“You don’t have to wear that mask Charlie. I’m not sick.”
“Mom, there is a pandemic going on. I don’t want you to become sick. I can’t risk that.”
“Well, I don’t go anywhere.”
“I go places mom. I’m out in public.”
“What about Austin? He sees me without a mask.”
“I’m part of your bubble Grammy.” said Austin. “Most of my work is from home. Remember I told you about teaching my classes on Zoom.”
Grammy furrowed her brow. “Zoom? Is that fast classes so you won’t spread the Covid?”
“No Grammy, it is classes over the computer, on the Internet,” said Austin.
“Well, if you’re not teaching or messing around with old houses you’re working with dead people. Damn Vampires can’t get the Covid. At least my grandson decided to follow in the family footsteps and do something about the vermin,” said Grammy.
“So how are you mom,” said Charlie.
“Chicken died,” said Grammy.
Austin spoke first. “What? Chicken? Did raccoons get her?”
“When did this happen?” Charlie asked his mother.
“This morning,” said Grammy.
“Mom. Oh no. How?”
“I don’t know. I think Kayla killed her.”
“Grammy, why would Kayla kill Chicken?” Austin knew Grammy’s caretaker would never hurt any animal.
“I don’t know. Maybe she just got tired of her,” said Grammy.
“How did she kill Chicken?” Charlie asked.
“I don’t know. Maybe she chopped off Chicken’s head.”
“Mom, Kayla didn’t kill Chicken.”
“You don’t know that,” said Grammy
“Austin, have you been hunting any Vampires lately?”
“No, things have slowed down over the holidays and haven’t picked up, thank goodness,” said Austin.
“Maybe Vampires got Chicken,” said Charlie.
“Don’t be a smart ass Charles. You know they don’t eat chicken, much less suck out their blood,” said Grammy.
“I wouldn’t know mom. I never hunted Vampires.”
“You never had the talent for it. Austin on the other hand got that gene for sniffing out and killing those pesky damned undead creatures.”
Kayla, Grammy’s caretaker came in followed by a small pack of small dogs. “Good morning. Hey, his Charlie. It’s been a while.”
They made a few words of small talk as the dogs bounced all over Charlie and Austin.
Then Kayla said, “We lost Chicken.”
“I know, we heard,” said Austin.
“She was pecking at some wires so that might have killed her. I don’t know. She might have just died of natural causes. Poor Chicken.”
They talked more about Chicken and made more small talk. Then Grammy said, “Go out in the yard Austin and get some lemons. We’re going to make a lemon pie.”
“Good idea,” said Charlie.
“It will keep the Vampires away. They don’t much like pie,” said Grammy. Then she giggled like a little girl.
“She was one of the most fierce Vampire Hunters of the 20th Century,” Charlie told Kayla.
“I can believe that Charlie,” Kayla said with a smile. “She is still pretty fierce.”
“You’re right about that,” said Charlie. “You certainly are.”
This is my first new story for quite a few weeks. All of the Covid isolation, construction at my house, and other weirdness has sort of, well, not been conducive to creativity. As always, stay safe, wear a mask, turn off the news, go for walks, talk to and with your kids, listen to your kids, don’t be a dick, be kind, and kiss a Vampire.
I had a visitor this week. My brother Val and my dear ancient Tellias decided to go backpacking and dropped Eleora off to stay with me.
Tellias and Eleora are ancient. They look young but they’re extremely old. Nobody knew exactly how old Eleora is. The date changed over the years.
She was like the actress who had been born in 1948 but by the time she died Wikipedia listed her year of birth as 1959. As an aging sex symbol who had a long productive career with no leading roles nobody seemed to notice when she retired to her Long Beach cottage with her tribe of small dogs and assorted cats.
Her body was found by her son who was a product of the third of her five marriages. He hadn’t heard from his mother in a week so he went to check on her.
Hermes the black Manx cat was sitting on the front porch wearing the platinum and diamond tennis bracelet her fourth husband had given her after she kicked him out for cheating on her with a local state congresswoman. Hermes was frantically meowing to get in. On the porch was a dry water bowl and several packages from Fed-X and Amazon.
Inside he found his mother on the couch looking like she’d fallen asleep. The TV was still on. She’d been dead for three days. A bottle of high-end boutique vodka was on the table along with a small bowl of assorted opiate based painkillers. One the mantel next to the urn containing his elder sister’s ashes (from the first marriage) was a tiny bundle containing the remains of his mother’s last dog. It was a tiny teacup poodle names Chester, whom she always had dyed purple. On the table next to the vodka bottle was the receipt from the vet for the euthanasia services was from three days ago.
That meant Hermes had been outside alone without food for way too long. He fed the cat and made some phone calls.
After he called his brother (2ndmarriage) and remaining sister (4thmarriage) he called his father. Growing up he’d lived mostly with his dad but had still been close to his compulsive party girl mother.
He was thankful the cat had been outside and not left in to start eating his mother’s face. Horrible thoughts like that had always popped into his head at the most unfortunate times. He blamed that on his mother and her dramatic flair for the macabre.
After the coroner left, he put Hermes and his sister’s ashes in the car and drove home. He wouldn’t be coming back. His siblings could take care of the estate.
But I’m completely off subject. Nobody knew how hold Eleora really was. Well over 2,100 years but she was always vague. I think she doesn’t know and either doesn’t care or is just embarrassed she doesn’t have an exact date. Where she was born, and when she was born, nobody had calendars. She never aged so age wasn’t a concern, until she met Tellias who came from the Roman Empire where people had a written language, a calendar and even running water.
Eleora also wasn’t like the actress I mentioned, at least personality wise. She was a flirt, but she and Tellias had been together for two millenniums. They were faithful and steady, or at least as steady as two ancient Vampires could be.
When they dropped her off Eleora was wearing a big green sweater over an orange satin blouse, and a green and blue plaid wool skirt.
“What in the world are you wearing?” I had to ask.
“I’m not sure. It was in my closet,” she said.
“It’s supposed to be over 90 today.”
She just looked at me then looked away not saying anything. I checked in her bag. Inside was a large pink sweatshirt, a lace party dress from eons ago, and a worn out house robe, and a pair of rubber rain boots. I didn’t even ask who packed for her.
An odor like rotted flesh with a sharp metallic after smell invaded my nose. Oh my God it was Eleora.
“When was the last time you took a shower? You smell like death.”
“I don’t smell anything,” she said.
She’d tied her hair, which was dirty, up on top of her head with a green ribbon.
“You smell like a Shadow Creeper. Damn it Eleora, you don’t live in a crypt or under the floorboards of some abandoned house. Let’s go up and get you in the shower.”
Like many seniors she has lost interest in personal hygiene or just doesn’t notice anymore. Time, especially in 2020, doesn’t matter.
It is bad enough with most people who don’t take care of themselves, but it can be especially bad with an old Vampire.
I reminded her to wash her hair with shampoo and not just put on conditioner. I also gave her a new bar of lavender soap and a washcloth. She is about the same size as my daughter so I found a sundress in Clara’s closet that she’d left on her last visit and a light sweater out of my closet. Eleora won’t wear pants so our choices were limited.
After the shower I fixed her a smoothie made of almond milk, blood, a bit of peanut butter and a tablespoon of nutritional yeast.
Eleora looked pretty in the flowered sundress. She might be ancient but she and Tellias look like college students, but act like really old people.
I had to attend several Zoom meetings, but Eleora didn’t understand I wasn’t going anywhere. Thank goodness for the mute buttons for sound and video.
“I’ll just stay here with the dog while you go to your meeting. Get me a cup of coffee before you go.”
“I’m not leaving,” I said, “the meeting is here, on my computer, like when we talked to Clara earlier.”
“Get me a glass of water too. Turn on that show I’ve been watching.”
“What is it called?”
“I don’t know.”
“What is it about?”
“It’s a Western.”
“OK. That narrows it down. You don’t remember the name?”
We went through the line ups with all of the on demand stations, Prime and Netflix. We finally turned on Cheyenne. That was good for an hour.
Today Eleora wasn’t interested in reading. We went out on the deck and she talked about when she and Tellias went to a play followed by a public hanging. That was sometime in the 15thCentury. She didn’t remember much except that a dog walked up on the stage during the play. The man was being hanged for murdering his entire family. Then she told me about how they came to America on a big ship, which really wasn’t that big by today’s standards. It was awful due to the rats but Tellias sang to them and got them to invade the quarters of the first officer who apparently was a real prick.
After that she couldn’t remember or understand much of anything and took a long nap. When she woke up she’d sing me a song and ask when Tellias was going to come pick her up.
The next few days were much the same.
Then she asked when she would be able to go home. She was done with me. I’d hold her hand and tell her about my garden and my children. If I was able to I’d make her laugh. I’d get a smile out of her and she’d seem to be happy for a bit.
When Val and Tellias finally came back Eleora was quick to pack up and leave.
I remember when Eleora and I used to have adventures together. I remember when we’d be so busy doing things that we’d forget the passing of time. I remember when she could remember.
Even when we forget we always remember to love. The memories and synaspes are gone but the love is still there.
My thoughts today go out to all of the caretakers. It goes to those who forget. It goes to those who remember and treasure those memories. It goes out to all of those who love unconditionally.
Wear a mask
Check on those who are elderly, alone, or need extra help and support
It is hot today. I believe it is over 100°F where I live. In light of that hot sizzling fact I’m going to take you with me to a nice cool beach.
When You Grow Old
A short story by Juliette Kings
“Who will take care of you when you get old?” I asked my brother’s caretaker Josh.
My brother Bob is 90 years old. A former screenwriter and movie producer, he lives in a modern glass and polished wood mansion on the Central Coast of California.
I’d been at Bob’s for six months.
“Your grandmother would have been 101 this year,” Bob told me. I was going to turn 101 this year, at the end of October. What Bob doesn’t know is that I am his sister Valentina. He doesn’t know I’m a vampire either. He thinks I’m a great niece who is the spitting image of his older sister who passed away in 1935.
I walked the beach in the evenings with Bob. He leaned my arm and told me about the cycles of the tide and the migration of the whales.
Arriving home we found that my brother’s caretaker Josh had fixed dinner. A beautiful salad and fresh rockfish. Josh, a tall skinny but muscular blonde in his 30’s had been with Bob for about 3 years. He divided his time between helping Bob and two other elderly folks near by, and when he wasn’t with his old folks he was surfing.
I asked Josh why he worked with old people. “They’re exceptional creatures,” he told me, “with the knowledge of lost times. They have wisdom and humor that needs to be honored. You can’t always get that out of old people, but if you work them just so and LISTEN they’ll give you the secrets of the universe. And the weird thing is, no not weird, I the magic of it, is that they don’t even know they have that knowledge.”
The next morning we had a visitor. It was Stephen, one of my brother’s neighbors. “You’ve been good to your brother,” he whispered in my ear. He was also a Vampire, something I’d known for a while, but never talked to him about. Our paths crossed but this was the first time we had made a social call since I’d been there.
It seems Stephen and Bob have been friends for the past 10 years, since Stephen purchased the run down house next door and restored it to the former glory of its past. Until today, he only visited Bob when I was out. They spend the evenings talking, watching movies and playing cards with Josh. There was a bond of friendship that was so real and close, the kind that never ends, even with age and differences of opinion.
A few night later Stephen and I walked the beach.
“How long have you been a Vampire?” I asked him. It was a common question Vampires ask each other.
“Since the summer of 1802. Funny it seems like yesterday.”
“So hows it working out for you? I mean, the Vampire thing and all?” I had to ask.
“Good. It’s all good. You know it isn’t for everyone.”
“I wonder about Bob.” I had wondered about my brother and if I made him into a Vampire if I’d restore his youth and keep him in my life.
“Bob is happy where he is.”
“I think you’re right.”
We walked more and listened to the waves. Then he kissed me under that stars. That was a surprise. A nice surprise.
The next morning after Josh had helped Bob with his shower and getting dressed I visited with him over coffee. Josh was such a caring free spirit, loving his work with the elderly and his relationship with the waves.
“Who will take care of you when you get old?” I asked Josh.
He smiled. “I’ll ride out on the surf and become one with the sea.”
“Who will listen to your words of wisdom?”
“You and Stephen can pass it on. You’ll still be here. You’ll always be here. So will Bob, not in body but his spirit is strong. He’ll be around as long as the stars shine over the surf.” Then he winked at me. “Valentina, I know all about you. Your kind is all over the coast down here. I grew up with Vampires. It’s cool.”
Memories, the lost of memories, old stories, more on my idiot brothers, and love.
Love in the dark, and in the light that always shines
Eleora couldn’t remember what she did yesterday, but she could tell stories of her childhood in excruciating detail. My daughter and niece sat next to her, holding her small hands in theirs. They looked like three young women about the same age. My Clara is 16, Lauren is 21 and Eleora is, well, nobody knows how old she is. We know Eleora is over 2,000 years old but no exact number has ever come out.
The girls heard stories their parents and grandparents had never heard. These were ancient lost tales that she’d hoarded until she found the right audience.
Tellias, her husband, told the girls to watch if they went outside. Eleora might wander off on her own and not find her way back.
He watched the woman he loved, his eyes filled with pain. Sometimes I’d see a rare bit of anger. Of course there is always love, but with that more often than not pain and frustration.
This was Sunday. We’d all gathered at my brother Aaron’s for our mother’s birthday. All four of my brothers were there (Max, Andy, Aaron and Val), as well as the elders Tellias and Eleora, Aaron’s grown children Logan and Lauren, Great-great-great-great Grandmama Lola and her friend Cody, and our friend Pierce. My husband Teddy and Aaron’s wife Verity were there playing host and hostess as they sometimes do. And of course our parents Jeremy and Samantha.
More friends were to come later at this gathering at Aaron and Verity’s home. Of course we’re all Vampires. It would seem weird to bring anyone else in.
This isn’t like the movies and horror stories where we bring in virgins and babies to feast on. Of course there is blood, but we have it in wine glasses (not big red cups.)
I stood outside under the stars with Tellias and my brother Max.
Max put his hand on the elder Vampire’s shoulder. “Eleora isn’t all there anymore is she?”
“I believe she is there. She just is a bit disorganized. You know, when you can’t find the mates to your shoes and you are walking on a bed of nails so you just hop on one foot and hope you don’t fall. But if you fall it will be into a burning pit of lava. Then you look down and notice your pants are gone and your socks don’t match,” said Tellias. “You need to come by and see us more often Max.”
“I know,” said my brother.
“Nobody knows how long Vampires live. Most of us don’t make it this far given the dangerous nature of our existence. Don’t take your chances. Your day could be tomorrow. Eleora’s could be tomorrow. We never know. But no need to get depressed, none of us are going anywhere for a while. We’ll be around for plenty of birthdays to come. But the more you and Juliette and the rest of you come around the easier it will be for Eleora to straighten out the mess in her mind.”
The three of us stood there for a few seconds. Then Max gave Tellias a hug and walked down into the yard under some trees. I watched him as he took out his phone and made a call.
“He is calling her, isn’t he? He should have made that call fifty years ago,” said Tellias. “The boy never seemed to understand love, even at his age he still can’t.”
I had to smile. Even at the age of one hundred and sixty-six Max still is just starting to understand that ships that pass in the night sometimes never pass each other again.
Tellias took my hand and gave it a squeeze. “I appreciate everything you do for us.”
“I know.” I said. I looked into his crystal blue eyes, in a face that looked no older than nineteen. To think that he had lived in ancient time didn’t seem all that strange most of the time. He’d kept up. They both had. That is what kept Tellias and Eleora young. Nobody would ever have expected them to dry up in a crypt or become ghouls living in shadows. Then again, they gave so much love that the cold dark places the put fear in men’s hearts didn’t touch them.
So stay young. It is easy if you love and let love in. Even if you’re a Vampire. And even if you’re not.
Now is a time we all need to take special care with our elders/seniors and others who need extra help.
I am running a Taking Care of Our Elders Marathon. These stories are about my elders Eleora and Tellias, but I know many of you will be able to relate.
A Place Between the Night and the Day
Yesterday a call came in. A small whispery voice, like old tissue paper that had once wrapped up lace and flower petals said, “We can’t find Ginger.”
The conversation continued, or I attempted to continue it. I asked where they’d seen Ginger last and if they’ll looked everywhere. But I got the same answer. “YOU have to come. We can’t find Ginger.”
Ginger is an old dog. She is some sort of medium sized Lab and Golden mix with a few other breeds in there. One day 15 years ago she showed up starving and dirty on the Elder’s farm. She was grown even then and seemed middle aged. Like her owners, Ginger is ancient and confused.
The elders are Tellias and Eleora, two ancient Vampires who aren’t even sure how old they are. He met her when he went to Britian with the Roman Army. That was a while back. Theirs was a story of sweeping epic romance, but now, they were calling me to find their old dog.
I brought the kids with me, 17 year old Garrett and 14 year old Clara. When we arrived, they, the Elders were along. The early morning air was filled with smoke from forest fires in the hills. Eleora was afraid of smoke, so she was out of sorts even more than usual. Back in the days of burning rice fields she’d leave town for the coast.
When we arrived Tellias came out to greet us in an old black tux with no shirt underneath the jacket and bare feet. His blonde hair was covered by an old pith helmet. Eleora wore a halter style sundress out of some ugly brown and yellow batik fabric and red cowboy boots. She carried a large butterfly net and a green glass bowl of dog biscuits. Despite their age and frailties they look as though they can’t be much older than 20.
And it is my job to take care of them and make sure they’re safe and have what they need. It is my job to make sure they don’t do stupid things.
My children and I were showered with hugs and kisses. They usually sang songs to us when we arrived, but this time is was all about finding Ginger.
We searched high and low for Ginger. We called. But no answer.
“We’ve looked everywhere,” said Tellias.
“Everywhere,” said Eleora.
“Everywhere,” whispered Tellias.
So we all searched and called more. After taking a break from dog searching, cleaning up, fixing a few things, and throwing in some laundry that had piled up, we sat down for a few moments. There was a click click click on the floor and we turned to see Ginger looking at us with big brown eyes.
We have no idea where she’d been, but we were glad that she was back. She is covered in hugs and kisses. All is well.
It had been a long week with my work, the kids starting school, my husband’s activities and looking after the Elders. Some say don’t sweat the small stuff but it all seems the same. There is no small stuff or big stuff – just stuff. But it is my stuff. It is my choice to be the one who manages all the stuff and take care of stuff and deal with stuff.
It isn’t that I love the stuff, I love the people who bring the stuff to me.
And in the early mornings between the night and the dawn I am left alone to my own stuff, or what I can clear out of my head and heart. I walk the trails near my house under the oaks, on the edge of the bluffs over the water. I can hear the first birds of the morning and see the last bats of the night. The deer, coyote and bobcats walk at a distance and sometimes let me see them in their own world. The squirrels jump through the trees like crazed acrobats.
I think of everything and nothing. I think of things that I don’t have time to think about when I’m looking for old dogs, lost socks, and lost souls.
My mind wanders the hills far beyond where my feet take me. Sometimes I see ghosts, but even they know not to bother me in my Vampire reveries.
I’m a mom so I take care of my children. Like many others (and I know more than one of my readers) I also have seniors in my life who need my help. Even Vampires can be among the “sandwich” generation.
Over the years I’ve been writing about the ancient Vampires Tellias and Eleora. They look young, but they’ve been around for centuries. Sometimes they need a little extra help.
Our elder folks are our treasures. We should all love and take care of those we have, both family and elderly friends who often have no family near. You’re never too old for love, or friends or living life.
From the Summer of 2013
Frogs, Love, and Hell
I believe I’ve used the frog story before, but I shall tell it again.
Put a cold cast iron skillet on a cold burner on your stove. Gas works best. Place a large, live, cold blooded frog in the center of the skillet. Use a good sized one – 10-12 inches. Turn on the heat ever so low, then gradually turn it up. The frog will sit until it gets blazing hot and it’s feet and belly stick to the cast iron and it is cooked.
This is what happens to people in this heat (we’re expecting over 100 all week and over 110 F on some days). Elderly people and others who are not always aware will sit in the heat like the frog until they cook. They’ll forget to jump out of the pan, or in the case of some folks, forget to turn on the air conditioning or fan. Or they’ll forget to call for help because they won’t realize they need help.
My neighbor and dear friend Kelly came over tonight with a couple of cold drinks (bless her). She isn’t a Vampire like we are. She suspects we’re different but can’t quite put a finger on it. She also has a ghost in her house (yes, that ghost.)
We sat for a while as she told me of her elderly mother and the heat. Her mother forgets to turn on the air conditioner. Her mother obsesses about bad neighbors but will not let her children or helpers put anything over the fence so to keep out the eyes of those bad neighbors. She asked Kelly to come over (it was 110 outside) to cut down a tree. Kelly said no. Her mother doesn’t know what yard the tree is growing in. Kelly tells her not to go outside and check because it is too hot and because she’ll fall and end up in the hospital – again. The same conversation has happened over and over – with a different plant, a hose, a stray cat, an unfamiliar car parked on the street, or something else that Kelly will either have to deal with or talk her way out of.
She wishes her mother would move to a house where she won’t worry about bad trees and bad neighbors and expensive up keep. Kelly has suggested a smaller home near Kelly and the grand kids. It would be nice with all sorts of beautiful features and a lovely garden within walking distance of Kelly’s home. The kids could visit anytime. Her mother refuses. So Kelly must hear about trees and drive to her mom’s to get the mail, and give up her Saturday fun time. Saturday fun time is important for working moms and all moms and busy women who work, and well, it is important for everyone.
She wishes she could travel and do fun things with her mother. She wishes they could talk more of things that are positive and fun – things that are not bodily functions or other unpleasant things that only bring Kelly stress.
Sometimes the heat can suck the fun out of everything. The heat of being a caretaker can do the same. It is exhausting. Especially if the caretaker has children of her own. Kelly told her kids to put her on an ice flow if she ever got to the point where she couldn’t take care of herself. She asked them to shoot her if she ever lost her sense of humor. I gave her a hug. We talked for another house about books we’ve read this summer. We agree that everyone MUST read “Beautiful Ruins.” Then she went home to spend time with her own teenage children (good friends with my kids.)
After slipping on the kitchen floor today on an unknown object and landing on my back, I lay there thinking that I’d better call The Elders. They’re ancient and sometimes don’t use the best judgement.
Eleorna and Tellias, frail and gentle, were fine. Their neighbor had brought over shaved ice flavored with basil and rosemary. God bless him. They remembered to bring their old dog in and give him plenty of water. They didn’t drive today because sometimes they forgot how to turn on the air conditioner and the sun was too bright and they had lost the keys again, so they stayed home. And they turned on the air conditioner in their beautiful 143 year old house and slept in each other’s arms like young lovers.
I’m always afraid that I’ll drop by their house and find nothing but their ashes. I’m afraid someone will take advantage of them. I’m afraid that one day they might be gone and I will have a broken heart that will never go away.