Monsters I Am Not by Courtney McKinney-Whitaker

When I first heard the theme for this month, I couldn't think of anything to write about. Then there was another school shooting, and a (thwarted, thank God) knife attack on a children's chess club at a library about twenty minutes from my house, and my home state flooded, and my facebook feed gave me the impression that people I otherwise like and respect felt we'd be okay as long as we could just shoot the floodwaters, and all of a sudden I had far too much to say about monsters.

So I'm not going to say anything about the real monsters, because it's close to Halloween and the fake ones are much more fun.

I'm going to give you a laugh, I hope, by telling you about my friend Michelle's* deep and sincere belief that I am a vampire.

Every writer should have a friend like Michelle. Michelle is a librarian, so she knows her books. Michelle is very smart, and she is also a very generous reader. Many a time we have tried to explain a book to each other and stopped, saying, "Every book sounds ridiculous when you try to explain it." Michelle has a love for vampire books, broody (fictional) boys, and The Vampire Diaries. "More brooding," Michelle will say when she beta reads for me. "You know it needs more brooding." One of Michelle's proudest moments in our friendship came when I admitted to binge-watching Reign on Netflix. She's also partial to werewolves, and to those unfortunates who somehow manage to become both werewolves and vampires. Michelle delights in stories, and in letting herself believe, and don't we all need readers who will believe our stories are true?

No relation to me.

Over the years, Michelle has built up a large body of evidence for why I am one of the undead. Very shortly after we met, in the summer of 2010, I headed off to Montreal for three weeks for a French immersion program. I think this is what started it. It was a summer of record-breaking heat, and I got the worst sunburn of my life in Canada. I'm talking second-degree burns and changing the dressings on my back myself because I didn't know anyone in Montreal well enough to ask them to help me with that. Turns out it was not just a sunburn. I am in fact allergic to the sun. ("Oh, yes," said my great-aunt, providing information that would have been helpful to have twenty years ago, "I am, too.") That one very bad sunburn tipped the allergy over the edge, apparently, so now I wear sunscreen all the time, like a good girl. The fact that I can literally feel the sun broiling my skin and sometimes yelp, "Ooh, it burns!" does not help my case with Michelle. She just nods sagely.

I also have celiac disease, so I often can't eat food at parties and dinners. I usually bring my own. "Special vampire food," says Michelle. "The celiac is a good cover. That's smart of you. Vampires have eternity to think these things up."

Speaking of eternity. "You know a suspicious amount about history," says Michelle. "It's almost like you were there."
Never seen him before.
"Actually," I say, "that would be the coolest part about being a vampire. Wouldn't it be cool to see the whole sweep of history? To watch things change and see cause and effect?"

I don't always help my own case. Also, how big of a nerd am I if I think that would be the coolest thing about being a vampire?

Who even is this guy?

Two years ago, I went to my mailbox one November evening. I never get the mail, but I knew a Christmas present for my husband was in there. Wouldn't you know, that was the one night two random dogs came out of nowhere and bit me on the ankle. The bite wasn't that bad, but we couldn't find the dogs, so we had to treat it like the dogs had rabies. Which meant me in the ER, getting rabies shots, just in case.

I texted Michelle from the ER to let her know what was up.

"It's a full moon," she texted back.

"It's not a full moon."

"Close enough. You'd never seen those dogs before, right? And then they bit you. Now you're like Klaus!"

"Who's Klaus?"

"On The Vampire Diaries. He's a vampire and a werewolf."

"I'm not a werewolf."

"I'm so happy right now!"

"You do know I'm in the ER getting rabies shots, right?"

"But werewolves can have babies."

I had been trying, unsuccessfully, to get pregnant.

"Vampires can't have babies. We've discussed this. But werewolves can."

"Mmm, right. Okay. We'll see."

"I'm sure this will fix things!"

Bless Michelle's heart, I know she was trying to distract me and make me laugh during a stressful, scary, painful process. But the weird thing is that I got pregnant the next month, which didn't at all help my case with Michelle for being a totally mundane one-hundred-percent human. 

"I told you," said Michelle. "I'm not surprised at all."

Thank goodness for werewolves, right? We never did find those dogs.

And now I have to wrap this up and take care of some things. It's a full moon tomorrow night.

I saw on Facebook one time that Remus Lupin and I are the same Myers-Briggs type, INFJ, but that's as far as our similarities go.

*Totally her real name.


  1. I don't know if you are a vampire, but you are hilarious, and Michelle sounds like a fun friend!

  2. What a great post, Courtney!! You cracked me up. I have to agree with Michelle, the evidence is overwhelming. :)

  3. I always get bummed out when I realize I won't be around to see how long term history pans out.

  4. I love the term "generous reader." We all need more of those...


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