Morning in 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

Storm

Storm

I never realized that the high rise downtown held the Federal Courthouse, art, poetry, and historic displays. There are also incredible views, even in the storm. Yes, I was there yesterday afternoon.

Even with the Federal Government shutdown there is still almost no parking to be found on the downtown streets. I finally found a spot near the old rail yards. The old rail yards is a yet to be developed area that used to be, well, rail yards. Old brick building still stand waiting to become trendy and useful again. Acres and acres of land waits for something, or maybe nothing. I’d like to see just a big park. Tracks still go out in all directions.

The active rail station is also near by taking commuters to the Bay Area and to far off places. I’d say exotic but only because it sounds more fun. Right now taking the train from Sacramento to Reno is the only way to go. I think the highways are closed this morning due to snow. If they aren’t closed it is painfully cold and slow. Over the past 24 hours the snow has come down not in inches but in feet. Dozens of feet.

Anyway, the only parking I could find was about five, maybe six blocks away, over an overpass that went across the old rail yard and tracks. On the wide sidewalks of the cheerfully designed urban bridge were homeless structures made of shopping carts, blankets, tarps, and bicycles. Across the way, and below, under more underpasses, and along walls were more homeless staked out in small groups of two or three, waiting out the storm. They’re just waiting out life. Just waiting.

I walked over the bridge, bundled up in my wool coat with my big blue umbrella. Within about a half minute I was soaked. My pants were soaked. My feet, through my boots, were soaked. Granted my boots are Doc Marten’s but they’re a heavy canvas. I should have worn my leather boots. My coat was soaked.

Ghosts stood on the bridge, on the side with the two homeless forts. They looked at me with blank eyes that stared out of gray holes in their heads. Two wore baggy suits and looks contempt. A woman in a long dirty blue dress with a bustle stood alone. Three Chinese ghosts huddled with quilted coats and  long pigtails.

I walked on. I hate ghosts. A gust of cold wind hit my face along with about a gallon of water. A ghost stood in front of me. She wore a sort coat, open with a short orange dress underneath. Her feet were bare. Long dark bangs skimmed the top of her eyes.

“Are you here to feast on the almost dead below?” She pointed down to the homeless camps. “Will you take them?” She pointed to the blanket and tarp fort across the street by the bus stop.

I tried to walk on but she followed me making hissing noises. I stopped despite the storm.

“There are already Vampires down there but I am not like them. Let me be,” I said.

“They will be found dead and cold, and nobody will know,” said the Ghost.

“Not because of Vampires,” I said and walked past the Ghost.

I know the kind of Vampires who are down there. They too live on the streets, or roam the streets then after feeding go back to the cold dark places they call home. They take what they need – blood and nightmares.

I am not one of them.

This morning I’m watching my cat, his fur wet, drinking fresh water from a bowl. My dog is curled in her bed. There are no Ghosts in sight, not yet.

~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman

This was first published here in 2017 but it applies to 2021 – maybe even more.

A Drive With Marilyn

I’m a little under the weather (even Vampires get under sometimes) so rather than trying to make up something fictional for today, or talk about parenting (my kids are grown now,)  I’ll just tell you a story about my brother Val and me, then give you some high-minded moralistic opinion about the state of American culture.

It was October 1963 and we were driving Val’s black 1962 Corvette down Hwy 395, along the back side of the Sierra Nevada Mountains. We stopped in the small town of Lee Vining at dusk, wondering if we should stop for the night or keep going.

I got out of the car and looked up at the mountains. After I took off my scarf I held it up and let the breeze make it into a flag. Everything smelled so fresh. The mountains were so beautiful I couldn’t take my eyes off of the sight.

Val came up to me and took the scarf. He put it over my hair and wrapped it loosely around my neck. “You look like Marilyn Monroe tonight. She was buried in a dress almost like yours, with a scarf like yours.”

Removing the scarf again I looked down at my green dress, then brushed a bit of blonde hair out of my face. Yes, it was blonde at the time fixed in sort of an over teased should length flip. I’ve taken my false eye lashes off as soon as we left Las Angeles earlier that morning.

“How do you know what she was buried in?” I had to ask.

“A friend of a friend went to the viewing,” answered my brother. “She was murdered.”

“Does the friend of a friend know who murdered her?”

“No. He wouldn’t tell me. What a shame. We’ll read about it later. Jewels, she was having sex with everyone named Kennedy and all of their friends. All of them.”

“Does it matter? Does it really matter Val? It isn’t like we knew the woman.”

He ignored my comments. “I feel like I’m in a movies set out here. The obvious choice would be a Western, but it seems more of a mystery tonight. Do you want to stay the night or move on?”

We agreed to stay.  At first we got a skeptical look from the woman at the desk of the Motel when we told her we were brother and sister. Neither one of us wore rings on our left hands. What should she think when two fashionably dressed young people come into a hotel in a mountain town? Plus we came in a sports care. That would be a recipe for immoral behavior in anybody’s book. A man, the owner of the establishment, came in and gave us the key, saying it was obvious how much we looked alike. Some people always have their mind in the gutter.

We went to the cafe next door to get a feel for the place. The view of Mono Lake from our table was unreal as the sun settled down over the mountains. The waitress was friendly and took our orders of coffee and rare burgers. When she came back she told me that the cook thought I looked like Marilyn Monroe. I was polite. Val kicked me underneath the table.

“As soon as we get to Reno I’m finding a salon and switching back to brunette.”

“You’d better get rid of the eyeliner too,” said Val with a wink. “I think she was murdered for sleeping with the Kennedy brothers. Think about it.”

“I’d rather not Val.”

“Do you think Marilyn would have made a good Vampire?”

“The Beatles would make better Vampires. They don’t seem so needy. Honestly would you convert someone as needy as Marilyn Monroe into a Vampire? It would be a disaster then you’d be stuck with her.”

“That might not be such a bad thing.”

“Stop thinking with your…”

“I’m not.”

“Are too.”

“Am not.”

“Val, to be a Vampire one must be fairly independent and strong-willed. You have to be disciplined at all times. I mean, I didn’t know the woman but she wouldn’t have made a good Vampire.”

We picked our way through the food and finished our coffee, then went for a walk down the road. Stopping in a bar we picked up our real dinner for the night. After all, Val and I are Vampires.

The next day we took a leisurely drive with the top off of the car. Once we arrived to Reno I became a brunette again. A month later President Kennedy was assassinated.

I used to get angry at Val for his temporary fascination with celebrity. It started when we where children and he’d pick up bits of information in Harper’s Weekly. From there it snowballed. He couldn’t seem to get enough of gossip and sorted stories about people he’d never met. I’d tell him to read a book and he’d just get pissed off and close up to me. He has backed off but occasionally I’ll catch him catching up on celebrity gossip.

I don’t understand the current fascination with people who are famous for having an unnaturally large number of children (and their disgusting self-serving exploits), or for rich women who are unnaturally made up. If your only claim to fame is the fact that you have a big butt and a rich father why should you get so much time in the news. It isn’t news or even entertaining. It is just stupid and annoying. When I see a movie I don’t want to know about the actors, I want to know about the characters they are playing. That is all.

But it seems the spirit of P.T. Barnum live on in the worst way possible. Some people say there are no more freak shows but it isn’t true. There are plenty of people who are glad to put themselves in the spotlight as freaks.

Thank goodness that isn’t what Vampires do. We might read the gossip but we refuse to be the gossip.

Have a good week everyone. Stay classy.

~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman

Short Story Sunday: Lucky Me

“I took the bus from Los Angeles to Sacramento. At the station I saw an old chum of my brother’s from High School. He said he’d give me a ride, but then he got fresh. I wasn’t going to, you know, I have cash to pay for gas. I’m not… so he dumped me here. I figured if I walked…”

“Get in. You’ll be safe. I promise,” he said. It had just started to rain. “I have a house by the lake. You can stay the night. Where are you going?”

“Reno,” she told him. “I have a teaching job waiting for me. It starts in two weeks.”

He found out she’d left a short abusive marriage. Out of the fire into the frying pan. She was too trusting of people, all bright eyed and perky, even after being left on the side of the road by a creepy pervert.

“I’m Val,” he said holding out his hand.

“Eve,” she said. “Your hand is colder than mine. You’re freezing.”

He smiled. She felt safe for the first time in a long time.

“Val. I like that. Is it short for Valentino?”

“Valentine.”

“I like that better,” said Eve.

They drove for another half hour to a large cabin by the edge of a lake. Cabin was an understatement, this was a 3,000 square foot luxury home.

“Go change,” Val told her. “I have something to show you.”

She went into one of the bedrooms, feeling as if she’d been there before.

When Eve returned, in drawstring pajama pants and a comfy sweatshirt, she found Val sitting on the couch in the main living area with his laptop on the coffee table in front of him. A glass of red wine was in his hand.

“I feel better. Thanks for picking me up again,” said Eve, as she sat down next to Val.

“It’s what I do Eve. Did anyone else pick you up this week?”

“A couple from San Francisco picked me up on Thursday. I had them drop me off in Truckee. Oh and last Saturday a trucker picked me up. He was hauling a load of furniture to Salt Lake City. I went all the way to Reno with him. Nice guy. He told me about his wedding plans. What did you want to tell me?”

Val turned to the laptop. “Your body was found last week by some Cal Trans workers getting the road ready for winter. They found your suitcase. There were also two other young women, both killed and dumped within a couple weeks of you. Both disappeared from the Sacramento Gray Hound station in October of 1987.”

“What about Tom?”

“Tom Turner was arrested last night. He wallet was found under the body of one of the other women. He’d also kept souvenirs. Your purse and heart shaped locket were found in his house.”

“Wow. I didn’t know about the others. Oh Val. Thank God it is over. What happened to the other two women?”

“They didn’t stay,” Val said turning back to the computer. “After the bodies were found reports came in of a hitchhiker in a red leather jacket, with long blonde hair. She’d been seen on the highway for the past thirty years.”

“You know, I don’t remember when I go out at night. Not until they drop me off.”

“I know Eve. It’s ok.”

“I’m glad they arrested the sick bastard.”

“So am I. If you’d told me his name earlier I would have taken care of him myself.”

“I didn’t remember it until now. Val, do you think I’ll go out again?”

“I don’t know.”

“Do you think I’ll move on? I guess see the light?”

“I can’t answer that, but you know you can stay here as long as you want.”

“I saw some other ghosts out tonight. They’re so lost.”

“Donner Party folks?”

“How’d you know.”

“They’re always out there.”

“What if you go away? Will I have to wonder around with them?”

“I won’t go away. I’ll always be here for you Eve.”

“Lucky me being picked up by a Vampire.”

Val smiled. “Lucky you.”

The Travelers. A Tale of Mystery, Love, and Hope

A Christmas Tradition at Vampire Maman

The Travelers

A Tale of Mystery, Love, and Hope
from Juliette Kings aka Vampire Maman

The night was falling on the travelers, Daniel and his son Tad and daughter Ada. They had to stop before the dark of night and freezing snowfalls. The father and his children were finally going home, from the broken dreams of gold to the city where Daniel had found a job in his profession of typesetter and reporter. When his wife had passed on he followed his dream to the California gold fields taking his teenage children with him. For good or bad they’d made the new state their home.

As the snow began to fall they came upon a cabin, the door boarded up from the outside, the windows shuttered. It looked deserted and like shelter for the night. Dan and his son pried the nails off of the boards, which secured the door and went into the two-room structure. Inside was a cozy room with a fireplace, comfortable chairs and a wall full of books. Dan sent Tad out to bring in firewood.

Ada went to the bedroom and called her father. On the bed was a man, still as the night, cold and pale as the snow. In his arms, wrapped in blanket was a tiny girl in a red velvet hat, a scarf covered up most of her small face. She was also still and pale.

Ada’s heart sank. The poor souls in the bed looked to have passed on. But why were they trapped in the cabin? Had they been sick? Why were they not buried with a prayer and the proper respect? The man’s coat was obviously expensive and of the finest materials. His boots were of the most beautiful leather and style. His face was handsome and refined. Ada took off her glove and touched the back of her hand to the man’s face. He was indeed cold as ice and still as death. She called in her father.

“I know this man.” He said. “A fine man. A poet. I heard him read when I was in San Francisco. What a tragic pity to find him here with his child.”

The looked upon the bodies of the father and child when they saw the slightest movement and the man opened his eyes.

“My daughter, please help her,” whispered the man on the bed.

Ada took the girl in her arms. She weighed almost nothing. The child let out a sigh. Ada brought the girl into the other room and sat in a rocking chair by the fire Tad had built. The girl started to move and put her face against Ada’s warm neck. Ada soon fell asleep with dreams of flowers and all things good.

In the morning the poet and child were gone.

The travelers found box covered with red paper. In the box was a golden heart and a note to Ada.

Dearest Ada,

This heart belonged to my dear wife who was murdered by villains of the vilest kind. Please wear it knowing that you will always be loved and you will always be a part of us.

TK

On the table in the front room was a bounty of food. Where had it come from? There were fresh baked goods, milk and juice, exotic fruits, sausages and chocolates. Under small quilted cozies were pots with fragrant tea and coffee. Another note was slipped under the teapot.

Daniel read the note aloud to his children.

My heart thanks you for your generosity.

You saved our lives.

You never questioned who had trapped us or hurt us.

You never judged us.

You never feared us.

The love between parent and his children is burned into your heart like the fires that burn in the heavenly stars.

My daughter and I will never forget you.

Your children and their children and their children will always be safe and watched over and kept from the harm of wicked men. I owe and promise you that.

Never fear the night or the darkness for we will always be watching your back.

Wishing you a Happy Christmas.

~ Thomas Kent

As the travelers ate they talked of the sweet dreams they’d had the night before, along with stiff necks they had that morning. Daniel and his children  spoke of Mr. Kent and his precious daughter and wondered why they’d been trapped in the cabin.

Many many years later after a long and wonderful life full of romance and adventure, Ada fingered the heart, which she still wore. As she took her last breath she said, “I have never known fear, only love”.

An ocean away Thomas Kent felt an icy wind, then hope and gratitude in his cold Vampire heart.

~ End

Cold Morning Coffee And A Ghost

My husband is rebuilding our lower deck.

That isn’t remarkable except for the fact that he is doing a beautiful job, and that the lower deck is where the Ghosts hang out.

On any given day I can see one of two of them standing out there looking out over the oak trees behind the house no doubt with hearts heavy with ghostly thoughts of what might have been. Or maybe they’re just enjoying the view in a spot where they know demons and excorcist alike are not welcome.

Most of them came to California during the California Gold Rush where they died along with their dreams of wealth and glory. Some of them just dreamed of getting away from the poverty, social restrictions, and other constraints of their former lives. They broke free from their own society only to die a few years later on the banks of the river a block from my home.

“I didn’t die here.”

Sitting across from me was Nigel, The Ghost. He takes my coffee cup in his semi transparent hand and slides it across the table, then takes in the aroma.

“There isn’t any blood in this cup is there?” Nigel asks me.

“No,” I say. “You would have smelled it. Why are you such an asshole?”

“I was just asking.”

“No you were being snarky because that is what Ghosts do.”

“Fine.” He put his face back in the cup, then looked up at me with his black eyes that suddenly turned to a bright hazel blue. He pushed his shaggy black hair out of his eyes and took a deep breath.

“My life was good before I died. It wasn’t always that way up until my foster family adopted me. Before then I didn’t know that you could put a turkey in the oven at home and cook it. I didn’t know that people could be nice to each other all the time. I didn’t know that some parents never went to prison, or passed out on the floor, or brought home boyfriends who’d try to… well, I just didn’t know. I suspected that there were other ways of living but it just seemed like fiction.”

He looked out the window then stood up and put his face close to the glass. “The deck looks good. Teddy is doing a great job. The Gold Rush Ghosts like to go up there and look at all of the tools. They’re kind of odd but I’ve gotten used to them. There is a big difference between someone who died in 1866 and someone who died in 1986. Did you realize that I would have been sixty one years old now? Sixty one. Six one. I bet my hair would be gray, or at least the temples might be white. A few weeks before I died I met a woman in an art gallery in San Francisco. We exchanged numbers. Had I lived we might be married now with a couple of kids going to college over Zoom. I left her a message, and she left me one. It was phone tag. Then it was Thanksgiving. Then I was murdered and I never saw her again. I don’t even know if she knew I died. I’m sure she must have if she followed the art world. She must have known.”

“What was her name,” I asked.

“I don’t remember. I was hit in the head so I don’t remember a lot of things. Or maybe it is just this ghost thing that scrambles my brain. I don’t know. Sometimes I just don’t know. Do Vampires forget their former lives?”

“Some do,” I answered, “but it is usually intentional.”

“I understand,” said Nigel. “You need to warm the coffee up. It’s cold.”

“I’ll warm it up and make another cup for me,” I told him.

I made coffee. The cats circled Nigel’s feet. I watched him as he sat thinking about his former life and the woman he’d met back in 1986. Before the water even got to a boil he faded away and vanished back into his Ghost world, or wherever he goes when he fades away.

I made more coffee and looked out on the deck. My kids are still here from Thanksgiving. We’re going to help Teddy put up the stairs today.

The morning is still cold, clear, and everyone is asleep.

Right now I’m looking out over the deck and there are no Ghosts. Only a lone squirrel sitting on the edge where a rail will eventually go.

December is almost here. I guess if you’re a Ghost it never changes, but then again, I’m not a Ghost, and they aren’t too open about giving answers.

~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman