Ode to a Greek God (read if for the first time, or read it again)

You might have seen this before. I’ve found myself up to my ears in dogs, cats, family matters, and hunkering down for some rain coming tonight… needless to say my brain is not in the creative mode, love letter mode, or wanting to write about parenting (but my kids are great.) Anyway, I read a blog post John Coyote wrote about Monterey and I thought of this story. The two are totally unrelated, but aren’t most things that way. One idea makes you think of another and another and another, and soon you’re where you should be. “Ode to a Greek God” was one of the first stories I’d written for “Writers, Poets, and Deviants.” It has a poem in it too. That is why. This was written I believe in 2012.  

 

Ode to a Greek God

A story by Marla Todd

I’ve been 6000 years at the top of my game. I knew it was too good to last.

I’m having breakfast on my deck overlooking the Pacific Ocean with the perfect amount of salty warm breeze drifting over me. A beautiful redheaded woman is still in my bed and I can still feel the warmth of her skin against mine. Fortunately she’ll be gone in an hour.

Anyway, I’m having coffee and some amazing cheese and apple pastries my son dropped off this morning. I’m also checking out a box Pan had dropped off with the pastries. That’s my son Pan, the famous happy-go-lucky satyr who dances through the woods making merry. That’s over. He settled down about 150 years ago with a wood nymph named Gloria and they’ve been keeping domestic bliss ever since. I never thought I’d see the day. Anyway, they were cleaning out some closets and found some stuff I’d swiped a few years ago. Thirty-four years ago to be exact.

It looked like I’d gone into the backpack of a college girl. I’d been in college mode that year for a change of pace. I was young, buffed and blue eyed and a killer smile. Female heads all turned in my direction.

In the box was a silver hair clip in the shape of a flowering tree branch, a delicate sexy lacy cream-colored underwire bra size 32C, a sea shell and a folded up piece of college ruled notebook paper. I unfolded the paper and read the words that would change my life.

It was a poem. It was in a round girlish script written in blue felt tip pen. No name identified the writer. I started to read, expecting the usually silly girlish babble about the meaning of life, teen angst and the horrible nature of never being understood. What I read was something else entirely.

As I stood upon the steps,

Halfway between the land and sea

The messenger god Hermes

Came to me,

Swift footed and bright

But somewhat overtaken

By his cousin Dionysus’ last visit

He brought me a message

And I read it through his blue eyes

“I bring you myself” he said.

No answer came from my lips

Except a kiss,

Which spoke very clear.

Oh happy was I,

When hand in hand

Under the stars we ran

For my mythical Hermes

Turned into a man

I took a gulp of coffee and stared at the poem. A poem about me? People had written poems about me, of course, but this was personal. It was a poem about ME, not a god of tales and lore but about ME, Hermes. It was about ME.

This girl knew me. I mean she KNEW me. She knew who I was. How? I never let on to any mortal to who or what I am. Never.

She wrote me a poem. It wasn’t a great poem. It wasn’t even a good poem. It wasn’t epic. But by my father Zeus, it was tender and sweet, full of the promise of love. It was happy. It was from her heart. A heart that considered me more than just a good body and maybe a great fuck, if I did indeed fuck her. I know I must have kissed her. I must have made love to her, because a girl who wrote the poem would never just fuck a guy. She’d have made love to me in a way I should have remembered, but damn it I couldn’t remember a thing.

A kiss. I tried to recall it. Such a kiss I should have remembered. It should have burned on my lips. It should have taken my immortal breath away. I sat going through all of the dusty file drawers in my brain trying to remember, but NOTHING came to mind.

Don’t get me wrong. I am usually NOT the romantic type. I love women but I refuse to be the kind of guy or god who is going to turn into a jellied mass of so much romantic bullshit over just any female. Or am I? My stomach knotted up. My head spun. My heart started to beat fast. I thought I was going to throw up.

By the way, I am Hermes, the messenger God. I go by a lot of names but my friends and family and people who worship me call me Hermes. The Romans called me Mercury, but that is a completely different story, one I’d like not to bring up right at this moment.

So I close my eyes and THINK. 34 years. I’m trying to get a face. A location. Who the hell wrote that poem? There was a ski trip to Aspen and another to Tahoe. An uneventful week in Miami brought back no memories. Of course there were trips to Greece and Paris. The summer was spent in San Francisco and a little north of there was the beach house. Fall brought on New York and Boston. I was in Vermont for the holidays with my family (I know what you’re thinking and yes, we do get together for the holidays just like any other large dysfunctional family).

I heard a car start and looked back to the side of the house. The redhead drove away in her red BMW. I wouldn’t see her again. She got what she wanted and was happy. Fine with me.

Up the drive walks my cousin Dionysus, who happens to be staying at my brother Apollo’s place next door. There again, he was the PARTY GOD. Now he turned into Mr. Bottle Shock. Always going up to Napa, Sonoma, Amador or jetting over to France, Australia, and all corners of the Earth for wine tastings. The guy has been going on about Lodi wines lately so much that I wanted to smack him until I tried them. He was right; it was the nectar of the God’s. But really – Lodi? Have you been to Lodi? Despite all of that he’s still my best friend.

He read the poem. “Halfway between the land and the sea. She was at the beach house you dork.”

“Do you remember her?”

“Yes I remember her.”

“Who was she?”

“Miranda. Quiet girl with the pretty blue-green eyes. She was cute enough.”

“I’m trying but I don’t have a face yet.”

Dionysus poured himself a cup of coffee, added about a gallon of milk to it and half a cup of sugar before sitting down. “She drove a beat up old MG Midget. You talked cars. She was impressed by your Porsche. The two of you hung out all weekend making small talk. Saturday night you went for a walk on the beach and she had sex with you. You thought she was sweet. Remember, she was getting ready to go off to UCLA for the fall. You told her you were going to Harvard.”

Pictures, smells, sound and feelings started to flood my brain.

“She’d been there for several weekends. We always ended up talking on the porch.” I said as images started to come back into my brain.

“Right. She liked you a lot but she didn’t come out and hunt you like the other chicks always did. It wasn’t until that last weekend that you acted on it.”

I remembered. She was a cute, somewhat pretty 17 year old girl with long brown hair and aqua marine eyes. At a party she wouldn’t have been the girl all the guys were after, but I noticed her. Well, she noticed me first. She started out talking to me about cars. From cars we talked about the tides and the ocean and movies and music and school. She wanted to travel to Nepal and spend time in Europe. Most of her friends were moving on to different colleges but she seemed all right with it. Her mind was set towards the future. I liked her company but she didn’t indicate at all that she wanted true love or a lasting relationship.

We’d walked on the beach. I’d made a few jokes and she’d laughed. She said a few things that were so funny it surprised me. I kissed her and a few hours later we made love by the base of a cliff in a private isolated area of the beach. She didn’t howl at the moon or put on a show. She wasn’t a virgin either.

Miranda let me take the lead but followed with quiet perfection. She lost herself quietly in the moment (which by the way lasted a good hour) and in me and didn’t ask for more. She could kiss too and had an amazing body. What more could a young man want?

We walked back to the house with all of our friends and she never said a word about it. The next morning she gave me her number and said, “Call me”, knowing full well the chances of me doing that were slim to none.

I never called her back.

Now I sat alone in my anguished romantic hell. She’d written a poem that morning and I’d stolen it along with a few other items to remember my lovely weekend. The god of thieves had taken a token of love she dared not share with me and for 34 years I had no idea what she’d written on that piece of folded up note paper.

“Where is she now?” I asked Dionysius, knowing if he didn’t know he’d find out.

He pulled out a large wine glass; the big kind used for reds and filled it with water.

“Take a look Hermes. But you might not like what you find. I guarantee you that one like her isn’t sitting around pining for the boy who got away.”

Images and information started to swirl in the glass. And I guarantee you, it sounds primitive, but you get a lot better information in a wine glass than you’ll ever get on Google.

Miranda had earned a doctorate degree in Genetics from UCLA and an MBA from Stanford. She was currently the Director of Development for a biotech firm in Northern California. The husband was an advocate for foster youth and has been a public defender for 20 years. They’d produced two lovely children, one of each. 11 year old girl and 13 year old boy. Both in swim club, good students, get along, popular, no problems. Lots’ of friends with kids, vacations and barbeques. Her home is in a fairly upscale neighborhood but not too pretentious. They go wine tasting a lot and like to cook. My kind of mortals if you don’t mind me saying. The husband even built sort of a wine cellar in the basement. She also likes to build garden sculptures but the visuals were blurred.

“Like whirly gigs?” I asked, thinking of pink flamingos with wildly spinning wings and little figures of men chopping wood. The idea was too weird to digest.

“Kinetic yes, but more large found items, tiles, wood, paint.” Answered my cousin.

“Like the Watt Towers?”

“Not that extreme. More like something out of Sunset Magazine. Understated with a touch of rustic charm.”

Enough of the garden shit. “What’s the relationship like with the husband? What is he? Some middle-aged Viagra popper?”

Dion gave me a smile, like the kind you’d give someone who just said something incredibly stupid. “Hermes, I’m surprise in you. The husband doesn’t need Viagra. He functions quite well on his own.”

“I didn’t need to know that. Did she ever write HIM a poem?”

“The husband? No. You’re the only one she has ever written about.”

“Does she still write anything?”

“She just finished a novel. It’s a mystery romance sort of deal.”

“Can you get me a copy?”

“Sure. I’ll call her up tonight and ask her to email it to me.” He said with a slight touch of sarcasm in his voice.

“Am I in it?” I asked too urgently, hoping the answer would be a definite YES.

“I have no idea but I seriously doubt it.”

“Is she looking to publish it?”

“As we speak. This is her dream Herm. She wants to be published before her kids get into high school so she can be home more with them.”

How could any woman with such a romantic soul, who wrote a poem to a god end up where she was I wondered? “What the fuck is she doing in Biotech?” I asked my cousin.

Dionysus shrugged. “A growing and diverse field with fulfilling opportunities to make the world a better place. She loves it but after 25 years of it she is ready to move on, maybe be a consultant but her family is everything to her.”

I looked into the glass again and saw her as she is now. The brown hair was a little shorter falling slightly below her shoulders, now lighter with blonde highlights. She was dressed stylishly in one of those cute little sweater sets all the women are wearing with a slim skirt and flats with bows. She wore bows on her shoes, a fact that turned my body to so much more jelly. I remember she always wore some bit of fluff or frill along with her Levis and rag wool sweaters. The aqua marine eyes sparkled with little signs of aging. She laughed out loud filling the room with joy. How could someone be so happy working in a science lab? How could someone be so happy without me?

The glass told me that she is known for her humor and mirth. I hardly saw any of it 34 years ago. How could I have been so blind?

To make matters worse was the fact that she was lovely. Fifty one years of lovely female bliss aged to perfection – like the most exquisite and complex wine ever made. She was something to be savored. She was something to be lingered over and enjoyed slowly with great appreciation. I wanted her so bad I ached.

I’m not the kind of guy, or god for that matter, who turns himself into an animal (like dear old dad) to trick a woman. I’m not going to do anything to hurt or use a woman. If a woman wants to use me, then fine, I’ll let her, but that doesn’t make me a bad guy. But I guess I was the perfect asshole to Dr. Miranda Wilkenson Hobbs. She wrote me a poem and I never called her.

I looked up at my cousin. “What was it like before she met the perfect husband?

He shrugged. “She traveled a bit. Worked a lot. Dated a lot. Had a couple of serious relationships but nothing she couldn’t walk away from. She met her husband 16 years ago at a party.”

“Did she write him a poem?” I asked.

“No. Nothing.”

“Nothing. Any hang ups with old boyfriends?”

“None. She’s still friends with a few. They’re all married with kids. Nothing unusual. She didn’t write them any poetry either.”

I conjured up an image of the husband in the glass. Average to nice looking middle-aged man. Full head of black hair, sparkling bright blue eyes, slightly crooked nose but with one of those warm and fuzzy charm filled smiles that women love. Nice slightly better than average guy who could in no way compare to me. No way. Not enough for her to write him poetry. Asshole bastard.

During the following weeks I pulled strings and called in favors that sent Miranda’s book right into the waiting hands of Bryan Woods, literary agent extraordinaire. By the way, Bryan Woods was the name I went by when I spent those weekends at the beach house 34 years ago.

When she received my call I couldn’t believe how good it was to hear that lovely voice. Why of course she could meet me. Where? I made arrangements in San Francisco. She’d have to drive to the big city which was A) always a treat for her and, B) a few hours from her home and away any distractions, C) a most romantic spot for seduction.

It was a beautiful day in the city with clear skies and a high of 68 degrees F. I wore gray Armani and my Rolex Daytona (yellow gold), and of course a Hermes tie. The blonde highlights in my hair were perfect and natural. The smile was a zillion watts. The eyes sparkled blue as a Maxfield Parrish sky.

I picked a restaurant with impeccable service and food, an excellent wine list and a spectacular view of the Golden Gate Bridge.

Exactly at noon Miranda showed up. She scanned the room and saw me with a slight hint of recognition. She’d dressed carefully with thought as women do. A flattering and pretty pink tweed suit over a pink silk blouse with high t-strap shoes that was so classic and sexy I nearly laughed out loud with joy.

She smiled and took my outstretched hand. I took her back to our table. There was the usual required small talk about the drive over, the weather, etc etc etc.

We ordered wine and food. I told her how impressed I was with her book. By the way, I was impressed. The woman could write a story. We spoke of publishing and possible options and contracts. I told her I could see a movie deal coming out of all of it. No lies there. After a flurry of animated conversation we suddenly stopped.

Then she looked at me with slightly squinted eyes and asked “Have we met before?”

I said “The beach house.”

“Oh my goodness. That is you.” She said looking slightly embarrassed.

“We made love on the beach.”

She glanced down unable to meet my eyes for a moment then took a sip of wine and looked up at me again. “We were just kids. Wow that was a long time ago. Small world. Um, it’s good to see you again. You’ve obviously done well for yourself”.

“So have you dear Miranda.” I put the piece of notepaper with the poem in front of her. “Read it.”

She read it but her reaction wasn’t what I thought it would be.

“Where did you get this?” she demanded.

“I took it from your backpack.”

“It wasn’t yours to take.”

“You wrote it about me.”

“Just because we…Bryan, this was private. You betrayed my trust in the absolute worst way.”

“It’s Hermes.”

“It wasn’t yours to take.”

“I’m Hermes. My real name is Hermes, not Bryan. On some level you had to know. Tell me you knew.”

It was as if she didn’t hear a word I said. “Yes, it was about you but the poem was mine,” she said. “You were not supposed to see it.” She was clearly upset, not in a crying angry way but in a calm and collected rage.

“How did you know?” I asked calmly trying to sooth and comfort her.

“Because you shrugged it of the next day like nothing ever happened. I really liked you a lot but oh well. Shit happens.”

I took her hand. “But it did happen Miranda. You and me. You wrote a poem about us.”

“Guess what? It happened a long time ago. I’m not that girl anymore.” She said obviously not following my lead as she pulled her hand away from mine.

“Obviously. How did you know that I am Hermes?”

“You were cute and light on your feet. You made me think of Hermes. Jeeze Bryan. Is that why I’m here? If this isn’t about my book…”

I put my hand on hers again. “I didn’t mean to upset you. But yes, Miranda, I am the messenger god Hermes. Hear me out. I only use the name Bryan Woods when I mix with mortals. Your poem touched me to the very soul and to my bones in a way that nothing else has ever touched me. Nobody has ever written anything so personal to me or about me before. I’m sorry I over looked you. I am sorry I never called back. I’m sorry that it has taken so long for me to tell you that I love you.”

“I should go.” She said trying to pull her hand away and starting to stand up.

“No” I said still holding her hand as I transported her to another time and place.

I took her to a beach. The air was cool and breezy not too cold. She wore a sweeping filmy dress of lavender and white that highlighted her curves. Her hair was slightly blown by an ocean breeze. She was bare footed. I wore a romantic poet’s shirt, sleeves rolled up, half way open to show my spectacular chest.

Against the cliff was a bed piled high with romantic white on white pillows and flowing curtains off of high bedposts. Pink garlands of fresh roses wound around the bedposts. It was one of her dream sort of things.

Miranda looked around 360 at her surroundings, completely ignoring me. Her eyes squinted at the sight of the bed. She turned to me with a total lack of expression on her lovely face except for an angry fire in her aqua marine eyes.

I put my arm around her waist and pulled her close then buried my face in her hair. “It’s been too long”. I said.

She pushed herself away. “What the hell is going on? Did you put something in my drink?”

“I told you I’m Hermes. You’re in my world now.” I said.

I grabbed her wrists. I would have her and she would submit and enjoy ever bit of it and then be glad that she was mine. Or so I thought. She twisted to get away and stomped on my foot. We lost balance and went down to the sand. I was still holding her wrists as I landed on top of her. I could have taken her then and there as I lay between her legs, but I didn’t. Not with Miranda.

“Let’s move it to the bed.” I said gently, my lips meeting hers.

“No, I’m not going to do this. Please. Don’t make me do this.” Tears welled in her eyes. I felt a knot in my stomach and then a wave of nausea swept over me. I rolled over onto my back letting her go. The day was not going as planned.

She got up and walked down the beach a ways then stopped dead in her tracks. She stared at the surf. The sea serpents were out there wrestling. They’re as big as humpback whales with all the teeth, big eyes and claws one expects from them. She froze, and then looked back at me.

“Sea serpents.” I said catching up with her. “Listen Miranda, I’m really sorry. Yes, I’m an arrogant son of a bitch. When I read the poem I thought just for a moment that, no it was more than a moment. Nobody has ever cared like that.”

She didn’t hear a word I said as she stood transfixed on the sea serpents. They roared and crashed into each other in kitten-like play. Green, blue and gold scales sparkled in the sunlight.

I put my arm around her shoulders. “Pretty magnificent creatures aren’t they?”

“Will they come after us?”

“No. They pretty much stay to themselves.”

“This is amazing. Are they real?”

I turned her around and looked into her face. “Yes, they’re as real as I am.” Taking her face in my hands I kissed her. She didn’t fight me, but didn’t exactly jump in my arms either.

“We’re at that point between the earth and the sea.” I kissed her again. She stepped back and crossed her arms. This was going to be more difficult than I thought.

“You’re Hermes, the god Hermes.”

“Yes. I am Hermes.”

“You’re real.”

“I am.”

I expected her to kiss me or something now that she realized who and what I was. She turned away from me and looked at the sea serpents again then looked back at me.

“I wish my kids could see this.”

“My children always loved it when I took them to see the sea serpents. They still do.” I said suddenly thinking that I’d done well by my children and their mothers. In these modern times we’d be a typical blended family. Go figure. Miranda didn’t say anything but kept looking out to the sea.

“This could all be part of your life Miranda. Few mortals ever see this. I’m willing to make you part of this.”

“I can’t.”

“You’d give up immortality?”

She gave me a look that would have killed any red blooded mortal. I watched her take off again down the beach.

I suddenly understood that she’d never love me in the way I wanted her too. Honestly I did. Of course understanding and acceptance are two different things. I ran after her and caught her by the arm spinning her around to face me.

“Miranda stop.” I said trying to reason with her.

“What about my book?” She demanded.

“What about it?” I spat back at her.

“Did you like it or were you just saying that to get me here?”

“It could be a best seller.”

She glared at me. “I won’t sleep with you to get it published.”

I was slightly offended but saw her point. “That isn’t good business Miranda, you should know that. Your book is good enough to publish without sex.”

“I know it is. But as my agent can you get me a good deal and top posting on Amazon and book and posters in the window of Barnes and Noble? Can you get me on the best seller lists? Can you get me an interview with the New York Times and NPR?”

“I’m your agent now?” I asked.

“Yes, I mean don’t you want to be?” She asked looking at me like I was stupid or something.

“What about your biotech job?”

“I’ll keep working until the royalty checks start coming in,” she snapped.

I put my hand on her shoulder, ever so gently. “I’ll get you a six figure advance. You can quit your job tomorrow if you want.”

Her face softened. I could feel her shoulders relaxing. “Really? You’d do that?”

“Of course I would. I’ll be your agent but you have to do something for me.” If I couldn’t have her love, I’d get something almost as good out of her.

She squinted her eyes up at me. “What?”

“You have to write about me.”

“Poetry?”

“Books. The modern adventures of an ancient god.”

“I can do that.”

“I’ll have the contracts drawn up. I believe you’ll like the terms.”

“I’m sure I will.”

“One day I will make love to you again.”

She finally smiled. “Don’t count on it.”

“Let’s go back.” I closed my eyes and when they were open we were back in San Francisco. The restaurant (which by the way I own) was empty of any other customers and fresh blackberry pie and fresh made vanilla ice cream was on the table along with coffee. The sun was starting to set over the San Francisco Bay. We talked about our lives and our kids for about another hour or two. It was so easy with the elder Miranda.

“You’re going to get caught in some pretty nasty traffic.” I told her in my most concerned and caring voice. “You can stay the night here with me.”

“It’s ok,” she said,”I have a couple of audio books in the car.”

I walked her out to her car, a blue 2010 Mustang convertible. I should have known she’d still have a convertible.

I didn’t want to let her go. “Miranda, I’m sorry I was a jerk. I didn’t know how you felt about me. Another time and place and we could have…”

She put her finger to her lips as if telling a child to be quiet. “Listen, Bryan, I mean Hermes, I’m sorry it didn’t work out the way you imagined it but I have a good feeling about this, about us. I really do and we’ll make a good partnership and maybe even become friends. I take that back. We will become friends. Okay?”

Friends usually means the kiss of death in a relationship but not this one.

“You’ll write about me.” I said, not as a question.

“I will write about you Hermes.” She put her hand on my waist, stood on her toes and kissed me. “I will write wonderful things about you that everyone will want to read.”

I opened the car door for her. “I’ll fax over the contracts in the morning. Drive safe Miranda.”

Late into the wee hours of the morning I sat on the balcony overlooking the Bay and thought of her kiss that lingered on my lips. The messenger god Hermes had indeed turned into a man.

Short Story Sunday: Donner Lake

Donner Lake

Travis glanced at the sign as they drove past. His wife was asleep. The baby was snoozing in the car seat behind them. It had been a long day driving across Nevada.

Donner Lake

Sure there was snow today, but in 1846 there had been a lot more snow, a lot earlier, and no highway. Just a rocky dirt road through the mountains and fucking wagons.

He wouldn’t have let anyone eat his wife or child if they hadn’t have made it. Their two dogs would be safe too. Nobody was going to eat his dogs.

Donner Lake

Keseberg had been the guy who’d eaten people with glee. Aside from being creepy he’d been a jerk by all accounts. Keseberg had joined the Donner Party late in the journey with his wife and a small child. He proved to be an abusive husband and was a real asshole to everyone else in the group. Travis and his wife had gone to the old Sacramento Cemetery and seen the grave of Keseberg’s wife. He had no idea where Keseberg was buried. No doubt he was thrown in the trash or fed to a someone’s pigs.

Going across country in a wagon train, or even by ship back then took guts. Travelers would go hundreds of miles, maybe even thousands without so much as a city or town. Maybe there would be a trading post but those would be few and far between. The native people wouldn’t be welcoming in most cases, or at least Travis imagined they wouldn’t be.

He thought of his infant son in the back seat. He would have died. Not just with the Donner mishap but with any group of settlers trying to make it across the country, or around the tip of South America, or slogging across the Panama. The idea of losing his son was unimaginable. He wouldn’t have done it.

Donner Lake

Travis thought of when his parents told him stories of driving cross country right after WW2, his dad on the GI Bill going to college in California. It was an adventure that had lasted a lifetime. Travis and his brother had grown up in the land of sunshine, wine, and weekends surfing at the beach. It was a far cry from what the Donner children went through after Keseberg killed and ate their parents leaving them to be at the mercy of anyone who was willing to take them in.

By the time Travis drove down the hill to Auburn his wife Kit was awake. He didn’t mention the Donner or Keseberg, or anything else that had gone on in his private thoughts while he drove. Instead they talked about when and where’d they get their Christmas tree, and what they wanted to pick up for dinner that night.

Back up the highway, surrounded by snow, the ghosts of distant travelers settled around Donner Lake. They remembered what had happened, despite the fact that someone had eaten their brains, or just left them in shallow graves. The ghosts marveled at the modern folk who came to visit. There would be boats in the summer, and skiing and snow ball fights in the winter months.

George Donner turned to his wife and said, “Tamsen, I told you to stay with the children. You shouldn’t have tried to find me.”

She smiled and turned to her husband. “Sorry dear. I lost my heart to another man.”

Same joke every night and he still didn’t find it funny.

Donner Lake

~ end

 

 

 

Short Story Sunday: Conversion

Conversion
(An Austin and Elizabeth Story)

“Durant, we found something.”

“What do you mean you found something?”

“Live dead bodies.”

“Vampires?”

“Yes, vampires. Happy fucking Halloween.”

“I’ll be right there.”

Austin Durant had planned on spending the morning grading papers. When he wasn’t teaching history at the local state college he was a contractor specializing in restoring historic buildings. When he wasn’t doing that he was a vampire hunter. The vampire hunter part wasn’t planned. It just happened.

Now a call from his construction site foreman Matt changed his Sunday morning plans. Damn. He made a call and headed out.

His attorney and friend (the term friend was sometimes questionable) Aaron Todd stood on the front porch. How could anyone always look so elegant, even in jeans and a fleece jacket?

“Why don’t you people take care of your own?”

“You people? Really Austin. You sound almost racist.”

“You’re a vampire.”

“The ones in the walls are not my people.”

Aaron had a point. He was an attorney and lived in a beautiful modern house, with a beautiful wife who looked like she was right out of a Botticelli painting.  Aaron had nothing in common with the dried up husks with long yellow teeth and claw like fingers who were hibernating in the old walls.

Aaron was holding a pink box. “I brought donuts and coffee for your guys. It was the least I could do.”

“Thank you. The good kind,” said Austin, looking at the beautiful assortment of donuts, sweet rolls and bear claws. “Do you ever eat these things?”

“No. They make me sick.”

They waked back to the small bricked in room where the vampires had been found. The 8 x 8 foot space had been bricked in from the inside.

Aaron looked down at the still dead looking forms. “I know those two. I’d wondered what had happened to them. Not that I cared. I was glad to see them gone. The last time I saw them was this time of year. My wife Verity and I were downtown late at night and spotted these two on the steps of the new Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament.”

“New?”

“It was 1890.” Aaron smiled and sipped his coffee. “They watched us with empty eyes coveting our existence. These two in the walls are creatures with no souls. They exist with nothing but longing for blood. They have no idea what the empty void is that fills them. That is why they wall themselves up to sleep for years. They know no torment. They feel no longing. They exist and that is all.

These two had come out to California to seek their fortunes right after the Civil war, like so many uneducated dullards. They were both pretty enough and young enough that they made a living selling their bodies. They were stupid enough to be seduced by evil. They forfeited their souls for eternal life. Either that or the idiots who converted them botched the job and only brought them back after their bodies were empty of any life at all. It doesnt matter. They might not even have had souls to begin with. They were the kind of people who just survive and nothing else. Their lives have no meaning.”

“You’re harsh.”

“I am realistic.”

“You saw them on the cathedral steps. You were going to tell me something about them.”

“It two days before Christmas, they sat on the steps huddled together. I was going to approach them and tell them to leave town, when a priest came out into the dark and sat with them. We could hear what he said. I’ll never forget.”

Aaron took a deep breath as if he was almost human. “It was obvious they had been there before. The priest made a sign of the cross then put his hands on their shoulders and said, those who are loved will earn their souls. It is not in the scripture but I believe it. I know it. You are loved. Believe me. Believe my brother and sister.

Austin was amazed at what the vampire told him. “Do you believe that Aaron?”

“I want to, but no, I do not believe it.”

Austin knew vampires were cold hearted but he assumed that maybe… then again, when it came to the heart of a vampire assumptions were dangerous.

“By the way,” said Aaron, “the good priest was found dead a week later. His body had been drained of all blood. Funny how things work out that way.”

They looked down at the corpse-like vampires who lay on an ancient cot, huddled together in a cold embrace. Their old fashioned clothes still showed some color through the dusty and faded threads.

Austin raised the chain saw and was about to start it up when the male opened his eyes. It sounded like paper shredding. The woman did the same.

“Do it now,” hissed Aaron.

Austin started the chainsaw and cut off their heads.

He looked up and saw writing on the wall scrawled in what could have been blood above the cot.

We no not wat we do

“We know not what we do,” Austin read out loud.

In the curled up clawed hand of the woman Austin found a small carved figure of a baby in a manger. The paint looked almost new.

In the hand of the man was a holly branch.

“Those were gifts from the priest,” said Aaron.

The bodies turned to dust before their eyes.

“Aaron, what do you want to do with the ashes?”

“You have a shop vac don’t you?”

“Man, you’re cold. No pun intended.”

Aaron shrugged. Austin put the baby in his pocket and gave the dried holly branch to Aaron.

“Maybe I should believe,” said Aaron.

Austin put his hand on his friend’s shoulder. “Maybe you should.”

 

~ end

Tangled Tales

For more Austin and Elizabeth adventures CLICK here.

What happens when a History Professor/Restoration Expert/Player followed the footsteps of his Granny and becomes a Vampire Hunter? He discovers basements full of undead creatures, a thriving community of hip and trendy Modern Vampires, and the maybe love of his life (who just happens to be a Vampire.)

~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman

Short Story Sunday: Night Dogs

Tangled Tales

Constantine Jones sat on the bottom of the museum steps wondering what just happened.

Earlier that evening he’d put on his best Armani suit, a Hermes silk tie, and was feeling good about the outcome of the evening. It was to be a charity event. Beautiful people would be there dressed up. Everyone would be relaxed, and happy, and it would be delightfully fun.

After discussing art and drinking champagne he’d lured a few well-heeled patrons to remote galleries to see some unusual modern art. There he took a few pints of blood from wrists and left his donors with no memories, except those of a delightful conversation with a well dressed, nice looking young art expert. Well, a 165 year old art expert, but that was besides the point.

Then in the main gallery, the California Room, he saw her standing in front of the Thomas Hill grand painting of Yosemite Valley. She wasn’t the most beautiful woman in the room but she was attractive in a cute sort of California girl way, and had that delightful look of both shyness and playfulness. Her olive green dress shimmered along the neckline with iridescent beads. As she turned her head towards him it was like a lightning bolt had hit his heart. First sight.

Second sight as well. A smallish dog of unknown breed stood next to her with a service dog vest on. A service dog. Why did she need a service dog?

With his usual ease, Constantine approached the woman. He asked if he could pet the dog. She said yes. She told him she’d had a head injury when she was in Afghanistan. She’d been in the Army. He would never guessed. The dog could detect seizures.

They talked for an hour about art, and life, and it seemed as if he’d met his soul mate. It was the best hour he’d ever spent. Then she was gone. He hadn’t even asked her name.

So like Prince Charming, he sat at the bottom of the stairs wondering where Cinderella had gone. All he had of her was one of her earrings he’d found on the steps. It was a gold strand with a single diamond on the end. The diamond was real.

I might as well walk home he thought. It was just a couple of miles. He’d clear out his mind. The full moon, and lights from late night downtown bars and restaurants lit the way.

Out of the corner of his eye he thought he saw a large dog wearing a back pack. A service dog? A smaller dog in a vest followed. Around the next corner, in an alley, he saw three more large dogs in the dark, all wearing packs.

Maybe it was a training exercise. The dogs could have been German Shepards looking for drugs or a missing person, or even bodies. It was weird, but at this point he didn’t care. He just wanted to go home. He was a Vampire so weird and unusual was over rated anyway.

Constantine thought about the woman he’d met. She’d been a nurse in a convoy, and there was a bomb. She didn’t say anything else except that her dog was named Tess. She liked Jazz music, indie films, and indie books. Of course she liked art too. She was a high school art teacher now, having moved on from nursing. But sometimes she helped out the school nurse. Weird how he got those details. He’d told her… what had he told her about himself? Not much. He was a Vampire so he never told much, at least not at first. He’d told her that he ran a philanthropic foundation that supported the arts, and other causes. He told her he had two cats and liked astronomy. She also was a watcher of the moon and stars. Then she kissed his cheek, excused herself, and a few minutes later he saw her walking out the front door of the museum.

As a Vampire he usually had a good feel for people but he couldn’t get a final read on her. Again, he thought about the fact that he didn’t even get her name. But the dog was named Tess. Tess the service dog.

Constantine thought about war. He could imagine the horrors she’d been through. He was a child during the Civil War or the War Between the States, whatever they wanted to call it. Those weren’t memories he cared to relive. He’d come out to California as soon as he was old enough to be on his own, as soon as he’d become a Vampire, and stayed there.

As he walked along the dogs with packs stayed in the alleys and shadows. Looking at the local news feeds and police scans from his iPhone he found nothing. One of his neighbors was a K-9 cop. Constantine would ask him about it tomorrow.

Arriving home at his craftsman style bungalow he noticed a few dogs in packs at the end of the street. This was getting weird. Odder, and a nice surprise, was that a woman in a slightly wrinkled olive green dress, and a single diamond and gold earring was standing on his front porch.

Tess the service dog stood beside her. Hanging off of her shoulder was a back pack.

No. It couldn’t be. She wasn’t Cinderella. She was a Werewolf.

They introduced themselves, again, but this time with names. Her name was Diana. Like the goddess of the moon.

“You have my earring,” she said smiling and holding out a hand.

“You have my heart,” he heard himself saying, much to his surprise.

Then he kissed her under the full moon, as Tess sat at attention and wagged her tail.

~ End

 

 

 

Musings on Cats and Vampire Summers

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Oscar, pre-scar days.

I was out early this morning getting something out of my car. OK, I was looking for my purse. I thought I left it in my car last night. I didn’t. While I was outside I heard the sound of an angry cat. You know that snarling, growling, hit pitched sound from Hell that cats project when they’re really pissed off and ready for a fight.

It wasn’t one of my cats. At least it didn’t sound like either one of them. I decided to walk down the street to the mail boxes and find out where the gosh awful noise was coming from.

My cat Oscar, my sweet baby boy was standing in the front yard of my neighbor Josh. Josh lives alone. He rides his bicycle when it is 120 degrees F outside. Everybody likes Josh, but I don’t think he has a cat.

On the front porch (a favorite place of the neighborhood wild turkeys) was the largest calico cat I have ever seen. Her head was the size of a honeydew mellon. She was screaming at Oscar.

Oscar sat there and meowed with a confused little voice. Then he looked at me, then looked at the giant calico.

“Hey, Oscar,” I said. “Come on baby, let’s go home.”

As always, Oscar looks hopeful when his mom (me) is around. I’m always there to rescue him. I scooped him up.

I walked home like a crazy cat lady with Oscar under one arm, and an armful of junk mail in the other arm.

Oscar will always be like a baby, despite a notched ear and a scar across his face. He is thirteen pounds of fur and love. He is also an asshole, but he is my asshole.

This has been a long hot summer. Not all of us are handling it as well as my bike riding neighbor Josh. Then add massive wild fires to the heat and it gets really fun. If someone ever tells you “Burn in Hell Vampire,” you can tell them “FUCK YOU ASSHOLE I live in California.”

After the cat adventure I dropped off a trunk load of supplies that will go up to a fire shelter near Redding (Carr fire.)

By the time I got home my son Garrett was peeling tape off of the walls. We’re painting the insides of our home. From neutral to color. It looks great. As we’re peeling long steps of blue tape from around the windows we talked about all kinds of stuff.

Garrett will be in his fourth year of college. He is twenty-one now. No longer a child. I have kids now but I also have adults – Vampire adults.

“I hate summer necks,” said Garrett.

“It isn’t that bad,” I said.

“Oh come on mom, they’re gross. All covered in sunscreen, sweat, foundation, hair products, and body spray. The body spray is the worst. It smells great, but oh my god, the taste… How did you do it before people took showers everyday?”

“I don’t know. I guess we were used to it. You know, like cigarette smoke and rancid bacon grease.”

“That’s disgusting. I’m sticking with wrists until October.”

“Sounds like a plan to me,” I told him. I didn’t mention that I go to nice adult people with indoor private offices. But I’m sticking with wrists more often than not as well.

College classes start soon for both of my kids. It already seems like fall. This morning was unusually cool and nice. On morning like that I pretend I’m living by the ocean or up in the mountains. For a myriad of reasons I’m still here, in the Sacramento Valley with the smoke and the ghosts of the 49ers and the first Vampires to settle in California.

Anyway, that is how my day went.

Hope yours went well.

~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman

 

Fire And The Cool Dark Places Of Summer

With summer we don’t welcome in the fire season, but fire season is here none the less.

I had to go downtown this morning, and from the freeway saw two plumes of fire coming up as if the entire world was on fire or giant pits down to Hell had opened up. From the color of the smoke it looked like grass fires. A larger fire just north of here has burned maybe 12,000 acres. I’m not sure, it keeps growing. We’ll soon start to hear of more fires in all directions. After the devastation last year in Sonoma and Napa Counties, Lake County and other areas in California it seems even more tragic for it to start all over again.

Behind my home we’ve cut back the brush. I’ve cleared my property. We’ve put in fire sprinklers.

As I drove along the freeway looking at the smoke plume in the distance I saw a religious billboard. It just seemed weird, you know the smoke and the message all at once.

This week missionaries and members of several churches (you know who I’m talking about) have been coming around and leaving pamphlets. A few years ago yellow jackets swarmed a nice pair of men who came around to tell me about the Bible. I’m often tempted to tell them we’re Vampires. Not that we’re evil. Oh we are so misunderstood. Another reason why most folks don’t know we’re real.

But back to the nice people who smile and ask me too many personal questions about my beliefs,  what I really need to ask is for them to pray that we don’t have the fire devastation that we have had in the West for the past few years – from Canada to Mexico it has been horrible.

Right now I can smell smoke but I’m not sure where it is from. The sky is too hazy to tell.

When my brother Val and I were teens, around fourteen and fifteen (1873 or 74) we found a way to keep cold in the hot burning summer days.

He stole the key to a church basement (which is no longer there) and a way to get into a seldom used private chapel. Bodies would be put there before burial to keep from rotting so quickly in the summer heat. Also food would be stored in another section behind locked doors.

Yes, it was horrible and wrong for any teens, and we’re Vampires so that even adds more to the wrongness of it all, but we didn’t hurt anyone. Our parents would have hit the roof, but that is another post.

I’d lay as still as death on the cool floor. My skin seemed to melt, not like candle wax, but like burning hard sealing wax. Hair twisted around my neck and clung to my forehead. I couldn’t open my eyes.

Suddenly an icy cold shroud covered me. I sank into the floor even more. A relief to my burning Hell had come.

I could hear my brother Val laughing.

“Thank you,” I whispered. “I thought I was going to absolutely melt.”

Val lay down on the floor beside me and pulled the icy wet sheet over the both of us.

“I hate the heat,” I said to him.

“I know you do,” he replied.

We lay in the dark, on the cold marble floor. The triple digit summer air encased us, drying out the wet sheet. I hooked my index finger with his as we lay as still as death together, trying to find some comfort.

With my eyes still closed I could hear footsteps coming into the room. I couldn’t will myself to move. I was so hot and so uncomfortable.

I’m not a creature who has a wide range of temperature control. The heat makes me want to hibernate or go into a coma.

I could feel someone lift the sheet from our still faces. We opened our eyes wide, not with our natural color, but with solid black. You know, the old black-eyed children trick. It works every time.

A gasp and a cry filled the air, then the sound of the poor lady running away from us.

Val threw back the sheet and propped himself up on his arm. Looking towards the doorway he laughed. “She thought we were dead.”

“And so we are, well sort of,” I answered looking at his pale face, made even paler by the dark hair falling over his forehead.

Today, about ninety summers later the heat still shuts me down. My daughter mentioned that today.

“Dad said you never did well in the heat.”

“No. I don’t.” And that is true as I sit here burning up with my hands sticking to the computer keyboard.

Every single summer the heat rises to triple digits F-ing Farenheit. And every single summer the hot walls of heat hit me so hard that every cell in my body wants to shut down. It should be no surprise, especially since I choose to live here. Then again, it is hot everywhere in the West, aside from the coast and the mountains. Maybe one day I’ll pack up and move, but until then, there are wet sheets and ice.

Oh, one more note, as a public service announcement. When it gets hot PLEASE make sure your dogs don’t end up with burnt feet. If it is too hot for you to walk on the hot pavement with bare feet it is too hot for your dogs. My friend Amelia in Las Vegas used to put booties on her old dog for walks in the hot desert neighborhoods. And triple check their water – cat water too.

~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman