The Soupster chats up a night owl – well, not really an owl.
Our Town is a tolerant place, the Soupster thought, but it takes time.
He thought about Vladimir, who was standing in front of him in line at the bank. Vladimir had first come to town with not much English, no money and strange nocturnal habits. But the foreign man stayed through a whole winter, the equivalent of a Bachelor’s degree in Our Town, and after that people took him seriously, even if they kept their distance.
This afternoon, near closing time, Vladimir looked terrible – always pale, he now had enormous black circles under his eyes. He slumped forward as though his arms were too heavy for his shoulders.
The Soupster caught Vladimir’s eye. “Gee, Vlad, you look awful,” the Soupster said, “like death warmed over.”
Vladimir chuckled, not altogether friendly. “Und you, Zoupster, you zmell like death needs a zhower,” he said, in his strong accent. “But you are accurate. I am zleep deprived. I am too active.”
Vladimir’s nocturnal habits were well known to everyone – the man slept all day and stayed up all night. And on the edge of Solstice in Our Town, night occupied most of the clock.
“I’m sympathetic, Vlad,” said the Soupster. “In the summertime — when the days last nearly till midnight and start again a couple of hours later? — I run myself ragged. It seems like every night at 10 p.m. or so, I think of some new project that needs doing that second.”
“Yes, Zoupster,” Vlad said. “Und you turn Zummer Zolstice upzide down und you get Vinter Zolstice.”
“Or you’re in Australia,” the Soupster joked.
“Yes, you must jest, Zoupster,” said Vladimir. “It is in your nature. As it is in mine to move across nearly the whole world. To come to the New World and leave my Old World ways behind.” Vladimir lifted his arm to cover most of his face, leaving only his dark eyes.
The Soupster remembered that he found Vlad a touch over-dramatic. But he was glad to see the other man looking more alert and awake. Vlad moved to the front of the line.
“So what did you leave behind in the Old World, Vlad?” the Soupster asked.
“Now, my favorite drink is tomato juice,” Vladimir answered with a dark laugh, exposing an impressive set of teeth. “With an egg well beaten into it!”
The teller free, Vladimir took his place at the counter. Although the Soupster’s turn came a moment later, his business was briefer and the two men found themselves standing outside the bank at the same time.
The Soupster zipped his coat tight against his neck in the chill darkness. Vladimir’s deep breaths came out in puffs of icy fog.
“Maybe you should take it easy this evening,” said the Soupster. “Kick back.”
“Oh, don’t conzern yourzelf vith me, Zoupster,” Vlad said with a wicked smile. “I am always groggy ven first I vake.” Then he changed into a bat and flew off.