THURSDAY: Night Tavern


This story was originally published in Medium, June 2016. Copyright is held by the author.

IN THE back room of a long-shuttered delicatessen on Sangre Boulevard crouched three figures. A stranger coming upon them might have thought they were playing cards in the feeble light. He’d have been dead wrong.

“Who’s brought a story for us to devour?” demanded Drak, the tallest scrawniest figure, taking a break from scratching at the ground for dropped morsels of food. When no answer was forthcoming, he rose to his considerable height, shaking out his long black cape and winding it around himself from head to toe. Only his ashen disembodied face glowed in the room’s increasing darkness. “Anyone?” he asked again. Hearing no response, he swooped back down to the level of the long-haired wolfdog who was engrossed in gnawing on the leg of a giant ‘pastrami.’

“Wolfsy, hope I’m not interrupting, but what have you got for us?”

Not known for his table manners, Wolfsy continued chomping away on the pastrami leg, in the process scattering chunks of meat all over the dirt floor, grunting and slurping and drooling with delight, totally impervious to the mounting frustration of Monday night’s master of ceremonies.

“Fah!” cried Drak, standing and shaking out his cape again, striding over to the window set high in the back wall. “You meat eaters disgust me!” He whirled around to face the third member of their troupe, Deadhead. “Well, I could hardly expect you to pipe up first, could I?” Anyone could see that all that crumbling flesh, blood- and pus-filled lesions, and recent partial amputations had put a real cramp in Deadhead’s mobility. “Let’s start off with you, Deadhead, for a change,” Drak ordered, knowing that it was going to be a long slow night.

Deadhead rose from the floor and ambled over to the podium at the front of the room. “Arrggh,” he said, clearing his throat. “Arrggh,” he repeated. When no one seemed to understand, he limped over to Wolfsy and landed a clumsy kick at his head, sending the pastrami leg flying. Wolfsy reared up and was about to go for his throat, but the lesions and oozy surface put him off his game. Instead he noticed that Deadhead was pointing at his throat, and he went to fetch his water dish. He placed it on the floor where Deadhead could get at it.

Drak meanwhile was gnawing on his long white claw-like fingernails. “Today, gentlemen, today! The sun’s coming up in seven hours, you know!” At the thought, he gave a little shudder. Deadhead was still gargling with the water; Wolfsy was thinking of having another go at the bits of meat on the floor. All Drak could think was, I could take them out so easily. But then, he wondered, how would he spend his Monday evenings? Who could he share his triumphs with? Not many had the stomach for what he had to relate. That Craigslist ad six months ago had been a blessing. So he contented himself with pacing up and down the long rectangular room while his cohorts readied themselves.

Suddenly there was a thunderous knock on the outer door and a whispered, “May I come in?”

Drak called out, for form’s sake, “Who goes there?”

The door opened to reveal none other than the proprietor of the deli, Mr. Stein.

“Oh, Frankie, it’s only you. You gave us quite a fright,” said Drak. “Before you come in, can get you get me some more of your special “grape juice?” It’s really the only thing sometimes that keeps me going. HAHAHA.”

“Do I know my customers or do I know my customers?” said Mr. Stein, handing Drak a pitcher of “grape juice” before settling into a monstrous armchair he had had built specially for his own huge frame.

Drak took a sip, then rubbing both hands together, turned to Deadhead. “Let us begin!” Deadhead shambled in place. Drak turned to Mr. Stein. “Dead’s looking peaked,” he said. “Better bring him some of your “matzoh balls” quick. Just dump them in the grape juice. Hurry, Frankie!”

“Hey, don’t I know the drill by now, time outta mind?

“Remember when Wolfsy tore your hand off cause you waited too long?” Drak said.

“Ouch, don’t remind me. Sewing myself up, oy.”

“Lucky it wasn’t your dominant hand,” Drak said.

“Dominant, schtominant!” mumbled Mr. Stein as he shuffled back out to the kitchen.

Drak shrugged. “Can we get started, folks? Deadhead, please!” He approached him at the podium and wiped his friend’s lips with a corner of his cape.

Deadhead said, “Get me a mirror.”

“You look fine,” insisted Drak who tried not to look at the zombie’s peeling scrofulous face. When Deadhead just stood there stubbornly, Drak sighed and handed him a small mirror he drew out of a side pocket.

Deadhead took it eagerly, but threw it down on the ground after one brief glimpse. “It’s just a picture of you! Painted on!”

A pinkish hue suffused Drak’s face. “Well, I got sick of looking for myself and seeing nothing but the room behind me.”

“Yeah,” Deadhead admitted, “I could see how that would be a bummer. Maybe Wolfsy wants to start?”

Wolfsy shook his head and even emitted a low warning growl.

“Fellows!” Drak was losing patience. He strolled over to the blood-red leather sofa, sat down, stretching out his long thin legs and clasping his hands behind his back. “Three a.m. I’m waiting.”

Mr. Stein returned with the vittles. In the space of a nanosecond, his three guests inhaled their blood and guts appetizers. Then Mr. Stein turned to Drak and said, “We were discussing this very topic last month when you were out with bat flu. Thing is, WE GOT NOTHING!”

Mr. Stein looked over at Wolfsy, signaling him to continue. He jumped right up on the sofa, startling Drak a bit. “What we mean is, how many times can we describe chowing down on the succulent bodies of the human species? And they’re not even so succulent with all the gluten- free, fat-free, overvitaminized grass and hay they feed themselves these days.”

Deadhead nodded in agreement, loosening a piece of eyebrow which fell to the dirty floor. He didn’t seem to notice, but Drak’s stomach turned over. Drak much preferred the company of virgins with smooth complexions and long tapered milky-white swan necks disappearing into their frilly negligees. But he’d read that maintaining a social network was essential to happiness in the last quarter of life. And since neither he nor his three comrades had any end in sight, he reasoned it must be even more important for them.

He looked at Wolfsy who had jumped back down to the floor and was sniffing around his ankles. “Get him another morsel, Stein!” He knew some of them came more for the food than the company.

He thought awhile. “Why don’t we tell a story of our youth? How we became what we became. How we realized we were different and learned to revel in our differences.” Drak beamed, showing off his dazzling white fangs; Wolfsy followed suit with a display of his lupine snout and sharp pointy teeth; Deadhead bravely attempted a smile and displayed his bleeding gums; Stein proudly showed off his wood and metal dentures. He dumped more meatballs in the juice and stepped forward, took off his bloody apron and gently pushed Deadhead away from the podium. “I’ll start. I’m the oldest.”

Drak thought of arguing the point with Stein, but instead he sat back, content that they were at last going to begin. Wolfsy crouched at his feet and seemed to be fighting the temptation to snooze.


I started out in the old country, like you, Drak. Deadhead, you’re a new phenomenon and Wolfsy, I don’t know where you came from. All I remember is that the ignorant villagers used to chase me, try to set me on fire, blame their crop failures on me. What did I do? One day I wasn’t; the next day I was. I had no childhood and the future was looking bleak. My father was your typical scientist, all brain and no feeling. What made him think he could just create a son and then abandon him? He never tried to understand things from my point of view. Once I got that and saw that there was no love ever going to come from that corner, I wasted no time in wasting him. I was so lonely. I had not one friend. I quickly saw that unless I left that fakokta village, I would never have any sort of life.

“What did you want to be when you grew up?” asked Deadhead.

“Shut up and listen, dummkopf,” ordered Mr. Stein. So I came to America, met Mrs. Stein who was created by another mishugganah doctor, and opened a delicatessen, then another and another. Everyone said my leg of pastrami was to die for. And that’s about it.

Drak frowned. “What did you want to be when you were a little sparkplug?”

“Anything but an electrician. HAHAHA. A fireman, maybe.”

“Good one, Frankie,” said Wolfsy and Deadhead nodded, dislodging the last remnants of his left ear.

Drak persisted, “Go on!”

Mr. Stein added sotto voce, I think I killed a little girl once. I didn’t know my own strength. Mr. Stein stopped to wipe his eyes on the sleeve of his white shirt.

“Big fucking deal,” said Wolfsy. “Isn’t that what humans were put here for? For us to eat?”

“Exactly,” said Deadhead.

Drak interrupted. “Actually, I happen to be a vegetarian myself.”

“Oh, give it a rest,” said Mr. Stein, shaking his head in disbelief. “Don’t start with that nonsense again. Anyone who bites into a neck and drinks blood is for sure going to eat get some little flesh crumbs in his mouth.”

“Next,” said Drak, kicking Wolfsy.


I was always the weakest, the runt of the class, the one that got pushed around. But then this new kid arrived at our high school even weaker and smaller than me. I was roughhousing with him, emphasis on the word ‘rough,’ and he bit me hard on the arm.

 It was awful in the beginning because I puked for weeks on end. Then the full moon came, and man, I was boss! I sprouted this great-looking coat, these big nails and teeth popped out, my schlong got monstrous big. I couldn’t have been happier.

‘But how did you feel about losing all your childhood friends?’ asked Deadhead.

Bad at first, that’s true. And I killed most of them myself as part of the initiation rites the new kid told me about. Then I killed him. Oh—the best was I managed to turn the prom queen into a werewolf and mate with her, over and over again. Way cool! She didn’t take to the life though. After a few weeks, she threw herself into the ravine. And I was alone again.

“Deadhead?” Drak pointed at him. “You’re next.”

“I always wanted to be a dancer,” said Mr. Stein, “but I never got the chance.”

“You had your turn,” Drak said.


I awoke from a dream and my dear old Mum was gnawing at my liver. Why? You ask. I was only a kid, so I have no idea. I was scared as you can imagine, especially when I saw that I was going to die. But on the third day I awoke and was good as new.

Drak thought to himself: I beg to disagree.

So here I am. I’ve been going out on raids forever now. I don’t think I’m in any danger of running out of a food source. Heh heh.

No, but you’re going to run out of spare parts soon, thought Drak.

My childhood? My wishes? My goals? I don’t do much thinking these days so it’s hard to say. One thing I got over the rest of you is that I got plenty of company if I want it. There’s Sarah over at the Z camp. She and I have an understanding. We watch out for each other. But we can’t have sex or anything—you remember when I lost my . . .

“OK. Deadhead, that was very nice. Sit down,” said Drak. “Now.”


“Let’s see—what do you want to know?” Drak looked into all the corners of the room, searching for an answer. He realized he was greatat asking questions but not so great at answering them. The other three followed his every move, mouths open. “Oh, yes, the details, you love that, don’t you, bloodthirsty bastards that you are!”

Deadhead snickered. Mr. Stein asked, “Tell me something, Drak bubbe. Were you ever in love?”

Drak was plunged back into his past; his face turned even whiter. He sat back down on the sofa and said, “You haven’t heard this one before. I guarantee that. But since you’re all my dearest friends . . .”

Wolfsy lifted his head, Deadhead shuffled closer, Mr. Stein sat straight backed and alert.

In the old country, I descended from a long distinguished line of vampires leading back to Vlad the Impaler himself. One night I was feasting on a local peasant girl I’d had my eye on for some time. Such a gorgeous juicy red neck she had.

“Like a good steak?” Stein asked.

Her little brother came upon us, told her to run. He grabbed a pitchfork, silly boy, and stabbed me all over, up and down my body, opening up holes that refused to bleed. Finally, he backed into a corner of the barn, whimpering for his mother. Going in for the kill, I hesitated. Why not keep him around for amusement? His sister, I intended to drain periodically but let live; him, I decided to kill and turn into a vampire like me. I was lonely, you see, very lonely—I was the last of my line— and I could tell he would afford me great amusement.

So that is what I did.

“Get on with it, Drak!” said Wolfsy who was circling the sofa, clearly not used to so much confinement.

Well, you see, Hooman and I became a pair, handsome lads we were. As I trained him in vampire ways, I saw that he was a fast learner and possessed great leadership skills. In a few years, he started to make more kills than I, convert more humans in a month than I thought possible, win the affection of the swan-necked virgins who lustily cried out for more.

“You got jealous, huh, Drak?” asked Mr. Stein, pointing an accusatory finger at him.

I did a deed that I’ve had many decades to regret, boys. I sharpened a stick and near dawn when he lay down to sleep, I stabbed him through the heart. He sizzled and sparked and then . . . he was no more!

“You didn’t burn up, yourself?” Mr. Stein inquired.

“A lot of planning went into this murder. But there’s something I never told anybody.”

Wolfsy interrupted. “You got rid of your rival and you were Alpha Male again. Where’s the problem?”

Drak got up and walked to the window so high in the wall only he could see out. I loved him and he loved me. In every way you can think of. We had so many marvelous times together, feasting on young milkmaids, each one on either side of them, licking blood off each other’s faces and . . . feasting on each other.

Mr. Stein broke in. “Is that a tear I see you wiping away, Mr. Tough Guy?”

“Wait just a minute,” said Wolfsy, scratching at his ear. “Does that mean you’re a —?”

“Oh Lord,” Drak said. “Look at the moon. It’s must be close to 5 a.m.”

Mr. Stein jumped up. “My customers, my customers will be coming soon.” He opened the door and made his way to the front of the deli to flip the sign from Night Tavern to Frankie’s Deli. As he did, he looked out the big picture windows. Then he yelled out, “Drak, Ygor is already out there waiting for you in your hearse, I mean, carriage. Hurry!”

Drak bounded up, Wolfsy let out a howl and scooted past him out the door. Poor Deadhead did not need to hurry, nor would he have been capable of hurrying on his leg stumps. He came along at his own shambling pace. Drak shouted as he made for the door. “See you all next week!” Ygor was ringing his bell, a bit frantically.

“Same time next week,” repeated Mr. Stein. “Text me if there’s a problem.”

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