Ghosts In The Attic

In the wee hours of the morning my brother Max came over and crashed at my place. We built a comfortable room for him in the attic where he can stay whenever he finishes a job in our neck of the woods and doesn’t want to drive all the way back to the city. Plus sometimes he just likes to hang out with us.

He staggered downstairs and joined me in the kitchen where I was making coffee.

“Put a shirt on,” I told him as he stood there in nothing but a pair of draw string pajama pants.

I know he’s my eldest brother but he still needs to put a shirt on. I have four older brothers. I insist they be on their best behavior around me. Usually they are.

“You have ghosts in the attic,” he tells me, as if I haven’t already discovered it on my own.

“I know. They’re all over the place. I can’t do anything about it.”

“I don’t remember this many ghosts when we were children.”

“We lived in a new city Gold Rush boy.” Max was born in 1849 in a ship somewhere in San Francisco Bay. Now he drives an SUV and still doesn’t like ghosts. Most Vampires don’t like ghosts. They don’t care for us much either. I pretty much don’t care either way anymore.

“Damn, every time I was just about to drift off they woke me up with their whispering and horrible music,” said Max

“I’ll see what I can do for the ghosts in the attic. We rarely go up there so, anyway, I’ll put something up there to repel them, or just yell at them. They hate it when I yell at them.”

Max pushed his sleeves up and poured a cup of coffee out of the French Press. I could see the ugly scars from Demon scratches and bites.

I worry about Max but he’s a survivor. He survived the Titanic. He survived more bat shit crazy girlfriends than I can count. He survived being shot twice by Vampire Hunters. He has survived demons, angels, fallen angels, ghosts, jealous boyfriends and husbands, and all kinds of weird stuff. He survived the drama of living in three different centuries. He survived having four younger siblings who aren’t exactly serious when it comes to being Vampires. OK maybe Aaron. Aaron is serious about everything but that is a different blog post.

I glanced out the window and could see about half a dozen ghosts sitting on my back fence with black umbrellas in the rain. They watched a lone coyote walk across the meadow underneath the oak canopy. Their sad eyes looked up at me in unison. I pulled the blinds closed.

Max sat down and started to talk about his girlfriend. They talked about where they’d live after they got married. They decided to keep both of their houses, at least for now. She lived in Monterey. He lived in San Francisco. Maybe they’d get married in July. Max had a lot of questions for me. He wanted my opinion.

I listened, but kept glancing over at a small transparent ghost of a child jumping on the couch in the next room. I mouthed the words, “go away.” It stuck out it’s tongue, turned it’s eyes black and vanished.

Max look at me funny. “What are you doing?”

“Nothing. Just thinking maybe you should have the wedding in one of the art museums. Are you getting married in San Francisco?”

“I was thinking Carmel, or Monterey,” said Max.

Out the kitchen window a ghostly bride with a slit throat and a bloody white dress floated past the window. I closed that blind and poured Max more coffee.

“Either one would be beautiful,” I said as a bloody hand came up out of the garbage disposal. I turned on the water and the garbage disposal switch. The hand vanished.

“I can’t believe I’m finally doing this. A hundred and sixty nine years old and I’m finally getting married.”

“I’m so happy for you Max,” I said as I heard the faint sound of an accordion coming from the formal dining room. “Excuse me Max. I’ll be right back.”

In my dining room I found a group of five musicians and a female singer in a dress with a huge bustle and low neckline. She carried her big blue eyes in a jar and held it up so she could see me.

“We’ll do his wedding for cheap,” she said with a gap toothed smile. The band started to play Ode to Joy.

“Go away,” I said. “All of you,” I yelled. “Go away. I swear to God you all know there are only two ghosts I allow in my house, and that is on a good day. ALL of you need to leave right now our I’m finding your graves and piling them with moth balls and dog poop.”

The ghosts looked at me with fading eyes then vanished, along with their music. A glance out the window showed no signs of ghosts. I didn’t feel their presence anywhere in the house.

“Moth balls and dog poop. That’s pretty harsh baby sister.” Max had come into the room.

“Sorry Max, sometimes when it rains they gather. There are a couple of cemeteries, actually three of them on the other side of the river. I think they just get water logged, or maybe come up from the clubs that used to be along the river banks. They know I can see them. It’s kind of like dogs. They want my attention even when they aren’t mine.”

“Weird.”

“I guess. If you say it’s weird it must be weird.”

Max excused himself and went back upstairs to sleep a bit. Apparently the accordion had kept interrupting his sleep.

Back in the kitchen another man, one with shaggy black hair and a smirk on his face waited for me. “You’re not going to throw dog poop and moth balls at me are you?”

“No Nigel,” I said. “I’m not going to throw anything at you.”

He got up and poured a cup of coffee and set it on the table then sat down to smell it. “You know I only come here for the coffee.”

“Sure, and the company.”

“I’m the only ghost you like. And Mary of course. Everyone loves Mary.”

“I don’t always like you Nigel,” I said. “But you’re my ghost.”

“And you’re my Vampire,” he said.

We didn’t talk about Max and his aversion to Ghosts.

I don’t live a double life. I’m a mom. I live a triple quadruple life. Husband, kids, siblings, elders, pets, ghosts, etc… I take care of everyone.

You know how it is. Don’t we all.

“At least your closets aren’t full of skeletons,” said Nigel.

“Not too many,” I said, and poured yet another cup of coffee.

~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Short Story Sunday: The Box in Dave’s Basement

The Box in Dave’s Basement

“I was just going out for coffee,” said Austin as he looked at the carnage surrounding him.

Coffee with the crossword puzzle, and a little bit of fresh air sounded good. Then Dave, who lived three houses down called to him as he waked by, “Hey, Austin, there’s something weird in my basement. Take a look.”

Austin was both a history professor and a general contractor specializing in historic restorations, so of course he’d check it out. Dave lived in the oldest house on that street, built in 1888. It was a fantastic small Queen Anne, painted shades of blue and cream.  Dave led the way to the back of the dark space to an oblong box.

“I was measuring the room and moved away some lumber that had been here since I moved in and found this,” said Dave. “It looks like a coffin. Do you think I should call someone?”

“Let me take a look. I’ve found these before,” said Austin, taking out his penknife. He slid the knife around the edges of the box to see if there was a latch or any loose spots.

Then all Hell broke loose. Two men, dressed in long black coats, carrying guns and large knives appeared at the door.

“Hey,” yelled Dave. “Get the fuck outta here. I told you guys to stay away from my house. I’m calling 911. I warned you.” Then he turned to Austin. “The bastards were out last week. I told them…”

The men moved closer. Dave continued, “Out NOW.” Dave was a medium sized silver haired average family guy his mid fifties, with some sort of upper management job with the Department of Water Resources. His wife was wife away on a girl’s weekend. His kids were away at college. He’d been working on making the basement into the ultimate man cave over the past few weekends. He wasn’t in the mood for Vampire Hunters.

“Damn it. I said GET OUT you crazies,” Dave yelled.

“Just let us have the box,” said one of the men, a tall shaggy haired guy with some sort of unidentifiable accent.

Austin took a step forward, getting between Dave and the vampire hunters. “No can do guys. You have to go.”

The other man, a bald guy with huge shoulders pointed a gun at Austin and Dave. “Move aside gentlemen.” He then shoved them out of the way and with a swift kick popped open the box.

Inside was the perfectly preserved body of a woman in an old fashioned lace dress. She looked as though she was made of fine leather. A bunch of dried roses were in her hand.

The shaggy haired man lifted a huge wooden stake. Dave and Austin both yelled, “NO.”

Dave jumped on the back of the bald man. Austin knocked the shaggy haired man out of the way.

Suddenly a blinding flash of light and a blast of cold air knocked them to the wall. Two more men appeared at the door, also in black but without the coats. One carried a knife, and the other a whip. The smiled, showing fangs.

“Holy shit,” whispered Dave.

The vampires grabbed the men in the black coats by the scruff of their necks, like small children, and threw them back out into the sunlight. One of the vampires uttered a string of long strange sounding words, and the vampire hunters ran down the street.

The woman in the coffin sat up, and moved her head around.

“Stiff neck?” Austin asked.

She looked at him, surprised. Then she smiled with a slight show of her own fangs. “Yes, thanks for the concern. How long did I sleep?”

“From the looks of your dress, maybe ninety years,” said Austin.

“I guess I missed that party then,” she said with a slight laugh.

“This is too weird,” said Dave as he got up, and crossed the room. He turned on the overhead shop lights and got a good look at his company. “You mean to tell me you’ve been in that box for ninety years?”

The woman just blinked against the light. The two Vampires stood out of the shadows.

“Hey, Austin,” said one of them. “I thought that was you.”

“Pierce,” said Austin. “I had no idea you were a vampire. Small world. Dave, this is Pierce, he guest lectures for me sometimes on nineteenth California government issues.”

“And this is Max, he…”

“Max,” said Austin as he held out his hand. “Good to see you. Thanks for helping out.”

“Austin,” said Max.

Dave looked at the Vampires then laughed. “Pierce. I know you. You were teaching American History at UC Berkley in the late 70’s. I took a couple of classes from you. You look like you haven’t aged a day. How old are you?”

Pierce smiled and shook Dave’s hand. “I’m 171, but who’s counting.”

“I was just going out for coffee,” said Austin as he looked at the carnage surrounding him. “You’re all welcome to come.”

The woman’s name is Lily. She had a lot of catching up to do so Dave gave her a pair of jeans and a shirt out of his wife’s closet, and they all headed out for coffee.

That’s all.

This is not my bed. I don't sleep in a box.

Alright folks, this is what happens when a writer keeps trying to write a story and every five minutes someone needs something and interrupts. This is what happens when you’re a mom, and a wife, and working a business, and have parents, and neighbors. You get a story but it is more real-life, and a little dull rather than sensational. Just a normal Sunday morning that ends up with everyone meeting for coffee. Coffee is good. Almost everybody likes coffee. Most people like Vampires too but they just won’t admit it.

~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman 

Burning Question #26: Pumpkin Spice

This just might be the most controversial Burning Question to date. 

Fall is almost here. ALMOST. It is cooling off in my neck of the woods but I know September will bring out one last evil HOT SPELL despite the fact that the trees in my neighborhood are starting to turn yellow and red. I live in California so unless you live in the mountains there is a snowball’s chance in Hell we’ll have a nice crisp Autumn in September.

Along with leaves fall means HALLOWEEN, sweaters, more fur on the pets, busy little birds, and PUMPKIN SPICE.

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I almost always put cinnamon in my coffee, year around. Sometimes I add a bit of nutmeg. This week I’m adding some sugar free coconut flavor. When the weather cools down I just get lazy and buy a small container of Pumpkin Pie Spice. YES that is PUMPKIN SPICE. Some people add actual pumpkin puree to their coffee but that gets you into the gross-stuff-at-the-bottom-of-the-cup territory. And who has time for that?

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But there are those who don’t like Pumpkin Spice anything. They don’t understand. They despise the excitement and fluttery joy brought on my this mix of spices and caffeine. Seriously, is there too much Pumpkin Spice BS out there? Not just coffee but everything from muffins to air freshners to cat food.

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So where do you stand on this important issue? It is still 90 degrees Fahrenheit outside. Do you really want anything like pumpkin or are you still working on summer strawberry flavors and trying to keep cool? Or do you believe that if Pumpkin Spice is here that FALL will surely follow.

Burning Question #26: Is it ever too early for PUMPKIN SPICE?

 

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So I leave you with thoughts of nice drinks and thoughts of lovely weather and maybe that elusive, what is that called, that thing when water falls out of the sky. Oh right. Rain. It is called rain. I haven’t seen any of that since April. But I can get a Pumpkin Spice Latte.

See you next Saturday for the next Burning Question.

~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman

 

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A conversations over coffee and musings about the lives of others (or don’t trade in your soul because you can’t get it back.)

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Coffee with Vampires and Ghosts

A conversations over coffee and musings about the lives of others.

This morning I met for coffee with my brother’s friend James.

James is one of those people I find extremely obnoxious, but we have a connections through my brother Andy and through some shared experiences. We all have friends like James.

When he isn’t just hanging out with old friends, James is a psychiatrist to some pretty well known individuals. He is good at giving people ways to find normalcy in their lives. That is their normal. Everyone has his or her own normal, they just have to find it. The same goes with inner peace and contentment. James gives his patients the tools and teaches them how to use those tools to keep healthy.

As I drove to his house, through one of the more exclusive neighborhoods in the city (East Sacramento), I passed a home I’d once been in, years ago. The house belonged to a wealthy man. I’m talking insanely wealthy. A friend of mine was his executive assistant.

I was there for a party. He was lovely and friendly. I’d met him before and he remembered me. My friend adored him. He was a good man.

Unfortunately his ex-wife, his narcissistic daughter, and his psychiatrist only saw dollar signs. They poisoned him with their demands and their bad advise. It was never about him. People who cared couldn’t get through to him. The women took and took from him, stabbing out pieces of his soul until one day he killed himself.

“There is a special place in Hell for them. No, really, Jewels, the reservations have been made,” James told me as he poured me a second cup of coffee in his well-appointed kitchen.

I believed James, because like me, he is a Vampire. He lives with one foot in death’s door at times. He knows what it is like to grab up your own soul and hold it tight. For unlike Regular Humans, Vampires can’t give away or trade our souls, but sometimes there are those who try to come up from the depths of Hell and steal them away.

“And to think,” I said, “people call us ghouls.”

“They’re such hypocrites,” said James.

We had more coffee and talked about our friends, our work and books we’d read over the summer. I looked around the beautiful kitchen. Too bad not much cooking happened in it. Most Vampires don’t cook much. We do, but not much. I don’t need to explain why.

James made a lame joke about cooking and I laughed. Then he smiled with a sexy bit of fang and said, “Let’s go upstairs and fuck.”

I smiled back. “You know I’m married.” Yes, that is the reason I don’t see much of James.

“Right, you’re married to the most handsome Vampire in the world, but come down to the dark side with me this morning. Nobody will ever know. Mix it up a little.”

“Oh James,” I said, “even if I was single I’d have to say no. It isn’t going to happen. But thank you for the coffee. It was delightful.”

“At least I can try,” he said taking my hand and kissing it.

Now I’m home, taking a break from my work, sharing my morning. I’m also wondering if anyone is mourning still for the lovely man who was driven to his death by demons who took the form of friends and family.

I look at my old dog sleeping on the cool tile by my feet. I hear a hawk outside. It is a calm space where demons are not allowed. I will not let them in.

Close the door if they knock, even if they look like someone you know.

Beware those who have already traded in their souls at the expense of others.

OK everyone, have a nice day.

~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman

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I’m on the road with my handsome husband and beautiful daughter this week touring one of the colleges by the ocean in Southern California. Yes, this is the parenting part. So anyway, this is a repost from August 2015. Thanks for dropping by. I’ll tell you all about it soon.

What we’re talking about over coffee this morning.

Coffee with Vampires

Even during the holidays we try to keep daylight hours, more or less, but I sometimes have that pull of my nocturnal biology and don’t sleep. I don’t sleep anyway. Most Vampires sleep like the dead (duh) but, well, good for them.

In the wee hours of the morning of December 28, 2016, just past midnight, my house shook with the force of an earthquake. Then it shook again.

At first Teddy thought it was the dog scratching and yelled at her. I told him it was no dog. Outside of Hawthorne, Nevada, close to the California/Nevada border the earth shook not once, but twice, at 5.8 and 5.6. It was enough for us to feel it 160 miles away (as the crow flies.)

Everyone else fell asleep but I kept awake. I feel like I’m still awake. I have coffee.

This morning it was quiet, despite the crowd staying at my house. Almost everyone was asleep this morning, just before the sun came up, so I took the dog for a walk. It was cold and wet but that can’t stop a one year old German Shepard. The nose of a dog knows no limits to what it can smell. When I got home I found my brother Max in my kitchen.

He’d come in late last night. Now he was leaning against the island counter with his eyes closed and his headphones on. He was as still as stone with no obvious signs of life. I walked up to him and gently took the headphones out. I listened. Strumbellas We Don’t Know. It was fitting for Max but a surprise.

Max opened his eyes and smiled a rare dazzling Vampire smile.

“Morning. Your coffee is getting cold,” I said handing him his cup.

“Thanks.”

“Do you think your demons will be gone today?”

He shrugged. “It might take a while.”

Over the holidays Demons had infested his home in San Francisco. He went to a party and when he came back they were there tearing the place up. Like just about everything else in this universe of ours they are attracted to Max and just can’t seem to stay away. He tried to take care of the problem himself but ended up with a black gash on his arm, and a major headache. He had to call a professional and move out for a few days.

Our great great great great Grandmama Lola came in, also staying for a few days (because the kids are on break) and made tea. She has been nervous since the election and all of the right-wing religious talk. Unlike Max and I who have had relatively safe lives, all things considering, Lola has not. She is ancient and has seen those she loved strapped to poles and burned alive. She has seen our kind torn apart and beheaded for no other reason that the fact they were different.

Lola warns us and my children again that they must stay quiet and trust no one. Of course. She is right.

“Not just us, but others as well. Do not forget the lessons of history, or those of your elders,” she tells the younger generation.

I hear my kids upstairs laughing now. Garrett has that joyful sort of horse laugh that so many young men have. Clara’s laugh is deep and rich, but still the laugh of a typical teenage girl.

Lola doesn’t look much older than my two but her eyes show the centuries. Sometimes it is the same look one finds in war zones and refugee camps. It is that look that politicians and religious leaders can’t see from their high pulpits – it is a look they close their own eyes to.

But now I’m starting to sound like a schlockie Vampire novel, or something from Oprah’s Book Club. Actually, take that back, I’d love to be in Oprah’s Book Club, as an author.

My brother Val showed up, then my husband Teddy came downstairs so it was a regular party.  So much for binge watching Twilight Zone, Botched, and Leah Remini in a quiet house (where nobody knows what I’m doing.) Insomnia got me through West World, and Worst Cooks in America. I found the other three this week by accident because I just did, and I couldn’t sleep, and my brain turned off for writing, or art, or anything else.

The discussion over coffee and tea included:

  • “The Curse of Oak Island” is the fact that they aren’t going to ever find anything.
  • A guy I know is going to audition for “America’s Got Talent.”
  • We were all impressed by the movie, “Hell or High Water.”
  • Juliette only read a few books in 2016, and that is a shame. And in 2017 we’re all going to read, “The Stranger” by Albert Camus, some for the first time, and some of us again.

Just like any other family we talk about movies, silly TV stuff, and books when we get together. That is something most of us can agree on.

We also talked in length about Max’s Demon problem. I swear there must be a portal near his house, or it must be him. I think they’re attracted to him because they see him as such a powerful Vampire. He says that isn’t the case. He says we’re all powerful in our own ways, then tries to be the good uncle and tells the kids that. Val and Lola went off into a corner to discuss his new girlfriend. Teddy gave me a kiss and went off to work.

Tonight Teddy and I are going to the Kings game. It will be my first time in the new Golden 1 Arena. Woo Hoo. We’ll go to Magnolia’s (a blood bar) for dinner first. Woo Hoo. Yes, that is the Sacramento Kings (just like my name) Basketball. Woo Hoo.

Football does nothing for me but I like Baseball and Basketball. Go Kings. Go Giants. My other sport is Artistic Roller Skating. Woo Hoo.

More on all of THAT later this year.

I sat by Lola and Val, and took Lola’s hand. I wanted to tell her that it will all be alright but I said nothing, and listened to Val tell about the girl he is falling in love with.

Happy New Year again everyone.

~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman

 

Lola

Lola

 

 

Musings on Quiet Time in a Public Place (with Coffee, Rain, Math and Vampires)

Saturday means coffee, and math. My seventeen year old daughter Clara meets with a friend at a local coffee place to figure out math. I write and wait for things to happen.

It is Saturday so I check other blogs like Evil Squirrels Nest (Saturday Squirrel), The Secret Keeper (Vincent Van Gough), and J Mounts Written In Blood (Saturday Short Film). Every Saturday. Every single Saturday. Hey, even unscheduled scattered Vampires like me have our routines.

It is a place where they roast their own coffee. My daughter was able to smell the ground beans before her drinks was made. Two men sit at a table next to me. One is working a crossword on his iPad, the other is doing the crossword on paper. They’re talking like old friends do.

The Coffee Works is a block from my husband’s business, and not far from my brother Aaron’s house. Even in the pouring rain people come in and out. They gather here for warm drinks and good karma.

A few minutes ago I saw Austin Durant, Aaron’s friend. I guess I could say he is my friend too. He is a Vampire Hunter, but not of my kind. He rids buildings of the dried up creatures who sleep under floorboards and between walls. They’re the dusty husks of people who have since moved on into the light, with only their confused and hungry bodies remaining. Anyway, Austin also teaches history the local university, and restores old buildings.

I saw Austin in line and waved. He gave me a smile and headed over to my table after he got coffee.

“A lot of Vampires are out today,” he said, looking around. There were about five of us in the place, but nobody but the Vampires, Austin and I knew it. “How are you Juliette?”

“Good. Clara is meeting with a friend. They’re doing math stuff. I’m just writing. You know Vampires and coffee.”

We chatted a bit more, you know, the usual small talk. Then when he said he had to go I said, “be careful out there.” He knew I wasn’t just talking about the traffic.

But traffic is bad. I live in a place where it hardly rains. Now it is pouring and will pour for the next week. Since we’ve had a drought forever nobody knows how to drive in the rain. Still, I love the rain. I love sitting next to a window and reading or writing.

As I was rummaging through my computer bag my brother Aaron pulled up a chair next to me at my table.

It was great to see him. He is usually so formal and serious, but today he was in jeans, with a flannel shirt, and his hair sort of messed up with the wind and rain. He invited me over for Christmas evening festivities. We made no jokes about him being both a Vampire and an attorney. We didn’t even talk about being Vampires, just like we didn’t talk about a lot of things that would interest others if they imagined Vampire siblings talking over coffee on a Saturday morning. We just talked about our families, Christmas lights, our dogs, and books. Aaron and I always get to books.

After Aaron left, Clara was still working on the math. I find myself, no, take that back – I allow myself to think of what I will write next, and what I will draw next. There are so many things I need to tie up, that get in the way of what I need to do.

I wonder about my husband Teddy down in the Delta today selling a yellow Porsche from the late 50’s. It is a beautiful car but it is time to find it a new home. I watch as two guys roll a recycle bin down the sidewalk. There are fewer cars than normal, and almost nobody on the usual busy sidewalks. I hear the people at the table behind me. There is another woman named Juliette. I wonder what her blood type is. Hey, I’m a Vampire. I think about those things. I can’t help it.

On the way here Clara and I talked in the car about how toddlers are like dogs. They try to understand but they just don’t always get it. We laughed about how toddlers will go stiff as a board if they are put somewhere they don’t want to sit, or are picked up when they don’t want to be picked up.

It is those random thoughts and memories that are sometimes more important than the big things going on in the outside world.

I told Clara that people keep asking me, “What will you do when she goes off to college. You’re so close. How will you manage?” They never ask is Clara will manage, because everyone knows she’ll do great.

Clara said, “It isn’t like I’m going to suddenly not want to be around you or Dad.”

We’ll always be close. We’ll call. We’ll text. We’ll know that we are always part of each other.

I’m now sharing my table with a senior couple who came in for coffee. They just left, but I’m glad to share. Someone else took one of the chairs. I’m glad to share. I’m glad to see so many people in this place who are part of each other. They’re also part of the community we all belong in. There is a small old man with a Santa beard. There are students and study groups (not just my child), there are young and old people together. After over an hour the old guys are still working on their puzzles and talking by the window.

Hey, I see my friend Adam, photographer, and Werewolf coming in. I motion for him to come sit with me. Alright. Have a good Saturday everyone. Adam and I will have more coffee and I’ll treat him to a berry scone. Hey, Werewolves like scones. My dog likes scones.

I’ll be posting a few Christmas stories later today. Have fun and keep checking back.

~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman