Pen Pals


Don’t hoard postage stamps, send for your subscription right away, before the moment has passed. These things don’t last forever. In Lithuania, there are many old men, old acrobats in baggy tights, living on the dole, waiting for your letters. They eat donuts, they like parades, they have dreams of sweet island retreats. They are so trusting, so impossibly skinny, so fond of whipping cream and lightly frosted Post Toasties, all things American.

The old Lithuanian gentlemen write brilliant letters about vampires and celebrities. It is their hobby, avocation in their declining years – they are worth writing to, you will see. Here I enclose your free sample. Zigmantas Bajelis sent this story to Kimberly Webster of Sunflower, Kansas just last month:

Paris Hilton had a Dracula binge a few years ago, hushed up, of course, but it will come out sooner or later, on Millionaire or Jeopardy – What Lithuanian count lay helplessly under the spell of a vapid American heiress? But surely he isn’t Lithuanian, maybe he is a Belgian vampire exiled in a haunted Lithuanian castle, living on rarebit, chocolate, licorice whips, speaking French with a provincial accent – la plume de ma tante est sur la table – he says and dreams of Mozart and how cute, how precious the little composer was, and sure okay, Mozart was German not French or Belgian, but a displaced gallic vampire can dream of composers and their tender necks, can they not? And yes of course they can.

But back to Paris Hilton and her foray into the nightlife of the undead. There was the French count, of course, and Gomez Ademas, a delightfully pale Spanish vampire completely swept off his feet by the ditzpossessed American princess. One day in the garden she pricked her finger with a thorn from a three hundred year old rose bush brought from the holy land and planted in the earth of the Spaniard’s homeland, the very earth that he packs in his Louis Vuitton suitcase and carries with him on a trans-Atlantic flight to the United States to be with his merchant princess, but by then she had forgotten him entirely – “Gomez who?” 

And so begins his gradual descent through the seven levels of talk show hell – Oprah, Ellen, Tyra, Tony, Jerry and on and on until he drives the stake into his own heart, sitting in a sad fleabag hotel eating blood oranges and listening to the steady drip drip drip of the radiator, compressed Chinese water torture. Sad Spanish Gomez, in his seven-day pantalones, thinking about becoming a plumber, thinking how he’d lost his touch, thinking how even the most pathetic of vampires would at least eat flies, but not him not him, gone vegetarian, not living, not undead, just roaming the streets of one sad silly city after another. On the horizon he imagines a meadow, he walks and walks in a daze, it never gets any closer, it is the vampire’s mirage of arriving.  

One day he faints and is taken by ambulance to the emergency room by a kind neighbor who listens to Jacques Brel incessantly – ne me quitte pas, ne me quitte pas, ne me quitte pas — uses Grecian formula, and talks too much to the weakened, who cannot resist him. They take Gomez to the emergency room, where they can’t find a pulse, but they give him a transfusion. He leaves against medical advice feeling very much better indeed, kills a cow on the way home and sucks it dry – “why, this must be Tulsa,” he observes to himself.

This is the first interest he’s taken in his surroundings since the day Paris Hilton cancelled his reservation. So he joins his sweet neighbor back at the flat, the elder drag queen, the fading roué, and they go out drinking and murdering in a jolly old spree until the sun comes up. They curl up together in their custom double coffin with the earth of their homelands commingled – half from Madrid, half from Brussels – and dream all day of Mozart and his soft little neck and his genius. 

When they wake at nightfall, they buy a ticket to a sweet island paradise on the Flying Dutchman cruise lines, starting from a sodden half-deserted port in the Gulf Coast and singing I’m too sexy for my hair too sexy by flashing karaoke light all the way to Cancun. 

acrobats 

“This is too much, Gomez, too much” – says Didier, the Belgian, putting on his merlot lipliner.

“Don’t I know it,” Gomez answers, and bites Didier’s fingertip, like he did the day Didier rode with him to the emergency room.  

When they are finished with the karaoke and the islands, they take their double coffin, their Louis Vuitton matched set, and the two or three pretty vampires-in-training they’d  picked up along the way. They go to Didier’s chateau, where the vampirelings are given to his aunt Giselle. She raises them in the way of vampires of the old country, strictly and with great suffering and guilt, so that they might not be tempted by the Splenda sweetness of American heiresses, and stick with something more substantive, something that will last forever. Or even longer.            

Zigmantas Bajelis sends photos with his letters, Paris Hilton sightings, proof of death certificates, recipes for variations on finger jello that the young vampires write in their unformed block printing. Zigmantas is the mildest of storytellers, well regarded by his cohort of old acrobats for restraint and veracity. For more fiery tales, maybe just as true but who knows, see the works of Pranciscus Mandalus, who having been dropped repeatedly from the high wire without a net sees visions and knows stories that surprise even him. Do it now, these men are not getting any younger, and every one of them smokes incessantly.

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