Three True Tales of Terror (with teens, rats and possums) – with illustrations
Tale #1: High School Horror
This morning as I dropped sixteen year old Clara off at school I saw a girl walking across the parking lot. I know I shouldn’t have, since I am the parent, I said, “She has that geek walk. You know, very fast and deliberate.”
Then Clara looked at me in a cold chilling manner. “She is sooooo weird. Her finger nails are really long.” Clara made a hand motion showing four to five inch long nails. Yikes.
My child proceeded to recount a short list of weirdness. Then she said, “She never shaves her legs. Her skin is super dry. And then she scratches her legs during class. It sounds like this.”
And my daughter scraped her nails against the woven upholstery of the car seat – a loud, heavy, scraping noise. To imagine that was a human leg made me wince.
Then Clara scraped her nails along the pebbled plastic dash board of the car. “Just like this.”
Then she got out of the car with her hundred pound pack full of text books (no lockers for these kids) and headed off to her first class.
On the way home I thought of The Tell Tale Heart.
I know, I’m a parenting blogger. I should have said, “it is ok for a girl to have hairy legs if that is her choice.” But I didn’t. Deal with it.
Scrape. Scrape. Scrape.
Tale #2: The Rat
Once upon a time, back before the life I’m living now, for a short time I lived alone in a small shack of a house in the woods.
I was sleeping and awoke to the sound of crashing, and two sets of four feet running through the room.
My small long haired tabby cat Eureka was chasing a rat.
Eureka was named so because I found her. The name is on the seal of the great state of California. It means “I have found it.”
The rat and cat both ran into the storage room, and I closed the door.
There was more crashing and banging. Then it stopped.
Then mewing noises came from behind the door. I opened the door. The cat had the rat trapped between a wall and my sewing machine case.
I kicked the sewing machine against the wall, once, twice, three times.
On the third kick the rat flew out and landed dead on the floor. This rat was huge – half the size of the cat.
Disgusted I went back to bed. I’d deal with the rat later.
About an hour later I was awakened by a sound.
“Crunch, crunch, crunch, crunch, crunch.”
Eureka the cat was by the side of my bed, eating her rat. Crunch, crunch, crunch.
I’d deal with it later. I pulled the covers over my head and went back to sleep.
When I woke up again there was no fur, no tail, no bones, no rat at all except one foot, something that looked like a kidney, and the head of the rat staring up at me with dark black beady eyes.
Tale #3: Not Dead Yet
The last time my son was home from college he was going through some boxes in the attic looking for vintage vests and ties he could take back to school. He found something else, something I’d forgotten about. What a treat. It was almost like Christmas again.
I will never forget when he looked at me holding the box and asked, “Mom, what the hell?”
My parents traveled to California in 1849. It was the year the great California Gold Rush Started. Among their party were two young women, Martha and Leyna.
Unlike my father, and pregnant mother, Martha and Leyna were not Vampires. Martha had been a young slave who’d been purchased (at the age of thirteen) in 1848 by my mother, and immediately given her freedom. Martha was smart and sweet girl who liked baby blue ribbons and anything to do with roses. Leyna was a sturdy one eyed teen with a black eye patch, and a head full of long blonde curls and pale blue eyes. She was to marry a man in his 40’s but she’d have none of that. She ended up in the service of my mother who appreciated her common sense and sense of humor. The contrast between the small dark slender girl and the Amazon like pale girl was almost extreme, but the two became inseparable friends.
By 1866 my parents had produced five little Vampire children. My brother Andy’s Italian music master was falling in love with Martha. Leyna was happy to be her own woman and running the kitchen. Both were still working for my parents.
Yes, we had a kitchen, for Vampires do eat food from time to time, especially with growing children. Another reason (which has a lot to do with the whole point of this story) is that my parent’s entertained a lot. None of their fine Nineteenth Century friends had any idea that Jeremy and Samantha and their five darling children were Vampires. It was all about appearances.
So during the party season of 1866 strange things started to happen around town. Even the illustrious households like the Standfords and Crockers reported disturbances of the most disgusting manner.
Women reported they’d feel something pulling at their large skirts, only to hear running, and a hissing laugh, followed by a cloud of flies and fleas. Sometimes they’d smell horrible fart like gas, or feel the brush of soft fur against their legs.
From fine homes, to local bars, alcohol supplies started to run low. Someone or something was getting into the supply.
Even our house was not exempt from the strange bad smelling visitor. I could hear my mother talking to my father about it. She said she’d heard of such event near St. Louis.
All the while my brothers and I were watching for whatever being was causing the disturbance. There were rumors of a dwarf escaped from a circus, or Werewolves, or ghosts, or even trained devil dogs.
Then one day we saw them walking along the edge of our house. A large greasy possum, his fur slicked back, and wearing one of my father’s ties around his neck, crept along with his teeth showing, and his dark eyes darting around. He was followed by a small creature who staggered along like a drunk. It looked like a small armadillo. The possum was disgusting, like the drunken dandy Werewolves who thought they were God’s gift to women. The armadillo creature was small and sweet.
Soon all Hell broke loose. The possum was trying to “romance” our cats. Alright, he was trying to mount them. That led to a possum face full of bloody scratches. Our dogs barked but he just flipped him off. Next we chased him into the house where we lost him for a few hours. We found the armadillo creature in a corner curled up around a bottle of whiskey.
The sound of scratching claws could be heard against the hardwood floor. The rank smell, and trail of my mother’s lacy unmentionables, led us to the kitchen.
“Look what that demon spawn has stolen from Samantha’s room,” we heard Leyna yelling.
Martha ran down the hall telling us to help her pick up the mess.
Then my mother appeared in the doorway. She was not happy. “It is called Buster. Martha, Leyna, we must eliminate it. NOW.”
Of course my seven year old brother Val and I started to scream at them not to kill it. We wanted to put it in a cage and tame it. We wanted to have it as a pet. We’d wash it and train it. We’d teach it tricks. We’d be famous.
Mother said NO.
The creature put his head up and looked at my mother with his shining black eyes, then hissed out the words, “Want some tail between your legs beautiful?”
The was a collective gasp, even from the Vampires in the room.
Martha, in a whirl of blue ribbons and lace, grabbed a broom. Leyna grabbed a large cast iron frying pan.
The creature hissed again. “Love it when the bitches get all fired up.” Then a cloud of fleas, flies, and fur swirled around the room.
Martha, Leyna and the possum thing called Buster disappeared into the kitchen. My mother followed, slamming the door behind her.
We stood with our ears to the door listening to the carnage. It sounded like a bar brawl. When the door opened my mother came out, her hair falling in messy curls down her back, her hands covered with scratches and blood. Martha and Leyna stood in shock.
A possum jaw was stuck in the back of the door, teeth sunk into the wood like nails. The rest of the animal was on the cutting board, a mash up of fur and a long rat like tail. Blood ran off of the surface onto the floor.
“Is it dead?” I asked.
My mother started to laugh. Then Martha and Leyna laughed too, until the three of them couldn’t stop.
“May I have the fur?” Asked my brother Val.
My mother smiled. “Whatever for my darling?”
“I’d like to make a doll out of it for Juliette.”
Val was a darling child.
Then Leyna spoke, “My sweetheart can do taxee-dermy. He’ll make you up a nice dolly for Juliette.”
Val and I jumped up and down clapping our cold little Vampire hands. We couldn’t have been more excited.
A week later Buster came back gutted and stuffed. His eyes had been replaced with shiny black buttons. His jaw and other loose parts had been sewn and wired back on. He was as good as new. And to make things even better Layna had made Buster a fine dress of green silk, with tiny yellow bows. Eventually my mother got tired of Buster’s stinking dressed up corpse and put him away.
As for the armadillo, he turned out to be a rare pigladillo. I would sit with him purring in my lap for hours. He lived to be almost forty years old. Such a sweet thing, even when he was drinking.
~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman