Tangled Tales: Ashes

“I want my ashes scattered in San Francisco Bay,” said my sister Roxanne.

“Do you know how many bodies are dumped in San Francisco Bay every year? You’ll be down there with Laci Peterson’s head,” said Phil.

Jeremy looked shocked. “What?” I don’t know why Jeremy looks shocked at anything Phil says anymore.

“You’re disgusting Phil,” I said. “Why do you even say shit like that?”

Phil didn’t answer. He never did when I called him out about his inappropriate comments.

We kept hiking along the winding path towards the beach, a gray haired foursome of two men and two women. My brothers Phil and Jeremy, and my sister Roxanne and I were finally going to scatter our parent’s ashes.

For years Mom had kept Dad’s ashes in a box in the back of her closet, along with the ashes of our two family dogs Weimar and Clyde. Mom had been gone for two years so it was time.

At 62 I was the youngest. Jeremy was the eldest at 70, with Phil and Roxanne being somewhere in between. We’d spent a lifetime hiking with our parents, each other, then spouses, siblings, children, and grandchildren.

Our family wasn’t one for milestones. Nobody was buried in the ground. Ashes were kept closets or scattered bits at a time on vacations over shots of bourbon. Memorial services were casual. Weddings and major holidays were also hit or mis. The only thing nobody missed were graduations. We were big on education. The one thing we did manage to do was our twice a year all-four-siblings trips to the beach house, which now belonged to me.

As a child we’d camped, but then rented the same beach house year after year. It was in a wooded area with a short path to the beach with a mix of pine and cypress trees. My husband and I purchased the house right after we got married. Our children grew up going there, and we let everyone in the family have time on the calendar.

It was down past the estuary, along the dunes, past the tide pools, and a climb down to the isolated beach that was my parent’s favorite spot.

As we saw our parent’s favorite beach from the trail Phil made one of his uncalled for announcements. “This is where Jeremy was conceived. That is why he was always mom’s favorite. When we were kids they’d come here at night to be alone and fuck like rabbits.”

“Jesus Christ,” said Jeremy.

“Jesus isn’t here Jeremy,” said Phil. “I don’t know what the big deal was about this place. It is cold and hard to get to and it smells like seagull shit. It is like Trump hotel. It touts luxury and uniqueness but it is no better than a best western at quadruple the price with room service that taste like generic freezer burned frozen entrees at best.”

“Shut up Phil,” I said.

“I told you we should have never brought him along,” said Roxanna. “Phil always ruins everything.”

“I ruin everything? Oh Roxy, you are so full of shit. Who was having a boob job when our mother died??”

“It was breast reconstruction surgery after my cancer asshole. Don’t twist things around. I didn’t know Mom was going to die. None of us knew. I was in surgery when we got the call.” Roxanna said. She stood looking like a silver haired goddess ready to strike Phil dead with lightning bolts out of her eyes.

Phil stepped closer to our sister. “You’re so vain. Maybe that song was written about you Roxy. Did you ever think about that? Or were you afraid Chet would leave you for someone else if you didn’t have a full rack?”

Roxanna jumped at Phil with her fist balled up going towards his face. He grabbed her by the wrist and forced her onto one knee. She swung around and hit him in the head with her backpack.

Then it happened. Her pack exploded. Dad’s ashes covered Phil. He looked like he’d just crawled out of a volcano.

Jeremy and I stood in shock. Roxanna sat on the sand, face in her hands and started to cry.

Phil gave a whooping war cry and laughed. “I always told you that Dad had me covered,” he yelled. Then he ran into the surf and dove out into the crashing waves.

After about a half an hour I hiked back up to the beach house and called the police for a rescue crew to help find Phil. Jeremy and Roxanna stayed at the beach.

Phil’s body was never found. He was sixty three. His wife Jenny didn’t seem surprised when we told her what had happened. She said she had expected him to die years ago. Jenny was Phil’s 5th wife. He didn’t have any children, thank goodness. A few weeks later Jenny said she was moving back in with there ex-husband and Jeremy took Phil’s old golden retriever Shasta. Despite Phil being such an asshole Shasta was a remarkably sweet and well behaved dog.

The day after Phil presumably drowned we put Mom’s ashes, and the ashes of her dogs into the water. As we watched the sun set over the Pacific Ocean we sang Amazing Grace together.

Later this summer, when maybe the social distancing isn’t so much of an issue, Jeremy, Roxanna, and I will meet again at the beach house with our spouses and our children who are able to make it. We haven’t decided if we are going to tell our kids what happened on the beach.

We didn’t have a memorial service for Phil, blaming it on social distancing. In a normal year I doubt if we would have done anything for him. Maybe his asshole friends or one of his ex-wives might do something. I’ll skip it.

Despite all of the crap Phil always put us through part of me still loves him. Not much. I didn’t say it was a big part. I just remember when we were kids all running down the path to the beach laughing together. Phil was always saying funny things. Only later I realized that he didn’t always mean to be funny. He just didn’t have any filters. Or maybe he was just born a mean spirited jerk. I don’t know. I guess it doesn’t really matter.

I decided it was time to remodel the cabin. I took down the old paintings and stuff Mom had picked out. New furniture was due for delivery. The lumpy old mattresses and hard pillows were thrown into a dumpster with the worn out rugs and pitted yellow kitchen cabinets. I wanted everything to be clean and fresh.

On the bookshelf I arranged a display of family photos going back to our parent’s honeymoon on the beach to last year after Roxanne’s daughter Elizabeth had gotten married in the small beach house backyard. I picked up a photo of Phil, taken when he was younger, just out of graduate school. He stood on the beach looking happy with his long brown hair blowing in the wind. I took the image out of the frame, lit a match and burned it in the fireplace. That would be my memorial to Phil, and the final resting place of his ashes.

“So long Phil,” I whispered. “Rest in peace, and may your spirit stay the hell away from here.”

 

~ end

 

Tangled Tales

 

~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman

 

©June 2020 Juliette Kings / Marla Todd

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tangled Tales: Permission to Mourn

Druce the Warlock was missing his friend Morcant the Selkie.

Druce was missing a lot of old friends as he stayed at home like everyone else. He’d stopped listening to the daily updates from Governor Newsom. The only thing he’d look at was the map of where the virus had hit the hardest, and the grim numbers. In other centuries it might not have been so unusual but it would have still been bad. People would still be mourning the loss of those they loved, staying at home, and waiting for the unknown darkness to end.

He’d driven a hard bargain so that he wouldn’t suffer an early death. That was almost two thousand years ago. Back in the 5th Century he couldn’t have imagined in his wildest Warlock dreams what the future would hold, especially not the the 21st Century.

Morcant, with his quick smile, and unending charm, had succumbed to old age years ago. Even a Selkie who was both from the land and the sea, and lived longer than most Earth creatures couldn’t live forever.

The banshee Milen has a sore throat. She’d been watching. Watching and waiting. She was also weary.

She go out with her red hair, gray cloak, pale skin, white dress, in the tradition of Irish Banshees. When she was especially animated or in the throes of passion he could still hear the Irish in her voice.

Tonight her red hair was loose down her back, her skin was pale, but she wore sweat pants and leggings. For the rest of the night she’d be in a physical form.

He’d met them all. Assorted reapers, vampires, spirits, demons, witches, wizards, and every assorted freak and keeper of magic and wonder and wickedness. He thought more of wonder, as in good things, about those who inhabited the places most people could not see or feel.

Milen took a sip of wine from a crystal goblet and gave Druce a sad look. “Is there anything you can do, or conjure up from the spirit world to make this virus go away?”

“Darling, I can’t do anything about a virus. I can make someone fall in love, or make a night sky light up with sparks, but I can’t stop a virus.”

“Odd that something so small can cause so much harm.”

“Our bodies, well, not our bodies, but living beings are made up of tiny particles and then attacked by tiny particles. Those particles don’t care who you are or how much power you hold. They don’t follow a god, or any rules of conduct, or care who lives or dies. They just are. You just have to stay home and wash your hands a lot.”

Druce tended to be a positive person for a Warlock. He always looked on the bright side of life.

“How are you holding up Milen?”

“Alright I suppose. It could be worse. I could be in New York, or elsewhere on the East Coast. I have friends who were in Italy and China.”

She rolled her shoulders then leaned back on the couch. “I give people permission to mourn. I give them warning. I settle their grief.”

Taking her hand Druce sat next to her. “You are not to be feared.”

“I warn them and let them know that bonds are about to be broken, not by screams but by sinking feelings in their stomachs and the sense that they are about to have their souls emptied out. I used to just scream, but that doesn’t work anymore, it just makes something think a violent crime is being committed. So it is just a silent scream now, not just for those who have a virus but for all of those who are sick, in accidents, fall by the hands of others, or take their own lives.”

Putting her head on Druce’s shoulder she sighed and closed her eyes. He stroked her hair, then she turned her head and kissed him.

In the morning she was gone. The sweatshirt and leggings were neatly folded and placed on the top of his dresser. Bruce went online and ordered pastries, crepes, and coffee from the local bakery. He’d put on his face mask and go pick them up. He missed the mornings when he could meet friends outside and talk for hours over coffee and the best croissants outside of France. Maybe they were better than anything in France.

He thought of so long ago, the day he and his friend Morcant met Merlin the Wizard for the first time. As always Druce had baked his famous seed bread. It was Morcant’s favorite. It had been centuries since he’d baked his seed bread in an outside wood stove. Maybe later he’d bake some in his modern kitchen, that is if he could find the ingredients. It had been two weeks since he’d gone to the store. Maybe today he’d take his changes and go out. He wouldn’t get sick enough to die, but he had to make sure he couldn’t accidentally get anyone else sick.

He could give you sweet dreams or nightmares, or bring good fortune or sadness, but he refused to bring illness to those who were innocent.

It was a beautiful day with the sun shining and the trees full of tiny song birds. He got out a face mask, put his reusable bags in the trunk of his car, and headed to the store.

Things were bad, but in some ways, in most ways, things had never been better.

 

Druce’s Seed Muffins

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F

2 cups whole wheat flour (you may use 1/2 white flour if you prefer)

2 1/2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

1 tsp cinnamon

Zest from 1 lemon or orange (optional)

1 egg beaten

1/2 cup canola oil or melted butter (if you use butter a half oil half butter mix works best)

1/3 cup honey or molasses

1 1/2 cup milk

1/4 cup toasted sunflower seeds,

1/4 cup toasted walnuts

Combine dry ingredients. Fold in wed ingredients with as few strokes as pollible, bust until the flour is moistened, leaving a few lumps. Spoon into greased muffin tins, or use paper muffin cup liners.

Bake for 15 minutes or until a toothpick stuck into the muffin comes out clean.

As an option sprinkle the tops of muffins with white sugar before baking.

You may also exchange the seeds in this recipe for any of your favorite seeds or nuts.

~end

 

Tangled Tales

~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman

 

 

Passings in the Night

Passings in the Night

The plan tonight was to share some Vampire tales and adventures and truly funny things, but plans change.

Tonight I saw The Ghost, Nigel. He wore an impeccable black suit, his hair was a perfect glossy black and all in place. He motioned for me to sit with him out on my back deck under the cold night sky.

His eyes met mine and he told me a story.

“I died December 3, 1986. I normally wouldn’t have remembered the anniversary of my own death, but, it was the strangest thing, I was standing out in the woods, not doing much of anything. When you’re a ghost you don’t do much of anything. Anyway, I was out in the woods and a woman came towards me. She was smiling at me and I knew things about her. Her life had taken up where parts of mine had stopped. Then her life stopped December 3, 2013.

She looked at me for just a moment in passing. It was dark but I could see the light coming over the horizon. She asked me who I was and if we knew each other. I told her “I don’t know you, but we’ve loved some of the same people.” I turned her in the right direction.”

Nigel stood up and looked up at the stars, hovering in and out of a transparent state. Then he came close to me and made himself look as real as a live person.

“I couldn’t go with her. But I sent a little bit of my love along, I hope. Well, I know I did. Don’t look all sad. I’m a ghost. These things happen. Hey, nobody should die alone. She left surrounded by love.”

“Who was she?” I had to ask.

He shook his head slightly. “I don’t know. But we loved the same people, just not at the same time. I loved them first, then she loved them after I was gone. I have a feeling she was better at it than I was, or most people for that matter.”

There were so many questions I wanted to ask him but tonight was not the time to ask or to try to get answers.

Love is a force that we can’t explain or quantify. It goes beyond worlds, beyond sorrow and beyond grief.

 

~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman

First posted December 2013 – In memory of Julian Elsworth and Lil Longshore.

 

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Death is in my garbage can

I see ghosts. Of course I do, because I’m a Vampire.

That said, I have never seen the ghost of a wild animal or at least that of a wild creature who met death in my yard.

Yesterday my lovely delicate little light as air calico cat grabbed a squirrel by the neck, almost decorated it, then at out the heart, lungs, liver, and whatever else was above the intestines.

I found the bloodied squirrel spread eagle, gutted, with tiny white ribs exposed to the sunlight. Not a drop of blood was on the cat.

I only mention this because whenever I have found a dead animal in my yard I feel unease. I don’t know what to do with them so I put them in the garbage can. Then every single time I have to go out to the garbage can in the side yard I know a body is in the bottom of it.

The largest animal was a huge male turkey who was dead on the ground underneath a broken tree branch in my front yard. A female turkey walked around him feeding on whatever she could find in my flower beds. Think of the largest Thanksgiving turkey and add about ten pounds to it. That was the dead turkey in my yard.

It died on garbage day. For a week two turkey feet stuck up almost to the top of the garbage can, a reminder to me every time I took something out to the trash that life is a frail thing indeed.

Another time I found a beautiful dead little squirrel in my front yard, still warm from a fall. I scooped it up and wrapped it carefully in a bag and put it in the garbage can.

Birds, snakes, squirrels, and turkeys all go in the can. My house is built upon rocks so digging is out of the question. And if I did bury an animal in my yard by the next morning another animal would have dug it up, no matter how many rocks I put over the hole.

Anyway, there is something uneasy about having the body of an animal, not food, but just an animal who visited my home come to a violent death and end up spending a week with me (or until the next garbage day.)

I do not see their ghosts. I do not hear tiny animal banshee voices in the wind. All that is left is fur and feathers.

This is an unreasonable discomfort of mine, but anyway… it is what it is.

You’d think as a Vampire I wouldn’t care, but finding a tiny warm squirrel in my yard, with no life in it’s tiny body is just so sad. A rat, not sad at all. A turkey – not that is just weird because they are so darned big. With smaller birds all that I ever find left are feathers and maybe a random foot. You can ask my cat about that. Luckily it has been years since I’ve had to deal with dead possums or skunks. I don’t know what I’d do if I found a coyote, a raccoon, or heaven forbid a bobcat or a mountain lion dead in my yard.

Garbage day won’t come soon enough. It is Friday and death is in my garbage can.

~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman

 

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Passings In The Night

Passings in the Night

The plan tonight was to share some Vampire tales and adventures and truly funny things, but plans change.

Tonight I saw The Ghost, Nigel. He wore an impeccable black suit, his hair was a perfect glossy black and all in place. He motioned for me to sit with him out on my back deck under the cold night sky.

His eyes met mine and he told me a story.

“I died December 3, 1986. I normally wouldn’t have remembered the anniversary of my own death, but, it was the strangest thing, I was standing out in the woods, not doing much of anything. When you’re a ghost you don’t do much of anything. Anyway, I was out in the woods and a woman came towards me. She was smiling at me and I knew things about her. Her life had taken up where parts of mine had stopped. Then her life stopped December 3, 2013.

She looked at me for just a moment in passing. It was dark but I could see the light coming over the horizon. She asked me who I was and if we knew each other. I told her “I don’t know you, but we’ve loved some of the same people.” I turned her in the right direction.”

Nigel stood up and looked up at the stars, hovering in and out of a transparent state. Then he came close to me and made himself look as real as a live person.

“I couldn’t go with her. But I sent a little bit of my love along, I hope. Well, I know I did. Don’t look all sad. I’m a ghost. These things happen. Hey, nobody should die alone. She left surrounded by love.”

“Who was she?” I had to ask.

He shook his head slightly. “I don’t know. But we loved the same people, just not at the same time. I loved them first, then she loved them after I was gone. I have a feeling she was better at it than I was, or most people for that matter.”

There were so many questions I wanted to ask him but tonight was not the time to ask or to try to get answers.

Love is a force that we can’t explain or quantify. It goes beyond worlds, beyond sorrow and beyond grief.

~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman

First posted December 2013 – In memory of Julian Elsworth and Lil Longshore.

City of the Angels Part 2: Beauty in the land of the dead

Last Thursday I visited the city of Colma, where almost everyone is dead. Seriously, over a million graves are there with less than 2,000 living in residence. There are no cemeteries in San Francisco – they were all moved to Colma. People and pets are still buried there to this day.

The photos were taken by my friend Amelia who joined Clara and I for the day. Thank you Amelia. These are lovely.

Click here for Part 1.

~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman

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