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Second Grade Vampire

January 12, 2011
Philip Burne-Jones, The Vampire

Vampires for grown-ups

Yesterday I came across of my earliest writings, a tale of misadventure for a hungry vampire. It lay tucked among the precious few yellowing mushy papers that have somehow followed me through the years. I wrote it most likely in second grade, just before my mom left San Francisco with me in tow. It was around 1974, a time known more for the oil embargo and political corruption than the paranormal. Perhaps my story was a parable of Watergate.

As it turns out, my Dracula fell victim to his flighty carelessness, not some guy with a wooden stake or a subpoena. But it’s not about the plot. Aside from the story’s cheerful morbidity and ruthless hyphenation, the thing I like best is that it is purple, not just any purple but that deeply distinctive aniline shade, the hallmark of a “ditto,” a wonderfully messy technology that is modern but decades older than the photocopy. I remember writing directly on the master copy, a multilayer sheet like a carbon where writing on the upper layer would press colored wax onto another sheet that would then be revolved through the clattering machine, a bit of the wax from my scratched letters bleeding onto each copy. The device used no ink and the master’s wax would run out after a few hundred copies. When I worked in the ’76 Carter campaign at the ripe age of 9, I operated a vaguely related sort of duplicating machine called a Gestetner. I have no idea how many (few) copies were made of my masterpiece, but it was an honor at the time even to have one’s work duplicated. For quite a while the copies smelled distinctly of the plentiful alcohol used to imprint them, an odor lightly dissociating and queerly seductive.

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