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Soccer Mom SmackDown

Julia S. Mandala

I pushed open the old refrigerator that served as my makeshift coffin. In the shadowy basement corner, my son Austin huddled in a ball. The scent of blood raised an instant alarm—and hunger.

“Austin, honey, are you all right?”

He raised his head and with my vampire-enhanced vision, I saw his swollen black eye and blood smeared across his nose. I wished I had time to feed before tending to him, but I’d simply have to exercise self-restraint. Sucking your own kid’s blood is just bad parenting.

I gathered my son in my arms, trying not to breathe in the heady aroma of fresh blood. Filling my thoughts with the unappetizing image of garlic bread sprinkled with holy water, I asked, “Who did this?”

“Brandon,” he said, his voice muffled against my shoulder.

“Brandon Caldwell?”


“Brandon McMichaels?”

“Brandon Sanchez,” he said with a hint of impatience.

There were only fifteen Brandons in the fourth grade. Then again, there were ten Austins. I’d wanted to name my son something unusual, like John, but my husband Percy claimed the kid would get beat up. I supposed “Percy the Pussy” would know.

“Well, I’m going to pay Brandon’s parents a little visit tonight,” I said.

Austin drew back, his eyes round. “Mom, no!”

“Not that kind of visit. You know I don’t feed off people.” Yet. Bullies usually learned by example, and most parents of bullies saw nothing wrong with their precious child terrorizing another. If I heard the “boys will be boys” excuse, I was pretty sure vampires would be vampires.

“Talking to them will just make it worse,” he said, wiping tears and smearing blood.

“You have a right to be safe at school—especially for the tuition that place charges.”

After I cleaned up Austin and gave him an ice pack, I microwaved some blood liberated from the local blood bank. Amazing speed and other vampiric powers had some advantages, though they didn’t make up for all that I’d lost.

While I sucked lukewarm blood from a plastic bag, my husband Percy wandered into the kitchen. His gaze locked on the bag and he didn’t even try to hide his distaste.

“God, Louise, do you have to do that here?”

“It’s the kitchen.”

“I mean in the house. And especially over the sink. The kids don’t need to learn bad manners on top of everything else.”

I counted to ten, something I’d been doing a lot lately. “Why didn’t you clean Austin up and ice his eye?”

“He wanted his mom,” Percy said with an accusatory stare.

“Ooh, good twist of the knife.” My vampirism had put more than a little strain on our marriage. “You’re the parent—”

“I had a brief due by six,” Percy said. “Getting the firm to let me work from home was hard enough. If I don’t meet deadlines, they’ll fire me. Then we’ll all be out in the street.” His lip curled. “Well, you’ll have your refrigerator.”

“I’d have a coffin if you weren’t so cheap.” Money wasn’t the problem, though. Over the past five years, Percy had found some pretty inventive excuses for not buying me a decent resting place; once he claimed to be waiting for the new models. “I’m surprised you haven’t latched me in while I’m sleeping.”

Percy’s expression showed he’d considered it—more than casually. Counting to fifty—ten wasn’t nearly enough—I headed to the bedroom I hadn’t slept in for five years. I strapped a Kevlar vest over my T-shirt. The two decent vampires I’d met since being turned said that monster hunters staked first and asked questions never, so I took no chances when leaving the house. To further blend in, I sprayed on a fake tan every two weeks.

As I pulled on a black velour track suit, my six year old daughter Ashley scurried into the bedroom and watched with imploring eyes.

“What is it, Ash?” I asked.

“I promised not to tell,” she said, practically dancing with the need to let the secret out.

“If it’s about Austin getting beat up, then spill it.” I folded my arms across my chest.

Ashley smirked. “Brandon Sanchez didn’t beat up Austin. Madison did.”

A girl? Geez, that sucked. Percy needed to give Austin some fighting lessons. Or, considering Percy’s childhood history as a punching bag, maybe I’d be the better teacher. “Was it Madison Pak?”

Ashley shook her head and stuck her thumb in her mouth, a habit I couldn’t get her to break.

“Madison Chang?”

“No, mommy,” she said around her thumb. “Madison Smith.”

Madison and her mother, Heather, moved to our neighborhood a month ago. As of the last “Mother’s Night Out” (a tradition I instituted so I could keep up with school events), the other fourth grade moms had learned little about the Smiths. Madison’s mother, Heather, had volunteered to coach the kids’ co-ed soccer team, the Battle Hamsters—a name we’d thought the political correctness police couldn’t fault. When the PC contingent claimed it was degrading to hamsters, though, I couldn’t argue—given how badly most kids play soccer. But they had no better suggestions, so the name stuck.

Since it was my turn to bring snacks for tomorrow’s game, I had a legitimate reason for seeing Heather. I checked the clock. Seven-thirty—not too late to go over.

I stopped at Kroger and picked up a tray of assorted cookies. That should cause a riot after the game as kids fought, whined, or screamed for their favorite kinds. Vindictive, I know, but I was a vampire—had been ever since that unfortunate late-night shopping event at Kohl’s. Percy always said I’d kill for a bargain. But I never thought I’d be killed for one. The bitch took all my blood and my eighty percent off leather handbag—then had the nerve to act like giving me immortal life as a vampire made up for it.

I pulled into the Smith’s circular drive and parked behind an SUV with a Battle Hamsters decal on the back—a hamster in a Viking helmet, a sword clutched in its little paws, superimposed over a soccer ball. A bumper sticker read, “Do you really want to tailgate a woman with PMS and a Glock?”

After I rang the bell, Heather Smith opened the door to the two-story stone-faced house. She wore her bleached-blond hair in a ponytail. Her large brown eyes gave her a fawn-like appearance, and her lips were full and pouty. She wore the exact same black velour track suit as mine—and looked better in it. Bitch.

“Heather? I’m Louise Sullivan,” I said sweetly. We shook hands around the precariously balanced cookie tray.

For an uncomfortable moment, Heather stared into my eyes, then gave me a once over and shrugged. “Let me take those cookies,” she said. “Oh, assorted. Great. Will you be at the game Saturday?”

“I have to work.” Work. Yeah. While other moms cheered their kids on and sipped venti extra caramel, extra foam lattés, I’d be crammed in a fridge, drenched in SPF 50, with towels stuffed around the door so no stray light got in. Percy videotaped the games so we could watch them together later, but it was a sucky substitute. Unlike Ashley, Austin remembered a time when I coached his team and was room mother for his class. Sometimes I felt like such a crappy mom.

“You wanna come in for a Diet Coke or something?” Heather asked. “My ex took Madison to dinner, so I’m alone until nine.”

“Sure.” After seeing the bumper sticker, I wanted to get a sense of Heather’s personality before broaching the Madison problem. Plus, an invitation into the house could prove useful later.

The perfectly decorated living room looked like a photo from Martha Stewart Living. I hated Heather even more.

She handed me a chilled can of Diet Coke. I forced down a sip. It tasted like rot and I’d probably have cramps later from imbibing non-blood, but I needed to make a good show. At least the soda was caffeine-free. The last thing anyone needed was a jittery bloodsucker.

“The divorce must be hard on Madison,” I said. Perhaps Madison’s bullying was a cry for attention. I wondered how a divorce would affect Ashley and Austin—not that divorce was really an option. I couldn’t exactly go to court, so everything would be decided in Percy’s favor, including custody. And I couldn’t lose my kids.

“The divorce hasn’t been easy,” Heather said, “but it’s better than the constant fighting that went on before. Marc just couldn’t accept me for who I am.”

I knew the feeling. “Dare I ask for a tour?”

“I warn you, the place is a mess.”

The house was pristine, even Madison’s room. A toy crossbow and assault rifle hung on wall pegs, and a clown punching bag stood in a corner below a Rambo IV poster. Just what you’d expect for a tomboy bully.

When we reached a closed door, Heather hesitated.

“Is that a closet holding family skeletons?” I asked. “Or is that the messy room?”

She grinned. “No, this room just freaks some people out.”

“I’m pretty freak-proof.”

The blueprints probably listed the room as a bedroom. It looked like a grownup version of Madison’s play area. An edged scimitar, a bone-handled dagger, a battle axe and other assorted weapons hung on the walls. A heavy punching bag and a battered target dummy stood in opposite corners. Only the shop vac beside a chest of drawers looked out of place.

“That’s quite an arsenal,” I said. Fear—and possibly Diet Coke—knotted my gut. Of all the bad luck . . . 

Heather skimmed her fingers across the dagger handle. “Collecting weapons is sort of my hobby.”

“Do you know how to use them?”

“Oh, I play with them. You know—to keep in shape. It’s way more fun than pilates.” She opened the chest’s top drawer and selected a wooden stake. “You know, you almost had me fooled with that cheap fake tan and drinking the pop.”

“Aw, crap.” Frantically, I shifted into mist form—something I’d only recently learned to do. The first time I accidentally went all “misty,” it startled me so much I rained in my pants.

Heather grabbed the shop vac hose. “I have a Hoover, Louise, and I’m not afraid to use it!”

Unsure of the effects of being vacuumed, I rematerialized in “vampire mode”—fangs, black eyes, the whole nine yards. With vampire speed, I zipped downstairs. To my astonishment, Heather followed with super-speed almost as fast as mine. I lost a few seconds opening the deadbolt, then ran to the street.

“You’re not getting away from me!” Heather shouted, her sneakers slapping the sidewalk as she ran like the Bionic Woman. I’d heard some monster hunters had “special powers.” I supposed I was about to find out what that meant.

Turning to mist now might let me escape, but that would only delay the inevitable confrontation. I ran in the opposite direction from my house, not wanting to bring this trouble home. Percy would never let me hear the end of it. And my house really was a mess.

Wispy fog created halos around the streetlights. When I reached the park, Heather pursuing like a dog chasing a fox, I raced onto the soccer field, the flattest unpaved surface. Breathing hard, Heather stopped several paces away. I didn’t need to breathe—one point in my favor.

“Heather, let me explain—”

A car roared up the street then screeched to a halt halfway on the sidewalk. Percy jumped out, leaving the door open and the engine running. He’d come to my rescue! He did still love me.

“Get away while you can!” he shouted.

After a moment, I realized he was talking to Heather. Schmuck.

Percy jumped between us. “You don’t know what you’re up against. My wife is a—”

“Vampire?” Heather said, then spun Percy around and held the stake to his throat.

I froze.

“Hey, I’m human!” he said.

“That buys you nothing, Renfield,” Heather said, pressing until the stake made a dimple in his skin. “You’re sheltering a killer.”

“Oh, my God,” Percy whispered. “Louise, tell me you didn’t hurt Madison.”

I choked on outrage. “What have I ever done that would make you think I’d harm a child? You used to trust me!”

“You used to be human!”

“Nice, Percy.” I was starting to feel like no one appreciated my self-restraint. No wonder so many vampires went bad.

“Look, you two clearly have issues,” Heather said. “But I don’t really give a crap because none of that will matter once I’ve staked Louise.”

Percy struggled against her hold, but her arm didn’t budge.

“That’s my wife,” he said.

“Not anymore. Now she’s just a blood-sucking killing machine.”

“I’ve been a vampire for five years and never killed anyone.” Although I did have a mental list of who would make my top ten if I ever turned to the dark side.

Heather’s lip curled and even Percy looked doubtful.

“Christ, Percy, what do you think keeps me from feeding off the living?” I asked. “My love for our children, my love for you.”

He stared at me blankly. Percy’s name was rapidly climbing into the top ten.

“Don’t believe her, Percy,” Heather said. “She kills. They all do.”

You’re the one threatening a human life,” I said. “Let Percy go. Please.”

She shook her head sharply, as though waking from a trance, then shoved Percy toward the street. “Leave before I change my mind.”

Percy hovered uncertainly.

I jerked my chin toward the car. “Go home, Percy—”

Stake raised, Heather ran at me. The point slammed against my chest, right over the heart.

Her arm bounced back. Heather cried out and so did I. Despite the Kevlar vest, her strike would leave a spectacular bruise. The woman was as strong as she was fast—and had good aim. Too bad she couldn’t teach the Battle Hamsters to kick with the same accuracy.

“Louise!” Percy stepped toward us, but Heather halted him with a threatening wave of the stake.

“I’m okay,” I said.

“Yeah, about that.” Heather rubbed her wrist. “What are you wearing under there—a brass bra?”


“Crap, I wondered when vamps would think of that.” Heather shrugged and drew the bone-handled dagger I’d seen earlier. “I hate cutting off heads. It’s just messy. And getting the bloodstains out—”

I raised an eyebrow. “You’re gonna cut off my head with a dagger?”

“I’m gonna slit your throat and bleed you until you’re too weak to move. Then I’ll go home and get the axe.”

“Mrs. Smith—Heather,” Percy said, holding his palms out. “Stop. You can’t—”

She lunged. As I dove away, the dagger slashed through my sleeve and nicked my arm. I swung my other arm and knocked her to the ground with a blow that would have broken bones of a normal mortal. The soccer field hadn’t seen this much action since the Battle Hamsters played that epic game with the Mighty Moon Princesses that ended in a 0–0 tie.

“Why are you doing this?” I asked as thick black blood seeped from the cut.

“It’s what I was born to do—kill monsters.” Heather rose, dusting off grass. “You’re evil. You feed off people like telemarketers feed off the stupid.”

“I don’t feed off humans! And I don’t teach my children to be bullies!”

“What the heck do you mean by that?” Heather demanded.

“Your Madison beat up my son today.”

What?” Heather’s arm went limp. If I’d wanted to, I could have torn her throat out. Instead, I told her what had happened.

“I don’t understand,” Heather said. “Madison talks about Austin all the time. She has a crush on him—at least I think it’s your Austin she has a crush on.”

“Helluva way to show it,” Percy said.

Heather turned the dagger, watching the streetlight glint off steel. “Are you sure it wasn’t Madison Pak?”

“Certain,” I said.

“Where would Madison learn that it’s okay to beat someone up?”

Percy and I stared pointedly at the dagger.

“Oh. Yeah. Right.” Heather sank onto the bottom bleacher. “I’ve been trying to make the world safe for her. I never thought Madison would copy me like that.”

“If you really want to do some good, why don’t you go after the blood-sucking killing machine who made me?”


I explained what happened that fateful night in Kohl’s parking lot.

Heather’s eyes blazed. “And your eighty percent off leather handbag? Oh, that bitch must die.”

“By the way, not all vampires are evil,” I said.

“That’s . . . ​not what I was taught,” Heather said. “But you could have killed me and you didn’t.”

“It isn’t like I wanted this.” I looked into Percy’s eyes. “I’m trying to be the best wife and mother I can under the circumstances.”

His gaze softened and he wrapped an arm around my waist. It had been a long time since he showed me any affection. I stopped trying after the time he said, “No, thanks, I’m not feeling like a necrophile tonight.”

Heather rested her hand on my shoulder. “The city’s putting lights on the soccer fields soon. Maybe we can get the Battle Hamsters scheduled for more night games.”

My throat tightened at the unexpected onslaught of kindness. “Thanks.”

Heather cocked her head. “Hey, you up for some payback, Louise? Vampires can sense their sires—you can lead us right to her.”

“Can I carry the axe?” I asked.


“Okay, then.” I pictured the vampire’s porcelain cheekbones, her blood-coated lips, the black void of her eyes. A faint tug came from my right. I pointed. “She’s that way.”

“At the Golfsmith ‘Moonlight Madness’ sale?” Percy huffed. “That bitch must die.”

“Count on it,” Heather said.

I squeezed his hand. “Looks like I’ll be home late, honey.”

Percy kissed my cheek and didn’t even flinch at its coolness. “I’ll wait up.”

After Percy drove off, Heather and I headed toward her house to gear up. Glancing sidelong at me, Heather started singing, roughly to the tune of the Notre Dame Fight Song, “Battle Hamsters, fight, fight, fight!”

I joined in. “Scurry with all your might, might, might! Stuff your cheeks with victory! And roll, Battle Hamsters, roll! Whoo!” We both raised a victory fist, then giggled.

“Wow, I haven’t giggled in years,” I said.

Heather put a hand on my back as we walked down the foggy street. “Louise, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.”

Kevin Andrew Murphy has written a great deal of vampire fiction for White Wolf’s World of Darkness and elsewhere, and now for one of his latest characters. “Tecate for Hecate” concludes the triptych begun in Esther Friesner’s Witch Way To The Mall? with “Tacos for Tezcatlipoca” and continued with “Frijoles for Fenris” in Strip Mauled—but is defintely not the end of the magical misadventures of Bryce Pierponte, for whom the author has plans . . . ​Of course, those plans are mixed in with others, as Kevin is also doing work on the next volume of George R.R. Martin’s Wild Cards series, Fort Freak, among other projects. Updates can be found on Kevin’s website and the Deep Genre blog (

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