Chapter Two

The Last Poop

"So that was it?"

"Yep."

"Never again?"

"Nope."

"Not ever?"

"Nope."

"I feel like I should save them or something."

"Would you just flush and come out of there."

Chapter Three

I am Poor and My Cat Is Huge

Jody walked a step or two behind Tommy, just watching him, as they made their way up Third Street toward Market. She was watching his reaction to his new senses, giving him some room to look around, whispering hints about what he was experiencing. She'd gone through this herself only a couple of months ago, and she'd done it without a guide.

"I can see the heat coming off the streetlamps," Tommy said, looking up and spinning as he walked. "Every window in every building is a different color."

"Try to just look at one thing at a time, Tommy. Don't let it overwhelm you." Jody was waiting for him to comment on the aura that each person was giving off. Not a heat aura, more of a life force. So far they'd only seen healthy red and pink ones - not what she was looking for.

"What's that noise, like running water?" Tommy asked.

"That's the sewers running under the street. All that stuff will fade after a while - you'll still hear it, but you won't notice it unless you focus."

"It's like a thousand people are talking in my head." He looked around at the few pedestrians who were out on the street.

"Televisions and radios, too," Jody said. "Try to focus on one thing, let the rest fall back."

Tommy stopped, looked up at an apartment window four floors up. "There's a guy up there having phone sex."

"Figures you'd zero in on that," Jody said. She focused on the window. Yes, she could hear the guy panting and giving instructions to someone on the phone. Evidently he felt the caller was a dirty little slut and therefore needed to apply varieties of hot salsa to her body. Jody tried to hear the voice on the other end of the phone, but it was too faint - the guy must have been wearing a headset.

"What a freak," Tommy said.

"Shhhh," Jody said. "Tommy, close your eyes and listen. Forget the salsa guy. Don't look."

Tommy closed his eyes and stood in the middle of the sidewalk. "What?"

Jody leaned against a "No Parking" sign and smiled. "What's just to the right of you?"

"How do I know? I was looking up."

"I know. Focus. Listen. Two feet from your right hand, what is it?"

"This is dumb."

"Just listen. Listen to the shape of the sound coming from your right."

"Okay." Tommy squinted, showing he was concentrating.

A couple of androgynous students dressed in black with severe hair, probably from the Academy of Art on the next block, walked by and barely gave them a look until Tommy said, "I can hear a box. A rectangle."

"Acid noob," said one of the students, who sounded like it might be a guy.

"I remember my first trip," said the other, who was probably a girl. "I wandered into the men's room at the Metreon and thought I was in a Marcel Duchamp installation."

Jody waited for them to pass then asked, "Yes, a rectangle, solid, hollow, what?" She was a little giddy now, bouncing on the balls of her feet. This was better than buying shoes.

"It's hollow." Tommy tilted his head. "It's a newspaper machine." He opened his eyes, looked at the newspaper box, then at Jody, his face lit up like a toddler who has just discovered chocolate for the first time.

She ran into his arms and kissed him. "I have so much to show you."

"Why didn't you tell me?" Tommy asked.

"How could I? Do you have words for what you're hearing? For what you're seeing?"

Tommy let her go and looked around, took a deep breath through his nose, as if checking the bouquet of a wine. "No. I don't know how to say these things."

"See, that's why I had to share this with you."

Tommy nodded, but looked a little forlorn. "This part is good. But the other part..."

"What other part?"

"The foul, dead, blood-drinking part. I'm still starving."

"Don't whine, Tommy. Nobody likes a whiner."

"Hungry," he said.

She knew how he felt, she was feeling some of it herself, but she didn't know how to solve the feeding problem. Tommy had always been her go-to blood guy; now they were going to have to hunt. She could do it, she had done it, but she didn't want to do it. "Come on, we'll figure this out. Don't pout. Let's go watch people on Market Street. You'll like it." She took his hand and dragged him up the street toward Market, where rivers of tourists, shoppers, and freaks were flowing up and down the streets and sidewalks. Rivers of blood.

"Everyone smells like whiz and feet," Tommy said, standing on the sidewalk in front of a Walgreens drugstore. It was still early in the evening and the convention crowd from the hotels was flowing down the sidewalks like a great migrating herd, looking for dinner or a watering hole. Out on the edges, hustlers, homeless, and hangers-on worked their angles, playing the secret path of eye contact to the pocket, while the herd defended itself by paying rapt attention to their companions, their cell phones, or a spot on the sidewalk twelve feet ahead.

"Feet and pee," Tommy continued.

"You get used to it," Jody said.

"Is there a clean pair of underwear anywhere on this street?" Tommy shouted. "You people are disgusting!"

"Would you settle down," Jody said. "People are looking. They think you're crazy."

"Which makes me different, how?"

She looked up the street - for the three blocks she could see there were about three people per block shouting at passersby, wild-eyed and angry, and obviously bat shit. She nodded. He had a point, but then she snatched his shirt collar and pulled his ear down to lip level. "The difference is that you aren't living anymore and it's not a good idea to attract attention to yourself."

"Which is why you chose to wear that delightful ensemble from the skank-wear collection at Hoes-N-Thangs?"

"You said you liked it." Jody had become a little more provocative in her dress since becoming a vampire - but she saw it more as an expression of confidence, not a means to attract attention. Was it a predator thing? A power thing?

"I did - do like it, but every guy who passes is staring at your cleavage. I can hear their heartbeats go up. Did you have to turn to mist to get into those jeans? You did, didn't you?"

A tap on Tommy's shoulder. A young man in a white, short-sleeved dress shirt and a black tie had sidled up to him, holding out a pamphlet. "You sound troubled, brother. Maybe this will help." The pamphlet proclaimed rejoice! on the cover in big green letters.

Jody covered her mouth and turned away so the guy wouldn't see her giggling.

"What?!" Tommy said, turning on the guy. "What? What? What? Can't you see I'm trying to discuss my girlfriend's - uh - well, those." Tommy gestured to Jody's shoulder, which was now where those had just been. "Show him, Jody," Tommy said.

Jody shook her head and started to walk away, her shoulders shaking with laughter.

"There's a message here," said the tie guy. "It can bring you comfort - and joy."

"Yeah, well, I was trying to show you some examples of that, but there she goes with them."

"But this is a joy that goes beyond physical - "

"Yeah, like you'd know," Tommy said, cupping his nose and mouth as if covering a sneeze. "Listen, I'd love to discuss this with you, buddy, but right now you have to GO HOME AND WASH YOUR ASS! You smell like you're smuggling a stockyard back there!"

Tommy turned and strode after Jody, leaving the tie guy blushing and crumpling his pamphlet.

"It's not funny," Tommy said.

Jody was trying so hard not to laugh, she snorted. "Yes, it is."

"Can't they see we're damned? You'd think they could tell. At least you. We are damned, aren't we?»

"No idea," Jody said. She hadn't really thought about it.

"Didn't cover that in your advanced vampire course with the old guy?"

"Forgot to ask."

"No problem," Tommy said, with no effort at all to suppress sarcasm. "Minor detail. Anything else you might have forgotten to ask?"

"I thought I'd have more time, for follow-up," Jody said. "I didn't realize that the man I love was going to bronze us that first night."

"Yeah - well - okay. Sorry."

"Where's the trust?" Jody said.

"You killed me," Tommy said.

"Oh, there you go again."

"Please, folks. I need a dollar," said a voice from the left. Jody looked down to see a guy sitting against the granite wall of a closed bank. He was dirty beyond age or race, sort of grimy to the point of shine, and on his lap was an enormous long-haired cat. There was a cup on the sidewalk in front of him and beside it a hand-printed sign that read I AM POOR AND MY CAT IS HUGE.

Tommy, who was still fairly new to the city and hadn't learned to look past this sort of thing, stopped and started digging in his pocket. "That is sure a huge cat."

"Yeah, he eats a lot. It's all I can do to keep him fed." Jody nudged Tommy, trying to get him back into the pedestrian flow. She liked that he was a nice guy, but it could really be irritating sometimes. Especially when she was trying to teach him the profundities of being a creature of the night.

"Mostly fur, though, right?" Tommy asked.

"Mister, this cat weighs thirty-five pounds."

Tommy whistled and handed the guy a dollar. "Can I touch him?"

"Sure," the guy said. "He doesn't care."

Tommy knelt down and poked the cat gently, then looked up at Jody. "This is a huge cat."

She smiled. "Huge. Let's go."

"Touch him," Tommy said.

"No thanks."

"So," Tommy said to the cat guy, "why don't you give him to a shelter or something?"

"Then how am I supposed to make a living?"

"You could print up a sign that says 'I'm poor and I lost my huge cat'? That would work on me."

"You may not be the best sample," said the cat guy.

"Look," Tommy said, standing now and digging into his pocket. "I'll buy the cat. I'll give you, uh, forty - "

The cat guy shook his head.

"Sixty - "

Furious head shaking...

Tommy untangled bills from a wad he'd pulled out of his pocket, "One hundred - "

"No."

"And thirty... two - "

"No."

"And thirty-seven cents."

"No."

"And a paper clip."

"No."

"That's a great offer," Tommy insisted. "That's like four bucks a pound!"

"No."

"Well screw you, then," Tommy said. "I don't feel sorry for you and your huge cat."

"You can't have your dollar back."

"Fine!" Tommy said.

"Fine!" said the cat guy.

Tommy took Jody by the arm and started to walk away. "That's a huge cat," he said.

"Why were you trying to buy it? We're not supposed to have pets in the loft."

"Duh," Tommy said. "Dinner."

"Yuck."

"It's a stopgap," Tommy said. "You know that the Masai of Kenya drink the blood of their cattle with no apparent ill effect to the cow."

"Well, I'm sure it violates our lease if we get a cow."

"That's it."

"What's it?"

"A lease."

Tommy swung her around and brought her back to the cat guy.

"I want to rent the cat," Tommy said. "You could use a break and I want to show the huge cat to my aunt who is an invalid and can't come down here."

"No."

"One night. One hundred and thirty-two dollars and thirty-seven cents."

The cat guy raised an eyebrow, the grime over that eye cracked a little. "One fifty."

"I don't have one fifty, you know that."

"Then I want to see the redhead's hooters."

Tommy looked at Jody, then back at the cat guy, then back at Jody.

"No," Jody said calmly.

"No," Tommy said indignantly. "How dare you suggest it?"

"One hooter," countered the cat guy.

Tommy looked at Jody. She gave him the wide, green-eyed expression that she would have described as I will slap you so far into next week that it will take a team of surgeons just to get Wednesday out of your ass.

"No way," Tommy said. "The redhead's hooters are not on the table." He grinned, looked back at Jody, then looked away, really fast.

The cat guy shrugged. "I'll need some kind of security deposit, like your driver's license - "

"Sure," Tommy said.

"And a credit card."

"No," Jody said, pulling her jacket closed and zipping it up to her neck.

"Nothing kinky," said the cat guy. "I'll know."

"Going to show him to my aunt, and I'll have him back tomorrow, this time."

"Deal," said the cat guy. "His name is Chet."

"You first," Tommy said. They stood in the great room of their loft on either side of the futon, where the huge cat, a crossbreed between a Persian, a dust mop, and possibly a water buffalo, was actively shedding. Tommy had decided that he was going to be very cool about the whole blood-drinking thing, despite the fact that he was so amped he felt as if he could run up and down the walls. In fact, he wasn't sure that he couldn't run up and down the walls, that was part of what was freaking him out. Still, since coming to San Francisco a couple of months ago, he had spent entirely too much time overreacting, and he wasn't going to do it now - not in front of his girlfriend. Not at all, if he could help it.

"You should go first," Jody said. "You've never fed before."

"But you gave the old vampire some of your blood," Tommy said. "You need it." It was true, she had given the vampire her blood to help heal him from the damage Tommy and his friends had caused by blowing up his yacht and so forth, but he hoped she would say no again.

"No, no, no, after you," Jody said, with a very bad French accent. "I insist."

"Well, if you insist."

Tommy leapt to the futon and bent over the huge cat. He wasn't sure how he was supposed to go about this, but he could see the healthy red life aura around Chet, and he could hear his little kitty heart pounding. There was a crackling noise inside of his head, like someone was popping bubble wrap in his ear canal, and then there was pressure on the roof of his mouth, painful pressure, and more crackling. He felt something give and two sharp points poking his lower lip. He pushed back from the cat and grinned at Jody, who yelped and jumped back a step.

"Fangth," Tommy said.

"Yes, I can see that," Jody said.

"Why'd you jump? Do they look thupid?"

"You startled me, is all," Jody said, looking away from him like he was an arc welder or a total eclipse and full eye contact might blind her. She waved him on. "Go, go, go. Be careful. Not too hard."

"Right," Tommy said. He grinned again and she shied away.

Tommy turned back, braced the cat, who seemed much less freaked by this process than the two vampires in the room, and bit.

"Thuppt, thuppt, ack!" Tommy stood up and started brushing at his tongue to remove cat hair. "Yuck!"

"Hold still," Jody said, going to him and brushing the loose, damp cat hair away from his face. She went to the kitchen counter and came back with a glass of water and a paper towel, which she used to wipe at Tommy's tongue.

"Just use the water to rinse. Don't swallow it. You won't be able to keep it down."

"I'm not going to thwollow it, my mouf is full of cat hair."

Once he had rinsed, Jody picked the last of the hairs from his mouth, and in doing so, she pricked one of her fingers on Tommy's right fang.

"Ouch." She pulled her finger away and put it in her mouth.

"Oh, jeez," Tommy said. He pulled her finger out of her mouth and put it in his. His eyes rolled back in his head and he moaned through his nose.

"Oh, I don't think so," Jody said. She grabbed his hand and bit into his forearm, attaching herself to him like a remora to a shark.

Tommy growled, flipped her around, and threw her facedown on the futon, his arm still in her mouth. She flipped her hair to the side and he sank his teeth into her neck. She screamed, but the shriek was muted, bubbling out on Tommy's bloody forearm. Chet, the huge cat, hissed and bolted across the room, through the bedroom door, to wedge himself under the bed, as the sounds of straining leather, tearing denim, and screaming predators filled the loft.

The irony, that it sounded like a huge catfight, was completely lost on the huge cat.
    
 

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