And here’s something special: The first short story I wrote after I graduated. It was just a few months after putting Drexel behind me and a month after I volunteered at the Philadelphia Film Festival. I think I got the idea for this story from checking the architecture and old feel I got from hanging around Old City for ten days as a result of being a film festival volunteer. Anyway, I hope you guys enjoy.
Zach walked down the street. It wasn’t too bad; he was no stranger to the streets of Philadelphia. He knew which neighborhoods to avoid, and which parts of the city were seemingly asleep during the nighttime hours. It was just that the whole time he was walking, he was just lamenting that he could save some time and be on a bus if it weren’t for the birdcage in his hands, and the bat inside said birdcage. “What are you gonna do? Risk freaking out a bunch of commuters and risk incurring the wrath of SEPTA? Fucking bastards. ” Zach thought. Zach continued to walk down the streets adorned by rowhomes and illuminated streetlights until he found the one he was looking for.
“Is this it?” the bat asked. “Yep, this is the house,” Zach answered, inspecting the house. “Eagles flag, old Phillies flag, this is it.”
“Come on, Zach. You’ve been here too many times to count. You ought to know what the front of my place looks like.” Zach looked up to the voice that broke his inspection. It was Claudia, sitting on a broom, floating in the sky.
“How long have you been up there watching me?” Zach asked. Claudia looked at the streetlights. “About…five minutes, or however long you started walking down the block,” Claudia answered. She adjusted herself on her broom and flew down to the street, jumping off the broom as she was at Zach’s level. “Anyway,” she replied. “My mom and grandma are home. Hope you brought you brought an appetite.” Claudia looked at the bat in Zach’s cage. “You got a new pet? And you didn’t tell me?!” Claudia hit Zach on the head with the end of her broom. “About that,” Zach replied. “Can we go inside? It’s kind of cold.” The two walked inside.
Inside Claudia’s house, her mother Diana and grandmother Sarah were in the kitchen stirring a pot. The two didn’t flinch when Claudia greeted them with “Hi, mom. Hi, Nonna.” But when the two heard “Hi, Mrs. Agresta. Hi, Mrs. Dupont.” Diana turned off the pot to greet Zach. “Hi, Zach,” Diana said. Sarah eyed the bat in its cage. “So, Zachary, this is the bat you wanted to show me?”
“Yeah,” Zach replied nervously. He put down the cage gently on the floor, opening the door on the cage. The bat let its claws off of the cage bar, flew out of the cage door…and transformed into a girl before the eyes of the four people. “H…hello.” The girl said meekly. Sarah and Diana were mesmerized by the girl’s blonde pigtails, red eyes, and the small fangs protruding from the top of her mouth. Diana moved in front of Rachel, staring at the girl. “What is your name?” she asked. The girl shook where she stood, feeling the eyes of the short Diana stabbing her. “My name is Rachel, I’m six years old,” she answered. Diana looked further at Rachel, focusing on her eyes and fangs. “You’re not telling me everything.” She said. “Who are you really? Where is it that you hail from? What clan do you belong to?” Rachel began to look down at the ground, heart racing and on the verge of tears. “Mom, that’s enough!” Sarah interjected. Diana backed away from Rachel, and Sarah took her place and crouched down to be at eye-level with Rachel. “I’m sorry about my mother. What she was trying to get across was that we want to know some more about you so we can find out how we can help you get home.” Rachel looked up to Sarah. “You can trust me.” Rachel exhaled. “My name is Rachel Paoli Desrosiers. I am pleased to make your acquaintance, ma’am.” “What kind of name is that?” Diana asked. “ Are you some sort of Main Line girl? Does your have a secluded place in Rittenhouse Square?” Sarah shook her head and grabbed Diana’s arm, asking, “Why don’t we focus on dinner?” as she dragged Diana into the kitchen, with the short woman sternly replying with “Is that how you’re going to treat your own mother?”
Rachel turned to Zach and Claudia in confusion. “What does the short woman mean by Main Line and Rittenhouse Square?” she asked. ” The Main Line’s the place where people who got money live if they wanna get out of the city,” Zach answered. “And Rittenhouse Square is where rich people live if they wanna stay in the city. They also got some nice restaurants, a library, and a Barnes & Noble.”
“It’s basically Philadelphia’s Central Park,” Claudia added. Sarah popped her head out of the kitchen. “Zach, Rachel, would you two like to stay for dinner?” she asked. “The Phillies are playing tonight.” Zach lit up, and the next words were “Sure. We’d love to. I’ll just have to call my mom first and let her know I’m here.”
Sarah went backed into the kitchen and rejoined her mother at the stove. “Great, now you’re inviting her to eat with us?” Diana snapped. “What is with you?” Sarah retorted. “What drives you to scare a little kid? Why can’t you lighten up?” With her finger, Diana summoned a wooden spoon and hit Sarah in the head with it. “Ah! What was that for?” Sarah asked while rubbing her head. Diana simply answered with “Don’t ever question or backtalk your mother.”
Zach and Rachel sat down on the couch, seeing Claudia come to the living room with TV trays. “I don’t need any help with anything,” Claudia said. In response, Zach walked up to the TV, flipped through the channels until he saw Tom McCarthy and Ben Davis on The Comcast Network welcoming everyone to Citizens Bank Park. Zach muttered a simple “Got it.” before striding back to the couch, nearly hitting one of the trays. “Hey, watch the setup!” Claudia protested. Rachel simply observed and replied with, “This is a strange group of people.” The vampire serenely focused on the images ranging from shots of Philadelphia that signaled the beginning and ending of commercial breaks to the antics of the Phillie Phanatic. Her concentration was broken with Claudia coming onto the couch telling her to scoot over and Sarah putting plates on the trays. “Hey, Rachel, I hope you like Chicken Parm.” She said. Rachel thanked Sarah for the meal and looked at the plate, taking a sniff of the chicken and the spaghetti. “What’s wrong, little girl?” Diana asked. “Afraid garlic will get stuck in your fangs? Afraid you’ll get something?” Sarah looked at her mother with a glare that read, “Mom, please, for the love of God, don’t start.” which caused Diana to back off. Zach moved toward Rachel and told her, “Hey, if you eat garlic now, you can develop immunity to it. How much would it scare people to see that their repellant is ineffective?” Rachel pondered Zach’s statement, cut into the chicken, putting a piece into her mouth. After a cough and a breath, she took another bite. And then she smiled as if she was thinking, “Take that, nonna.”
Together, the five ate dinner and watched the Phillies play the Tigers. Midway through the game, Sarah asked Zach, “So, Zach, how’d you end up finding Rachel?” “Um, interesting story that,” Zach answered. “I found this bat twitching on the ground, so I took it home to see if I could nurse it back to health enough to a point where I can get it either take it to a vet or release it into the wild like some 90s movie.”
“And how did…well, you know,” Diana asked. “Hang on, I was just getting to that part,” Zach replied. “The bat was moaning and groaning, and when I put the cage away from the window, it just…stopped. And at about 7:00 that night, I hear this faint voice saying ‘Please open the cage’. So I do. And then…the bat flies out, and Rachel transforms and hits my floor.” Rachel looked down to cover her face after the last part of the story was said. “ And I gave her some snacks to nibble on to do something to get her strength back, but she just said that being away from the sun would be enough for her. All I gotta do is cover her cage with a blanket when she has to sleep during the day.” Zach composed himself. “And the reason why I’m here tonight is to ask if Rachel can stay with you guys.” Claudia, Sarah, and Diana all stopped in shock. “Why would you wanna do that?” Claudia asked. “What’s wrong with your place?”
“Well”, Zach replied, “I’m not sure how long I can keep Rachel under wraps from my mom. And I’m not sure how she’ll take a vampire being under her roof. And I know that you guys have the attic that doesn’t get sunlight that only requires a good sweeping to not get stuffy. And two out of three of you seem to have already taken a liking to her.” Zach got blank stares, and Claudia would go on to break the silence, asking “Why are you worrying that your mom won’t let you take Rachel in?” “Because,” Zach answered nervously, “I think that, like your grandma, she’s worried that Rachel will bite her or me.” “Would you like me to help you?” Rachel asked. “It’s bad manners to just bite somebody if they don’t want to, and I’ve heard that when I get older, there are times when I really want to bite someone or something..” Claudia looked at Diana. “Nonna, does that make you feel any better?” Diana only replied “Baby steps. Go to your mother, and then there’s a chance we can talk, Zachary.” Claudia looked at Zach “You hear that? You got my grandma on the path to liking a vampire. I think that you can convince your mom that Rachel won’t be a menace.” Zach sheepishly smiled. “Thanks,” he replied. “Now weren’t we watching a baseball game?” With that reminder, everyone refocused on the TV and cheered wildly at the ensuing Phillies home run. As cheers and high fives went around, Rachel simply focused on the illuminated Citizens Bank Liberty Bell as it rocked back and forth, back and forth. Back. And forth.
When the game ended in a 5-3 Phillies win, Rachel had turned back into a bat and was in her cage and Zach was ready to head home. “Well, guys, I’m off to try to convince my mother why having a six-year-old vampire won’t be a terrible thing.” He said as he picked up the cage. “Well, if you keep Rachel in the cage, you could spin it as convincing her to let you keep a very special vampire bat as a pet,” Claudia replied. Zach simply smiled and gave Claudia a simple “I’ll be sure to keep that in mind.” And with that, Claudia, Diana, and Sarah wove goodbye as Zach and Rachel walked out the door into the Philadelphia night, with Sarah telling Rachel to come back soon, and that hopefully, she could convince her mother to let the attic be open for her.
As Zach and Rachel walked home, Rachel hummed to herself in her cage, comfortably in her bat form. “Your friend and her mom are really nice,” she said. “Glad you think so,” Zach replied. “Sorry about Grandma Diana, and I think that maybe either I or Claudia should have warned you beforehand. You’re not too upset about that, are you?” Rachel shook her bat head. “No, I think I’ll be fine. Hey, remember when you said that if I eat a lot of garlic, I’ll develop immunity to it?” “Yeah,” Zach answered. “Do you think that there’s any truth to it? Because I know that garlic can’t kill a vampire, only keep them away.” Zach looked at the moon for a moment. “I don’t know,” he replied. “But I can get some food from the restaurants in Little Italy and test your theory. If you’re right, you can really scare the socks off of Claudia’s grandma.” Zach brought the cage to his face so his face could meet Rachel’s. “But if you’re wrong,” he added, “I don’t want to deal with a severe case of vampire indigestion, okay?” Rachel. Hanging from the bar inside the cage, only answered with, “No promises.” Zach simply sighed, put the cage back by his side, and walked home with Rachel.