Since the pandemic celebrations had gotten smaller and smaller.
Val thought about the huge gatherings he used to be invited. There would be generations of family, friends of all kinds, and those scattered odd and ends of people who didn’t really have a designated Thanksgiving place. Val was one of those undesignated people.
He enjoyed the company and the wonderful smells. Even some of the food was good, and didn’t make him sick. Over the years he’d figured out ways to make his plate look as if he was eating a lot, when he was hardly taking a bite. He smiled thinking that he’d really just refined tricks that small children use when they don’t want to eat something.
If someone was tired after dinner nobody would really notice. It would be attributed to too much food and drink. Nobody would have to know that when they invited Val, that they’d invited a Vampire to Thanksgiving dinner.
This year he would be thankfully alone, or maybe with a few close Vampire friends of his own. More than likely he would go visit the ancient elderly Vampires who always enjoyed his company.
He turned on the football game and thought: Valentine, what is wrong with you this year?
Val pulled out his phone. Hey Josh do you need any help?
Of course Josh needed help. By the time Val made a few quick stops and got to Josh’s restaurant, Josh had already packed up several large boxes and bags full of provisions.
When they arrived at the halfway house a few of the men came out to greet Josh and Val. Josh was 5’6″ with strong arms, a head of glossy black hair, and crystal blue eyes. He had a big smile and hugged them guys in the yard as he greeted them. Val stood back a bit, carrying a box. He was 6’2″ with medium brown hair, a face that could be considered handsome, and hazel eyes that saw everything. His smile was cordial but reserved as Josh introduced him.
The eight men living in the house were finished with drug treatment programs, and learning to live what they hoped would be normal middle class lives, even though most of them had never had normal middle class lives. It was Josh’s job to teach them some to the skills they needed. Val was there to help out his friend and out of boredom.
Val received bro hugs and bear hugs from the men he’d never met. Over the years Val had been in a lot of places where the residents had hit bottom, and there was a sense of sadness mixed with dashed hopes, and dreams that were meant to be broken. This place wasn’t like that. The air was filled with happiness and hope. It was nice but sort of weird.
The men were all in their 20’s and came in assorted shapes, colors, and sizes. They helped Josh Val bring in pots of herbs, and boxes of food and other provisions.
While Josh was in the kitchen with three guys named Hunter, Joey, and Jay, the remaining men worked with Val at the big table set up in the dining area. The other two men were on The Run For the Hungry and would be back in a few hours.
They three men with Val were named DeLano, Ray, and Trent. Val asked them to tell him about what they’ve been up to. DeLano was in school to become a veterinarian technician. Ray was going to school at the local university and wanted to go to Law School. He was working in a law office part time. Trent was training with a plumber. They were all in their mid-twenties the age where it would be now or never for them. These guys had chosen now.
Val carefully unpacked the herb plants and told the guys how to take care of them. He explained how fresh herbs can work wonders on any foods, and make inexpensive items taste like much more expensive and fancy options. All the while Val could hear Josh and the three guys in the kitchen laughing. The scent of onions cooking with bell peppers and sausage drifted through the air.
“So what is a good looking guy like you doing here with us today. Do you have any family? What’s your story?” Ray asked.
Val was taken aback. He was a Vampire. Nobody ever asked him his story. He’d always been too busy engaging others and keeping the attention on them.
“I’m visiting some elderly ancient relatives later today. My sister, and one of my brothers, and some of their kids will be there too. Maybe my grandmama and her boyfriend. Maybe their neighbors. I never know who will show up. They live in an old house by the river, so we might just sit out on the neighbor’s pier and watch the fish jump.”
Val didn’t tell them about the herbed blood and spiced blood they’d make, and other treats that wouldn’t make Vampires like him sick. There would also be wine. Lots of wine. Val didn’t tell the men here about the wine either. They were in a booze free, pot free, tobacco free home.
The doors opened and two more men, Luke and Brody, came in wearing sweats. They greeted everyone and told them about the run, and how many people showed up.
Brody looked at Val and smiled. “I’ve seen you around, you know late at night. You’re called the Angel of the Night.”
“I didn’t know anyone called me that,” said Val.
Over the years he’d walk the streets at night, sometimes seeing other Vampires, but mostly checking on the humans who were on the streets. Some were out because they had a hustle, some were homeless, and some were just spun out or looking for their next fix.
Sometimes Val would help them. Other times he would just take note and warn others of predators, or take it upon himself to convince the predators to move on and stay away. Convince was his term for terrorizing those who terrorized those who were venerable.
Val thought that if anyone knew what he was that they’d make assumptions, just like he had with the men who lived in this modest, but happy home.
“Yeah, they call you that,” said Brody. “You’re kind of like a legend out there on the street. Even some of the old timers say you’ve been around for decades.” Then he laughed. “You’re not much older than I am. What do you do when you’re not hanging out with Josh and his misfits?”
“You’re not misfits. I’m impressed by what you’re all doing. Um, I work with finance and investments. If you want I’ll come by sometime and teach you guys about saving and investing. Maybe we can get some accounts started for you. Just a little bit adds up.”
They were all impressed but the conversation moved to other things like food, and sports, and women. DeLano’s old dog Bear wandered in and out of the kitchen looking for treats. The conversations turned to the future and what the young men hoped for and their challenges.
Val listened, and learned. He learned about the compassion these men felt for others. He learned that they were thankful for the smallest things. He learned that no matter how disgusted he got out on the streets, that there was hope, and fellowship.
He also was getting hungry and uncomfortable. There was no way he’d get anything he needed here. He had is rules. He had his regular donors as well as a certain kind of person he’d partake in. To take anything here would be unethical and just wrong.
After a few hours he took a ride share back to Josh’s, got into his own car, and drove out to the old house by the river to see his own family.
It would be a good day. It had already been a good day, and there would be more to come.
Have a wonderful Thanksgiving everyone,
Juliette aka Vampire Maman