Below you will find the results of my having challenged myself for a number of days to write a short story with a beginning and middle and an end inside of 30 minutes. Here is what I came up with. I hope you like it.
Whatever it was, it had been living in the vacuum cleaner for a very long time.
We had an old ShopVac, which was totally unnecessary for the apartment. Totally overkill. Dean had a thing about buying industrial strength appliances for mundane domestic tasks. He special ordered aerosol air fresheners that required the use of plastic gloves and goggles. He tried to convince the landlord to install a $4,000 restaurant quality gas stove in the kitchen, the kitchen with the salmon pink linoleum.
Anyway, whatever was living in the ShopVac had formulated an ingenious manner of survival: it would subsist on whatever was hosed up during the… occasional cleanings. At night, near as we could tell, it would unscrew the lid of the vacuum cleaner and investigate the rest of the apartment.
It left a trail, you see, of grime and dust.
There was no way I was going to crack open the ShopVac to discover what manner of fiend had insinuated itself into our arrangement. Our landlord, a superstitious type from the Caucasus Mountains, flatly refused to investigate. He alternately offered to buy us a new ‘not crazy’ vacuum cleaner, or to have his sister perform an exorcism on the entire building. Dean, after realizing that Vilnis, the landlord, would not spring for a Dyson 360 Eye, elected to handle matters himself.
Dean lied a lot. There is no easy way to phrase it, after all these years. He had never been in the Special Forces; he had never written songs for R.E.M.; he had never been in Blues Traveler. He had earned no black belts in sundry martial arts and had never lived in New York or Los Angeles. One time, an especially mean female acquaintance of Dean’s from the D&D group went to the trouble of making a timeline of his tall tales, proving that Dean’s claims were mostly bullshit. Or that he had been in Blues Traveler when he was eight years old.
I had no idea what was in our vacuum cleaner. I figured, at the beginning, that it was a rat or a raccoon or something like that. That it might be a supernatural being had not occurred to me. Dean, discovering that an esoteric explanation was the most needlessly complicated and unhelpful, attached himself to this approach, enthusiastically. A magickal explanation would be the most elaborate; it could be neither proven nor disproven; it was impossible to demonstrate any sort of expertise; it depended exclusively on mule-stubborn force of will and a neurotic insistence on claiming superior knowledge at the outset. Perfect for Dean. Perfect.
That morning, Dean put on his fatigues and did some form of ersatz tai chi in the living room. We were going outside, you see, to walk to the pest control place.
He was concerned that people might want to ‘take him out.’
He slipped his Eickhorn Advance Combat Knife into his boot. Ready for anything.
He kicked open the front door.
Benny The Drunk was the first one to see us. He was sitting on the curb while he brother fixed a flat tire.
Benny tapped the back of his brother’s knee and pointed at us.
“Look at those two fruits!”
Dean let it slide. He had vampires to slay.