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Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Vampire Pit Bull -- Beach Tales free preview #2

T.U.P. NOTE: For some unknown (to me) reason the book is running late in the Kindle publishing process. Ergo, the free days will be next weekend, Friday, Saturday, Sunday, June 8, 9, 10 

Beach Tales, my new collection of short stories, will be published as an ebook on Friday June 1. The entire collection, a number of which first appeared in Tropic, the Miami Herald Sunday magazine,  will be free to download in the Kindle store all day Saturday and Sunday June 2 &3.

Meanwhile, here's another free story:

Otto did not like it that the dog needed walking in the evening. Actually, he did not like walking his late mother's Welsh terrier at any time. Otto was not fond of walking. He was less fond of walking at night. The days, even with the relentless heat and humidity, were better than the nights. He had inherited the dog with his mother’s condo.
Otto was sure vampires prowled in South Beach once darkness fell. There was no logic to back up his belief.  It was simply one more article of faith in an overwrought world. He was seriously thinking of selling the apartment and moving. Inertia, however, ruled Otto.
He was fat, obese even; roly poly in his shorts and tee shirts and flip flops; pink arms and legs like humongous overstuffed sausages about to burst their casings. The dog was not fat. Also unlike the dog, Otto was bald. He buzzed the stubble over his face and ears and around the back of his head each morning with an electric shaver. Between the sun burn and the morning buzz, his head virtually glowed red. Owners and dogs are said to often take on each other's physical looks. Otto and Snuffy were the proverbial rule-proving exception; though Otto considered himself a caretaker for the dog, rather than owner.
Otto considered the cost of a trip to the dog groomer as he toddled along 14th Street toward the intersection with Washington Avenue. It had been three months and the dog was getting bushy except for a patch where he had scratched himself raw from the heat.
A vampire and his black pit bull rounded the corner onto 14th Street. The pit bull was not on a leash. Instantly, it charged and chomped through Snuffy’s abundant wiry fur and held onto the yelping terrified terrier. Otto's first thought was that the money for the groomer would now have to be spent on a vet.
The vampire hurried the few steps to where the dogs were locked together in the pool of yellow light cast by a street lamp. Otto, not knowing what else to do, hovered over the two animals, bent slightly at his distended waist line. The vampire was tall and thin with long stringy black hair to his shoulders, dressed all in black, skin pale as an envelope. "Please make your dog let go," said Otto, pleading, terrified.
"Onyx, let go!" commanded the vampire. He grabbed the pit bull by the scruff of the neck, forcefully lifting up both dogs. "Onnie, let go! What's the matter with you?"
Otto wished he had a gun loaded with silver bullets. He would end this right now, blast both the dog and its owner. Otto was confusing vampires with werewolves. Fortunately, for everyone, he was unarmed.
"Don't worry," said the vampire. "She only has two teeth." He snapped a leash onto the pit bull's collar, then rapped his knuckles hard on top of her snout. The pit bull unclamped itself from the smaller dog's neck. Snuffy collapsed into a furry whimpering puddle as the vampire jerked his snarling beast by the leash. "Sorry about that," he offered.
Otto nudged Snuffy gently with a chubby bare toe and said nothing. The vampire pulled his dog down the street. After a moment, Otto yelled at the vampire's back half a block away: "That dog should be on a leash at all times!"
The vampire kept walking and casually waved acknowledgment without turning around. The next day the vet remarked on the unusual puncture wounds. "The owner said the dog only has two teeth," Otto explained.
"Two teeth, two puncture wounds," said the vet. "Guess the guy knew what he was talking about. Lucky your dog wasn't groomed recently. His fur probably saved him. As it is, he seems to have lost a fair amount of blood. Give him these, one pill twice a day, and let him rest as much as he wants. He should be fine."
Otto knew he had been right all along: vampires. But there weren't only vampires; there were vampire dogs now, too. He said nothing and looked glum. The vet shook his head. "Pit bulls aren't bad by nature. It's usually the owners who ought to be destroyed." Otto grunted his agreement. The bill, including shots and antibiotics, was $170.
After dropping off Snuffy at home, Otto went around the corner to the tattoo shop. As he made the short trip he asked himself what kind of person would teach a dog to suck blood? He muttered the answer under his breath as he entered through the glass front door of the tattoo parlor: “A vampire, that’s what kind.” To Otto, the tattoo shop crowd during daylight hours looked pretty much equally strange as the nighttime bunch; but he was still glad the sun was high in the blue cloudless sky for his visit.
Otto confronted a profusely pierced and ornately tattooed young man who introduced himself as Peter. Otto told Peter: "One of your night time regulars has a black pit bull. Tall guy, pale, long stringy black hair? Dog's named Onyx? His dog attacked my dog and I want him to pay for the vet bill." Otto held up the bill. He refrained from using "vampire" to describe either man or dog. But the word was on the tip of his tongue the whole time.
Otto was sure that Peter, who said he was the shop's owner, was lying when he answered: "Nobody fitting that description hangs out here." Otto could see the lie in the younger man's eyes.  
What Otto did not know was that the man he sought was a tattoo artist of extraordinary skill who worked only at night, only by appointment, usually after midnight. He had arrived in South Beach two weeks before, his reputation preceding him. His work was becoming legendary in tattoo circles everywhere. His name was Dario.
Dario never showed his own tattoos. He always kept his black collars and cuffs buttoned. There were whispers that anybody who laid eyes on Dario's tattoos became his sex slave – weird spooky stuff. No question, though; the man was an artist, a genius. There was no way Peter was giving up Dario to this lard butt. Otto left the shop knowing none of this, but certain that he'd been lied to.
That night around eleven Snuffy started whining to go for a walk. "Don't you know what happened last time? Why can't you hold it until morning?" Otto, snapping on the leash, asked the dog.
Downstairs, Otto and Snuffy stepped out and there was Dario walking up the sidewalk, alone, without his dog. Dario stopped and introduced himself by name and Otto cringed from the outstretched hand. "Listen, I'm sorry about last night," said Dario. "I hear you were at the tattoo shop looking for me earlier."
Otto gulped and told the vampire about the $170 vet bill. Dario nodded solemnly at the news. He was very pale. Otto had the urge to go to the bathroom. Dario drew his lips inward and bit lightly on them. Then he explained: "Listen, I'm really short of money, man. I tell you what though -- I could give you a great tattoo. Like a serious tattoo. Maybe a snake or a tiger. Full color, man. Big as you want. Like a thousand dollar job. Trade you for the money for the vet. You'd be way ahead."
Otto backed away, swallowing a lot and shaking his head and murmuring "no" several times softly. “Your dog? I could do your dog perfect,” said Dario.  “Right on your bicep.”
Otto dragged the dog back inside and pumped his legs up the stairs as fast as his hams would carry him. "Better fat than stupid," he huffed aloud to himself outside the apartment door. From now on, he thought, Snuffy can hold it at night or piss on the floor.

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