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Column: Interview with the Finnish vampire

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Several years ago, I read "Interview with a Vampire." I told some people about it. Then one morning a few weeks later, imagine my surprise when a heavily accented voice asked me: "Do you want to me interview? I'm a Finnish vampire."

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Well, sure, I replied, if my personal safety and usage of English isn't threatened.

He replied: "You have coffee-ah with lots of sugar in it, that way safe are you and I can talk about my live."

There's the first problem: I drink coffee and then I shake and tremble and wet the bed at night. But, an interview with a vampire was at stake, so I agreed. The voice said to meet him at the edge of the woods north of town at sundown the next night. By some white pines. Ah, the Finns love their white pines.

So, there I was, standing in the gray twilight that next evening, dodging falling pine cones, when from out of the dim light, he floated closer, his cape a bit snarled in his bib overalls.

"Don't be at me too surprised," he said, as he shifted a wooden pitchfork off his shoulder, and then, faster than the eye could follow, speared a falling pinecone from several feet away. I backed up a step.

I told him he looked a lot more like that statue of St. Urho in Menagha than like a vampire.

"Yah, dat's true," he said. "We're both from the Transylvania side of Finland." He saw me eying the pitchfork. "Don't be afraid of dis pitchfork. I won't you stap. I carry it to keep in practice."

He sighed and said, "There aren't any 'rasshobbers much, no more."

He can kill English, that's for sure. So, I said, did you come to talk about grasshoppers?

"Oh, vell, dere's lots of things I vanted to dell you. How about if at the beginning I start?" He pulled a file out of his chest pocket and began filing a huge crosscut saw, which appeared out of his overalls.

"Before I start," he said, "have you the coffee-ah got?"

I poured him a scalding cup of oil-black brew, and handed the cup to him on a saucer with several lumps of sugar. He poured some into the saucer, and drank it through a cube in one swallow.

"Not as hot as the devil makes it," he said.

Then he said, "Yust yoking wit' you."

Ah. A funny Finnish vampire.

I asked him: What's it like, being a vampire?

He drank more scalding coffee, and said: "I vas yust twendy years old in 1888, ven the pig hobbers came. One of dem pit me. Next ting I know, I haf dis white complexion and I don't any older get."

Did you say you were pit by a pig hopper?

Impatiently, he waved the hopper sticker in the air and screamed: "Pig! Pit me! You know. Wit his mouth. A pig 'rasshobber."

OK, OK, I said, "big grasshopper." Then what happened for the next couple of hundred years?

Now he had in his hands the biggest chainsaw I've ever seen, which he was filing. He said: "I vent here and dere, and found out dad I could only eat fried hobbers or white pine cone seeds. A diet of hobbers and seeds," he went on, "dat gets old quick."

So, he continued, he came over here to the largest stand of white pines in America, "and here I bin ewer since."

He sighed and looked over our heads at the pinecones. "Sometimes, "he said, "I am tired of pinecones, but all the pig hobbers are gone. I ain't had a good two-pound hobber in fitty year."

Suddenly, the scene before me went ballistic. He moved so fast it looked like 10 men. They viciously attacked the pine tree. Every one of the men seemed to have four arms, and each arm held either an axe, a chainsaw, a crosscut saw or a file. The air was filled with flying pine wood chips. It sounded and looked like a tornado.

In a few seconds the dust settled, it was quiet, and I was alone there, standing by a stump. The smell of fresh white pine filled the air, and the ground was covered with two-by-fours. There wasn't a pinecone around, and he was gone.

And that's how it happened, more or less.

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