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

 

 

 

The Beach House

The Beach House

First published in 2014. A Vampire Story about holidays and weird stuff… 

 

My brother Val and I had gone to the beach house for Thanksgiving. This was 1944, before my marriage or children, when it seemed it was always just my brother and me, plus assorted friends and lovers.

Our brother Andy (Andrew) was somewhere in Europe in a USO show. Our eldest brother Max and my future husband Teddy were in London doing something secret for the American Government. Our parents were in Washington DC.

Nobody knew where our brother Aaron or his wife Verity were. They were the traditional ones who always stayed on the safe predictable road to anywhere – now we had no idea where they were. The last time anyone heard they were in France, but they could have been anywhere. They could have been dead or worse captured but we stopped guessing.

Valentine and I had our fill the night before in San Francisco. The clubs were full of servicemen on leave and women who were tired of waiting for their men to come home and people who had nothing to do with the war or missing love ones. Val was also on leave from his position in the Army – watching and finding out secrets. Vampires are good for that. Almost too good. But we had to get involved. We had no other choice. This was the world we lived in and our country too. It was our home.

We watched the fog roll in as the sun went down over the Pacific Ocean.

A car drove up to the house. We weren’t expecting anyone.

It was Nathaniel Chase. Even back then he was over 400 years old but didn’t look a day over 35. A small black cat followed at his heels.

“What are you doing here? You’re supposed to be in San Francisco,” he growled without so much as a hello to us.

“We’re not supposed to be anywhere, at least not until after Christmas,” said Val.

“I thought you were in Canada, or Hawaii or someplace…,” I started in on him until he put his hand up for me to shut up. I knew the gesture well. He’d been cutting me off my entire life.

“Valentine, please get my bag out of the car for me. Juliette I need your help, come.” He headed down the hall to the far bedroom.

Under his coat his shirt was soaked with blood. I couldn’t tell if it was his or if it belonged to somebody else.

I helped him out of his coat and then the suit jacket and shirt underneath. He’d been stabbed several times. “My heart…was nicked. I’ve lost a lot of blood…a lot.”

I held out my wrist. “Take mine. It will seal your heart.”

“I don’t know…Juliette…”

“You’ll die.”

“No. You can bring someone in later.”

“You will die. Take mine. Regular blood won’t help. You know that.”

A regular human man would have died with his injury. He’d been stabbed in the heart, not just a “nick.”

He took my wrist and sank his fangs into it. Not much happened.

“Just take my neck,” I told him and started to unbutton my shirt. “Don’t say no. You’ve done more for me than I can count. I owe you.”

Asking another Vampire to bite your neck is extreme. It is also something that happens in risky sex. It is something you don’t do lightly or with just anyone. There can be consequences.

I put my hand on his chest where the knife entered. Then I leaned in close, cold skin to cold skin and put my other hand at the back of his neck. “Take my blood Nathaniel.”

He pushed my hair aside and put his mouth on my neck. He had my blood and my feelings, my memories, my heart and everything I kept close. I could feel him searching and wanting then blanking it all out. He wasn’t interested in sucking out my souls or knowing my secrets or being my lover.  I’d done this before but it wasn’t to save a life. It was to satisfy a lover, another Vampire in passion and …whatever. But this was intense and in that realm. I felt drained. I was drained literally.

Nathaniel pulled away and lay back on the pillows. His eyes were closed. He took my hand and entwined my finger in his. We sat for maybe an hour as still as death. I brushed my lips against his cheek. He opened his eyes and gave me a slight smile. “Thank you. I’m sorry.”

“Don’t be sorry.”

Over the years he’d always been the one to save Val and me. So many times we’d strayed and he was there to get us back on track. He was always there to scold us and keep us in line. So many times I resented his presence and wished he’d go away forever.

I went out to the deck where Val sat with a bottle of wine and a cigar. He looked at my neck. “I gave him blood. Nothing else.”

My brother gave me a hug. “Thank you dear. Listen, the couple down the road are having a party. We can head on over and get you settled again. If Nathaniel needs more tonight we’ll have it.”

So we walked half a mile down the road watching the stars and listening to the waves crashing against the beach. I told Val that I knew who injured Nathaniel but it was taken care of. We were not the ones to extract vengeance. Someone else would do that. It isn’t what Val and I usually do, unless forced of course.

Nathaniel stayed with us for the rest of the month. We spent Christmas having a fire on the beach, just the three of us and Nathaniel’s black cat. Val and I were 85 and 86 at the time but Nathaniel still saw us as silly teens, or at least he saw us as still needing guidance.

Eventually we were all reunited with family and friends.

Anyway, that was a long time ago. It was a time I rarely even think about anymore. Now that my own children enter adulthood I think of more things from my current life. I hope their lives are calm and without trauma. That won’t be the case, but I’d like to think it would be.

So that is it for right now. December is almost here. Today my daughter Clara and I will hang the Christmas wreath and once again wish for Peace on Earth. I doubt if it will ever happen but we can wish and we can each do our part to help.

~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman

 

CAMP FIRE: How to Help

The list below is but a few organizations and individuals helping victims of the Camp Fire in Northern California. Feel free to add more resources, or resources for the Southern California fires below. And if you have Dutch Bros. Coffee in your area stop by TODAY, get coffee, and donate.

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North Valley Animal Disaster Group

Camp Fire

Thank you for the outpouring of support for the work of all-volunteer, all-donation-supported NVADG.  We have many teams behind the fire lines evacuating, feeding and watering animals. Veterinarians are with us providing emergency animal care/triage as well. Teams are transferring animals just outside the evacuation road-blocks to emergency response volunteers who are transporting animals to the emergency shelters.  We appreciate the support of all our partners during this unprecedented fire event.

IMPORTANT:  Please DO NOT email requests for service to our website email address.  Call our hotline, 530-895-0000. Our volunteers are taking a huge volume of calls, please keep trying.

If you want to donate to NVADG, please consider a cash donation. It gives us the flexibility we need and we will definitely need it!  Donate on our website or send a check to NVADG, PO Box 441, Chico, CA  95927.

Due to the enormity of the situation, non-NVADG trained volunteers are being processed through Caring Choices in Chico, 1398 Ridgewood, Chico.  Work is in small animal shelters.  ABSOLUTELY NO EVACUATION WORK.   You must be cleared through Caring Choices to volunteer at a shelter.  Extreme danger in burned areas, law enforcement will not allow self-deployed volunteers behind fire lines.

Hotline (530) 895-0000

Donate

NVADG is a non-profit 501(c)3 organization. Our ID is 06-1672191

IRS Non Profit Determination Letter

Donations are gratefully accepted and are tax deductible to the extent provided by law.

Thank you for your support of the animals we are hosting!

Other ways to donate:

 

Dutch Brothers California Wildfire Relief

Beginning Tuesday, Nov. 13 through Monday, Nov. 19, all Dutch Bros locations will join together to raise funds for California wildfire relief efforts. Each of Dutch Bros’ 325+ stores will be offering customers the chance to make donations at the window. Dutch Bros will match donations up to $150,000 to three different organizations in Northern California. Together we can make a difference.

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Paradise Herndon Family Fund

We moved to Paradise in 1978 and my sister and I were raised in this community. Julia stayed, married, raised a beautiful family.  As long as I can remember, my sister and brother in law have opened their doors to those in need. It never mattered the circumstances, if you needed a place to land and get a meal, a bed, a hug, the Herndon Home was where you knew you were always welcome. Their 5 children and all of their friends were raised knowing that Herndon home meant safety, security, laughter, comfort, and love.  They have always gone above and beyond to help anyone in need with money, food, shelter, emotional support.

JAN LOCKE FIRE IN PARIDISE

My Sister JAN LOCKE just moved to Magalia (PARIDISE CA) one week ago after selling her home of 30 year in Antelope CA.  Only to find her and her family in the path of the devastating “CAMP FIRE”! She is temporarily in a motel in RedBluff waiting until property owners are allowed back in to the area. In need of financial help with current expenses and housing. ASAP! I live in Washington State but grew up in Sacramento…   Can’t BELIEVE what we are seeing..Such a terrible FIRE!

Unclaimed pets from the Camp fire at the UC Davis Veterinary Hospital. 

These are cats currently under care at the UC Davis veterinary hospital that do not have an owner identified. If you believe one of these may be yours, please email ucdavisvetmed@gmail.com. You will need to provide photo ID of your missing pet if at all possible. We will answer inquiries as soon as we can. Please be patient with our team as we manage this situation. We will add more images as unclaimed animals come into our care. We are not legally permitted to manage adoptions or temporary fosters for these animals. If owners are unknown, they are technically the property of county animal services of the county they came from. They will remain hospitalized until they are healthy enough to return to those authorities and only they have the authority to foster or adopt them out.

If you’d like to help contribute to their care, donate here: https://give.ucdavis.edu/go/firecare

Fire

The air is thick with smoke.

My eyes burn.

My heart is heavy.

Ninety miles north of here is the Camp Fire. An entire town have been wiped out. More homes are burning. Over 40 people have died and many more are missing. In Southern California the fires still burn.

Now is the time for our leaders to be leaders and show compassion and caring for those involved. It is time to support those who have lost their homes and loved ones. Now is the time to support those who have rescued, and continue to rescue both people and animals.

Now is the time to thank those who are having fund drives, providing shelter, taking in people and pets, cooking for rescue teams, and helping in so many other ways.

It baffles me that some people can even THINK of making this political because this is California. Fires have always happened here, just like tornadoes and floods happen in other parts of the country. It is worse because there are now more people. Just like there are more people where hurricanes hit.

Now is time for love.

Now is time for support.

We are California. Despite what anyone says we will survive and thrive. It is what we do. We will also stand by others outside of our state when disasters strike – because that is what we do.

As soon as I can get the information together I’ll post a page of helpers who need donations and of those in need. Hospitals have been burned. Schools have been lost. Homes have been lost. Animals have been separated from their people. People have lost loved ones. They need our help both in Northern and Southern California.

I have already seen a great outpouring of love and support for every fire we’ve had this year, and last season. I have seen people do amazing things to help others.

My heart breaks for California. This is, and always be my home, my heart, and my soul.

~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman

Musings on Cats and Vampire Summers

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Oscar, pre-scar days.

I was out early this morning getting something out of my car. OK, I was looking for my purse. I thought I left it in my car last night. I didn’t. While I was outside I heard the sound of an angry cat. You know that snarling, growling, hit pitched sound from Hell that cats project when they’re really pissed off and ready for a fight.

It wasn’t one of my cats. At least it didn’t sound like either one of them. I decided to walk down the street to the mail boxes and find out where the gosh awful noise was coming from.

My cat Oscar, my sweet baby boy was standing in the front yard of my neighbor Josh. Josh lives alone. He rides his bicycle when it is 120 degrees F outside. Everybody likes Josh, but I don’t think he has a cat.

On the front porch (a favorite place of the neighborhood wild turkeys) was the largest calico cat I have ever seen. Her head was the size of a honeydew mellon. She was screaming at Oscar.

Oscar sat there and meowed with a confused little voice. Then he looked at me, then looked at the giant calico.

“Hey, Oscar,” I said. “Come on baby, let’s go home.”

As always, Oscar looks hopeful when his mom (me) is around. I’m always there to rescue him. I scooped him up.

I walked home like a crazy cat lady with Oscar under one arm, and an armful of junk mail in the other arm.

Oscar will always be like a baby, despite a notched ear and a scar across his face. He is thirteen pounds of fur and love. He is also an asshole, but he is my asshole.

This has been a long hot summer. Not all of us are handling it as well as my bike riding neighbor Josh. Then add massive wild fires to the heat and it gets really fun. If someone ever tells you “Burn in Hell Vampire,” you can tell them “FUCK YOU ASSHOLE I live in California.”

After the cat adventure I dropped off a trunk load of supplies that will go up to a fire shelter near Redding (Carr fire.)

By the time I got home my son Garrett was peeling tape off of the walls. We’re painting the insides of our home. From neutral to color. It looks great. As we’re peeling long steps of blue tape from around the windows we talked about all kinds of stuff.

Garrett will be in his fourth year of college. He is twenty-one now. No longer a child. I have kids now but I also have adults – Vampire adults.

“I hate summer necks,” said Garrett.

“It isn’t that bad,” I said.

“Oh come on mom, they’re gross. All covered in sunscreen, sweat, foundation, hair products, and body spray. The body spray is the worst. It smells great, but oh my god, the taste… How did you do it before people took showers everyday?”

“I don’t know. I guess we were used to it. You know, like cigarette smoke and rancid bacon grease.”

“That’s disgusting. I’m sticking with wrists until October.”

“Sounds like a plan to me,” I told him. I didn’t mention that I go to nice adult people with indoor private offices. But I’m sticking with wrists more often than not as well.

College classes start soon for both of my kids. It already seems like fall. This morning was unusually cool and nice. On morning like that I pretend I’m living by the ocean or up in the mountains. For a myriad of reasons I’m still here, in the Sacramento Valley with the smoke and the ghosts of the 49ers and the first Vampires to settle in California.

Anyway, that is how my day went.

Hope yours went well.

~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman

 

Short Story Sunday: Smoke

Smoke

The sky is gray with smoke, the same color as the dove sitting on the back deck rail.

I’m not just saying that to be literary. The sky IS the same color as the dove. It isn’t clouds. It’s smoke from the summer fires.

I watched him through the window as he watered the garden. He was doing it all wrong but I wasn’t going to tell him.

My mind wandered to where I would go if I could go somewhere else. It wasn’t like the movies or books where I could go home to some idyllic small town. This was home. There is no extended family. There is no family at all to speak of.

I imagined the winter when we didn’t have to water the garden and everything was green.

A house on the beach where the cool winds blow away the heat and the smoke and the smell of death in the basement.

My husband waved at me.

“Did you put on sunscreen? You need a hat,” I called to him.

“I’m coming inside right now,” he said with a smile.

I saw a bit of fang flash when he smiled. He’d do that when he wanted me to smile back. Smiles had been rare these days.

I remember the fires of long ago. I remember the screams. I remember the cheers as bodies exploded and cracked. I remember the horrible smell. And I remembered to tell my children to never tell anyone who or what they are or they would face the flames.

The sliding glass door opened and he came in with an armful of roses, zinnias, and sunflowers.

“Our harvest today. Get a vase my love. We’ll bring the beauty out of the smoke.”

I smiled and took the flowers and he kissed me.

It wasn’t a smoking hot kiss but that isn’t what I wanted or needed.

All sI needed was a cool kiss from a man who loved me, and maybe eye drops.

Yes, I needed eye drops. Then I closed my eyes and thought of the waves and the cool sand between my cold Vampire toes.

 

~ end

 

~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman