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«Fat White Vampire Blues», Andrew Fox

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS This book, had it come into existence at all, would’ve been a far poorer project without the inspiration and support of two departed friends, both of whom left New Orleans and the world far too soon. George Alec Effinger, master science-fiction writer, founded the city’s longest continuously running writing workshop in 1988 and gave this beginner much to aspire to. Jules Theobold was coworker and friend; his humor and infectious joy in living not only made early mornings at the office more bearable but provided me a perfect example of why New Orleans and her inhabitants have charmed and delighted writers for generations.

Members of the writing workshop George founded have been there for me, month after month, ever since I joined in 1995. They are my ace in the hole, catching my dumb mistakes and awkward phrases before I suffer from them. Big, fat thanks are due to Lena Andersson, Michael Brossette, Maury Feinsilber, Larry Gegenheimer Jr., Teresa Harms, Joan Heausler, Michael Keane, Mark McCandless, Janet McConnaughey, Gwen Moore, Marian Moore, Laura Joh Rowland, Dr. Jack Stocker, Roslyn Taylor, John Webre, and Fritz Ziegler.

I’d also like to thank Anne McCaffrey, who provided generous encouragement to a starry-eyed thirteen-year-old; Dara Levinson, who has uncommon insight into the people who live inside my head; Lila Taylor, who shared a key anecdote; my agent, Dan Hooker; Ashley and Carolyn Grayson; my editor, Chris Schluep; my family; and, of course, John Kennedy Toole.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

ANDREW JAY FOX was born in 1964 and grew up in North Miami Beach, Florida. The first movie he remembers seeing is Japanese monster festDestroy All Monsters, viewed from the backseat of his stepdad’s Caprice convertible. Early passions included Universal horror movies, 1950s giant monster flicks, WWII navy dramas,Planet of the Apes, and horror comics, particularly Marv Wolfman’s and Gene Colan’s “Tomb of Dracula.” His earliest exposure to literary science fiction came by way of H. G. Welles, Ray Bradbury, and Anne McCaffrey’s Pern series; other favorites through the years have included Robert Silverberg, J. G. Ballard, Richard Matheson, and Ursula K. Le Guin.

He attended Loyola University in New Orleans, where he studied social work and wrote a fantasy play for visually handicapped children that involved the audience rubbing their hands on a vaseline-coated foam rubber mermaid’s tail and sniffing spoiled sardines. He studied public administration at Syracuse University, then worked at a public children’s psychiatric center on Long Island while continuing to write plays (none of which involved sardines). Since returning to New Orleans in 1990, he has worked as manager of the Louisiana Commodity Supplemental Food Program, a federally funded monthly nutrition program for low-income senior citizens. In 1995, following the death of his cousin in the French Quarter on New Year’s Eve due to a falling bullet, he helped found the New Year Coalition, an advocacy group that helps educate the public about the dangers of celebratory gunfire. Also in 1995, he joined a monthly writing workshop founded by award-winning SF author George Alec Effinger.Fat White Vampire Blues is his first novel to see print.

ONE

Jules Duchon was a real New Orleans vampire. Born and bred in the working-class Ninth Ward, bitten in and smitten with the Big Easy. Driving through the French Quarter, stuck in a row of bumper-to-bumper cars that crept along Decatur Street like a caravan of bone-weary camels, Jules Duchon barely fit behind the steering wheel of his very big Cadillac taxicab. Even with the bench seat pushed all the way back.

Damn, he was hungry. His fat fingers quivered as they clutched the worn steering wheel more tightly. It was only nineP.M.; early yet. He didn’t used to get this hungry, back in the old days. Could he be coming down with diabetes? Jules thought about this. Could somebody like himget diabetes? Half the population of New Orleans over the age of forty had it, and Jules was well past forty. He had half a mind to drive over to Charity Hospital and get himself checked out.Yeah,right, he thought to himself. He rubbed the side of his nose and tilted down his sun visor, forcing himself to look at the clipping from last week’s Times — Picayunehe’d pinned there. NEW ORLEANS FATTEST CITY IN NATION, STUDY SHOWS. Front-page news.Talk about restating the goddamn obvious. Them scientists actually get paid to tell us this stuff? He glanced quickly at the visor’s lit vanity mirror, where his reflection would be, if he could still cast one. What the hell; he knew what he looked like. He still had the delicate, whitish complexion that women had made such a fuss about during his younger days. Back then, they’d said he looked like Rudy Valentino in The Sheik. Now he looked more like the Pillsbury Doughboy.

“Diabetes or no diabetes, if I don’t get something down my gullet, I’m gonna keel over.” Waiting at a stoplight, Jules considered his options. The streets and sidewalks of the French Quarter, glistening with a recent rain, were bustling with tourists. But that was the problem. Too much of a good thing-there were people and eyes everywhere. The light turned green, and Jules crossed Canal Street, heading for less popular parts of town. He would have to dig into his wallet for tonight’s meal.

A few minutes later he was trolling past the New Orleans Mission, a soup kitchen and homeless shelter. It squatted in the shadow of the Pontchartrain Expressway, an elevated highway that separated the business district from a vast slum called Central City. Jules chewed his lower lip as he scanned the long line of human refuse that waited on the broken sidewalk outside the mission’s door. Then he spotted her, standing near the end of the line. He’d seen her around town before, sitting on bus shelter benches or panhandling in front of fried chicken joints. A big-boned woman, as his mother used to say. Her thick, chocolate-brown neck was nearly hidden by a motley heap of metallic beads left over from last winter’s Carnival parades, and her upper body oozed out the armholes of a tank top several sizes too small for her. Yeah, she fit the bill.

Jules stopped his cab, a Caddy Fleetwood of mid-1970s vintage, pressed the wobbly rocker switch that jerked his electric windows reluctantly to life, and stuck his head into the humid night air. “Hey, baby. You interested in some dinner?”

The woman swung her head around, her sparse eyebrows raised in surprise. “You talkin‘ tome?”

“Yeah, baby. I asked if you were hungry. You look hungry.”

The woman took half a step toward the cab, giving its vast white bulk the once-over, then eyeing the equally imposing white bulk of its driver. “What you selling, mister? You a dealer? I ain’t got no money to be buying no drugs, now.”

Jules sighed heavily. His hunger was growing exponentially. “You hear me say anything about crack? I want some company, is all. I wanna buy you dinner.”

The woman crossed her big arms in front of her ample chest. “I got me dinner right here, thank you. An‘ it’sfree.”


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