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Las Vegas Blues

by George D. LaCroix

It seemed like a good idea at the time.

In hindsight, Rafa and I were three sheets to the wind which may have contributed to our faulty reasoning. See, I thought I was a vampire, so naturally, I asked Rafa to bury me up to the neck in the sand. This way, if I turned out to be cursed for all eternity, Id be immobile and unable to escape.

So there I was, kneeling in a hole being filled by my friend Rafael Santos, the best salesman in our division, with only my head left poking out like a giant golf ball. Did I feel claustrophobic? Sure. Did the sand in my shorts cause a hellish irritation that I couldnt scratch? Certainly. Was I happy to sacrifice my life if only to assure that I didnt spend my nights sucking the life out of people? Absolutely.

If only the vampire who attacked me had been as considerate.

Ten hours ago, following the conference, Rafa and I took the company car down to the Strip to play. Three hours and four casinos later, wed won enough money between us to stay through the weekend. I phoned my wife and explained the situation in a way shed understand (the boss needed us to visit clients the next morning in town). Rafa called his mother and told her the truth (such a good kid). We had the concierge direct us to the wildest party in town and we set our faces to the adventures ahead.

It was midnight when we arrived at the converted warehouse that pulsed with fevered life. Id never seen so many beautiful people at one time in one place, and Rafa was convinced wed entered the Twilight Zone. I, too, was suspicious of why wed been admitted. I mean, Rafa looked okay, but Im fifty pounds overweight, mostly bald, with a face pock-scarred by a decade of adolescent stress. Why did they pick Rafa and me out of the queue and usher us in like VIPs? Was it our company logo? Everybody likes IKEA, right? Or maybe, the concierge called ahead and got us in, hoping for a big tip.

Either way, before two hours had passed, Id danced with seven Miss Americas and eight Playboy Bunnies while consuming enough alcohol to cripple Secretariat. By 2 a.m., Id forgotten I was married and proposed to the baby Calvin Klein model who was busy giving me the biggest hickey ever. It was around then that I had a moment of clarity through the fog of intoxication. Across the room, appearing and disappearing through gyrating dancing bodies, I caught a glimpse of a vampire.

Im a sane person; I rationalized the situation, but when Calvins sexy daughter bit my neck and began sucking my blood, I sprang into action.

She was a hundred pounds at most, but strong as an ox. I used every bit of my underused muscle to push her away, wishing, when she didnt let up, that Id bought Tony Hortons P90-X off the television infomercial last week. When I sensed my head swimming from blood loss, I did the only thing I couldI body-slammed the kid into the nearest wall with every last ounce of my two-hundred and seventy pound 64 frame. She popped off me like a bottle cap and I scrambled for the door as fast as I could.

Dancing with a Native American beauty near the exit, Rafa caught my eye as I stumbled past. He grabbed my arm, his eyes widening as he read the panic in my face.

Whats up, migo? Youre white as a sheet.

I showed him my bite mark and pulled him toward the door. I got bit, man! Here there be vampires! My voice had taken on a melodramatic, theatrical tone.

Rafas response was to beat me to the door, barking in an accent exaggerated by panic. El vampiro? Vamos aqui!

I recalled enough of my high school Spanish to agree and chase him to the sidewalk outside. Rafa must have been drunker than I was because he didnt go through the normal stages of monster denial. He beat me to the car and slipped into the passenger side. Only when the Lincoln reached the main drag, did he finally find his voice.

Are you okay? How do you feel?

I shrugged and slammed the brakes as another car cut me off. It was 2:30 a.m. and the city was wide awake.

I considered my body. I felt good. I felt fine. My throat ached a little, but no more than youd expect after being bitten by a mythical monster. Maybe I felt fine because I was one of them now. I looked at Rafa. Did he look tasty?

You might have to kill me. I might be a vampire, I said and turned off the Strip. Rafa ran his hands over his face and huffed.

No way, man, you cant know for sure, Rafa replied and winced dramatically as if hed bitten his tongue. The guy was beside himself. He looked at my profile. How do you know how the vampire-thing works? In every single movie, it works a different way.

He never said, how do you know it was a real vampire. This guy was a superstitious son-of-a-gun, but he had a point. Maybe I was immune to the vampire venom, if thats what it was. My whole life, Id baffled the doctors with my amazing resistance. Id never had a virus or any hint of systemic illness because of the supernatural might of my white-blood cells. Maybe I was vampire-proof. I didnt want to die if I didnt have to.

Okay, how can we be sure? I asked Rafa as I drove further away from the lights of Las Vegas. On either side, the desert spread out like a dark blue blanket and I had an idea. I shared it with my friend and we put the plan into motion.

By the time wed headed back for shovels and bottled water, and returned to the desert, it was nearly 3:30 a.m. I parked the car by the side of the road and we started walking.

Well walk an hour, dig a hole, bury me up to the neck, and wait for the sunrise. If Im still a man, you get me out of there and well go home. If Im a vampire, well, then, its sayonara, amigo.

He gave me a half-hearted smile, and stuck his finger in his mouth, feeling of his tongue. I didnt mention it since it was my fault he bit it in the first place.

We walked without speaking, both of us sobering quickly. I walked a straight line; maybe the vampires curse had already cleaned my blood. Maybe Id want to bite Rafa on the neck soon.

I looked over at him, both of us carrying newly-purchased shovels from the all-night hardware store. He was a handsome fella, tall and strong, with a thick neck. What would it be like to bite him there?

Frowning Rafa caught my eye and showed me the business end of his shovel. You better stop looking at me that way or Ill bash in your cabeza just to be sure.

I laughed because he was right; it wasnt polite to ponder killing your friend.

Im drunk. Sorry, dude, I offered and was quiet until we reached a place to start digging. Forty-five minutes later, I folded myself into the hole and helped Rafa bring the sand back around me. When it was half-full, he insisted I sit on my hands and allow him to fill in the rest; his reasoning being that Id be less likely to get free if my hands were pinned by my body as well as two hundred pounds of packed sand. About 5:15, I was buried and Rafa gave me a sip of water.

I hope youre not a vampire, migo. That would suck.

I laughed at his joke, still in a pretty good mood. If it turned out that I wasnt a vampire, we were going to have a great story for the guys back at the office on Monday.

What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas, I said as a cool breeze whipped between us. Rafa sat cross-legged facing me, his expression grim.

What happens in Vegas can kill you, he said, not at all happy at the admission. So howd it happen, man? he asked, taking a swig from his own bottle, still guarding his injured tongue.

This chick bit my neck and started sucking my blood. It was crazy. I got out of there as fast I could.

She just bit you, man?

Rafa didnt seem surprised that there were vampires in Vegas. I nodded my head as well as I could, my chin bumping the cool sand.

Maybe it takes three bites like in Dracula.

I hope so, I said, thinking about all of the vampire movies Id seen in my life.

Melanie loved those Twilight movies. If I came home sporting fangs and an appetite for fresh blood, shed probably put on that slinky negligee and try to seduce me. When was the last time she wore anything from her lingerie drawer? When was the last time she tried to get me in the sack? Id been working a lot lately, trying to make my quota so the boss wouldnt lay me off. The economy was killing the middle man and Id been in the middle my entire life. If Im not a vampire, Im going to take Melanie out for a steak and romance her as if we were teenagers.

I looked at Rafas profile and felt the chilly air touch a tear on my cheek. Forgetting my hands were pinned, I tried in vain to wipe my face.

You cryin, man? Rafa asked, turning to look at me in the odd purple light of dawn.

I hope Im not a vampire, I sniffled. Melanie and I had no children; my kids couldnt swim. If I died in the Vegas desert, shed be all alone, and itd be all my fault. I shouldve flown home like I was supposed to.

Rafa put his hand on my bald spot. I hope not, too, migo. Look, its almost dawn.

He pointed eastward and by careful planning, thats the way I was facing. The orange glow that lay on the horizon brightened by the moment in an amazing kaleidoscope of majesty. I was waxing poetic, and beginning to think about something greater than myself.

Rafa, do you believe in God? I asked him, still watching the show.

Absolutamente, mi amigo. No doubt. Hes up there. If youre going to die, Hell catch ya.

I wasnt so sure. Id grown up in a nice little country church. Id said prayers to Jesus. Was that enough? I sniffled again and Rafa rubbed my head.

Youre fine. Just believe.

Rafa removed his hand and pulled out his wallet to show me a photograph. It was a mass-produced tiny print portrait of Mary and baby Jesus.

You might want to apologize for smooching those girls at the party before you go, though. God doesnt go for infidelity, man.

Rafa was right; I was a cad. I closed my eyes and told the Lord I was sorry. I also told Him that I didnt want to die, and that I hoped Melanie was having a good morning back home.

Madre de dios, pray for me, Rafa was mumbling, forgive me for my behavior at the party tonight. I shouldnt have let my body do my thinking for me, and Im really sorry about slugging Maria Tina across her pretty boca.

What? You hit a woman? When was this? I was completely taken aback. Rafa revered women to the extent that we teased him about it back home. When had he punched a woman in the mouth?

I met her tonight at that party, Rafa whispered as if ashamed to hear the words. His eyes were on the lower sky. I didnt know it at first, but she was a prostituta. I shouldnt have gone into the back room with her. Im ashamed.

I had stopped watching the horizon and looked to see Rafas face. The sun broke free of the earth and lit up his profilethe big man was crying. In the back of my mind, I tried to take note if the UV rays bothered my exposed skin, but I also wanted to comfort the friendly bear beside me.

Look, man, you repented. Its all good now, right? God forgives you. Its going to be okay, I promised as my left cheek reacted pleasantly to the suns kiss. Youre a good man, you helped me. God will reward you for protecting the world from a killer. There has to be a reward for thata big one.

Yeah, I guess so, Rafa agreed, and leaned back on his hands. Well, there she is. Are you burning up yet?

My face was warm, but not painful. So far so good, I replied and glanced his way. Rafas silhouette was steaming. Whats that? I asked him and he looked at me sideways.

Que?

That, I pointed with my nose as best I could. A misty, white plume was erupting from his collar. It looks like smoke.

Rafa looked around and then stood to his feet and turned a circle. I couldnt tell if he saw it or not. He reached around to the back of his neck.

Yee-ouch! he yelped and began slapping his head, hopping on one foot. It looked like he was doing an Indian dance, but then smoke began to pour out of his sleeves. Estar ardiendo! Im on fire! Help!

Rafa danced a little more, patting his arms and neck, as if it would put out the flames neither of us could see. My mind raced.

Why did you hit that girl at the party? I screamed.

Because she bit my tongue! Ouch, you gotta help me! He fell to his knees, clawing at the dirt that entombed me.

She bit your tongue? Man, Rafa! She turned you into a vampire! Run for cover! Youre going to burn up! I was hysterical; all this time and Rafa was the one who should have been buried in the sand.

No! I dont believe it! he barked, still whapping the crap out of himself.

Again, I yelled at him to run, but he collapsed, writhing in pain, and screaming at the brightening sky. He flipped and flopped a dozen times as the plumes of gray smoke filled the clearing, smelling like a Hawaiian bar-b-que. Then, poof! He turned to ash before my eyes.

Rafa was a vampire. Go figure.

Currently, the sun is up, the scorpions and black birds are starting to think my pink golf ball-head looks like breakfast, and Im not a vampire.

The chances of being rescued are slim, so maybe Ill just take a little nap. Ill send a shout-out to Rafas God and fall asleep. Maybe Ill wake up, maybe not, but either way, I hope Melanie isnt too lonely. I shouldve just gone home.

Man, I sure hate Vegas.

Copyright George D. LaCroix 2011

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