Short Story Sunday: Not Going Anywhere

The conversation was always the same, no matter who I talked to.

I’m not going anywhere.

I wasn’t going anywhere either. For one thing it was too hot. 102°F. I’d done all of my gardening. My husband was up working on something in his office. Maybe he was looking up Air BNB sites but I don’t know. It isn’t like we could really go anywhere. Even in Lassen Volcanic National Park the place we usually rent was unavailable this year. Besides that there are warnings about otter attacks.

With the advent of the heat even the Neighborhood sites where people complain about the homeless camps by the parks, lost pets, and reports of gunfire and illegal fireworks were uncommonly quiet. There wasn’t much today except someone looking for a handyman, and someone else wanting to know if anyone could recommend a new pizza place.

I was sitting at my breakfast nook table reading when I smelled something vile. We’d had problems with skunks this summer. The dog had been sprayed twice after we’d taken her out in the yard to pee, resulting in late night washings in the side yard. But skunks usually don’t come out at three in the afternoon.

I looked out the window into my yard. There they were in the garden stealing my tomatoes. One was picking through the squash plants. Damn it. I’d yelled at them before to keep out of my yard.

After slipping on my sandals I went out back.

“Hey, if you want tomatoes you’re going to have to work for it. You’re going to have to grow your own fucking garden.” I was harsh and swore but there is no being nice with these guys. “You see those tools over there,” I said. “Pick out some shovels and start digging.”

They stood watching me with the eyes of the stoned. I know for a fact they go up to National Forest and State Park land and steal pot plants from illegal growers.

“I’ll be right back,” I said. “Start digging and earn your keep or I’ll call the local news station and maybe the police. I know you don’t want that kind of attention.”

They looked sad and picked up the shovels. I went went inside and came back out with a big Costco sized bottle of shampoo, a big bottle of conditioner, a couple bars of oatmeal soap, and some old brushes and combs I’d found under the sink in the bathroom.

“Before you do anything you need to clean up. I’m going to choke if I have to smell your years of stench. How can you live with yourselves?” I yelled at them.

They picked up the hose and started to clean up.

After about thirty minutes I went back outside. They were drying off and most of the smell was gone.

One of them grumbled something about the local food bank.

“You can’t go to the food bank,” I told them. “They’d have you locked up. Keep digging. I’ll make you some sandwiches and heat up some tamales for you.”

Back before Covid-19 I only had to deal with deer, or maybe wild turkeys. This year nobody was going anywhere, including the tribe of Big Foots who’d camped out in my back yard.

I knew things were going to be strange this summer, but hey it could be worse. You know, it could be worse.

~ end

 

 

Tangled Tales

 

Vlad’s Vampire Diary: Look it up

Dear Diary,

My hair has become as long as it was in the 18th Century. I have no problem with this situation. The sixteen year old girl who lives two houses down said I look like a rock star. I know what a rock star is. I like that better than someone calling me cute. She did call me cute. So did her mother. I do not understand. Puppies and babies are cute. I am a Vampire. I am THE Vampire King. Or at least at one time I was Vampire King. A long time ago.

I will take rock star as a compliment.

~ Vlad

Dear Diary,

I do not understand how the hierarchy works in this modern word. I am not even sure I understand the word modern.

My Vampire lover Gillian was talking about something to do with politicians. I never comment in fear of being yelled at, so I just listen when she speaks of such things. She made a curious comment. She said, “If you looked up asshole in the dictionary his face would be there in full 8×10 color.”

I had to speak up and take the chance of her wrath. “I agree the man you speak of is an asshole, but what do you mean by dictionary?”

Gillian turned towards me and blinked exactly three times. “You don’t know what a dictionary is yet?”

“My love,” I said, “You forget that I was locked in a crypt for three hundred years. There are things I still do not know about this world in which I find myself.”

“You don’t know what a dictionary is,” she said, not asking but stating a true fact.

“No. I have heard the term but no I do not know,” I said.

“Oh. That’s right. Before you were locked in the crypt, and where you lived there were no dictionaries. Damn Vlad. I’m sorry.”

“So?”

“Back around 1806 a man, an American named Noah Webster was tired of everyone spelling words in all kinds of different wonky ways so he created a book called a dictionary. There were some books like it in the past, but he was the first one to do it right. So a dictionary is a book which contains thousands of words, how to spell them, how to pronounce them, and what all of the meanings of those words are.”

“That is fascinating and it sounds quite useful.”

“Definitely. Everyone used to have printed dictionaries, you know, big books. Now it is all online.”

When I do not understand something everyone tells me to “look it up.” I know what the Internet is. I know what Wikipedia is. I know what Google is. Now I know what a dictionary is. I do not know how we survived back in the day but we did.

“If Noah Webster created a dictionary then who is Daniel Webster? I have heard the term which connects his name with the Devil.” I said to Gillian.

“Daniel Webster was a lawyer and a politician back in the 1800’s. The Devil and Daniel Webster is a fictional story about how he convinced a jury of despicable characters to vote against the Devil. The Devil purchased a man’s soul, then of course that man wanted his soul returned. On a rather thin train of reasoning Daniel Webster convinced the jury that the Devil was wrong.”

“What about the Devil Went Down to Georgia? Is that song the same thing?” The creator of that song, unfortunately not being a Vampire, recently passed away.

“No, that is about a young fiddle player who told the Devil that he was a better fiddler,” said Gillian.

“Was he?” I asked

“Absolutely. Dear Vlad, nobody writes songs and stories about the Devil winning, at least not in popular culture. It is the classic good versus evil story.”

“The Devil has no power over Vampires either.”

“No he does not. We’re so much smarter than that. Unfortunately that isn’t true with politicians and preachers.”

I had not heard the song so I looked it up. It was quite interesting.

~ Vlad

 

 

Dear Diary,

I am at home more so I have time to look things up. Everyone is at home more.

After finding myself in the 21st Century after being locked in a crypt since 1715 I have come to realize the world is a much more complicated and confusing place.

I do not understand almost everything, yet there is so much that has not changed. More has changed.

I looked up the word cute.

A vocabulary web site stated this: The adjective cute describes something that’s attractive in a pleasing, nonthreatening way. Things that are small or young are often described as cute, like babies, puppies, or toy fire engines.

Something that’s cute is easy to like. We usually use cute to describe how something looks, like your cute smile or your cute dimples, but you can use it for anything that’s endearing or pleasing, like the boy-gets-girl ending to a romantic comedy. Cute can also refer to something that’s overly clever and a little bit fake. Don’t be too cute when you fill out a college application — the person reading it might not think it’s so funny.

What is the term my friends always use? Oh yes, I remember. What the fuck?

In following with Gillian’s advice I used the dictionary. I looked up the Merriam-Webster dictionary.

 

Definition of cute

 

1aclever or shrewd often in an underhanded manner ” … he’s a true patriot and statesman … and a most particular cute lawyer.”— Thomas Chandler Haliburton

bIMPERTINENTSMART-ALECKY Don’t get cute with me.

2attractive or pretty especially in a childish, youthful, or delicate way a cute puppya cutesmile

3obviously straining for effect The movie’s too cute to be taken seriously.

 

Smart-alecky? Impertinent? I looked up smart-alecky and did not like that description.

Then I saw it 2: attractive or pretty.

I am still confused, yet not so much as I was. I am attractive. When I was young I could be considered pretty. I am still considered pretty in a manly way. Perhaps it is my youthful glow.

I am 676 years old but will admit, not out of vanity, but out of fact, that I still have a youthful glow.

Sometimes despite my age I feel like one who is a teenager. I think I know everything, yet the more I know the more I realize that I know nothing.

This word cute is something I shall never understand.

 

~ Vlad

 

 

Dear Diary,

Today the weather is insanely hot. It is hellishly hot.

In the days, now so long ago, when I was King of Vampires, I lived in a castle in the mountains. It was never hot. Maybe it would be warm in the summer but never hot like this as if I lived inside of an active volcano.

“How did I get here?” I asked Gillian.

“Private Jet. Don’t you remember?”

“Of course I remember. That is not what I meant. Why here? Why not in a castle in the mountains? Why not a place where it is not so hot? How did you end up here in this hole of Hell?”

“To make a long story short,” she said as she gave me that look that women always give, “Randolpho and I, plus a lot of other Vampires came out here during the Gold Rush to start a new society of Modern Vampires. We were tired of all of the arcane stupid bullshit that we had to deal with. You were gone. Your castle was gone. You were one of the only leaders who stood up against all of the stupidity and old beliefs.”

I looked at here almost feeling as if a tear would come into my eye.

She continued, “I had no idea it would be so hot. None of us did. But this is our home now. Get over it.”

“I appreciate what you did,” I said, because I did. “It is just so far away.”

“We needed to be far away and come to a place where we could have a new start. Our own start. Randolpho, Constantine, and I never stopped looking for you. We never stopped,” she said.

There was a knock on the door, just like in a bad stage play when the writer runs out of things to say and no longer wishes to explore options.

Our friends Randolpho and Constantine were at the door carrying a bag.

“We brought Tequila and limes,” said Randolpho, who was wearing a straw hat decorated with flowers.

“I brought masks for everyone,” said Constantine. “These are not only exceptionally stylish but your fangs won’t get caught in them. I made them myself.”

Constantine is not only the most stylish creature I have ever met but in another life he was a tailor to the most fashionable and important people on the planet.

For the rest of the afternoon, we stayed in my cool house, sipping cocktails. Four Vampires wearing shorts and flip-flops, keeping cool. Maybe this place  is not so bad after all.

I still do not understand why it is so hot. Maybe I should look it up.

 

~ Vlad

 

 

Kissed by a Vampire

Kissed by a Vampire

This has been the 61st installment of Vlad’s Vampire Diary. To look up all of the entries from the very beginning of Vlad’s modern adventures click here.

Vlad’s Vampire Diary: Flip Flop

Dear Diary,

For the past week the days have brought hellish heat. I am a Vampire so I know what hellish is.

For three hundred years I was trapped in a crypt, only to come out five years ago. I had no idea my friends would transport me to such a place where the air is hot enough to cook eggs upon the sidewalk. It is what is called triple digits. This is all new to me. The thermometer was invented a few years after I was locked away. Sometimes it seems as though everything was invented after I was trapped away.

Where I have come to reside is considered paradise except now on the brink of summer. There shall now be months of such blistering and ungodly heat. This is no place for a Vampire.

My Vampire love Gillian and my friend from my childhood Randolpho were at my home today with gifts. Gillian presented me with shoes. She said they were shoes. I had my doubts.

“You expect me to wear these things?” I asked her that as I reluctantly took the objects from her hands.

“It’s too hot for closed toes shoes,” she said.

“But then do those in charge, politicians as you call them, wear flip flops?”

“No. At least not while they’re working,” said Randolpho.

I put the odd looking shoes on the table. “Then why do people say they flip flop. Are they on the ground like a fish out of water? Do they have medical conditions to be addressed?”

“Flip flop also means someone is changing their mind. The shoes are called flip flops because of the sound they make when you walk in them,” said Randolpho.

“Like a fish out of water,” I said.

“Sort of,” said Randolpho.

I could not imagine putting something between my toes and expecting it to stay on my feet. Then Gillian took out a pair of shoes made of straps and something that looked like leather but was not leather.

“What is this?” I asked. “You want me to wear sandals like a Roman or those people you who were once called beatniks. I know what a beatnik is.”

“These are Tevas. They’re waterproof and comfortable. You can walk in water with them,” said Gillian.

“Why would I want to do that?” I asked.

“I don’t know. If we go to the lake and you don’t want to step on rocks…” Gillian started to say.

“I do not go into the water out of doors,” I reminded her.

“If it’s hot we can for for night swims,” she said.

“I do not go into the water,” I said again.

“Why? It’s not like you’re going to shrink,” said Randolpho.

“I do not understand. Why would I shrink?”

“It’s a joke,” said Randolpho. Everything with him is a joke.

I said nothing. I would not ask the to explain it to me. It is frustrating to be thrust into fashions and ideas about entertainment that are completely foreign to me.

“Why don’t you like the water?” Gillian asked.

“I never learned to swim,” I said.

Both of my friends stood in silence as if I’d told them that I never learned to ride a horse.

“I will wear the flip flops today if that will make you happy.”

“You can’t swim?” Randolph said with a strange look on his face as if in pain.

“No,” I said.

“Vlad, you’re a Vampire. You’re the Vampire King,” said Randolpho

“I am aware of that fact,” I said.

Gillian put a pretty hand on my shoulder. “In 676 years you never learned to swim?”

“No, I never learned to swim. There was no reason for me to ever swim. Do either of you ever remember me swimming?”

Randolpho smiled. “Wait, you’re telling me that with your body, and your face you never had the inclination to come out of the water, with your gorgeous well muscled body wet, glistening in the moonlight, your golden hair slicked back, your blue eyes shining, and just a hint of fang in your come hither smile, while your admirers swooned at the sight of you?”

“That never once crossed my mind Randolpho. Never once,” I said.

For the rest of the day I wore the flip flops. I did not fall or trip as I expected to. I would rather go barefoot but I did not.

~ Vlad

 

Dear Diary,

Randolpho told me today that if I wear flip flops on my feet nobody will suspect I am a Vampire. I told him that I appreciated the sage information. He told me not to be sarcastic.

~ Vlad

 

Dear Diary,

My cats do not like to swim. They are reasonable creatures. Why should I be expected to swim for I am also a reasonable creature.

~ Vlad

 

Dear Diary,

Today it was hotter than Hell, or so I was told. Gillian complained that she did not like this weather because necks would be hot and sweaty and taste like dirty salt. She pulled a packet of some sort out of her purse. She said they were called wipes.

“Take these to wipe off necks next time you go out to feed,” she told me. I appreciate her concern.

That night the air continued to be hot. Gillian led me up to the bathroom with the large shower and undressed me. Then we both stood under the cold water.

“You remind me of Randolpho’s description the other day,” she said as she ran her hands over my wet body.

In this new modern world there are things which will always confuse me, but then again there are things which will always come naturally without effort.

I said nothing as I kissed her, and banished the thoughts of Randolpho from my mind.

~ Vlad

 

 

Kissed by a Vampire

Kissed by a Vampire

 

This has been the 59th installment of Vlad’s Vampire Diary. To read Vlad’s story from the confusing and cute beginning CLICK HERE.

 

~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman

 

In the Distance on a Hot Day – Random Thoughts from Vampire Maman

In the distance

From my street

I can see snow

On the mountains

It was a hundred degrees today

I think of creatures

In their dens

In their trees

The hummingbirds

At the feeder.

 

Then you have to wonder about the Vampires under the floorboards drying up only to be found later by someone like me because my brother Aaron said I’m the best at finding them. I remind him that we’re not like them. Then he smiles at me with a flash of fang, and I wonder why I ever helped him in the first place.

~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman

Vampire Maman

Stay safe, wear your mask, wash your hands, avoid large gatherings, don’t be fucking stupid.

Frogs, Love, and Hell

I believe I’ve used the frog story before, but I shall tell it again.

Put a cold cast iron skillet on a cold burner on your stove. Gas works best. Place a large, live, cold blooded frog in the center of the skillet. Use a good sized one – 10-12 inches. Turn on the heat ever so low, then gradually turn it up. The frog will sit until it gets blazing hot and it’s feet and belly stick to the cast iron and it is cooked.

This is what happens to people in this heat (we’re expecting over 100 all week and over 110 F on some days). Elderly people and others who are not always aware will sit in the heat like the frog until they cook. They’ll forget to jump out of the pan, or in the case of some folks, forget to turn on the air conditioning or fan. Or they’ll forget to call for help because they won’t realize they need help.

My neighbor and dear friend Kelly came over tonight with a couple of cold drinks (bless her). She isn’t a Vampire like we are. She suspects we’re different but can’t quite put a finger on it. She also has a ghost in her house (yes, that ghost.)

We sat for a while as she told me of her elderly mother and the heat. Her mother forgets to turn on the air conditioner. Her mother obsesses about bad neighbors but will not let her children or helpers put anything over the fence so to keep out the eyes of those bad neighbors. She asked Kelly to come over (it was 110 outside) to cut down a tree. Kelly said no. Her mother doesn’t know what yard the tree is growing in. Kelly tells her not to go outside and check because it is too hot and because she’ll fall and end up in the hospital – again. The same conversation has happened over and over – with a different plant, a hose, a stray cat, an unfamiliar car parked on the street, or something else that Kelly will either have to deal with or talk her way out of.

She wishes her mother would move to a house where she won’t worry about bad trees and bad neighbors and expensive up keep. Kelly has suggested a smaller home near Kelly and the grand kids. It would be nice with all sorts of beautiful features and a lovely garden within walking distance of Kelly’s home. The kids could visit anytime. Her mother refuses. So Kelly must hear about trees and drive to her mom’s to get the mail, and give up her Saturday fun time. Saturday fun time is important for working moms and all moms and busy women who work, and well, it is important for everyone.

She wishes she could travel and do fun things with her mother. She wishes they could talk more of things that are positive and fun – things that are not bodily functions or other unpleasant things that only bring Kelly stress.

Sometimes the heat can suck the fun out of everything. The heat of being a caretaker can do the same. It is exhausting. Especially if the caretaker has children of her own. Kelly told her kids to put her on an ice flow if she ever got to the point where she couldn’t take care of herself. She asked them to shoot her if she ever lost her sense of humor. I gave her a hug. We talked for another house about books we’ve read this summer. We agree that everyone MUST read “Beautiful Ruins.” Then she went home to spend time with her own teenage children (good friends with my kids.)

After slipping on the kitchen floor today on an unknown object and landing on my back, I lay there thinking that I’d better call The Elders. They’re ancient and sometimes don’t use the best judgement.

Eleorna and Tellias, frail and gentle, were fine. Their neighbor had brought over shaved ice flavored with basil and rosemary. God bless him. They remembered to bring their old dog in and give him plenty of water. They didn’t drive today because sometimes they forgot how to turn on the air conditioner and the sun was too bright and they had lost the keys again, so they stayed home. And they turned on the air conditioner in their beautiful 143 year old house and slept in each other’s arms like young lovers.

I’m always afraid that I’ll drop by their house and find nothing but their ashes. I’m afraid someone will take advantage of them. I’m afraid that one day they might be gone and I will have a broken heart that will never go away.

~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman

_________________________________

 

For more on the elders in my life and dealing with the elderly (with humor or not) see the links below:

Short Story Sunday: Lizbit

Lizbit. Oh Lizbit.

Elizabeth opened her eyes. Oh man it had been a hot day. Sitting up from where she was laying on the couch she looked around. Nobody was there.

Lizbit.

Nobody had called her that since she was a child.

It was her sister who’d died in childbirth at nineteen. It was her two teenage brothers who’d perished in a fire. It was her other sister who’d been murdered by a jealous lover and left in a ditch under a winter hail storm.

The other siblings, the remaining three, another sister and two brothers, had lived long successful lives.

Elizabeth had run away from an engagement to a man she didn’t love and she become a Vampire. It seemed like a good choice at the time. Almost two hundred years later it still seemed like a good choice.

Lizbit.

Her phone buzzed.

“Hey baby,” she said.

“Hi beautiful,” said her boyfriend Austin from the end of the magical line that allowed them to speak from far away locations.

“Are you coming over?”

“On my way.”

“Drive safe.”

“I will. Love you. See you soon.”

“Love you.”

She put down the phone and went in the bathroom to brush her hair. Austin wasn’t a Vampire but she still loved him. Maybe one day she’d convince him to take the step… maybe.

Lizbit

There was no reflection except her own in the mirror.

Lizbit

She turned around.

Her dog walked in and looked up with dark brown eyes. His tail wagged unconditional love.

“Hey baby. I love my good boy.”

Lizbit.

The dog barked. She looked around and saw nothing.

“I don’t have time for ghosts tonight,” she said aloud. “It is too hot and I’m too tired. You made your choices, I made mine.”

Lizbit

“I have a dog. I’m in love. Just be happy for me. Just go away.”

She opened a bottle of wine, checked to see what was on Netflix, and waited for Austin to arrive. There were no more voices. Just the sound of the dog eating it’s kibble and the sound of her heart that had just started to beat for the night.

~ end