Lighthouse

Lighthouse

A story I’ve told before. I will tell it again tonight.

1880

He’d been found in the ocean, wearing a formal jacket with tails and clinging to the top of a grand piano. Underneath the man was a large gray wolfhound.

The captain of the ship that had picked him up said that he didn’t seem to remember much, or maybe did not want to remember. The dog, named Delilah, wouldn’t leave the side of her master.

At first they thought it was a ship wreck but it ended up being a complicated and strange mystery. The ship, a 200 ton brigantine had left Port of Talcahuano, in Chile three months before the mysterious man had been found in the Pacific Ocean north of San Francisco. Not a soul was on the ship, except the Captain who’d been found with a gun in his hand and what looked like a fatal self-inflicted bullet wound in his head. The life boats were still on the ship, as well as a cargo of wine and explosives, and the personal belongings of the few passengers and crew.

A break in an unusually strong and violent series of storms allowed them to dock and drop the man on the piano lid and his wolfhound off at the home of the lighthouse keeper’s family.

The lighthouse keeper checked in on the man who was sleeping in his guest room, dog curled by the bed. He could tell the stranger was wealthy by the quality of his clothing, the expensive watch and ring, and the formal refined way he’d spoken. His locked trunk had been recovered from the abandoned ship and now was at the foot of the bed.

The stranger said his name was Maxwell. He told them to call him Max. The first night there he’d drawn exquisite pictures for the light keeper’s wife of palm trees, and of beautiful women in fashionable dresses, and native women of South America with unusual hats and full colorful skirts. Over brandy he told them that he was 31 years old, born in 1849 when his pregnant mother had come out with his father for the California Gold Rush. Now he resided in San Francisco.

“What is your occupation? “The lighthouse keeper’s daughter Jayne asked the stranger,  fully well expecting him to say he was involved in a rich family business, or lived off of the wealth of his forebears.

He looked at her with hazel eyes, that she would have sworn were dark brown earlier that evening. “I am in law enforcement of a sorts, like detective, or a marshal. I seek out those who are particularly evil. I had apprehended a ruthless and violent fiend in South America and was on my way home. Unfortunately on the ship…” he paused and glanced up for a second, then back at the family of the lighthouse keeper. “On the ship I found myself taken by surprise and overwhelmed. It is a story I will tell you later, but now I must sleep, or I’ll end up under the table here.”

So he retired for the night. That was two days ago. He still slept as quiet and cold as death, but not dead. The dog lay by the foot of the bed thumping her tail whenever anyone came near.

A storm raged outside. The weather didn’t allow anyone to go get a doctor. His wife assured him that the man called Max just needed to rest. It made sense considering the man had been clinging to a piano lid and floating in the freezing ocean for days before he was picked up.

Despite the storm Lighthouse Keeper’s wife climbed up a ladder to fix a shutter that was almost ready to fly away with the wind. As she reached the window the ladder fell and she crashed to the ground below. All went black except the feeling of being carried inside.

Max put her down in a large chair by the fire and took her broken arm in his icy hands. “Close your eyes,” he whispered. She could feel his hands heat up and warm her wrist. The pain turned to numbness. She opened her eyes and could see a look of pain on his face, then he smiled and kissed her forehead.

“You’re arm is still broken, but the bones have started to mend enough for you not to need a splint.”

“You? You healed me,” she said.

“Yes. It is a gift. Keep the knowledge to yourself or people will think we are both insane.” He then touched a forming bruise on her forehead, making that pain, along with the bruise go away as well.

During the night the storm broke up. Sunshine came out between the clouds. Jayne convinced Max to walk down to the docks to pick up some fish for the night’s dinner.

She held his arm as they strolled along the road.

“Your glasses are so dark. I noticed your eyes turned from hazel to brown when we went outside,” said Jayne.

“My eyes are sensitive to the sun. I have three younger brothers, and a younger sister. Two of them have eyes that do the same as mine, that is change color,” he said, then changed the subject. “Do you like living here Jayne.”

“I love my family. I love the ocean. I don’t being in a small town with nothing but fish and lumber. I’d like to see more of the world before I’m expected to find a husband.”

“Do you want to be married Jayne?”

“Maybe,” said Jayne, “I can move to Utah and take two husbands. Women can vote in Utah and Wyoming. Why not here?”

“Because men are ignorant and barbaric my dear Jayne. They’re afraid that if you vote you’ll be smarter and more just than they are. The don’t want to give up their power to someone who might do a better job. By the way, men of a certain faith may have more than one wife but I do not believe a woman is allowed two husbands in Utah. You would have to go to Tibet for that.”

Jayne laughed. “To be truthful, even one husband would be too many for me right now. I don’t need anyone to own me right now.” She tugged on his arm. “You’re so different.”

“How am I different? I’m just like any other man.”

“You healed my mother’s arm. You survived almost a week in the icy ocean’s water hanging onto a piano top with nothing but the clothes on your back and a dog. Your eyes change color. Your skin feels like ice. You are unbelievably attractive. I am stating a fact about your looks. But I only want your friendship. Even with the oddness I like you. I feel as if we have been friends for a long long time. Where are you really from Maxwell? Who are your people?”

He smiled and took off his glasses. His eyes were hazel again. “Where I come from men and women are equal. We live quietly. We live honestly among each other. What I am about to tell you will sound strange, but we live on the edge between life and death. We walk in the world of sunlight, but also walk in the land of the shadows and do not fear death or God.”

“I would like to go there with you. I would earn my way. I could be a lady detective.”

“It is not easy to live in my world Jayne.”

“No world is easy Max,” she said then smiled and pulled the comb out of her hair letting it blow in the wind. “Do you have a sweetheart at home?”

Max hesitated then spoke. “There is a woman I have a strong connection with, but I will never love her.”

“Is she married?”

“No. It isn’t like that. We met when I was at the University. So was she, which is odd unto itself. She knows my thoughts. She knows my desires. But she is not the one. What about you Jayne?”

“I was engaged to a man who knew neither my thoughts or desires, and had no intention on learning either. He thought I belonged to him body and soul, not in the way of love, but as property to be owned and controlled. He was jealous to the point of rage if I would speak with another man. He was even jealous of the boys I teach at the school and demanded I quit my teaching job. I would rather die than live a life where someone else controlled my body, my thoughts, my job, and my every whim. That is why I am no longer engaged to him.” Then laughed and ran to the end of the pier and let the wind blow through her hair and laughed some more.

Max marveled at the way she was so free thinking and full of life. He saw so much death and sorrow in his line of work that now with Jayne he felt renewed. She was sunshine in his dark world of shadows and night.

Hours later in the quiet of the night, the wind died own, and the moon hung in a thin crescent in the sky. Max walked along the beach with his dog Delilah. The taste of fresh blood and wine was in his mouth and the cold comfort of the night had settled into his soul. Delilah ran ahead, then the dog started to bark. Ahead of him Max saw a bloody figure crumpled on the rocks. His heart sank. It was Jayne.

Max picked her up and carried her home. He knew what had happened. She’d gone out to look at the stars and was attacked by a man she’d jilted. She’d spoken briefly about it when they’d walked earlier in the day. She had turned away the advances of a hot headed man who wanted her as his own. In the afternoon the man had walked past them, giving Jayne a look like a mad dog when he saw her holding Max’s arm.

He put her on her bed as her parents and brothers gathered around. As still as death, and as cold as the sea, they watched life drained out of her.

Jayne’s mother put her hand on Max’s arm. “Can you heal her, like you healed me?”

“I don’t know,” he said. “If I do she will never be the same, not like she was before. She won’t be crippled or lose herself, she will be… she will be like me.”

“Save her, then find the man who did this to her,” said the Lighthouse Keeper.

“You do not know what you ask,” said Max.

“You put a spark back in her eyes I have not seen in ages. Please save her if you can.”

“Let me be alone with her and she will not die.”

In the morning a man’s body washed up on the beach. It looked as if dogs had torn out his throat. His face was a mask of fear.

Two weeks later Jayne kissed her family good-by and went with Max on the next ship to San Francisco.

2017

Max stood in his living room with a glass of wine in his hand as he looked at the view of the Pacific Ocean and the Golden Gate Bridge. He couldn’t imagine getting tired of it. He glanced over to see Jayne, wearing a short black dress and looking gorgeous as always, coming towards him. He kissed her cool cheek. She smiled with just a touch of fang showing.

“Are you staying with Pierce tonight?” Max asked.

“Of course I am. I take it Mehitabel is staying here,” said Jayne.

Max glanced at a small pretty woman across the room. He suddenly thought of what he’d told Jayne about her so many years ago on the walk to the docks. Odd that when he was out in the ocean, clinging onto a piano top of all things, he had thought of Mehitabel. He might ask but he was never sure what she would say. No, he wouldn’t ask, he’d just wait to see what would happen, but he was sure she’d stay.

“I’m sure she’ll stay,” he told Jayne.

They talked for a while longer, about work, about friends, and about how the sunset sparkled on the ocean. Max wasn’t always one for words, but he knew that Jayne knew that they’d always be friends. Maybe even before they had ever met.

Then Jayne laughed. “I still can’t believe you were clinging to a piano lid.”

And Max had to laugh along.

~ End

 

~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman

2019 Summer Reading: Transport Yourself to Another Time

Today, on my Monday Book/Reading feature I present three books that are quite different, but three books that will transport you into another time or place.

Reveries of a Bachelor

by I.K. Marvel
1850

I’ve carried my curious little volume around for years, with now yellow and brittle pages, treasuring it as a nice little book that takes one back to 1850, in the time of the Industrial Revolution and the California Gold Rush.

This summer I’ll be reading it again after many many many years.

Reveries of a Bachelor examines the dream-like lives Americans were living at the time. It was one of the top best sellers of its time but has received little attention from 19th century literary critics. In the text, Ik Marvel theorizes on boyhood, country life style, marriage, travel, and dreaming.

It was one of poet Emily Dickinson’s favorite books.

It is now quaint, and dated, but there are still hard truths of the heart and soul that we can all find in this volume of essays.

If you like social history, or write historic history from the mid-19th Century this book contains a wealth of sentimental information.

Reveries of a Bachelor is no longer in print. You might be able to find a copy online, on eBay, or maybe at your local used bookstore. Some people are asking over $100 for a copy but I know you can find one on eBay for under $10.

This sweet, and sometimes silly book will transport you to another time. Fix a tall drink and spend an hour or two with it under a shade tree or on your back porch with your cat or dog at your feet.

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Author I. K. Marvel

Artful Players
Artistic Life in Early San Francisco

by Brigitta Hjalmarson

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I love this book so much.

From the book jacket: With a handful of wealthy Gold Rush barons as indulgent patrons, an active community of artist appeared in San Francisco almost overnight. A subculture of artistic brilliance and social experimentation was the result in essence, a decades-long revelry which finally ended with the 1906 earthquake. 

Unfortunately when most people think about art from 1849 – 1906 they think of French, or Italian, or German art. Or they think of artist in the Eastern United States. But the real story, the personalities, the talent, and the fun was in California, specifically San Francisco down to Monterey, and even in Sacramento.

This book is non-fiction but it is a well written story and oh so fun to read. You’ll be transported in time with the adventures of Jules Travrnier, Thomas Hill, William Keith, Julian Rix, Grace Hudson, Theodore Wore, Oscar Wilde, and others. It was a time and place where both men and women could break out of the normal constraints and be the artists they wanted to be. Yes, there was drama, and the guys still didn’t want the girls to play in their club house, but it was an amazing time. It is a time and place you won’t want to leave. So pack your tuxedo, your camping gear, and your paint brushes and join the fun in Artful Players.

I read this book in January but I know I’ll be reading it again soon, just to savor it and get in the details once more.

Note: This book is available on Amazon for about $30. You can get a nice copy for a lot less on eBay or other online non-Amazon book sellers. Also check with your local used bookstores.

Chronicles of The One Trilogy

Book 1 Year One

Book 2 Of Blood and Bone

By Nora Roberts

I have book one and two of this Nora Roberts trilogy. Book 3 comes out later this year. I have to admit that I’m a fan of Nora Roberts trilogies. This post appocolyptic series includes magic, romance, and no doubt some nice twists and turns. I haven’t read either books yet. These are on my summer reading list. I will no doubt read them with tall cool drinks on my back deck undisturbed by two or four legged visitors.

I absolutely LOVE the J.D. Robb “In Death” series, and am of course waiting for the next book to come out.

 

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I will never shame anyone about what they read (if you want me to I can give you my shameful awful reading list of books I violently dislike.) I like to read just about anything. My goal is to give you some fun and interesting suggestions, and share books I’ve enjoyed, found curious, or think I’m going to enjoy.

So until next Monday – have fun and happy reading.

And you know, you can always read my blog anytime you want. With over 2,000 posts it is guaranteed to keep you entertained.

~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman

summerreading

 

Innocenzio D’Antonio

First posted April 2, 2013

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Innocenzio D’Antonio

Innocenzio D’Antonio came to Sacramento in the 1850’s with a troupe of actors to make his fortune. He’d started as an opera singer in his native Italy and unfortunately did not make it into the famous opera houses in Europe, fell in love with an Austrian actress and ended up with her talking him into joining an American theater company touring California during the Gold Rush.

Innocenzio D’Antonio had the voice of an avenging angel, rich and strong. He could certainly sing the corset off of any woman but he was pure of heart and a true and honest lover to his dear Austrian maid. Well at least until she left him high and dry in San Francisco, leaving him for a dashing gambler.

Upon reaching Sacramento Innocenzio D’Antonio noticed a young man singing one night at a party held by a well-known business man. It was odd to him that a child so young should be up so late into the night. But that was put aside when he heard the child’s beautiful voice. The voice was precious beyond compare. It was the voice of heaven and the angels above. It was the voice of all that was good and pure in the world. It brought Innocenzio D’Antonio to tears. And yet, there was something strong and dark about the voice. There was something about the voice that brought the opera singer both to tears and made the hair on the back of his neck stand up.

A well dressed man stood next to Innocenzio D’Antonio and said “I noticed you were moved by the sound of the my son Andrew’s singing. Amazing considering he is only nine years old. However, my child could use formal music lessons from a master, such as you. If you’re interested I will pay you well. I have four other children as well. The eldest three could all benefit from your talents Mr. D’Antonio.”

The next evening Innocenzio (as we shall now call him by his first name only) showed up at the elegant home of the child Andrew. He was met warmly by the father and met the rest of the family. The oldest boy was 10-year-old Maxwell, followed by 9-year-old Andrew, then 7-year-old Aaron, then 16-month-old Valentine and the infant Juliette. Their mother was a vision of beauty and all that was good and pure. Such elegance in movement in style he had rarely encountered in his lifetime.

Over the next few months he came to look forward to music lessons for the three eldest boys. Maxwell and Aaron had uncommonly beautiful voice, but it was young Andrew who had the voice of an angel sent straight from heaven. Innocenzio thought of how many churches, even those in Rome would give anything to have this voice in their stables of singers. He thought of the great opera houses in Europe that would be mobbed with patrons trying to hear Andrew sing.

Before meeting this most wonderful family Innocenzio had suffered deep waves of melancholia. He’d blame it on heart-break, disappointment or even being cursed, but now, every time he left the home of Andrew’s family, Innocenzio felt as if he were the most content and happy man alive.

After a time the father announced that they would have a party and invite all of their closest friends. Andrew would sing at midnight. Innocenzio thought that was too late for such a young child but the parents brushed it off with a gentle smile. It was difficult for Innocenzio to disagree.

The night of the party was filled with excitement. The large mansion was filled with the most elegant people he’d ever seen. Some he’d met before while out in the evenings around the city and some were stranger. But they all had a certain quiet about them and calm that he had never seen anywhere else, not even in a church or monestary.

The mother, the beautiful mother who still took his breath away when he saw her, asked him to sing. Innocenzio was feeling happy and light so he sang the drinking song from the fairly new opera La Traviata and to his delight the group joined in. They all had good voices. Afterwards they gathered around Innocenzio and congratulated him on his success and welcomed him into their society.

While he was delighted and honored there was a certain sense of unease about him. Innocenzio had a sense that something was about to happen, as if he was a lamb facing the hungry jaws of a lion. A strong sense of fear started to creep into his soul. He was confused and ashamed. After all, he was in the home of people who had become dear friends, a second family almost.

The mother, pulled him aside and put her arm in his. “My dear Innocenzio, my love, do not fear. I know what is in your heart and soul. You know us so you sense that we are different. We are different you know. We’re very different from you.”

Her eyes were the color of a fantasy seascape, her lips perfect, her chestnut hair was loose around her shoulders. He lost himself and took her into his arms and kissed her. His head went light. She stepped back and smiled. It was as if he’d lost his entire heart and more so his soul to her.

“I could take your soul if I wished, but dear Innocenzio, I must tell you a story of my life and of my people.” Then she sat him down and told him the most fantastic and horrific tale he’d ever heard in his life. He was both seduced and repulsed. His senses were confused, his emotions out of control, his body yearning for everything she had to offer.

—————————————————-

2013

Sometimes being a mom is everything, but sometimes I like to have my time with my friends.  I heard the knock on my door and standing there was my dear friend  back from a trip to Europe.

“Juliette” he said with his gorgeous voice, “you are still more beautiful than Venus herself”.

“And you’re still full of crap Innocenzio D’Antonio ” I said with a smile.

“Never,” he said taking my hands and kissing my cheek.

We don’t keep many friends so long, but when we do it is worth it. Every time I see my mother I want to thank her for talking Innocenzio into being one of us.

As Vampires we don’t bring just anyone into our world, but when we do it is magic.

On the other hand, anytime a true friendship forms, even if nobody changes, it is magic and a true joy.

 

~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman (who felt like posting this today just because it is April 2, and a time to consider how lucky I am to have so many treasured friends.)

Winding River – A Mystery

 

While going through a pile of old artwork I found this large format photo. It is about 16 x 18 inches and printed on heavy paper. It was printed in the 19th – early 20th Century. I don’t know who the photographer was, or who printed the photo. It is an original photograph.

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About a month ago I saw a photo of a painting of the exact same scene. The photo was from the late 19th Century. The scene is in the Rocky Mountains, maybe in Colorado. I don’t remember the what/where/who of that painting.

I’m putting the following questions out to my readers, and art/photo/Western historians. I don’t know the answers to these questions so any help would be WONDERFUL and I’d be grateful to you forever:

Who was the photographer?

Was this the Winding River and are the mountains in the background the Rockies?

Who painted this scene?

What is the painting and where is it located? Is it in a museum?

If you know any of the answers let me know. Yes, this is a mystery. Let’s solve it together.

~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman

Short Story Sunday: Donner Lake

Donner Lake

Travis glanced at the sign as they drove past. His wife was asleep. The baby was snoozing in the car seat behind them. It had been a long day driving across Nevada.

Donner Lake

Sure there was snow today, but in 1846 there had been a lot more snow, a lot earlier, and no highway. Just a rocky dirt road through the mountains and fucking wagons.

He wouldn’t have let anyone eat his wife or child if they hadn’t have made it. Their two dogs would be safe too. Nobody was going to eat his dogs.

Donner Lake

Keseberg had been the guy who’d eaten people with glee. Aside from being creepy he’d been a jerk by all accounts. Keseberg had joined the Donner Party late in the journey with his wife and a small child. He proved to be an abusive husband and was a real asshole to everyone else in the group. Travis and his wife had gone to the old Sacramento Cemetery and seen the grave of Keseberg’s wife. He had no idea where Keseberg was buried. No doubt he was thrown in the trash or fed to a someone’s pigs.

Going across country in a wagon train, or even by ship back then took guts. Travelers would go hundreds of miles, maybe even thousands without so much as a city or town. Maybe there would be a trading post but those would be few and far between. The native people wouldn’t be welcoming in most cases, or at least Travis imagined they wouldn’t be.

He thought of his infant son in the back seat. He would have died. Not just with the Donner mishap but with any group of settlers trying to make it across the country, or around the tip of South America, or slogging across the Panama. The idea of losing his son was unimaginable. He wouldn’t have done it.

Donner Lake

Travis thought of when his parents told him stories of driving cross country right after WW2, his dad on the GI Bill going to college in California. It was an adventure that had lasted a lifetime. Travis and his brother had grown up in the land of sunshine, wine, and weekends surfing at the beach. It was a far cry from what the Donner children went through after Keseberg killed and ate their parents leaving them to be at the mercy of anyone who was willing to take them in.

By the time Travis drove down the hill to Auburn his wife Kit was awake. He didn’t mention the Donner or Keseberg, or anything else that had gone on in his private thoughts while he drove. Instead they talked about when and where’d they get their Christmas tree, and what they wanted to pick up for dinner that night.

Back up the highway, surrounded by snow, the ghosts of distant travelers settled around Donner Lake. They remembered what had happened, despite the fact that someone had eaten their brains, or just left them in shallow graves. The ghosts marveled at the modern folk who came to visit. There would be boats in the summer, and skiing and snow ball fights in the winter months.

George Donner turned to his wife and said, “Tamsen, I told you to stay with the children. You shouldn’t have tried to find me.”

She smiled and turned to her husband. “Sorry dear. I lost my heart to another man.”

Same joke every night and he still didn’t find it funny.

Donner Lake

~ end

 

 

 

Dark Days, Ghosts, and Inspiration

coffee

Coffee with Vampires, Ghosts and Poe

I’ve been having a bad case of Empty Nest Blues lately. Yes, even without any kids in the house, or kids almost out of the house, I can do anything. Right? Yes, but like everything else it is always complicated with me. As I brooded about my lack of brood and lack of inspiration my brother Val stopped by for coffee.

As I filled the French Press with hot water, Val grabbed cups and poured in a shot of blood and half/half in each cup. He put two packages of Equal in his, one in mine.

“Dark day?” He asked.

“I feel frozen. But I’ll be fine. Tell me about your sorry existence.” That was a joke. Val has a lovely existence, especially for a Vampire.

We sat and talked about a lot of things. I thought about being inspired to be inspired.

I poured more coffee into my cup and posed a question to my brother. “What if Edgar Allen Poe had lived. He died in 1849, so he might have heard of the gold find in California. What if he’d live and come to California? What if he’d continued to write and eventually met Bret Harte and Mark Twain? What if he’d met Lotta Crabtree? What if he’d met us?”

“Imagine him on the ship with our parents. That would have been fun.”

“Poe would have loved them.”

“He would have ended up becoming a Vampire. Mom would have made sure of that.”

“Maybe,” I said. “He was so odd and broken, but he shouldn’t have died. I think he was murdered.”

“That’s the rumor.”

One idea leads to another, and I make mental notes for stories, books, and artwork that I think a lot about and might someday create, or finish, or forget. The thought is depressing, or exciting depending on who is thinking it. If I’m thinking it right now it seems vague and somewhat depressing, and impossible, and overwhelming. Tomorrow it might be another answer.

As we talked, and my mood brightened and became more hopeful, Val and I looked out the window into my back yard. We could see the ghosts, Nigel and Mary by the fence. They were dancing to music we couldn’t hear. Being ghosts, dealing with their own deaths, and murders, had taken a toll on both, but they pulled themselves out of their own broken fog and made a life after death for themselves. Love will do that. Don’t get me wrong, Nigel is still a major asshole, but sometimes I see that light I know he had when he was alive. Like with Poe, I wonder what he would have achieved had he lived. He’d be fifty-eight now, had he not died in 1986.

Nigel looked up at us and waved at Val. Then he looked at me. Our eyes locked, and he flipped me off. Then Nigel and Mary vanished, as she continued to dance, and he glared at me.

I can relate to the songs and dances of the broken. These are not all sad songs. They’re just songs of those who have maybe had more complex paths to wander along.

Val had always been along my path with me, but we’ve taken side trails alone.

But like with my brother’s visit, I always circle around and return to the joy and love of my family, my friends, and of my imagination.

~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman

 

don't be a ghost

 

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/broken/