A Clean, Well-Lighted Crypt
IT WAS VERY EARLY and all the souls had left the crypt but for an ancient vampire who sat in the shadow of the tree in the moonlight. In the day the cemetery was busy, but at night the dust settled and the ancient vampire liked to sit because he had ennui and now near dawn it was quiet and he liked the danger. The two gravediggers cleaning the crypt knew that the ancient vampire was a little depressed, and they knew that if he became too emo he would attack one of them, so they kept watch.
"Last week he tried to stake himself," one gravedigger said.
"He was depressed."
"What the heck for?"
"How do you know it was burritos?"
"He has everything anyone could want."
They stood together by a grave that was dug near the door of the crypt and looked at the knoll where the tombstones were bent near the ancient vampire sitting in the shadow of the tree that creaked slightly in the wind. A girl and a zombie ran by in the path. The moonlight shone on the exposed viscera in his torso. The girl had no gun and hurried to lose him.
"The villagers will get him," one gravedigger said.
"What does it matter if he gets what he's after?"
"She'll get shin splints running that way. No form."
The ancient vampire sitting in the shadow tapped his wolf-headed cane on a tree root. The younger gravedigger went over to him.
"What do you want?"
The ancient vampire looked at him. "To die," he said.
"Don't be silly," the gravedigger said. The ancient vampire moped at him. The gravedigger went away.
"He'll stay till sunrise," he said to his co-worker. "I'm sleepy now. I never get to bed before five a.m. He should have offed himself last week."
"He's sad now," his colleague said.
"He's sad every night."
"What did he want to off himself for?"
"How should I know?"
"How did he try to stake himself?"
"He rubbed himself against a rough piece of wood. He was hoping a splinter would do it."
"He is not a very smart vampire, is he?”
"No, he is not. And he must be 800 years old."
"I'd say 900, but that does not matter to a vampire."
"I wish he would go home. I never get to bed before five o'clock. What kind of hour is that to go to bed?"
"He stays up because he likes it."
"He's lonely. I'm not lonely. I have a hot girlfriend waiting in a van for me."
"He had a wife once too. Many wives. They do not come around so much anymore."
"A wife would be no good to him now."
"You can't tell. He might be better with some wives."
"I wouldn't want to be that old. An ancient vampire is a nasty thing."
"Not always. This ancient vampire is very neat. He drinks without spilling.”
"I don't want to look at him. I wish he would go home. He has no regard for those who want to live."
The ancient vampire moped at the glowing horizon, then over at the gravediggers.
"Kill me," he said, pointing to his heart. The gravedigger who was in a hurry came over.
"Bang. You’re dead," he said, proudly displaying his crucifix the way people do when talking to Italians. "Go home now."
"Rats," said the ancient vampire.
"Get going." The gravedigger kicked the dirt around the vampire and shook his head.
The ancient vampire stood up, slowly dusted himself off, fluffed out his cape, and sighing, transformed into a large, silver-haired bat. The gravedigger watched him flutter down the street, a very ancient vampire fluttering unsteadily but with dignity.
"Why didn't you let him stay and mope?" the unhurried gravedigger asked. They were putting away their shovels. "It’s just half-past three."
"I want to go home to bed. He can go catch a tan at his castle."
"It's not the same."
"Hombre," the gravedigger who was in a hurry said, closing the doors of the old crypt, where they kept the shovels and beer and shotguns and pornography. "There are 7-11s open all night long."
"We are of two different kinds," the older gravedigger said. He was now dressed to go home. "I am of those who like to stay early at the crypt. This is a clean and pleasant crypt. When the Moon comes out, it is well lighted. The light is very good and also there are shadows of the leaves."
"Sure," said the younger gravedigger.
"Sure," the other said. Turning off the lights he continued the conversation with himself, It was the light of course but it is necessary that the place be clean and pleasant. You do not want country music. Certainly you do not want country music. Nor can you stand before a counter with dignity although that is all that is provided for these hours. What did he fear? It was not a fear or indigestion, It was a hunger that he knew too well. It was all a hunger and a man was a hunger too. It was only that and light was all it needed and a certain cleanness and order. Some lived in it and never felt it but he knew it all was burritos y pues burritos y burritos y pues burritos. Our burritos who art in burritos, burritos be thy name thy kingdom burritos thy will be burritos in burritos as it is in burritos. Give us this burritos our daily burritos and burritos us our burritos as we burritos our burritos and burritos us not into burritos but deliver us from burritos; pues burritos. Hail craving full of famished, starving is with thee. He smiled and stood before a counter with a garish Slurpee machine.
"What's yours?" asked the clerk.
"Otro pato mas," said the clerk and turned away.
"Blue Lightning Blast, please," said the gravedigger.
The clerk made it for him.
"The light is very harsh, and the floor is unmopped," the gravedigger said.
The clerk looked at him but did not answer. He kept his finger on the alarm that would call the police.
"You want hot sauce with that?" the clerk asked.
"No, thank you," said the gravedigger and left. He disliked clerks and 7-11s. A clean, well-lighted crypt was a different thing. Now he would go home to his room. He would throw away the burrito and lie in his coffin and finally, with daylight, he would go to sleep. After all, he said to himself, it's probably only ennui. It's catching.