For Fandango’s Flashback Friday:
Eye of the Beholder
January 5th 2007
Abney Hawkweed taught music for 25 years in the Caswell School District and those were the best years of her life.
Not that she liked teaching; in fact Abney didn’t even like kids.
But the hours were good, she got the Summers off and at the end of the day not many people go out of their way to pay attention to plain looking women with wire rimmed glasses who know how to play the violin and trumpet and the saxophone.
Which suited Miss Abney Hawkweed just fine.
In the old days, after school was over and Abney was on her way home she used to roll the windows of her fuel-efficient little car down and she use to turn the radio off just so she could hear the honking horns and screeching tires. Sometimes she even got an earful and eyeful of some road raging driver screaming their lungs out and waving their fingers around in nasty gestures.
Sometimes, just for the fun of it Abney would go out of her way just so that she could drive by the Great Mall of Felton Hills.
She just loved to watch people dodge buses and trucks and cars and then no matter how many cars were behind her honking their horns she’d drive slow just so she could see the same people sprint, jog or run across the parking lots with baby strollers and shopping carts- all so that they could get into the shops and the food court and consume anything they could lay their hands on.
It all seemed so trivial and innocent and final.
There was no mystery to life in the suburbs.
You worked, you shopped, you watched TV and then you got to die.
Some people, Abney thought, don’t know how good they have it and that’s a fact.
Abney’s day job paid the rent; what she did at night was who Abney Hawkweed was. She could always find another day job, but there was only one Abney and when the Sunset came she couldn’t be anything else.
So just after dinner she would gather her tools into a little black leather medical bag- the one she inherited from her Grandfather and she turned the little gold clasps counter clockwise to lock it.
Then for luck, just like Grandpa taught her, she would touch the little brass plate that said, ” Post Mortem Case ” three times.
The luck thing was important because she usually needed it.
Like with most family businesses you could either take up the reigns and do the family proud or you could skate by and make them wish they could at least say you were adopted or ‘from the other side of the family’.
The worst you could be neither, the worst thing you could be is mediocre.
And know it.
Abney figured she could get the job done- and that phrase pretty much summed up Abney’s job performance. She wasn’t as glamorous and thin and blond as her cousin Inez and she wasn’t as smart or athletic as her Father Dr Setwell Hawkweed had been.
They were impressive figures at work and well respected.
No doubt, Abney could dig up a coffin pop it open and hammer a stake into the heart of a bloated red faced vampire before it could open it’s mouth and spit blood into her eyes-which is what they did when they were about to attack.
If they got you it was bad news because that mess could make you blind.
That’s how they brought you down.
The problem was it was just plain old Abney Hawkweed in some old decrepit church or over grown cemetery carrying on the family trade.
There was no sense of style about how Abney did her work so she did it quietly and efficiently as possible and then she’d go home feed her cat, listen to a little Mozart and then she’d turn in for what was left of the evening.
She did that for 25 years and she never complained.
She didn’t even complain when she had to go into a house on Halloween (of all nights) and take out a family of Vampires who had been sleeping in their basement and then had taken to hanging from the rafters like water logged Piñatas-dripping blood and purge from their hardly working bowels onto the floor.
All Abney figured when she slipped in the gunk and broke her wrist was that they had done that on purpose.
It wasn’t like the books and comics and video games you know.
Abney learned the hard way that oxygen deprivation at death and then waking up to find you had been turned into a mosquito was enough to make anyone crazy.
On the day Abney retired- both from the Day Job and the Family Trade, her work friends had taken her out for lunch and given her some neat gifts and they had promised to keep in touch.
She doubted they would.
And of course they didn’t.
Her family same to celebrate her retirement and of course they promised to stay in touch too- and Abney figured they’d make good on that and of course they did.
Especially when they needed a night off.
As time went by Abney started to play the Violin again for the simple pleasure of it. She never got calls to lend a hand at this Graveyard or that Morgue because the Vampire Problem was a Problem Solved and Abney decided to take up the guitar.
It was at Inez’s birthday part last winter that Inez had told Abney, ” You know in the old days we could never have all gotten together like this. It’d have been too dangerous. I mean, a couple of nutty blood suckers and a can of gasoline and before you know it we’re crispy critters and people are dropping like flies from ‘ the plague’ again.”
” You had a lot to do with that Abney. Thank you.”
And Abney decided right then and there that she may not have been the sleekest of models to hit the showroom floor but she had made a difference all the same.
That was when Abney really felt it for the first time- her life; her simple quiet life was all she ever was.
And she missed it.
When Spring came Abney had decided to take up sketching. She was pretty awful at it, but she had nothing but time on her hands and if this didn’t work she could always try something else.
So one day she’s at her favorite park sketching her favorite tree when four teenagers went walking by.
Shoulder to shoulder they looked like a little black thundercloud rolling along on the cobble stone pathway.
Their faces were pale, their lips were black and they smelled like the perfume counter at the Bay Side Department store.
Abney watched them for a moment and then she called out, ” You there…are you supposed to be Vampires? ”
There was a chorus of snorts and chuckles and someone tried to growl ” suppose to be ” but his his voice cracked.
One of the little black clouds broke away from the rest and she tried to glide up towards the middle-aged woman with salt and pepper hair ” We’re Engergy Vamps ” she said slowly with her jaw clenched tight and her black hair falling into her face.
” Is that a new type of Vampire?” Abney asked cheerfully.
” I guess you could say that.” the girl with the pointed white teeth said. Then she tried to stare the old woman down. ” Why do you want to know? ”
Abney shrugged, ” just checking. ”
And as the little black cloud and her clenched jaw drifted down the path Abney got up, reached for the black bag under her chair and touched the little brass plate three times.
Then she happily went back to work.