Short Story Sunday: Shrine


I remembered how Katrina Olson yelled out at Craig’s funeral, “I hope the Devil enjoyed his barbecue.”

Jeanee Kinley, Craig’s fiancé, started to howl like a cat in a car, tears pouring down her pretty face, as her nose grew redder and redder.

At that point a couple of big guys, maybe fraternity brothers, hauled Katrina out of the church.

I sat looking straight ahead at the casket, all covered with white flowers. I thought about Craig and the time we’d spent together. Part of me wanted to tell perfect Miss Jeanee Kinley that her Craig had never been faithful to her. I wanted to tell her about all of the women Craig had considered his conquests, even after they’d become engaged.

That was forty years ago. We were in our early twenties, ready to face the world with our hopes and dreams.

The casket was closed due to the unpleasant way Craig had died. He’d burned to death. His body was found in the passenger seat of his 1981 Corvette. A lighter was in one hand, a cigarette in another, the door was open, and a charred gas can was next to the driver’s side door. He’d gone up in flames but nobody knew how or why. The back of his skull had been cracked with a blunt object but not enough to kill him. There were also scratch marks on his shoulders. Since he was sitting against the seat his back was spared from the flames that engulfed the front side of his body and most of the car. His handsome face and lush chestnut brown hair had been completely burned off.

I can’t imagine a more horrible way to die.

On the floor driver side floor of the car a delicate silver chain with a tiny bird pendant was found. It had been broken, as if torn off of it’s wearer. Nobody knew who it had belonged to. Jeanee said it wasn’t hers. She’d been in Los Angeles with her mom at some spa. Craig had died in Northern California near the UC Davis campus.

That is where we’d all gone to college.

I thought about Craig and my college days as I drove along the backroads through tomato fields and almond orchards.

My bag was packed with everything needed to our get together. I brought the charcoal and beer. Fresh made brownies were in a bag, still warm from my oven.

When I arrived at the abandoned farm buildings off the side of the road I saw I wasn’t the first one there. Karen, Katrina, and Lydia had also shown up. Greta pulled up in her orange truck right behind me. Several other women waited around a fire this cool summer evening.

Nine women ranging in age from fifty eight to sixty four stood around the fire, building a shrine for Craig. Our friends Dan and Rick were there too, now with white hair, and no hair respectively.

Barbecue sauce, rib rub, garlic bread, lighter fluid, baked beans, and beer surrounded the fire. This was going to be good.

We all talked and caught up as we did every year at this time. We’d done well, despite our misspent youth. We’d grown up to be a college professor, an attorney, a retired Navy officer, a librarian, a museum curator, a high school principal, an antiques dealer, a furniture builder, and other professions that would have baffled us when we where in college.

Dan mentioned how Craig had just finished his first year of law school. Some of the women talked about their experiences with Craig. We all opened drinks, poured shots and glasses of wine and prepared for a toast.

Karen placed a photo of Craig on a holder, kind of on a long stick. Dan placed a model of a 81 Corvette down by the fire.

We lifted our glasses and bottles to a toast. “To Craig, law student, roommate, fellow student, and rapist.”

Then I lit the photograph on fire and we drank, and then had dinner. The Devil’s Barbecue and a fitting shrine for Craig.

I remember that night as I stood bloodied and torn as he laughed in my face just before he lit his cigarette.

My wrists burned from the twist ties he’d put on me so I couldn’t get away from him. Later that night I’d hit him in the head with a lamp, then in a panic agreed to drive him to the hospital. I poured gasoline all over the car and threatened to light a match so he wouldn’t attack and rape me again. Then out in the middle of the farmland I pulled over. I don’t know why, but I stopped. I’d walk home rather than get help for him. He could drive himself to the hospital. He got out of the car and lit a cigarette. I told him to stop. I told him to STOP. I told him to put his lighter away. I begged him. He laughed again and called me a whore as blood ran down my leg and I watched him burst into flames.

I never told anyone it was me. Not a soul.

I looked into the fire fingering my necklace; a small silver bird on a delicate chain, a replacement for the one I’d lost. The yearly shrine to Craig burned bright in the summer night as we all looked on knowing justice was served.

“I love you all,” I said as I looked into the faces of Craig’s victims and their friends.

“We love you too,” said Katrina. Then we did a big group hug. It was nice. Super nice.

Then we grilled some pork ribs, ate our salads and my brownies, and caught up. Most of us talked about our kids, our dogs, and just all sorts of good things about our lives.

Life is good. Yes, it is.

~ end

Tangled Tales

~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman







Vampire University

victorian dudes


 “I had no idea your Uncle Max was a Vampire,” my husband Teddy said when he spoke of his college days with my brother Max.

In late September my 18-year-old Garrett and his best friend Randy will be moving 400 miles away – almost seven hours away. It doesn’t seem that far since he’ll still be in the same state. There is an airport too.

The boys are already looking around Target and planning what they’ll bring. I’m telling Garrett not to bring too much. He doesn’t want to have to haul stuff around. He can get things he needs when he gets there. In the dorms he won’t need much. He can bring is guitar and portable keyboard for big items. Thanks goodness it isn’t like years ago when record collections took up an entire car trunk. Still, I can understand the need to bring a few things from home along with the new.

dorm stuff

I think back when my eldest brother went off to school. We didn’t have a Target. I can’t even imagine my mother taking Max out to buy sheets and lamps and storage bins. I can’t imagine him picking out frames for pictures and throw pillows. Max has good taste but it wasn’t on his mind back then. It was 1868 and Max is far more of the dark brooding Vampire than Garrett or Randy (especially surfer dude California boy Randy) will ever be.

My husband Teddy was Max’s best friend and his college roommate. Teddy studied history and philosophy. Max studied science and law. They were both brilliant students, but still young men – younger than they wanted others to think they were.

Teddy was telling our kids about when he was in college, sharing a room with a Vampire. Only he didn’t know his best friend, the boy he’d grown up with, was a Vampire. He didn’t even know what a Vampire was. This was 8 or 9 years before he became one of us (a Vampire.)

Honest to God, he’d grown up human with us all and had no idea why we were so different. He just thought my parents were charming people who were sensitive to the light. He had no idea at all. Even with my brothers. He just thought we were sort of weird and kind of exciting and a lot of fun. We were fun. We’re still fun. But we’re Vampires, something we learned at an early age not to tell anyone.

Anyway… back to college.

Teddy and Max rented rooms in a house belonging to a family friend. They had a large sitting room, a study and two bedrooms. It was pretty lavish for students. The house was owned by Vampires so my parents thought it would be safe for Max.  It was safe for Teddy and his friends as well.

Max would vanish and go out all night without a word. He’d come home in the morning and sleep all day, but always managing to be up for lectures.

On morning he checked in on Max only to find him sitting on the edge of his bed without his shirt. Next to him was a girl wearing Max’s shirt. She looked up at Teddy with eyes the color of the sea and skin as pale as the moonlight. Teddy left slamming the door behind him. Max followed him out, not too pleased his privacy had been invaded.

“She doesn’t mean anything,” Max said.

“Did you pay for her?”

“Of course not Teddy. What sort of man do you take me for?”

“Why would she consent?”

“Because it feels good.”

Of course Teddy was shocked. Simply shocked that Maxwell would bring a girl back to his room and then… well, take their clothing off and enjoy each others company without marriage or any kind of serious relationship.

Teddy was perplexed by his friend Max. “Where are her parents? Who is her family? Hasn’t she any shame?”

“She doesn’t feel shame, not in the way girls you know feel shame. She isn’t like the girls you know. She is different. Our society, I mean her society is different that yours…ours. You wouldn’t understand. Theodore, she is not a whore or a slut. She is my friend. We’re alike in so many ways. Ways you can’t imagine.”

“Are you going to marry her?”

“Oh Teddy, don’t be simple-minded. No, of course not.”

“Maxwell, what has happened to you?”

“Nothing has happened to me. This conversation is over Theodore.”

Of course Teddy didn’t understand. Of course the girl was a Vampire and it didn’t matter that Max was using her, at least to Max. Vampire girls were not like the girls Teddy knew. Vampire girls for the most part were not like the one Max kept at his beck and call. Max still keeps them at his beck and call.




The girl came back from time to time. Mostly Max came back smelling of her perfume of roses and hyacinth.

When Teddy saw her dressed, the girl was charming and cultured. Her fashions were tasteful as if she came from a good family with wealth. Then she vanished. Max didn’t explain.

Max of course had a different version of the story. Teddy was acting like a child but that was to be expected, after all he wasn’t a Vampire, he was a Regular Human. It was frustrating and as much as he loved Teddy he thought his privacy was being invaded. He had no idea that Teddy’s views on women were so unlike his. They’d talked about women but never in detail about what one does with a girl after a kiss. One does a lot after a kiss – or so was the thinking in Max’s Vampire mind, but Teddy was of a different world. Besides, she was a Vampire and a student, not some little innocent hot-house flower or a whore.

A few months ago we were at Max’s house and Teddy mentioned that he smelled the faint scent of roses and hyacinth. She was back, in and out of Max’s life after all these years. Teddy and the girl had become friends over the years. She’d helped him after he unwittingly because a Vampire, but that is another post.

But back to college…from time to time Max would have other visitors, students that Teddy saw but never socialized much with. They were friendly but odd in a way he couldn’t put his finger on. Of course later he’d learn why they were different.

Teddy’s friends would stay up all night in loud conversations about life and love and everything that would be on the mind of a young man. Sometimes Max would join along but he’d rarely bring his quiet mysterious friends to these late night events. The times Max’s friends showed up they were polite, cultured and brilliant. Sometimes even a little too polite. They listened and were quick to smile their sly quiet smiles.

Teddy and Max would be invited to balls but Max’s girl would never show up. None the less, Teddy and Max would have their dance cards full with waiting lists from women of all ages. Both were charming and good dancers. But again, Max would vanish for hours on end and always return to sleep for hours.

Aside from late night discussions, girls and dances Teddy talked about the horrible pranks. I’ve warned my son Garrett about pranks. Don’t do it. Small pranks are OK but don’t be mean or overly crude or damage either property or reputations.

Some of the 19th century college pranks included:

  • Wagons would be disassembled and rebuilt on top of buildings or in lecture halls.
  • Young men would wake in the morning dressed as women. They’d also end up with half a mustache or eyebrows gone.
  • Animals would be brought into rooms, especially goats, chickens and sheep.
  • I read that in one college in Ohio students would heat up dumb bells and drop them down stairs. At the sound to the thumping an unsuspecting professor would pick up the hot noise makers and burn himself. That isn’t a prank. That is just mean.

The small community of Vampire students never participated. They stood by and watched, sometimes smiling, but never risked being caught. They had other things to do during the night like getting blood out of their classmates or young ladies who lived near by.

Even now small cars and bicycles end up in odd places like on the tops of buildings. Duct tape, Sharpies, aluminum foil, plastic wrap and post-it notes are all popular items to prank with. I’ve heard of several cases of cars or dorm room doors being covered with Maxi Pads (the kind with the adhesive on the back). Most pranks are just mean and not really funny once it is done. Maybe at one time I would have thought differently, but the mean part always bothers me.

Like I said, Vampire students don’t participate in such things. It isn’t as if they don’t have a sense of humor. They just aren’t into that kind of “humor.”

Garrett and Randy are so easy-going that I think they’ll fit in and nobody will suspect anything different about them. Add to that the fact that they’re charming and cute and funny. They won’t have to even leave their dorm for midnight snacks.

As for girls in the room… I hope they both have more discretion and class than Max did. Since they’re both such romantics, especially Garrett I think they’ll be fine. Well, I hope they’ll be fine and I hope smart enough not to get their hearts broken in a zillion tiny pieces.

As for other students, they’ll meet other Vampires as well as students from all over the country and world. Most will be from California but they’ll be from diverse backgrounds including veterans.

Teddy and Max, and my brother Andrew all went to the University with Veterans of the Civil War. It was a different time but some things always seem to stay the same. Young men go off to war and the ones who don’t die come back and start their lives over.

I’m excited for Garrett. There is so much to do we’re just all on auto pilot.

He’ll be an adult for real and a Vampire man, not just a boy who happens to be a Vampire. I’ve raised him right so it is time to let him go out into the night on his own. I’m sure he is ready. I’m just not sure that I’m ready.

Oh well. Just sort of thinking out loud. I’ll miss nights when we’re all on the couch watching stupid stuff like Sharknado 2 – The Second One and switching to America’s Got Talent and laughing so hard we can hardly stand it. Everyone is talking. Two of us have our computers. Someone is doing dance moves for no reason. We’re all laughing more. Friends and family and fun and a lot of love. 

~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman



mystery butterfly