The Southern Book Club's Guide to Slaying Vampires - Grady Hendrix


This story ends in blood.

Every story begins in blood: a squalling baby yanked from the womb, bathed in mucus and half a quart of their mother’s blood. But not many stories end in blood these days. Usually it’s a return to the hospital and a dry, quiet death surrounded by machines after a heart attack in the driveway, a stroke on the back porch, or a slow fade from lung cancer.

This story begins with five little girls, each born in a splash of her mother’s blood, cleaned up, patted dry, then turned into proper young ladies, instructed in the wifely arts to become perfect partners and responsible parents, mothers who help with homework and do the laundry, who belong to church flower societies and bunco clubs, who send their children to cotillion and private schools.

You’ve seen these women. They meet for lunch and laugh loudly enough for everyone in the restaurant to hear. They get silly after a single glass of wine. Their idea of living on the edge is to buy a pair of Christmas earrings that light up. They agonize far too long over whether or not to order dessert.

As respectable individuals, their names will appear in the paper only three times: when they’re born, when they get married, and when they die. They are gracious hostesses. They are generous to those less fortunate. They honor their husbands and nurture their children. They understand the importance of everyday china, the responsibility of inheriting Great-Grandmother’s silver, the value of good linen.

And by the time this story is over, they will be covered in blood.

Some of it will be theirs. Some of it will belong to others. But they will drip with it. They will swim in it. They will drown in it.

Housewife (n)—a light, worthless woman or girl

—Oxford English Dictionary, compact edition, 1971


November 1988


In 1988, George H. W. Bush had just won the presidential election by inviting everyone to read his lips while Michael Dukakis lost it by riding in a tank. Dr. Huxtable was America’s dad, Kate & Allie were America’s moms, The Golden Girls were America’s grandmoms, McDonald’s announced it was opening its first restaurant in the Soviet Union, everyone bought Stephen Hawking’s A Brief History of Time and didn’t read it, Phantom of the Opera opened on Broadway, and Patricia Campbell got ready to die.

She sprayed her hair, put on her earrings, and blotted her lipstick, but when she looked at herself in the mirror she didn’t see a housewife of thirty-nine with two children and a bright future, she saw a dead person. Unless war broke out, the oceans rose, or the earth fell into the sun, tonight was the monthly meeting of the Literary Guild of Mt. Pleasant, and she hadn’t read this month’s book. And she was the discussant. Which meant that in less than ninety minutes she would stand up in front of a room full of women and lead them in a conversation about a book she hadn’t read.

She had meant to read Cry, the Beloved Country—honestly—but every time she picked up her copy and read There is a lovely road that runs from Ixopo into the hills, Korey rode her bike off the end of the dock because she thought that if she pedaled fast enough she could skim across the water, or she set her brother’s hair on fire trying to see how close she could get a match before it caught, or she spent an entire weekend telling everyone who called that her mother couldn’t come to the phone because she was dead, which Patricia only learned about when people started showing up at the front door with condolence casseroles.

Before Patricia could discover why the road that runs from Ixopo was so lovely, she’d see Blue run past the sun porch windows buck naked, or she’d realize the house was so quiet because she’d left him at the downtown library and had to jump in the Volvo and fly back over the bridge, praying that he hadn’t been kidnapped by Moonies, or because he’d decided to see how many raisins he could fit up his nose (twenty-four). She never even learned where Ixopo was exactly because her mother-in-law,