal colors. “You’re right.”
Phil looked to his hosts. “If I may set her straight?”
“By all means,” Larry said.
“Little Lumpkiss,” Phil said. “I’m much older than the Treaty of Stuttgart and I must say that life, prior to that insipid document, was a dream…”
“Damn it, Phil!” Larry said.
“You didn’t let me finish,” Phil said. “It was a dream…for me. Other people, not so much? You talk of glamour? Oh, I glamoured the best and the brightest. Women worshipped at me feet and whatever riches I laid my eyes upon were mine for the taking. Vast swaths of land belonged to me and kings and queens alike feared me.”
“I think you’re making it worse, Phil,” Lorraine said.
“And I admit, life has been infinitely worse since supernaturals were forced to hide their powers away and live the lives of ordinary suckers,” Phil said. “The current life I’m experiencing is particularly grueling. Every generation, when all my contemporaries get old while I remain youthful in appearance, I pick up and move to a new location and start a new life. I’ve been a Greek soldier, a Roman senator, an Egyptian pharaoh, a pirate, a poet, a merchant, a monk, an inventor, a painter, a sculptor, a scientist, a doctor, a lawyer, a taxidermist, a, well, I could go on all night with my list of former professions. I’ve earned well over a hundred degrees, I can speak fluently in over nine hundred existent languages, as well as in seventy-six languages that are long extinct. I’ve fought in seven hundred and fifty wars and I’m not ashamed to say that more often than not, I chose the right side. I can perform complex mathematical equations that would boggle the best minds at NASA, write a Sonnet that would make Shakespeare weep and I know that because he told me my sonnets made him weep and I can solve that little puzzle cube toy with the different colored sides in a snap.”
Whitney’s eyes grew wide with admiration. “See?”
“This really isn’t helping,” Lorraine said.
“We need to nip this in the bud,” Larry said.
“Be patient, Lumpkisses,” Phil said. “I’m going somewhere with this.”
“Get there, fast,” Larry said.
“I’ve done and can do so much,” Phil said. “And yet, the Treaty of Stuttgart prevents me from putting any of that down on a resume and even if I did, no one would believe me anyway. Humans are unable to believe anything they can’t demonstratively proof, even though mysterious miracles exist all around them. At any rate, despite all my former glories, the best job I’m able to get in this life is that of an…”
Phil shuddered as he said the words aloud. “…insurance claims adjustor. Yeesh.”
“Sounds like you should have saved some of that gold when you sacked Carthage,” Larry said.
“A lot of us should have saved our Carthage gold, Larry.” Phil said. “Those were different times, OK? The wine was flowing, the wenches were belly dancing and oh, don’t get me started.”
“You see?” Whitney said. “Mr. Fitzpatrick’s life has been ruined by the Treaty of Stuttgart. You should bite and hypnotize your way back to the top, Mr. F.”
Larry and Lorraine slapped their foreheads in unison.
“I would,” Phil said. “But it would seem your father is correct, Little Lumpkiss.”
“He is?” Whitney asked.
“About most other things?” Phil asked. “No. About this? Yes. You see, you haven’t been around for three thousand years. I have. And while the first two thousand were a ball for me, there were utter garbage for most people. I was too busy being way into myself and fulfilling all my wants and needs and desires that I never paid the slightest bit of attention to the suffering of others, even though it was happening all around me. Death, destruction, mayhem, chaos. War, plagues, famine, disease, hunger, starvation. People tortured and killed, stretched out on the rack, burned alive or thrown to the lions over trivial matters. Slavery. Murder. Rape. Oh, don’t get me started about the rape.”
“Please don’t get started about the rape,” Lorraine said.
“Never partaken in by yours truly, unless you count the glamour but that’s a can of worms I don’t feel like opening at the moment,” Phil said.
“Keep it closed,” Larry said.
“Closed, it is,” Phil said. “Anyway, Little Lumpkiss, at first, I was like you. I despised the Treaty of Stuttgart. I felt it was hobbling me, forcing me to hold myself back, to limp unnecessarily with one hand tied behind my back as lesser nitwits ran circles around me.”
“I give up,” Larry said.
“But then the past thousand years came,” Larry said. “And as the humans were allowed to take more and more responsibility for themselves without supernatural demagogues running everything from behind the shadows, things actually began to improve. New medicines and technologies were invented that improved the quality of life a thousand-fold. The world became a smaller place, thanks to automobiles and air travel. More and more, humans began turning to diplomacy. Leaders of nations meet and discuss their problems rather than just calling upon armies of scantily clad muscle men to hurl swords and maces at one another. And I dare say that even race relations between the different colors of humans have improved exponentially. They aren’t the best, but they are much better.”
“Think they’ll ever be perfect?” Whitney asked.
“I’d say check back with me in forty years, but I’ll probably be an accounts receivable clerk in Boise, Idaho by then.”
“The Treaty really hurt immortals like you,” Whitney said.
“Yes and no,” Phil said. “Yes, because I’d much rather be lounging by the pool of a mansion I glamoured a fool out of. No, because, and you can call this hokey if you like, but I’ve actually quite enjoyed seeing the world become so civilized.”
“Really?” Whitney asked.
“Yes,” Phil said. “I never thought the world would ever get this good, what with motion picture boxes that show women on the beach in bikinis and planes that can be used to transport you and whatever you want anywhere you want to go. Do you know that the Carthaginian general, Hannibal, had his soldiers transport his war elephants across narrow ledges along the sides of mountains by shoving long, wooden planks up the elephants’ mouths and backsides, then having the soldiers walk ever so slowly whilst performing such a dangerous balancing act?”
“That doesn’t sound fun,” Whitney said.
“Especially not for the elephants,” Phil said. “I should know. I saw it. It wasn’t pretty. And a lot of things in the past weren’t pretty. And I didn’t like seeing them. But now? I live the life of a chump, but I’ll gladly take it because I rarely ever see anything terrible in the course of my daily comings and goings. I’d rather be an insurance claims adjuster and sit in a quiet office, then come home and watch trite, formulaic television programs, than live like a king a thousand years ago and see wagons full of the dead being pushed down the street.”
Larry and Lorraine traded pleased glances.
“Bottomline,” Phil said. “Don’t mock your father for pumping shit out of the ground, child. People used to shit in the street, so much so that the ensuing diseases nearly wiped out Europe. Puss blistered corpses lined the street while mothers clutched their dead babies to their bosoms and wept with no hope of consolation. All because power mongers clashed, wreaking so much havoc that brilliant minds were so addled with woe that they were kept from dreaming up the toilet. If I must live with less so that others may have more, I’m fine with it.”
“Okay,” Larry said as he stood up. “I’ve heard enough about shit for one evening. Who wants cobbler?”