Short Story Sunday: Cousin Rachael

My cousin Rachael died last week. Her house was burning. She and her dog were found dead in her swimming pool. Her body was wracked with the effects of an advanced case of Covid-19.

The weird thing about is wasn’t the house burning, or the Covid-19, or even the fact that her hands were bound behind her back. The weirdest thing was that her dog was in the pool with her.

The fire wasn’t part of the wild fires that are blazing all over California. It was arson. Someone had poured gasoline all over her garage, lit a match, and left her alone coughing and barely able to function.

Rachael refused to go to a hospital. She’d rather be in her own bed in her own mansion. If she was going to die alone she said she wanted to be with her nasty little dog Chatsworth.

Chatsworth was a beautiful fluffy brown and white spotted animal of unknown heritage. He hated everyone except Rachael. He loved Rachael.

After Rachael died her attorney came to my house with a box. The box had holes in it. Inside of it was a cat with singed fur and whiskers. He was a large gray tabby with a white mask on his face and chest, and white paws. He’d belonged to Rachael’s ex who’d broken both of his legs in a car accident one night after they’d had a huge fight over Rachael’s callus attitudes over his place in her life. He never spoke to her again and moved out of the country.

The cat’s name was Zoomie. As soon as I let him out of the carrier he started to purr. I wondered how that cat could be so mellow and happy considering who he’d lived with.

Rachael wasn’t a nice person. In fact she was a first class raging bitch. The short list of words to describe Rachael were mean spirited, narcissistic, disingenuous, a first class liar, and a control freak. She hadn’t always been like that, well maybe she had, but it just got worse as she grew older, especially the past sixteen years.

Despite her faults (though she saw none) she was incredibly successful. Rachael lived one of those charmed lives where everything seemed to come easy. Fabulous opportunities seemed to come out of the blue. Men went crazy over her no matter how badly she treated them. People were fascinated by her. She rubbed shoulders (and more) with the rich, famous, and powerful. Rachael had done well and was fabulously rich herself. When she died she owned the home she’d died in, plus three vacation homes all free and clear. She was worth millions.

At one time Rachael and I were close. She thought so until the day she died. I’d been done with her for years.

So, back to Zoomie and my household.

I had no reason to ever be jealous of Rachael or her success. I had my own sort of charmed life. Sure it wasn’t perfect by we’d done very well. I was married to a rock star – yes a real rock star. Ben and I had met when I designed his first album cover. His band became a world wide success with hit after hit. My design career took off. After being friends for years, it turned into more than friends, then marriage, then two children.

Now the kids were in college and Ben was making cute “at home” videos with the kids and his band members. I was just hanging out and working on some illustrations projects. We were good. We had work. We had love.

We also had a new cat. Zoomie got along with the two cats and two dogs we already had. He was a wonderful animal.

So far so good, until my brother Jackie called in hysterics. He missed Rachael. He couldn’t get over the fact she was gone. The police had been by to question him to find out if he knew anyone who’d want her dead. He didn’t know anyone. He was freaked out. Completely freaked out.

I thought of a lot of people who would have wanted Rachael dead, starting with my husband.

At one time Rachael had tried to seduce Ben, then when he resisted her charms she moved on to his band members. Eventually the drummer Scotty spent a sex and drug laden weekend with Rachael. When it got too weird he went home. She spread dirt in the media about him and threatened to say she was raped. Then the nude photos started to show up. Yes, Rachael had hidden cameras in her bedroom. Of course she did.

But that was mild compared to her other bad deeds. She had a long trail of carnage she’d caused including broken marriages, ruined careers, public shame, and a list of horrible things that nobody would every want in their lives.

I told my brother that he’d be fine and decided to ignore him next time he called. I had three other siblings and a dozen cousins. All of them agreed with my take on things. She’d hurt all of them over the years in one way or the other. The only good thing about the pandemic is that nobody had to go to a funeral and tell lies about what a wonderful woman she was.

Ben was sitting at his piano working on a song with Zoomie sitting on the bench next to him. Suddenly Ben stopped and called me into the room.

He had such an odd look on his face. Then he said, “Zoomie talks.”

“Of course you do sweet boy,” I said to the cat and rubbed it under the chin.

Then Zoomie looked up and me and said in a high kind of strained whispery voice, “I can talk. If you sit down next to us I’ll tell you what happened to Rachael.”

I had to catch my breath. The cat talked. Zoomie REALLY talked.

“Sit down. I have to tell my story. Talking isn’t that easy for me so I’m not going to say it all twice. I mean, I love you guys and all more than I can say, but talking isn’t my thing. OK, where were we… sit… Rachael. I’m going to tell you about Rachael.

Rachael was doing good. She had a nice life but she wanted more. It was like she was tired of being at base camp forever and wanted to make it to the top. She’d do anything to get there.

When I met her was when her then live-in man Ian adopted me. I liked Ian. He was a great guy. Rachael had him around because he had this great English accent, a great body, and the sex was good. Ian was also successful so he didn’t expect anything material from her. He wasn’t no boy toy if you know what I mean. Anyway, Ian started to ask her to be nicer to him and everyone else. Rachael would have none of it. So one night Ian left. He left without me because he was moving to Brazil. Who the hell moves to Brazil? Anyway he couldn’t bring me with him.

Rachael wasn’t bad to me. I was fed. The staff gave me a lot of attention. I would wander around the house looking for a portrait like in that story about the Dorian Gray guy, you know where he stayed young and beautiful while the picture took on all of his ugly shit. Oscar Wilde wrote it. You know it?”

“You can read?” Ben asked.

“Sure I can read. I’m a smart cat. Anyway I never found the picture, but it was still so weird the way good things kept happening to Rachael. I mean, nothing bad ever happened to her. Then one day I was sitting on the balcony watching that fucking nasty little Chatsworth sitting by the pool licking his balls. Then he got up and stretched. These wings, like a leathery bat came out of his back, then his whole body transformed into some gosh awful humanoid demon form.

I’m not skittish so I jumped down by the way of a near by tree and went to investigate. The ugly little demon dog thing was still sitting by the pool scratching his leathery hide and sticking his feet in the water.

“Hey, Chats, what’s going on?” I said causally, just acting like the typical disinterested cat.

He looked shocked. I’d caught him in his real form.

“Don’t tell anyone what you see or I’ll fucking kill you,” he said.

“I’ve got seven lives left asshole,” I told him, “but I’m not going to waste any on you. What’s your story?”

“Rachael is my story. She sold her soul for success. It shocked me she didn’t go into politics, but she just wanted to be on the edge. She wanted a reality TV star life and she has it. Hey, I’m having fun.”

“She sold her soul to you?”

“No, to the Devil. I’m just here to make sure the contract isn’t broken. I’m her keeper.”

“No shit,” I said trying to sound like this thing happened all the time.

“No shit,” said Chatsworth the nasty little dog.

So when Chatsworth turned seventeen his dog days would be over. The contract for Rachael’s soul lasted as long as the life of a dog. When the dog died she’d die.

The wife of some guy Rachael was having a long term affair with came by and tossed her in the pool. She would have survived but the guy kicked Chatsworth and killed him. Threw the damn dog in the pool. With Chatsworth dead the contract was up along with Rachael’s good luck. Chatsworth was only ten but that didn’t matter. He was dead so the contract was over. That’s the story folks of how Rachael lost her soul.”

“Wow,” Ben and I said in unison.

“Hey,” said Zoomie, “mind getting me a drink of water. This taking stuff kind of makes me thirsty and make my throat hurt. It isn’t like meowing or even cat fight yowl. It takes a lot out of a guy.”

“Are you a demon?” Ben asked.

“No, I’m just a cat.”

“But you can talk,” I said.

Zoomie started to purr and make biscuits on Ben’s leg. “All cats can talk,” he said. “We just don’t like to. It isn’t easy. You know our vocal cords and lips aren’t really made for it.”

Then Zoomie said one last thing about it. “When a person sells their soul something is sent to watch them. It might be a dog, or a cat. It might be another person, but it is always something. You never know. You just never know. The good thing about being a cat is that nobody can buy our souls or steal them. That is the bad part of being a human. We feel sorry for you. We still love you for the most part because most of you are good. Most.”

I got Zoomie some water and cat treats, then looked over to my two other cats who were curled up on the big arm chair at the other end of the room.

After a few weeks Ian announced he was going to write a tell all book about Rachael. A lot of less than wonderful stories came out about her. I tried to ignore it all.

I did wonder about everyone else in the news these days, in politics, in the media, famous and rich for no real reason. How many of them had sold their souls? How many of them had a an animal or a close friend, a spouse, or advisor who was really a demon watching to make sure the contract wasn’t broken.

I guess we’ll never know, and I know now the cats won’t be talking.

~ end

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.)

coffee

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.

Mysterious Meetings on Dark Cold Nights (and no I’m not damned, just slightly annoyed)

Day two… I’m waiting for AAA a second evening in a row. The new battery I had put in last night isn’t working tonight. But wait, I drove all over the place today – at least 25 miles. Then the towing guy calls and tells me it must be the alternator and not the battery. So I tell him I’m not the car guy so I don’t know what it is. And if it isn’t the battery I need to have the fucking car towed to the dealer or to my neighborhood guy to have it fixed. Only I didn’t say fucking. I was nice and polite. When one is waiting without a car one needs to be polite. Then I get a text that they are running late. Gee thanks. This is my glamorous life.

I can hear traffic and frogs and it is getting colder and colder out here. I could take the car next to me but I know the owner and I don’t think he’d be too pleased. That said, it is a really nice car.

This all reminded me of a time a long long time ago when I had to help out someone who was stranded.

I was standing in a cemetery next to a huge crypt in the middle of the night. Even in Southern California it was cold. I had no idea where my sister-in-law Verity or my friend Elizabeth were. They were bringing the tools. A friend of ours had been mistaken for dead and buried, luckily in a crypt, and it was our job to get him out.

“You’re so good at this Juliette. YOU do it. Please,” they told me.

I hear someone breathing and when I turned I noticed standing next to me is a woman dressed in black. She isn’t a nun. Her clothing is elegant. Her hair is perfect. She is even wearing heels. Of course she has on heels – this is 1958.

“Hello there,” I said, suddenly realizing that I’m starving.

Then she looks at me and utters words that shock me. “Your soul will be damned.”

How oddly rude. “Excuse me?” I said to the strange woman in black. “Unlike you I own my soul. I will not be judged. I won’t be damned or rewarded by anyone else. When and if I die I will have to find my own way. I cannot sell my soul or barter it away. It is mine and my responsibility. If I screw up I will not be forgiven. I must fix it myself, with no help from anyone or anything,” I said wondering how I’d gotten myself into this situation. Oh please do not try to understand me I thought. I am different. I’m strange. Accept me for who and what I am. Unfortunately nobody listens to that and everybody judges. Of course they do.

If I smoked I would have been craving a cigarette right then, but I never smoked. I just drink of I was craving something. Actually I was craving silence or maybe sex from a hot handsome stranger (this was before I married Teddy) but what I really wanted more than anyone was blood. Then sex and booze but first blood.

You know, there are some memories and situations we don’t tell our kids about until they’re grown and maybe not even then. This was sort of one of them.

Over the years “People” and other Vampires and others  have said all sorts of crap to me. We all know how it is because people judge. They want us to all be like them. They want to use us and they want us in their lives but not all of us. They want the bits and pieces that suit their lives. They say “I want you but…” They say, “I love you but…” They say, “I wish you were…”  Or they don’t say it and you know they’re thinking it. But they don’t get it. They don’t know that we pretty much don’t care. We’re interested. We’ll listen. We’ll even try to understand but we know who we are. No more trying to change us or make us “better.” No more using us. That is soooo 17th century. Enough.

So, back to the person who told me I’d be damned.

“Who are you and what are you doing here?”

“You can’t take Henry,” she told me. “Let him lie in peace.”

“He isn’t dead,” I told her.

“He is undead.”

At this point I was sure she’d been watching too many Val Lewton movies, then I recognized her. She was an actress, a semi famous beauty married to an extremely wealthy man. Ahhhhh. No wonder she didn’t want Henry to come back alive. She was having an affair with a Vampire – a rather handsome and amusing Vampire at that.

“Oh please, give it up. You can’t just bury your lovers when the think your husband might find out. Go home. Make your marriage work. Appreciate what you have. Look, as soon as my friends get here we’re taking Henry away so you won’t have to ever see him again anyway.”

Then my stomach growled. Damn.

Then she starts to cry and begs me not to tell anyone. She says her heart is broken. Her pretty face gets all puffy. She starts to babble on about Henry when I put my hand up motioning for her to stop.

“You need to forget about Henry,” I said.

She started to say something but I cut her off. “You need to leave now before I have you for dinner.”

Standing still like a deer in a headlight she just stared at me. So I took her by the arm and said, “Forget Henry was a Vampire. Forget anything you know about Vampires. Stop watching monster movies. Go back to your husband and rebuild your life.”

The pretty young actress staggered away from me down the hill to her car. She’d forget by time she got home. She’d remember a handsome man, a flirtation and a death. She’d wake up in the morning with the belief that Vampires only existed in the movies.  As she drove away Verity and Elizabeth came up with a crowbar and some other tools. We carefully and quietly extracted Henry from his casket.

Of course Henry was glad to see us. I could see why the actress was so smitten by him. He was extremely handsome, especially in his black funeral suit.

“You owe me big time Henry,” I told him. “And do me a favor and stay away from your little actress friend.”

He winked then gave me a kiss on the cheek. That was all. Just another brief random encounter.

The four of us, Verity, Elizabeth, Henry and I, walked through the cemetary to our cars. Wreaths and flowers were fresh on many of the graves. Christmas for the dead. Ghosts watched us as we walked along, coveting our bodies. They hate us because they have no bodies of their own and they consider us dead. We’re very much alive, just in a different way. We can never become ghosts.

My brothers Aaron and Val were waiting for us by the cars. Aaron was an attorney in Hollywood at the time but he was thinking about planning on moving up north soon, back to Sacramento. Val and I were always moving around. Henry and Elizabeth were thinking of moving up with the rest of us. Good times.

I was still famished to we ended up at a party with a lot of what Herb Caen of the San Francisco Chronicle had called “beatniks.” A lot of stoned wanna be poets who drank too much and didn’t notice their poetic and well spoken attractive friends were Vampires. I have to say dinner was interesting that night.

I thought about Henry’s actress friend tonight. I’d like to say she was a grandmother in San Diego, running a shelter for rescue cats and volunteering with her grandchildren’s school. I’d like to say that but I can’t. She died at age 31 in 1968 of a drug overdose. I think it was heroine. I’m sure her ghost is still out there looking for Henry.

My battery is now charged. The nice young man who fixed it said not to keep my phone charger plugged in while my car is stopped. Sounds reasonable to me.

I called everyone who was there that night and invited them over this weekend. Good friends stay together. We’ll celebrate the holidays without breaking into crypts or, for the most part, ghosts. I do have my ghost friends, but that is another post.

So keep your friends and your soul close and safe.

 ~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman

 

 

 

 

He asked me, “Can you take my soul?”

He asked me, “Can you take my soul?”

I told him that I could take it but I could not keep it. I am not a keeper of souls. I only keep my own, which cannot be taken by anyone.

He often asks those questions when we are alone, in those quiet times that are ours.

Once he asked how his blood tasted. “Different for me than it would for you,” I told him.

He continued to ask me about souls and evil.

I could still taste his blood on my tongue. I kissed his neck one last time then sat down beside him and held his warm hand in my cold fingers.

“Humans are gladly forfeiting their souls everyday in exchange for true evil that will consume them like thick fire. They do it all the time without a second thought or remorse. They want to be led into the fires. They want the warmth. They want the ignorance to engulf them. They want to give up free will and the ability to think and reason on their own. Evil is easy because the evil ones carry no burden of guilt or the hardships of love or the fear of failure or the sorrow of hope.

It is not my place to take your soul.

I can change you into a creature of the shadows. I cannot make you evil, unless you choose to throw away your soul and die before your body is ready to leave this earth. My involvement in such matters is far to complex to explain this afternoon and I am tired of speaking of it. You don’t need to know because I will never turn you my dear, into a Vampire.

I can drink your blood. I can make you feel alive. I can kill you. I can bring you back from the dead… I can turn you into a Vampire. But, I will not be part of the evil that is part of human nature, real human nature.

Of course there are bad things in the shadows, very bad things, but nothing that compares to the humans we walk the earth with. Nothing compares.

Do not hate what you do not understand. Fight the hate with all you have and drive out the evil and ignorance with every bit of your precious soul.

Did I answer your question?”

He said yes and kissed my cheek and then brushed his lips against mine. There will be more questions next week. There will be more next year. There will always be questions.

 

~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman

More than a chemical reaction…

The radio was on and we listened to a story on NPR about a woman who killed rats to see if they “saw the light” when they died. She said when things died their brains just showed light and memories of life because of a reaction in body chemistry or whatever.  She said it was due to the brain shutting down and having a burst of energy. She was quite analytical and unemotional about her findings. It was so cold and unfeeling and horrible – because I know that isn’t what is happening.

Think about it. What about someone who dies slowly compared to someone who is beheaded? I know that is pretty disgusting but it happens. All death isn’t the same.

My friend Kelly, a Regular Human friend, my best Regular friend and neighbor was listening with me. She was the other half of the “we” who were listening.

Kelly had this to say. “I’m not religious, but that has nothing to do with what I feel or more so what I know. I’ve had several people close to me die young and unexpected. Each time I knew they were dead before I was told. These deaths happened out of the blue but I knew. That isn’t their neurons charging. That is them telling me or some sort of connection being broken between two souls. You can’t explain everything. Some things can’t be tested or explained. Love and death can’t be explained away.

When my dad was dying, in the last hour, I knew someone was outside waiting for him. I knew who it was. It was his best friend who’d died years before. I knew he was out there. It wasn’t my dad’s family. It was the friend he’d had the most fun with. I didn’t see the friend with my eyes but I saw him in my mind down to the smallest details. I knew what he was wearing and that he was waiting and pacing. And he knew that I knew that he was there. We both knew that it would be fine. Don’t try to explain it to me or have me explain it to you.

Then on, I think Sunday I heard something on Radiolab about a guy who jumped off the Golden Gate Bridge and survived. Only 62 or 63 jumpers out of over a thousand have survived. And everyone who jumped said they changed their minds after they jumped. This guy talked about changing his mind as soon as his hands left the rail. I can’t get that out of my head. Life is more than just a bunch of cells and cell reactions. It is so much more.”

“You’ve never spoken of this before,” I said. “Not like you are now.”

Kelly sighed and glanced over at me. “It isn’t something I usually talk about. Just like people who see ghosts. People who see ghosts don’t tell anyone. It is only the fakes who write the books and make the con and shout look at me I’ve seen a ghost. People who see ghosts keep it quiet. And if you tell anyone they’ll think you’re crazy.”

“Have you seen any ghosts?” I asked her, wondering now if she would admit it.

“No,” she answered without anymore detail.

I looked out over her deck and in the woods behind our houses I saw the ghost standing there looking at me. I expected him to flip me off or make some rude comment like he usually does but he just stood and stared at me like he wanted me to say something, but I didn’t know what to say, then he vanished. I then realized that, even though she couldn’t see him, that he was there for her.

“I agree with you,” I said.  “We aren’t just a bundle of neurons and body parts and chemicals. That is a lot of it but…I know what you say is true.”

I didn’t come clean and tell Kelly about the ghost in the woods or the fact that I’m a Vampire, not yet. But that’s ok. We all need our secrets and just like the universe we don’t give them up easily.

No matter what happens, I feel that the love and spirit we share will always live on. And no matter if you’re a Human, a Ghost or a Vampire, you’re never alone.

~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman

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