Short Story Sunday: The Alley

Taking a short cut through a downtown alley wasn’t always like it was in the movies. He’d rarely witnessed crimes, or found dumped bodies among the dumpsters and rats. The smells were close to death but not quite. Urine and sun roasted garbage were the aromas of the night. No night-blooming jasmine for this short cut.

Walking along he wasn’t afraid. There wasn’t anything to fear except maybe stepping on something disgusting he’d have to scrape off of his shoe later. But then he saw her standing at the end of the alley.

Had she been a cat he would have taken her home, or found her a forever home, but she was not.

“Hi Val,” she said in a girlish voice. She sounded like she was maybe twelve instead of twenty eight.

“Nikki. You look good.”

She looked good for Nikki. Val hadn’t seen her this clean, well, maybe ever. She’d been homeless on and off for the four years he’d known her. Tonight was the first time he’d seen her in a dress. Even through the bad teeth, unhealthy chalky skin, and the constant fidgeting he could tell she’d once been pretty.

“My cousin Josh took me shopping. Got me this dress, and the sweater. Do you like it. The sweater is sort of like lace, all light like, for the summer. First new clothes I’ve worn in maybe six years.”

“Are you living somewhere?”

“I have my own room in the back of Josh’s building, out by the alley so I have, like my own private entrance. I have a bathroom too. The toilet is in the shower because it is really small. Sometimes when I take a shower I just pee on the floor over the drain. I always laugh because the toilet is right there.”

“What are you doing out here?” It was 3:00 am. He knew why she was out.

Nikki crossed her arms and leaned from one foot to the other. “Just doing some business, you know.”

“Looking for a fix?”

“Maybe, and a little romance.”

Val knew she traded sex for drugs. She kept talking.

“Um, Josh won’t let me bring guys home. I can’t do drugs, drink, or smoke at my room. Those are his rules. You know, I do stuff for him like clean up in the back, mop up, dishes, take out the garbage, and stuff. Maybe I’ll get to cook or work up front one day. He said if I work hard he’ll pay to get my teeth fixed. Ramon said if I go back to school he’ll help me too.”

Val knew Ramon, the high school kid who was headed off to U.C. Berkeley. Nice kid who wanted to get a degree in mathematics and change the world.

“You should go home Nikki. Forget the fix. You look so pretty tonight. Don’t waste it on some creeper. You don’t need to get high,” said Val.

“Maybe if you’d turn me into a Vampire I wouldn’t need it. If you turned me into a Vampire I’d stop hurting all the time. I’d be pretty again.”

“You’d die Nikki.”

“Better than living my life.”

“Don’t say that Nikki. Never say that.”

She looked down at the ground, then leaned up against a parked car. “Tell me a story Val, about when you were my age.”

He’d been telling her stories to get her mind off of getting high, or having sex with anyone she could in exchange for the next high. If he could keep her up until the sun came up then she’d be safe from the evils of the night.

“In 1886 I was twenty eight, same age as you are. My sister and I were in London. Jack the Ripper was in the news. We were at a party…”

“What was she wearing Val? Tell me what your sister was wearing.”

“A cream colored silk dress adorned with purple roses, millions of ruffles and a huge bustle in back. Her hair was piled high on her head in curls all done up with pearls and ivory combs. She danced for hours with a wealthy handsome son of a Duke.”

“Did she drink his blood?”

“Of course she did.”

“Did she make love to him?”

“In a way he would never forget, or get over. He’d never fall out of love with the mysterious woman he’d danced with all night.”

Nikki hugged herself as Val continued to tell her a half true story, embellishing it with more romance than reality.

He walked her home, and kept her talking until the first light of the morning started to show in the sky. “Be safe Nikki. Listen to Josh and Ramon. They’re looking out for you. They care. I care.”

He kissed her cheek with his cold lips.

“Why don’t you ever drink my blood Val?”

“You know why Nikki,” he said.

“I’d do you good Val. I’d make that cold blooded…” She continued with a crude and explicit, sexual description of what she would do to him if he’d only take her home to his house, or even behind one of the dumpsters in the alley behind her building. He turned and walked away from her feeling sad, and disgusted.

Two days later Nikki was found dead in her little room, wearing one of her new sundresses. She’d had unprotected sex with at least three different men that night. She’d died of an overdose of a cocktail of drugs too lethal for most people to imagine.

Before Josh opened his restaurant for breakfast Val stopped by to give him his condolences. Josh shook his head. He’d done everything he could to help Nikki.

“She was always a lost soul. So much talent. Aw man, she was so beautiful once. She just got in with the wrong guys, one right after another. They took everything from her. But she wouldn’t listen to anyone,” Josh told Val, wiping his eyes.

Ramon stood listening then said, “Nikki could have so much hope. Just yesterday she was telling me she wanted to go back to college. She wanted to live. Then she went on again about her friend who was going to turn her into a Vampire, and she’d be young and pretty again, and live forever. She said she was in love with this guy, this Vampire. It was creepy. She was nuts. Sorry Josh, but…” His voice trailed off as he wiped a tear off of his face.

Val wished them the best. That afternoon he made a large donation to a local women’s shelter. Over the past one hundred and fifty nine years he’d seen many lost souls. One slutty little druggie shouldn’t have bothered him so much. Nikki was nothing to him. Then again, she could have been everything to someone if anyone other than Josh or Ramon had cared.

Had she been a stray cat he would have taken her in. Had she been clean he might have taken her forever.

~ End.

This story was first published in August, 2016

For more short stories CLICK HERE.

~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman

Rain

I’m in Northern California, in the Sacramento area to be exact. We’re 75 miles south of the now famous Oroville Dam and spillway. I’m watching the lakes, ponds, creeks, and rivers near my house become fuller than I’ve seen them in years.

When it gets wet like this I wonder about some of the lesser enlightened of the Vampire community. I usually don’t worry about the weird, anti-social, old fashioned Shadow Creepers, but you know, I kind of wondered about them lately.

I was driving downtown and stopped by the old Cemetery. I saw one damp Vamp sitting on the step of a mausoleum with an old black coat pulled tightly around his pale body.

“You need to get into a real house. Nobody lives in crypts anymore. It isn’t dry, much less safe,” I said to him.

He looked up with sunken black eyes.

“I bet you haven’t eaten in weeks,” I continued. I wasn’t going to scold him. “Months? Come. I’ll give you a ride to a safe place where you can stay until we can find you a real home.”

He spoke in a harsh whisper, like someone who hasn’t spoken for a long long time. “May I bring my friend? She is also one of us.”

I told him of course he could. Out of an empty hole in the crypt he helped a small woman in an old fashioned black dress. She was soaking wet, and was ashen as someone who’d been dead after a long tragic illness.

They were quiet in the car as I drove them to the large old house downtown. It is the safe house for long lost souls of the night. It is a place they can find a haven, and get the help they need. These two were not the kind of nasty undead you find under floorboards waiting like a spider waits for a fly. They were like homeless teens who’d been kicked out of their homes because mom found a new boyfriend. They were lost and living in a flooded out and long forgotten crypt, surrounded by long forgotten bones of the Victorian dead.

They’d lived in the crypt since the 1880’s. They’d more or less skipped the 20th century, just coming out at night long enough to find food from the neighborhood movie house, and from the transient population. Sometimes they’ve venture out to the beautiful homes of the living, only to return in sorrow remembering what they’d lost.

I left them at the safe-house. She was in jeans and a sweater with a purring cat on her lap, and a goblet of hot mulled blood in her hand. He was looking hopeful, amazed that someone would help them. They’d been lost for so long.

Thinking about a million bible verses related to helping others, I decided to skip it. Sometimes you just do something because it is what you do, and that is it.

That’s all. Nothing more.

Stay dry. Stay safe. Stay loved.

~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman

 

 

Homeless

From Capitol Public Radio, Sacramento, CA:

Mayor Darrell Steinberg held a service for the city’s homeless population on Monday following a new report by the Sacramento Regional Coalition to End Homelessness.

The document finds that 78 homeless people in Sacramento County died in 2015.

But Sacramento is not the only city observing this issue.

Cities across the United States will pay homage to the homeless who have died in their community on Wednesday as part of National Homeless Day.

I listened to this story this morning on Insight. I thought about the story “The Alley,” I’d posted a few months ago. It was inspired by what we saw (my teenage daughter and I) during a drive through the Alkali Flats area of town, and a drive behind the Crest Theater to look for murals during the Mural Festival.

Click here for a link to the story on Capitol Public Radio.

~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman

 

The Alley

Taking a short cut through a downtown alley wasn’t always like it was in the movies. He’d rarely witnessed crimes, or found dumped bodies among the dumpsters and rats. The smells were close to death but not quite. Urine and sun roasted garbage were the aromas of the night. No night-blooming jasmine for this short cut.

Walking along he wasn’t afraid. There wasn’t anything to fear except maybe stepping on something disgusting he’d have to scrape off of his shoe later. But then he saw her standing at the end of the alley.

Had she been a cat he would have taken her home, or found her a forever home, but she was not.

“Hi Val,” she said in a girlish voice. She sounded like she was maybe twelve instead of twenty eight.

“Nikki. You look good.”

She looked good for Nikki. Val hadn’t seen her this clean, well, maybe ever. She’d been homeless on and off for the four years he’d known her. Tonight was the first time he’d seen her in a dress. Even through the bad teeth, unhealthy chalky skin, and the constant fidgeting he could tell she’d once been pretty.

“My cousin Josh took me shopping. Got me this dress, and the sweater. Do you like it. The sweater is sort of like lace, all light like, for the summer. First new clothes I’ve worn in maybe six years.”

“Are you living somewhere?”

“I have my own room in the back of Josh’s building, out by the alley so I have, like my own private entrance. I have a bathroom too. The toilet is in the shower because it is really small. Sometimes when I take a shower I just pee on the floor over the drain. I always laugh because the toilet is right there.”

“What are you doing out here?” It was 3:00 am. He knew why she was out.

Nikki crossed her arms and leaned from one foot to the other. “Just doing some business, you know.”

“Looking for a fix?”

“Maybe, and a little romance.”

Val knew she traded sex for drugs. She kept talking.

“Um, Josh won’t let me bring guys home. I can’t do drugs, drink, or smoke at my room. Those are his rules. You know, I do stuff for him like clean up in the back, mop up, dishes, take out the garbage, and stuff. Maybe I’ll get to cook or work up front one day. He said if I work hard he’ll pay to get my teeth fixed. Ramon said if I go back to school he’ll help me too.”

Val knew Ramon, the high school kid who was headed off to U.C. Berkeley. Nice kid who wanted to get a degree in mathematics and change the world.

“You should go home Nikki. Forget the fix. You look so pretty tonight. Don’t waste it on some creeper. You don’t need to get high,” said Val.

“Maybe if you’d turn me into a Vampire I wouldn’t need it. If you turned me into a Vampire I’d stop hurting all the time. I’d be pretty again.”

“You’d die Nikki.”

“Better than living my life.”

“Don’t say that Nikki. Never say that.”

She looked down at the ground, then leaned up against a parked car. “Tell me a story Val, about when you were my age.”

He’d been telling her stories to get her mind off of getting high, or having sex with anyone she could in exchange for the next high. If he could keep her up until the sun came up then she’d be safe from the evils of the night.

“In 1886 I was twenty eight, same age as you are. My sister and I were in London. Jack the Ripper was in the news. We were at a party…”

“What was she wearing Val? Tell me what your sister was wearing.”

“A cream colored silk dress adorned with purple roses, millions of ruffles and a huge bustle in back. Her hair was piled high on her head in curls all done up with pearls and ivory combs. She danced for hours with a wealthy handsome son of a Duke.”

“Did she drink his blood?”

“Of course she did.”

“Did she make love to him?”

“In a way he would never forget, or get over. He’d never fall out of love with the mysterious woman he’d danced with all night.”

Nikki hugged herself as Val continued to tell her a half true story, embellishing it with more romance than reality.

He walked her home, and kept her talking until the first light of the morning started to show in the sky. “Be safe Nikki. Listen to Josh and Ramon. They’re looking out for you. They care. I care.”

He kissed her cheek with his cold lips.

“Why don’t you ever drink my blood Val?”

“You know why Nikki,” he said.

“I’d do you good Val. I’d make that cold blooded…” She continued with a crude and explicit, sexual description of what she would do to him if he’d only take her home to his house, or even behind one of the dumpsters in the alley behind her building. He turned and walked away from her feeling sad, and disgusted.

Two days later Nikki was found dead in her little room, wearing one of her new sundresses. She’d had unprotected sex with at least three different men that night. She’d died of an overdose of a cocktail of drugs too lethal for most people to imagine.

Before Josh opened his restaurant for breakfast Val stopped by to give him his condolences. Josh shook his head. He’d done everything he could to help Nikki.

“She was always a lost soul. So much talent. Aw man, she was so beautiful once. She just got in with the wrong guys, one right after another. They took everything from her. But she wouldn’t listen to anyone,” Josh told Val, wiping his eyes.

Ramon stood listening then said, “Nikki could have so much hope. Just yesterday she was telling me she wanted to go back to college. She wanted to live. Then she went on again about her friend who was going to turn her into a Vampire, and she’d be young and pretty again, and live forever. She said she was in love with this guy, this Vampire. It was creepy. She was nuts. Sorry Josh, but…” His voice trailed off as he wiped a tear off of his face.

Val wished them the best. That afternoon he made a large donation to a local women’s shelter. Over the past one hundred and fifty nine years he’d seen many lost souls. One slutty little druggie shouldn’t have bothered him so much. Nikki was nothing to him. Then again, she could have been everything to someone, if anyone other than Josh or Ramon had cared.

Had she been a stray cat he would have taken her in. Had she been clean he might have taken her forever.

~ End.

Bottom Feeders

I was driving along on of the main streets near where I live and saw homeless woman pushing a grocery cart down the street. I’d never seen this one before. She wore a pink shirt that wasn’t enough for the cold morning. Her face had that gaunt sunken, thin mouthed, meth head look. She looked old, like elderly old, but I bet she was around forty or maybe even younger.

This was a residential neighborhood in an area with a lot of horse property, friendly folks, rolling hills, and few businesses among the homes. There is one food closet but no other social services.

My brother Val was in the car with me. He looked at to woman too. “I bet she has a couple of kids in foster care or living with relatives.”

I didn’t respond. I didn’t want to think about it. Unlike me, Val walks a darker side of the street than I do.

“Jewels, there’s two or three bottom feeders in this area. Were you aware of that?”

“The historic proliforence of ignorant trash in certain neighborhoods near here has always brought them out.”

“Seriously, I know them. The bottom feeder Vampires. They feed on the homeless, addicts, mentally ill, but mostly the homeless. They suck them almost dry then dump them at shelters, or at emergency room doors. No worry about anyone finding bodies all over the streets, or behind buildings. Everyone assumes it was some sort of drug overdose or some other fucked up shit.”

“I couldn’t do that. First of all it is disgusting. Secondly it is sad and pathetic to take advantage of those people,” I said.

“They, the Vampires, get them to the hospital more than anyone else. They give them sweet dreams that they wouldn’t get otherwise. Do look at me all disgusted. I see what is going on, especially downtown. You know what is going on. They invite me to join them. Then the unfortunate souls they feed on beg them to transform them into the Undead. It’s pathetic but it is just the way things have always been forever and ever and ever. Don’t tell me you haven’t been tempted when you’re in a pinch and can’t find some nice squeaky clean donor.”

I didn’t say anything else and changed the radio station from a stupid Linkin Park song to the Jimmy Buffet station, then to a crappy obscure hair band song. Then I turned the radio off.

Val started to talk again. “Let’s have a party. We can have a going away party and invite everyone we want to go away. Who would you invite?”

I had to smile. I couldn’t help but show my fangs.

I wasn’t thinking of the lost souls or poor homeless people who are stared at by people driving by. I wasn’t thinking of the people who need help. I wasn’t thinking of those without hope.

I was thinking about other people. You know the ones.

Yes, I know, I know, I know, I write all about positive parenting, and love, and raising your kids to be good people…but sometimes…

Sometimes we just need to be awful. Even if you’re not a Vampire it is ok to ride in the car with your brother, or a friend, or even your older child and speculate on such things. It is even ok to laugh about it.

So dear reader, if you had a Going Away Party who would you invite? Kim Jong-un? Kim Kardashian? Kim Davis? Your ex-girlfriend who slept with your best friend and still calls you once a week with all of her problems? Or just invite politicians. Take your sample ballot from the last election and invite everyone on it. Who would you invite? Take your time. Think it out. Write it down.

I turned the car into my own neighborhood. Val turned the radio back on. I didn’t recognize the song.

“Remember Juliette, the first time we went to New York City? What year was it? 1880?”

“1879,” I said.

“It was on that trip I discovered that I have a sympathy for those who live in the shadow of the Vampire bottom feeders. I don’t feed on the bottom, or rarely do, but you know, somebody needs to look out for them. I don’t really, but I have. It makes me uncomfortable but I have.”

“I know you have Val. You do it all the time but you won’t admit it. Vampires talk Val. They tell me what you’re up to. You’re a better man and a better Vampire for it. Better than most,” I told him.

He put his hand on mine. “Thanks.”

We got to my house and changed the subject. A large happy dog greeted us and peed on Val’s feet. The cats chased up up the walk. The icy wind blew our hair until we were able to get into the house. My teenager asked us, “sup?”  And we laughed.

That’s all.

~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman