Short Story Sunday: A Ray of Hope (a Thanksgiving Story)

Thanksgiving is in Tahoe this year. My husband Justin’s family has a large beach front cabin. It is a 5,000 square foot cabin and two other smaller A frames within walking distance. Yes, they’re insanely rich, at least to me. They’re also incredible loving and giving and have taken me into their family as one of their own.

My mom left when I was five, taking my twin baby brother and sister with her. Dad said she said she was bored with her life. Bored with my dad and bored with me. I only saw her once after that. She’d poisoned the minds of my siblings by telling them that my dad was abusive. Her new husband gladly went along and encouraged it. My brother is now a successful motivational speaker. My sister is a teacher. I don’t talk to them. They don’t want to talk to me, but they like to talk about me, or somebody they say is me. I don’t care anymore.

When I was growing up Thanksgiving were small, like my grandparent’s two bedroom house – Just my dad, Grandpa and Grammy, and Uncle Ray. We’d gather around the kitchen table in Grammy’s kitchen and have a feast on old chairs covered with yellow vinyl. The table would be covered with turkey, green bean casserole, jellied cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes and sweet potatoes with little marshmallows browned on top. Everything except the turkey came out of a can except the wine. The wine was from a box with ice cubes. It was great.

Uncle Ray lived with Grandpa and Grammy. He believed that at the age of 15 he was abducted by aliens and taken for a blinding fast tour of the universe and Planet X. Ray believed that Jesus was protecting bigfoot, unicorns and other rarely seen creatures so that when mankind finally killed itself off that those were the creatures who would rule the earth. A great gray wolf would lead dwarves and elves out from their underground kingdoms to live in peace. Aliens from space would set up trade routes to earth and help the new found order prosper.

Despite his weirdness Uncle Ray was accepted into UC Berkley and managed to obtain a degree in Political Science. With his knowledge of politics he began working on his plan for a new world order he’d build along with Jesus and the Bigfoots and elves.

Yes, Uncle Ray was nuts but I adored him. My dad protected him. My grandparents accepted him. The university where he occasionally taught a course tolerated him. He never married so I was the only child there for the holidays.

At night a few hours after pie and watching “Meet Me in St. Louis”, Ray and I would go outside. He’d grab a turkey leg and I’d take a wing. We’d munch on our turkey while Ray pointed out constellations and tell me about his time with the aliens and his love for Jesus.

Ray would always take my hand and solemnly tell me, “Jenna, what I’m telling you is real. I’m not crazy.” Then we’d go inside and have turkey races with some funky wind-up toys my Grandpa got for us. We’d laugh until our sides hurt.

My grandparents and Ray are gone now. Grandpa died in his sleep the year I graduated from college. Grammy had a stroke a few months later while at a prayer group. Three years ago Ray went hiking in Death Valley one spring and vanished. The rangers found his backpack, hiking boots and an empty water bottle. There was a note that said, “Tell Jenna that I love her.”

I still have the note.

Thanksgiving with my family was never fancy or exciting but I knew I was loved.

Right after I graduated away from college my dad remarried. I met my husband Justin and Thanksgiving dishes no longer involved food from cans or vinyl chairs.

This year dad and his wife Gracie went to Montana to visit friends for Thanksgiving. I knew I’d miss them but wished them a good time.

As Justin and I drove up into the mountains I thought about Ray as I looked out the car at the forests. Over the river and through the woods… When I was 16 Ray and I would drive up to the mountains to see the stars. I’d drive. He never learned how. In the cool summer nights we’d stand in a clearing at 8,000 feet and watch the endless show of zillions of stars and watch for shooting stars and satellites. Ray would tell me about the aliens who’d be back to get him. He’d tell me about how the ancient Greeks would navigate ships and come to America to visit. He’d tell me about planets that were inhabited by people so beautiful that our eyes would explode if we looked at them. He’d tell me that he’d been in love with a girl once and kissed her under the stars but she killed herself. He said he’d see her again. The aliens said they had taken her just before her soul was lost. Uncle Ray said to never be sad. He also told me over and over that he wasn’t crazy.

“What are the thinking about?” Justin startled me out of my reverie.

“My Uncle Ray. I miss him.”

Justin put his hand on mine. “I know honey, I know.”

Thanksgiving was spectacular. The food was amazing, the company was wonderful, the day was perfect. I’m blessed to be married into such a great family.

A few hours after dinner, after football and a lot of other fun, I took Justin by the hand and led him to the kitchen. I got myself a smoked turkey wing and gave Justin a leg, then poured two glasses of wine, minus the ice cubes and took him outside to watch the stars.

We talked about what fun we’d had that day. Then we talked about starting our own family, maybe trying to start that week.

A fireball sailed across the sky. I couldn’t figure out what it was. Maybe a meteorite?

Justin held my hand and said, “It’s your Uncle Ray.”

I think it was.

 

~ End

~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman

 

desert

Short Story Sunday: Slut

Yesterday I was driving home. We’ve just had the first rain of the year. A full rainbow, the complete arc, from end to end was in the sky before me. And I don’t know what it was, maybe something on the radio, a flash memory, or a song, but I thought about all of the times I’ve been sexually harassed, assaulted, and otherwise bothered, hurt, or whatever by predatory assholes. I was suddenly so depressed. I flipped through the radio looking for a song to distract my brain. No such luck. Nothing to distract my brain or my heart. I hope with the stories coming out in the news that everyone, women and men, will stop this kind of behavior, and stop turning a head to this kind of behavior. Then I arrived home and saw the man who loves me standing on the front porch with a smile. 

This story was first posted here in 2015, but I’m posting it again today. Maybe that rainbow was a sign that things will get better. I can only hope that the younger generatin of men and wiomen  won’t put up with expectations that they’ll be weak, and voiceless. ~ Juliette

 

Slut

One of the big things everyone is talking about is sexual assault on campus or in college towns. I’ve talked about it with my two kids who are in college. Everyone has, at least everyone who is a decent parent.

So I get this call from Hodge Williams. Yes, that Hodge Williams. Everyone remembers him.

“Bart, how are you?” As soon as he spoke I wondered what he wanted.

“Hodge. Fine. Great. Life is good. What’s up?”

“I’m writing a story on the history of sexual harassment and violence at universities in the US. I tried to contact your sister but she wouldn’t return my calls.”

“Beth?”

“Yes, Beth. She kind of got around so I was thinking she might have experienced first hand, you know, she was at risk.”

“What do you mean by at risk?”

“Oh come on, your sister was a slut. Everyone knew it.”

I sat there with the phone a bit stunned. He just called my sister a slut.

“Hodge, you’re an asshole. In fact you’ve always been an asshole.” I hung up the phone. What an asshole.

After sitting for a few minutes and collecting my thoughts I called my sister and told her about the conversation.

“What an asshole,” she said. “Sure I was sleeping with his best friend without the benefit of being his best friend’s official girlfriend. OK I also slept with another one of his friends but we were in college. We were young.”

“Did you ever sleep with Hodge?”

“No. Hell no. He was always making passes at me and grabbing me. Hodges had that Madonna/Whore things going on in his head. A girl was either a virgin until marriage or a whore. Plus we’re not like him, you know the religion thing, so he just assumed I was a whore.”

“But you didn’t have sex with him.”

“I know. That makes me a whore. He called any girl who wouldn’t have sex with him a whore.”

“What an asshole.”

“I know. Believe me, I know. I mean, if the guy had asked me to go see a movie or go for a walk or just spent time talking that would have been different but he was just all over me like…yuck. He really called you? I can’t believe he’d have the gall to do that. Asshole.”

After we got off the phone with the promise of a lunch date later in the week I got to thinking about my own kids.

I’d spoken with both my daughter and son about sexual predators. I’ve done the best to teach them not to be bully bait. I’ve taught them to stand up for themselves and for others.

From experience I knew that bullies never grow up and most don’t change. 

Hodge never got the answer he wanted. Over the years Beth had a few close calls with sexual predators but she always ended up safe either by being with friends or using physical force to get out of it (exactly twice as she told me.) That didn’t include unwanted advances by guys like Hodge. And even though Hodge didn’t use force it still hurt emotionally that he’d think so little of her or of any girl.

I wanted to pound the crap out of him. Then I thought about how many other women out there who thought the guy was an asshole. That made me smile. Spread the word ladies, spread the word.

That evening after work I talked to my wife about it. She shook her head and said she’d had similar experiences. More anger surged through my brain, then sadness deep in my soul.

We all judge others. We all make assumptions. We all call names even if it isn’t out loud. We all talk behind the backs of others. Maybe we need to stop. It isn’t easy. It isn’t even practical.

Anyway, if you see Hodge Williams call him and an asshole and tell him that Beth and Bart say hello.

~ end

Short Story Sunday: When You Grow Old

I have to go to the Drive In Theater to get my daughter’s car. She was there last night with her boyfriend and the starter on the car went out. After watching “IT” for the third time the kids were still waiting for the tow truck. Service is not a priority these days with AAA. They got home just before sunrise. Anyway, we’re taking care of that today. Needless to say I didn’t write a short story this morning.

I’m posting one of my all time favorites, first posted in 2013. I hope you enjoy it. xoxo 
~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman

 

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 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.”

And so it was.

Short Story Sunday: Sunday Coffee

I saw something on YouTube in a church where little children were speaking in tongues. I’d love to see that. Seriously. I can hear them saying, “Mama I spoke in tongues, can we go to Dairy Queen now?” or “Daddy, I rolled my eyes back real far. Can I play with the rattle snakes now?”

Delilah sat with a glass of unsweetened iced coffee, listening to people who sat around her. She loved eavesdropping.

“Sandy said her daughter Kylee called her everyday from college and cried. Kylee is so lonely. I asked her if any of her daughter’s friends from high school were there and she said no.”

“Oh my God, that sounds like something Kylee would do. She has been posting all over social media pictures with friends. She’s having a great time in college. “

Be it a coffee shop, a church, or any public place, Delilah would sit and listen, and wait.

There are so many homeless camps by the river this summer. They’re ruining the area around Gateway Park.

Delilah listened. There was an opportunity, then again she would only go there if she was desperate. She texted a friend who liked things a little rougher than she did.

She smiled at a nice looking man who got up to leave, with his book and coffee-to-go refill. He smiled back. She’d seen him there before. It was an opportunity. She knew he’d walked. She knew he lived close by, in a neat little Victorian house, with a cat, and nobody else. They chatted. She walked with him. Fall was coming soon. She could smell the pumpkin spice in his coffee. He was telling her about his garden. She said she’d love to see it. Then she smiled and thought of the taste of pumpkin spice. Maybe. When one was a vampire you never knew what you’d hear or taste next.

~ end

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Short Story Sunday: College Daze

Ninety percent of my time as an undergrad was spent in weird Dr. Harrison’s biochemistry lab. The other ten percent of my time was living vicariously through my roommate Tony, who partied and got laid enough for an entire frat house full of horny guys.

Mavis stood up and stepped away from the keyboard. Earlier in the week she’d dropped her eighteen year old son Axel off at college – the same college she’d gone to. Now she was starting notes for her seventeenth novel in the popular Detective Star Landers Mystery Series.

She didn’t want her son to be like either one of the characters in her novel. She knew he wouldn’t be like Tony, but then again you never really knew what your kids were up to when they weren’t with you.

Axel was the youngest of her three kids. Jared and Zoe were also in college at opposite ends of the state. Axel was in the middle. She went outside with her coffee cup and looked at the backyard the kids had played in for years. Two dogs of unknown breeds were sleeping under the shade of the trees. Both animals were from the county shelter. The kids were helped pick them out. A lot of memories were in that yard and with those dogs.

After making more coffee Mavis sat down at her laptop again. She looked outside through the window and thought of her own college days. She didn’t think about it much. She didn’t keep in touch with anyone. After taking a sip of coffee she started to write again.

He did make time for Darcie. All he had to do was show up at her door and she’d screw him silly. She never expected love. Just friendship and sex. He was always up for that. One night he’d shown up at the little house she’d rented behind a bigger house. It was really more of a shed with a kitchen and bathroom added on to it. Anyway, it was 2:00 a.m. and Darcie was wearing a robe. Her face was red and swollen. It looked like her hands were covered in blood. 

She told him that she’d been attacked by a guy named Clayton Jones. Sure everyone knew Clay. He thought he was God’s gift to women, but slutty Darcie would never sleep with him. Clay called her a whore. She shrugged. 

Darcie had been to a party that night. Clay had tried to get her to fuck him. As always she said no. About twenty minutes after she got home Clay came to call. He beat her up and raped her. When he was done she hit him on the head with a lamp. 

Mavis looked up and rubbed her eyes. Then she started in on her notes again.

He was bleeding. He called her a bitch. She said she’d take him to the hospital. Down the road, behind a warehouse, she covered his car with lighter fluid and dropped a match on it. Poof. It with up in flames with Clay in the passenger seat. She walked home, and that is where I found her, sitting in her robe, covered in blood. 

Mavis saved the file. Then she deleted it.

She sipped her coffee again. Earlier in the week Axel had asked her about her college years. She’d told him it was sort of boring. She liked the classes but didn’t get into the social life part. Then her youngest son asked her if she knew that guy Clay who’d been murdered. She told him no. She didn’t know anything about it.

“You met dad in college. Did he know that guy Clay?” Axel had asked.

“He might have,” said Mavis, then she changed the subject.

She started a new page.

I never told anyone what Mavis did. 

Then she erased that line, and called her husband. Not for any reason. Just to tell him that she loved him. That was all

 

~ end

 

 

 

Short Story Sunday: Morning at the Vineyard

Morning at the Vineyard

A story from Juliette Kings

Andrew didn’t remember much when the door opened with blinding light waking him from his sleep, much less the voice that said “You aren’t dead.”

“Of course I’m not dead.” Andrew lifted himself up on his elbow and looked around at the bedroom.

“You were so cold. We couldn’t hear your heart.” A slim woman with long slightly graying hair stood near the bed.

“That’s what all the girls say.” No response. “That was a joke.”

“Oh. Ha ha ha. Good one.” Uncomfortable laughing.

There was the taste of blood in his mouth, but not his own. It must have been a Hell of a night. He looked at the woman again. She was pretty but not young, standing there in a flowing sundress and pretty light summer sweater. Nice. This would be fairly easy staying here for a few days, but he would still be cautious. Sometimes the most easy ones turned out to be the most dangerous.

Andrew started to get up and realized he was naked under the sheets.

“Your clothes were soaked and also covered with blood. We thought about calling the police but my husband Ian said to wait until morning. My husband Dennis said the same. I don’t agree with them. We should have called the police as soon as we found you.”

“Where was I?”

“In the vineyard, face down in the dirt. Your car was in a ditch with four flats and the front end smashed in. We pulled it out.”

The Tesla. Quiet and fast and expensive. Then he thought about what she said. “Husbands? You mentioned two husbands.”

“We practice polyandry. Two husbands, one wife, one family. It isn’t legal or common or accepted by most people but…”

“I don’t have a problem with it. As long as it works for you.”

“It does.”

She took a stack of clothing, jeans, a shirt, etc, from the top of the dresser and gave it to Andrew. “Clean clothing. Breakfast will be ready in about a half hour. And we’ll discuss who you are and why you’re here and where all the blood came from.” Then she turned and left the room.

What a night. The fog started to clear from Andrew’s brain. He staggered up out of the bed and closed the window shades. Damn sunlight. Looking in the mirror the reflection looked back showing a well built man with alabaster skin, long chestnut curls flowing down his back, a classically handsome face and hazel eyes the color of the blue green southern seas. His mouth twitched showing fangs. He quickly gained his composure and hid the teeth and rubbed his tired eyes.

“Shit. What the crap happened to you Andrew,” he said to himself. There was wine, a lot of wine. There were women. There was a guy named Brant and his friend Chet. There was the girl Ginger…she had AB + blood, Chet had O. Oh no. Why didn’t he remember? And how’d he end up face down in the middle of a vineyard? Zinfandel. He knew what kind of grapes they were.

Taking a 3 minute shower, he towel dried his long locks, pulled on the clothes the woman had left him and went down the stairs. He could smell food cooking and coffee. He gripped the banister to prevent himself from throwing up everything inside of his stomach. He’d over done it for sure, blood and wine. Wine and blood. Sex too but that was  a blur. Food might do him some good.

In the kitchen were two men and the woman, along with half a dozen kids in who ranged from about 8 to 17.

He looked at the men. A large blonde man who looked like a former football player introduced himself as Ian. Dennis was shorter with the look of a History Professor or some sort of thing like that. They called the woman Carrie. One big happy family.

Ian poured Andrew coffee and welcomed him. They all welcomed him. This was getting creepy. Then again, Andrew was the Vampire, but he was sitting in the home of a farmer and wine maker and her two husbands and six kids. It was weird. But hey, he decided to make the best of it.

They made small talk. He thanked them for taking him in. Carrie put plates of eggs and fried tofu and toast and fruit and bacon and mushrooms on the table.

The teenage girls thought Andrew’s hair was great and asked him if he was in a band. He smiled minus fangs. He must have had at least five cups of coffee.

“Last night I thought you had some nasty scratches on your face,” mentioned Ian.

“I, uh, heal fast.” Andrew said that then wished he’d kept his mouth shut. He healed fast because he wasn’t like them. He took the blood and energy of regular normal people and in return, he made them feel good – like a rush that would last at least a week. Well, if he liked them and made a connection.

“Where’d all the blood come from? Except for the scratch on your face you didn’t have a mark on you.” As Carrie said that she gave him a long cold look.

“Blood? On me? I guess I drank too much. Too much of everything and threw up. I don’t know. My friends drank a lot and someone was doing some sort of recreational drugs or maybe prescription pain killers, I’m not sure, but I over did it. Listen, I’m so sorry about this and I really appreciate your hospitality. I’ve imposed on you. I wish there was something I could do to pay you back. Let me know.”

Ian gave him a pat on the arm. “We know what it is like to be different.”

“You’re a Vampire aren’t you?” Dennis asked as the kids all looked on.

Andrew brushed a damp lock of hair out of his face and suddenly felt a little warm. “Yes, but…”

“How long have you been a Vampire?” Carrie was asking now.

“I’ve always been one. My parents were Vampires. Um, I was born just down the road from here. October 22, 1851.”

The children were transfixed.

“We don’t have a problem with Vampires. Some food might settle your stomach Andrew,” said Carrie. “And you’re welcome to stay as long as you like. We found your phone and called your sister. She’ll be here in a couple of hours.”

This was all too strange for Andrew. He’d spent the past 100 years or thereabouts avoiding families and any kind of normal human lives. Years had passed traveling, and performing and enjoying wine and women and wild nights. But now he sat with a nice family with no pretenses. And rarely had he ever met humans who knew or even knew about real Vampires. It was so unusually weird.

I sing opera,” he said to the kids. “Mainly opera but I can sing just about anything. Just got back from Patagonia and learned a bunch of folk songs. I can do metal too. That comes naturally.”

“I can imagine you do a great power ballad,” Carrie said with a smile, then she told the children to leave the room.

Andrew had to smile. This as so weird but he could get used to this. He looked at Carrie’s golden brown eyes. A positive blood, just like his. She’d make a good Vampire, or even just a snack.

He thought about his sister. It had been forever since he’d seen her or her children. It would be nice. More than nice. Maybe she’d get another husband too. He might suggest it. He smiled. That would be funny.

“What happened to my friends? Did you see any of them?” Andrew looked from Dennis to Ian then to Carrie. “Did they say where they went?”

Carrie looked him in the eye as Dennis and Ian flanked her side. “We buried them in the garden behind the carriage house.”

“Don’t worry,” said Dennis “Nobody ever found the other bodies we’ve buried, so they won’t find your friends.”

Andrew took another gulp of coffee and hoped his sister would arrive soon.

 

And that was the entire truth just as my brother Andrew told it to me

~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman