Of ex-husbands the Lady Vampire has but one: a goblin, from the north country, by the name of Harry Leopold Gibbers. He’d charmed her with his drum-playing and his ravenous appetite for oral sex (the giving, not the getting). She felt for the first time in her life like a drumstick, like a delectable chicken breast, like the whole luscious fryer. But so too did he slobber over plates of brown food, first thing in the morning to boot. She shuddered over her dark cup at the sound of bones cracking between his strong teeth and his tongue slurping up mud-colored gravy. Otherwise, he occupied himself with shouting at sports programs, as if these meant something, and pounded his meaty fist on the table over misjudgments of the government. She cool, he warm, she wan, he tan, she moon, he sun, she chatelaine, he out on the street with his hobnailed shoes and lumpy knapsack. For them both: relief. If men and women cannot live together, thought the Lady V., how then can we? For once, her goblin husband thought the same thing as he wiped the slobber of magical fruit from his triply dimpled chin.
The Lady V. waits until the gloaming to go to Stop ’n Slop, as she calls it, for the supermarket seems to her a slaughterhouse: the bloody steaks and ham hocks, the sticky chicken, and thick-thighed wives. Still, she folds her black coat closed, puts on her black shades, and makes her way down aisles as bright as hallucinogens or Capitalism. She knocks muskmelons and holds leafy bunches of cilantro to her quivering nose. She avoids the cloves of garlic and anything to do with Feminine Protection. Soccer dads draw near her as though they wish to kiss the crimson lips or sock her in the leprous jaw. Soccer moms feel themselves perilously close to tears as she passes by, but they adjust themselves and go home as loud and as hardy as elephants in orange and yellow culottes. For her part, the Vampire Lady fills her basket with reds and blues: tomatoes, eggplants, blueberries. Her hunger is for beauty.
The Problem with Exes
As H. L. Gibbers strode and thunked along thorny paths and blue highways, happily always farther from the imperious and imposing Lady Violetta, he encountered multiple varieties of mushrooms to make his gravy and his tea and plenty of buxom lasses to take into his rough and tumble roadside beds or over his knee. He liked the women he played slap ’n tickle with to be toothy and tough, pink-lipped and drooling a little, their breasts swollen cantaloupes, their asses worth three of the Vampire Lady’s little dimpled buttocks. Oh, her buttocks. Dimpled. Little. Oh. Much to his annoyance and dismay, within a day or two of each new hay-lady, he was pushing the country miss to be more like his ex-wife: should she gobble up so much cauliflower stew? Would she not care for a sip of hummingbird’s blood instead? Could she stand in the shadows, just so, and call to him with a voice husky and low? Would she lie in the shallows of the icy river until her skin chilled to stone? With each new fumble-wump, he sought and fought the ghosts of his wife’s ironic smile and succulent limbs. Before long, he swore at the bumpkins and slatterns who used to please him easily, then made his way alone yet never alone again. Damn her lips, her eyes, her stories.
Cathleen Calbert’s writing has appeared in many publications, including Ms. Magazine, The New Republic, The New York Times, and The Paris Review. She is the author of three books of poetry: Lessons in Space, Bad Judgment, and Sleeping with a Famous Poet.
The strangest thing she craves? “I crave my dog’s feet. The pads smell like flowers, and I want to inhale them. My other dog’s feet don’t smell like flowers, but her ears smell a little like cheese, which is not a bad thing.”
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