by D. J. Herda
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David Lord Rabit comes from a broken home; the problem is, no one knows it.
When David Lord Rabit decides to make a change in his life, it’s bound to be
a beauty. And not particularly well grounded in reality.
But he is secure enough emotionally to know how to get from Point A to Point B,
with a few minor detours along the way. With one murdered classmate, a brutal
police grilling, and a lost love behind him, Rabit reaches out to the one person
he feels can help set him on the path to personal salvation. Along the way, he
finds a second person solidly in his corner—an unanticipated bonus—who for Rabit
will make all the difference in the world.
Until he learns that she believes she is a demon possessed.
And proves to him that she’s right.
When high-school heartthrob David Lord Rabit realizes that he’s living a
nightmare, he sets out to regain control of his life. Dodging his mother’s daily
abuse and a stepfather who can’t or won’t come to his rescue, Rabit decides to
take his popularity on the road…literally.
If he can make it as a writer, he’ll have plenty of money to allow him to move
out of his dysfunctional household and into a posh high-rise overlooking Lake
Michigan on Chicago’s near north side. Of course, at sixteen years of age, he’ll
need another break or two to complete his transformation from familial doormat
to literary phenom. He’ll need the support of a good woman…a wife. The only
problem is that he hasn’t a single candidate in mind.
Or, more appropriately, he has every girl he knows in mind. Unfortunately, the
girl doesn’t know it.
When finally he sets his sites on the fantasy girl of his dreams—someone with
nearly as many problems as he at home—he makes up his mind to claim her. But he
soon learns that she’s going steady with the captain of the school’s football
team, and he’ll have to fight the jock and win in order to claim his prize.
When the jock is killed in a drive-by shooting, all eyes fall on Rabit, who
feels his chances at salvation slipping quickly away.
After holding up to an intense police grilling, Rabit learns that his “Dream
Girl” had been cheating on her boyfriend—one of Rabit’s classmates--with a
basketball player from a rival school. “How many goddam jocks do I have to go
through to get her?” he wonders before a mentor steps in to help set his
Armed with a new appreciation for life—and the love and support of Erzsebet, his
Dream Girl’s best friend—Rabit sets about redefining his life’s goals and
learning to bide his time more patiently until he’s mature enough to set out on
a life all his own. But Erzsebet has other ideas, as she attempts to bring Rabit
into her world of the undead, where she reveals to him that she is a direct
descendant of the Blood Countess Bathory.
Rabit at first laughs off the revelation, but when he realizes she is
serious—and furthermore attempts to anoint him into her world of the undead—he
knows he must do something drastic to save her from herself…before realizing
that he must first save himself from her!
The problem when you think about it is that it’s never really so bad as
you thought. I mean, some shrink I knew once told me to think about my worst
nightmare, my very worst problem in life, and ask myself how serious a problem
I thought it would seem like ten years down the road. I told him I didn’t
suppose it would seem like a very serious problem at all ten years down the
road. He smiled knowingly and said, See?
I smiled and said that I guessed he was right, and I never went back for
I mean, what a horse’s ass. Of course no problem is going to seem serious ten
years down the road. That doesn’t mean it’s not serious at the time, you know?
Take a new-born child diagnosed with a congenital heart disease, whatever the
hell that is. Anyway, I’m just betting that ten years later—if the kid lives
to see it—it wouldn’t have seemed like that big a deal anymore. But ask the
kid when he’s six months old if it seems like a big deal, and he’s going to
tell you, Goddam right it does!
I mean if he could talk.
“What do you want to do?”
It was Jim. On the ‘phone. I mean, I don’t even know how the hell we began
hanging out together and stuff. I really don't. He’d been a friend of my
cousin, who was a real wise guy, you know? A real loser, always getting into
trouble and boasting about what girls he was dating and how far he’d gotten
with them the night before and lame bullshit kinda stuff like that. A real
zero. And Jim had been his best friend. Or one of them. My cousin had about a
zillion best friends, to listen to him. To tell you the truth, I don’t think
he had even one. At least not one who was a real friend. But to listen to him
tell it, every guy in the world was his best friend, and Jim was right up
there with them all, right at the very top.
I met him at Dale’s house one day. I went over to listen to some new tunes my
cousin had gotten, and I walked into his room and there was Jim. And the two
of them were laughing and cursing and telling dirty jokes and shit like that,
honest to God, and all of a sudden it’s not Dale and me against the world
anymore. It’s Dale and Jim and me.
And then suddenly I got pissed off at Dale for borrowing three hundred bucks
to buy an old beat-up piece-of-shit car from one of his friends and never
paying me back when he promised to, and Jim started calling me up and asking
me things like, What do you want to do? It really pisses me off sometimes. It
“I don’t know,” I said. “Why? What do you want to do?”
I don’t know why I didn’t just tell him to take a hike. I mean, it wasn’t as
if I enjoyed being with him or anything. He was kind of a dork. Short,
squatty, not particularly good looking, with that kind of kinky-curly hair
that looks as if it belongs on Little Orphan Annie or someone, for God’s sake.
I mean it. I couldn’t stand the guy.
“I don’t know,” he said. “You wanna go bowling?”
“Yeah,” he said. “Great place to meet chicks.”
As if he would know.
“Sure,” I said. “Meet you at the lanes in half an hour.”
Tsch-tsch. “Got you. Later, bro.” And he hung up.
That’s another thing I couldn’t stand about the guy. He was always making
funny noises with his teeth or gums or lips or something. I mean, can you
believe a grown guy saying things like tsch-tsch? What the hell is that all
Anyway, I guess the guy wasn’t really all that bad, once you got to know him.
He was on the shortish side, squatty, built like a fire hydrant. Clear skin,
blue eyes, low center of gravity. Made it hard for other guys to knock him off
his feet, you know?
That was another thing I liked about the guy. He never turned away from a
fight. I mean, if four guys came up to him and said they were going to cut him
for messing with their bitches or whatever the hell, Jim would just start
swinging. I mean like a crazy man. Next thing you know, the first guy to go
down was the first one to get back up and hit the bricks. And old Jim, he was
just as likely to go running after him. Catch him or not.
Of course, Jim had some funny ways of looking at things. He was pretty
superstitious and all. Wouldn’t step on a crack in the sidewalk or delete a
chain-mail without first sending it on to forty million other suckers and
stuff like that. And he was always telling me about his parents and how they
went to a tarot card reader and attended séances and shit and how he couldn’t
wait to go to a séance himself when he was old enough. Which I guess must have
I asked him why he wanted to go to a séance once, and he said that he thought
it would be a great way to find out if he was gonna get laid that weekend.
I don’t know why the guy is like that. Superstitious and all. I’m not sure
what religion he is, to tell you the truth I don’t think it’s Catholic. I
think maybe his parents are Presby or something, or maybe Unitarian. Some
cult. Anyway, they’re pretty laid back about stuff like that, and Jim pretty
much follows in their wake. Although I did have to go to church for confession
one Wednesday when Jim and I had plans to go to the mall. The guy is such a
loon. He stood in line all the time I was waiting to get in, pointing out the
really hot chicks and whispering about how he bet he knew what they’d be
confessing to Father Goose. I couldn’t stand that kind of shit. I really
Then, after I’d finished with the absolution or whatever it is that the priest
says at the end of the ordeal and told me how many Hail Mary’s and that kind
of stuff I had to say to be saved, I opened the door to get out and noticed
Jim was gone. I looked outside and up and down the street, but there was no
sign of him. His car was still parked in the lot across the road, but no Jim.
A couple minutes later, the doors to the confessional opened and he came out
from the opposite side, grinning from ear to ear.
“What the hell are you doing, going to confession?” I asked. “You’re not even
He shook his head and grinned. “Shit, after seeing the prime ass you guys been
hoarding over here, I just converted.”
“I thought you had a girlfriend,” I said.
“Yeah. But like they say, when one is not enough…”
That’s another thing I hated about the guy. I really did. He was always
boasting about all the great girls he’s been with and all the times he’d
gotten laid and stuff like that. I mean, I knew it was all just bullshit. Who
on earth says stuff like that, like how popular he is with chicks, and you
never once see him with a date?
I mean, I knew it was all just bullshit. Who on earth says stuff like that and
then shows up at a party stag? It just doesn’t make sense.
But that’s Jim for you.
And then one day, after being an asshole for his entire life, Jim just sort
of…changed. I mean, he stopped bullshitting so much and quit all the bragging
and he actually did start attending mass on Sundays, over at St. Simon’s. I
think that’s mostly because he had actually found a girlfriend, Hope Jalasky.
She was a Catholic and her parents made her go to church every week, so that
was pretty much that.
He even stopped bragging about all the tail he was getting. Probably also
because of Hope. I mean, she was pretty fast for a 16-year-old. At least that
was her rep.
But she was also Bev’s best friend, and Beverly does not hang around with ho’s,
if you know what I mean. So I think that, down deep inside, Hope was probably
still unclaimed, as we used to call it when I was a kid, and that she really
was holding out for something better. I could never have predicted it would
turn out to be Jim, but then again I couldn’t have predicted I would have
ended up with Beverly Cimbala, either.
Anyway, regardless of whether or not she lived up to her reputation or was
just one great big tease, she’d had a noticeable effect on old Jim, and I
think it was a change for the better.
Then, one night around eleven, the four of us were cutting across Gage Park on
our way to Bev’s house after a dance at St. Rita. We each had a drink in our
hands, Dr. Pepper or something, and were walking kind of slow and holding
hands and giggling when four punks came up behind us and dropped into step. I
glanced around to see if I knew any of them. I didn’t.
“Hey, where’d you find the crackheads?”
I saw Jim stagger to a stop from the corner of my eye and motioned him to
start walking again. He glared over his shoulder before falling back in line.
“Where’d you get the skinny bitch? I think I had her last weekend. Come on,
baby, don’t break my heart and say you don’t remember. It was the best five
minutes of my life!”
The four of them began to laugh, and I saw Jim slow again, and I whispered to
ignore them. They were young, maybe fourteen or fifteen, and obviously stoned.
Jim leaned close to me.
“How about I take the two on the right and you take the others?”
I shook my head. “Not with the girls here,” I said. “Let’s just get them
Jim turned toward Hope, who told the guys to take a hike, when one of the four
tapped her hard on the shoulder.
“How about we get rid of these two losers and make a couple of real women out
Now, to tell you the truth, I’m not much of a fighter. I’m really not. But for
some reason, I threw my drink to the ground, whirled around, and laid the kid
on the grass with one blow right to his jaw. Just as suddenly Jim swung around
and started wailing on the two behind him. I took one menacing step toward the
fourth kid, and he turned and began running. Jim finished with his work and
came up and kicked the kid on the ground on the knee.
“You want some more, punk? You want some more, tough guy?”
I stood with my fists clenched, ready for the kid’s answer, when he got up and
began hobbling after his buddy.
We left the others on the grass and continued our way home.
Later that evening, sometime after midnight, I was sitting in my study trying
to write something when the telephone rang. I picked it up before it woke my
parents, and I heard Jim’s voice on the other end of the line.
“How’d you make out with Beverly?” he asked.
I thought for a second or two. “How do you think?” I replied.
He laughed. “You dog. You dirty dog.”
“How’d you do with Hope?” I asked.
“Man, she was g-r-a-t-e-f-u-l, if you know what I mean.”
I pretended that I did and laughed. “Yeah, me, too.”
“You did? Honest to God? You got it on with her? Shee-it. If I’d known it
would be this easy, I would have beat the crap out of four guys long ago.”
“You mean…you…” He laughed, deep and long. “You and Hope?”
He laughed again. “Man, now I’m going to have to make an honest woman out of
her. I’m gonna have to marry the bitch, bro!”
“Are you serious?”
“Damn straight I am,” he said. “She snuck me into the sun porch, and we did it
on the chaise lounge while her parents were sound asleep in the house. And her
brother and sister, too. Damn. That is one tight fucking pussy!”
I paused, stunned. I thought back to the previous summer, when Beverly had
been away on vacation with her parents and Hope and I had taken in a movie,
just to kill the time, just as friends. Except that halfway through the flick,
I felt her hand on my knee. By the time the film was over, we had exhausted
the Kama Sutra’s seventy-five different ways of Frenching. Or whatever the
I never dreamed…
And when Beverly came back from vacation with her family, and she called me
and told me how much she missed me and told me she wanted to see me, that was
it. There I stood, visions of two tiny-titted, skinny 16-year-olds dangling on
the line, dancing in my sugar-plum-fairied pumpkin-studded head. But instead
of two, I damn near ended up with none. Hope, it seems—sweet, hot, devoted,
dedicated, loving, lovable, what-a-tonsil-stroking Hope—had been the first
person on the telephone line after Beverly had returned home. She told her
everything. I mean right down to the last freaking gasp.
It took me weeks to work around that one. And I never did go near Hope again.
Peroxide-headed little bitch.
“How about you? You get to home?”
“Huh?” Before I could ask him what he meant, he launched into a long
convoluted detailed account of his night. At first I didn’t believe him, you
know what I mean? I mean, it was just like a guy like Jim to make up a bunch
of shit like that. And then it dawned on me when he said he was going to ask
her parents for her hand. He was going to marry her. Marry her! He was
“You’re too young,” I told him. “You’re both too young. Don’t do it, man. Wait
another year or two. Wait ‘til after high school, anyway. After you get out
and get a job.”
“Uh-uh,” he said. “Where I come from, you do the Big Dirty, you either throw
her out into the street, or you marry her. And, I’m tellin’ you one thing,
bro, this one is a keeper!”
I couldn’t bring myself to tell him…
And I didn’t hear much from Jim over the next few days. I was a sophomore at
St. Rita, and he went to Gage Park where he should have been a junior but
failed a grade when he was still in grammar school.
I asked Beverly if she’d heard from Hope what was going on, but she hadn’t.
Bev had left a few messages for her, but Hope never texted back.
Two days later, I got a call from Beverly. It was about Hope.
She was okay.
Jim was dead.
D. J. Herda is author of more than 80 conventionally published books,
several hundred thousand short stories and columns, and numerous plays, scripts,
and articles. He has written more than 70 YA books, nonfiction library bindings,
for Franklin Watts Grolier, Enslow, and others, and has won several awards. He
is well known among librarians worldwide.
He is president of the American Society of Authors and Writers, a member of The
Author’s Guild, and a former member of numerous literary and media
organizations. He has been writing fiction and nonfiction for young readers for
more than 30 years and has developed a very strong platform.
Rabit on the Run is the first of a series of Rabit books the author has planned.
He can produce from two to four books a year for the series.