Short Story Sunday: The Changeling (Happy Mother’s Day)

The Changeling

By Juliette Kings

I’ll always remember what my preschool teacher said at lunch and snack times. “You get what you get and you don’t throw a fit.” My parents lived by that. I’m surprised they didn’t both tattoo it on their foreheads.

Sometimes parents will notice their lovely happy babies will suddenly seem to change. Well they have changed. Your baby has been replaced by a crying, unhappy, grouchy, nasty, Goblin Changeling. Congratulations.

Sometimes the horrible Changelings are left to die on the doorsteps of churches, or locked in attics. Usually the real babies are brought back to their loving parents. Fairies and others help out. More often than not ransoms are paid. A mother might pay with her beauty. A father might pay with his strength. It could be anything depending on the mood of theGoblins.

In my case the Goblins dropped me into the home of someone who seemed oblivious to my nastiness. They actually kept me.

I spend my entire childhood treating my parents like crap and tormenting my little brother Trevor. My brother hated me, but he should have loved me. Without me Trevor would have been one of those sensitive pantywaist boys who allows people walk all over him. I made him tough. I made him stand up for himself. He should have thanked me for it.

I have no idea why my parents put up with me. The only reason I wasn’t expelled from every school I attended is because I always made straight A’s. Sure I caused a lot of tears but I kept the school yard in line. My minions kept close while I doled out punishments fitting crimes of weakness. As for lies… I was the number one princess of lies, and adults never knew what was going on.They believed me.

Sure there were more times I could count that I had my mom in tears, but hey, that is what you get for accepting a Goblin Changeling. She could have dumped me in foster care or sent me off to some farm of a distant relative. People suggested boarding schools, drugs and shock treatments. My mom just told them that they could never understand how I was different and unique in ways that nobody could ever understand.

At one time my parents sent me to counseling. I told Dr. Cray everything she wanted to hear. The good doctor said I was a well-adjusted and brilliant child. She said I was mature for my age hence others not understanding me. Boy did I have it pulled over her eyes.

Anyway, Trevor and I grew up and went out on our own. I met a few other Changelings and even married one.

My husband and I are one of those successful power couples. He’s the CEO of a billion dollar tech company. I’m an attorney, and the biggest asshole attorney out there, and proud of it. Beauty and brains plus no morals what so ever. Justice for all.

As soon as I found out my future husband Blake was an over the top arrogant, self-centered SOB I fell in love with him. He loved me back as only a Goblin Changeling can love another Goblin Changeling.

I remember a day when a woman from my past approached me. This should have been one of those turning points where I changed my heart and became a good person. I recognized her because I’d gone to school with her.

She said, “You were a bully. A mean horrible bully. You ruined lives.”

I just smiled and told her, “You should have learned from your bad experience. Instead you made the choice to be a loser.”

I’m like that. I don’t give a shit what anyone thinks. I don’t care if they said I’m mean to my parents and twice as horrible to my brother. Tell me something I don’t know.

So on Mother’s Day I showed up at my parent’s house with my husband. The hubby joined my dad in the back at the grill. Trevor and his wife Emily were in the kitchen with my mom. I put the vase of yellow roses I’d brought for my mom down on breakfast nook table and gave my mother a rare kiss.

Trevor glared at me. Emily looked uncomfortable.

“I have good news Katie,” said my mom. “Trevor and Emily are going to have a baby.”

“How about that Trevor, you aren’t dickless after all. Well congratulations,” I said as sweetly as I could manage.

“Why did you have to say that Katie? Why are you so horrible all the time?” Asked the lovely Emily.

“I’m just like that Em. Well dear family, I also have news. I’m pregnant too,” I said.

Trevor got right into my face. “You always have to try to upstage me Katie. I don’t care if you are having a baby. Your child will NEVER be allowed to be with mine. NEVER.”

I laughed out loud, a cold bitter laugh. “You know baby brother, if it wasn’t for me you’d never be with Emily. Why do you think all of those other bitch girlfriends of yours dumped you before you ended up with Em? I was looking out for you asshole. I was also the reason you have your dream job. So screw you Trevor. I hope your kid is ugly and stupid.”

My mom should have looked shocked, then again she was used to me saying horrible things to my brother Trevor. I was pissed and went into the living room. Mom followed.

She put her hand on my arm, then took it off as I tensed up. “Are you happy about your baby Katie?”

“Sure. It will be fun.” Then I looked into her blue eyes and suddenly I wanted to cry. I mean, like, my eyes started to sting and water up. “You’re amazing mom. Why in the world did you keep me?”

“My own baby had passed on. My little angel had never been right. She didn’t last more than a week. The Goblins had scheduled a drop off not knowing there was no baby for them to take home. They just left you. Even Goblins don’t want their Changelings. What was your dad and I supposed to do?”

“Oh Mom, you knew?”

“Always.”

“So why’d you put up with me all these years?”

“Remember that horrible cat Billy we used to have?”

I remembered Billy. He was worse than I was. He’d hiss at everyone. He’d growl when you’d feed him. No act of kindness was rewarded. Billy was nuts. Damn, he was the Devil’s own cat.

My mom continued. “We kept Billy because if we’d given him up he would have died. Nobody else would have understood. He would have been put down. It was the same with you.”

“I loved that cat,” I said feeling my eyes water up.

“I know you did Katie,” said my mom.

She put her arm around my shoulder. “Let’s go back to the others Katie. Do me a favor sweetie. Try to be nice to Trevor. Just for today.”

“Sure. I love you mom.”

“Love you too Katie. More than you’ll ever know.”

I kissed her cheek. “When I’m a mom I want to be just like you.”

A hint of tears glistened in my mother’s eyes. That made me happy in a weird sort of uncomfortable way.

We joined the rest of the family around the grill, all smiles and making nice. All the while I was thinking of ways to torture my brother and get even on the rest of the universe.

Life is good. Well, at least it is for me.

 

~ end

 

 

~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman

Short Story Sunday: Magnolia

Nobody takes notice of frumpy middle-aged women walking old dogs. Magnolia walked down the path through the trees. She thought of the Hawthorne story Young Goodman Brown imagining when he walked down the path to find his innocent young wife dancing with the Devil. That was an odd thought for an Easter morning.

It had been years since she’d been to church. She hated to be a holiday Christian. She hated going to church, always had. Yet, she loved the old music and certain songs.

Christ has risen.

He has risen indeed.

Someone called her name. She turned around to find her neighbors. They were on their way down to the lake for a sunrise service.

“Come with us,” they said.

She hesitated then decided to join them. Down at the edge of the water they sang traditional hymns she’d known as a child. It was a gathering of joy and love with words of hope. Old people, youngsters, babies and dogs were all there. Even the geese and ducks had come to the gathering by the edge of the lake.

After saying goodbye to a few friends and neighbors she made her way back up the trail towards home. All the dusty file drawers in her mind opened up letting the memories and thoughts flow. She thought of the Easter dresses her mother would sew when she was small. She wondered why people were so fascinated with the sexist patriarchy Duggar family and the freakish sleazy Kardashians. The idea of all of them disgusted her. She thought about how she should have gone to a different college.

She wondered if anything she’d ever done had mattered. What she was doing now mattered, sort of, at least to her kids, but she wondered about the past. Did any of her old boyfriends ever think of her? Could she have ever been the CEO of a creative empire? Could she have won an Oscar? What if she’d gone to Nepal with Mac Andrews or moved to Santa Barbara with Bill Van Pelt? Why had she come back to her parents after she’d backpacked alone across England? Would the kids like a raspberry coffee cake or blueberry muffins today? She’d send the extras home with her brother because she didn’t want them around the house to tempt her later. He said he was going to bring a green salad but she was afraid he’d bring potato salad. At least they’d have wine.

She wondered if life would have been different if she’d had a different name. She was always Magnolia, never Maggie or Nola.

Stopping at the top of the bluff she looked across the lake to the next town over. She was invisible. Women like her always were. A short, overweight, frumpy woman of no consequence. People were always telling her “if I had your talent I’d rule the world” or do something wonderful. That was if THEY had her talent. Her passion had been beaten out of her. She was always up for more rejection and in turn, more discovery, but… maybe she’d take a Zumba class at the gym. Zumba sounded like a lot of fun and if she took it easy she wouldn’t hurt her knee again.

At the end of the trail she saw a man. She smiled. What if he really was a Vampire and offered to take her away, or at least offered her a new life. Would she take it? No, it would be too much work. What if the woods were haunted? Did ghosts of Victorian lovers and Jazz singers dance through the night together. She passed the man, a young man in his 20’s with a large brown dog of unknown breed. Her large white dog of unknown breed sniffed it, everyone exchanged greetings and went on their way.

At home her family was just getting up. The kids gave her sleepy kisses. Her husband had started coffee and was making smoothies for the kids. So much for coffee cake but smoothies were always a good thing. He always put too much honey in them but she never said anything to him about it.

“Did you have a good walk?” Her husband gave her a hug as he asked her.

“It was nice. A lot of birds were out.” She didn’t say anything else. Magnolia was so used to not being heard that it was easier just to be the invisible woman.

Pouring a cup of coffee and went out on her deck. Her husband came out and said, “you’re quiet. What are you thinking about?”

“Nothing really. Nothing that matters.”

 

~end~

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First posted in 2015

~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman

 

 

Cold lips touched with blood

Cold lips touched with blood – getting ready for Halloween with comments from my kid.

 

Oh deathly pale

With cold lips

Kissed with red

The blood of the living

Brings your heart

Alive

For the night

So that you can love

With passion 

And desire

Tasting the life

Of love and dreams

that last a lifetime.

 

“That poem is really bad mom.”

“Hey, I’m getting ready for Halloween. I’m thinking doing some really creepy drawings too.”

“Do it.”

“I will.”

~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman

Seeing Red

“Are you still seeing Emma?”

“Mom, Emma is so weird.”

“How so?”

“She hates red. She won’t wear red. She won’t park next to a red car. She won’t eat off of a red plate. She gets upset if I wear anything red. Even the word blood makes her hysterical. She won’t even sit on red furniture.”

“You’d better not bring her to my house.”

“She even flips out over roses and humming bird feeders.”

“Have you talked to her about it?”

“It isn’t some deep rooted trauma if that’s where you’re going. She just does it to be weird. She wants attention. You know, she wants to stand out and be different. I asked her if it had anything to do with Vampires. She looked at me like I was the crazy one. She said I was disturbed and disgusting.”

“Does she know you’re a Vampire?”

“No. Hell no.”

“Honey, I think you need to break up with her.”

“I already did. That’s why I called you. The summer of Emma is OVER.”

“Time to cut your losses and move on. At least you only spent a few weeks with her.”

“She texted me this morning. Now she says red is OK. She decided she doesn’t like cats now.”

“Block her. Do it now.”

“Already done.”

“Good. Love you.”

“Love you too Mom.”

 

No matter how grown up you are, sometimes you still need to talk to your mom.

~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman

 

Gasoline and Tiger Maple (Don’t Mix)

Andy had dined with his friends Ramon and Sophia. They were always a treat. Tonight there was an interesting mix of high blood alcohol levels mixed with a slight after taste of cocaine and a hint something he couldn’t quite identify. It might have been Morphine.

Hell, it could have been chocolate for all he cared. It was good to come home to friends who were funny and smart and oh so accommodating to his needs.

After two weeks out of town playing Don Giovanni he was ready to become himself. It was good to be Andy again. It was good to be home in San Francisco where he didn’t have to worry about snow.

He parked in the garage and threw his vicuña overcoat on one of the kitchen stools. The pile of mail was already on the table where the neighbor had left it for him. It was the usual bills and magazines. A postcard from his girlfriend Shawna was on the top. She was in Chicago lecturing on flying dinosaurs. He smiled. The postcard was Van Gough’s self-portrait from the Art Institute. She’d remembered that he’d told her about it when they’d first met. One of the reasons he loved her was because she remembered the little things.

Smiling as he poured a shot of Bourbon he quietly sang “La ci darem la mano” thinking of Shawna. There was a sudden warmth in the air that wasn’t from the Bourbon or thoughts of love. Someone else was in the house.

Andy made a mental note to call the alarm company. Son of a bitch.  He walked to the living room and saw them – a man and a woman dressed in black. They had guns, silver crosses and knives. Vampire Hunters.

“Andrew Todd.” The man said his name as a fact, not a question.

“I’m sorry the show is over for the night you have to leave before the stage manager throws you out.” He laughed at his own joke then downed the Bourbon. “What the fuck are you doing in my house?”

“You’ve lived your lie for too long.”

“What lie? Do you put everything about yourself out to the world? Well?” Andy was going to make a joke about putting it all on Twitter but thought the better of it.

The woman held up the cross. “Oh please,” said Andy, “that isn’t going to harm me. We’re all God’s children around here.” Damn Vampire Hunters. They didn’t know a thing about Vampires, much less hunting them.

The woman looked surprised. Very surprised. Andy just smiled and calculated what he’d do about the situation.

Suddenly the man poured gasoline against the antique buffet against the wall.

“Hey, no. That’s tiger maple. Awww man, don’t do that.”

The man spun around to face the Vampire. “We’ve been watching you Todd.”

“I’m feeling really violated here. If you burn my house down…I mean, really, in this neighborhood?”

The man poured more gasoline as the woman pointed a gun at Andy.

“Do you really want to do this? What good would it do killing me?”

The man started to talk of evil and darkness. It was some sort of mumbo jumbo sort of spell or chant. From the bowels of darkness, cursed undead, blood of our ancestors spilled by your unholy trinity of death, blood and carnal desires. Unrelenting evil…

“Oh come on,” said Andy. “That isn’t going to do anything except make you sound even more stupid than you already are. Look at me.”

“Don’t look at the Vampire in the eyes,” screamed the woman.

Andy walked towards the man then quickly grabbed his neck. “Look at me. I’m just like you. We even have the same eye color. We’re not that different. Look at me. Look at my eyes or I’ll tear fucking your head off. Now let go of the gas can before you hurt yourself. Besides, you’re tired. Close your eyes, fall asleep, dream of warm tropical breezes and sweet kisses from a woman so hot that she’ll burn your skin.”

The man collapsed onto a large wing back chair dead asleep.

Andy looked at the woman. “You want a glass of wine? A cocktail perhaps? Help yourself. I’ll just be a minute. One more thing, put the gun down and stand still, right there. If you don’t I’ll kill you. Capisce?”

The Vampire sank his teeth into the man’s neck for just a minute. Enough time to keep his prey in sweet dreams for a few more minutes, and in nightmares for a few more months.

“I’m done drinking for the night Jenna. Yes my dear, I know your name. I got it from your friend here.”

He took her hand and led her to the formal living room. Music started. His hand went to her waist. “Dance with me.”

Jenna attempted to pull away from the cold grip of the Vampire. “No, I won’t dance with a Vampire”.

Andy pulled her closer. “Then just dance with the guy who can sing.”

“Please spare me from a fate worse than death. I will die a thousand deaths before I become one of the undead.”

“Oh cut the Gothic melodramatic crap. I’m the one who was born in the 1851. You don’t hear me talking like that. Jesus, I’m not going to turn you into a Vampire. Have you ever met a Vampire before tonight?”

“No.” Her voice sounded small, more like a child than a grown woman.

“Jenna, dear, you have a good heart but the enemy you need to be chasing isn’t Vampires or Werewolves or whoever you think need chasing. The enemy is ignorance and bigotry and hatred.  Fight for the equality of women and the rights of children. Fight for those who don’t have a voice. Fight for the freedom of expression and art. Fight for a cause that matters.”

She looked into his hazel blue eyes and swayed as if she was going to faint. The man, still slumped on the chair croaked out “don’t listen to him Jenna.”

Andy shot a glance at the man. “One more noise from you and I’ll rip your heart right out of your chest with my bare hands. Do you understand? And I’ll send you the bill for the damage to my furniture and floors.”

He went back to the woman. “What am I going to do with you? You’ve broken into my home. You’ve damaged a valuable and beautiful piece of furniture. You’ve invaded my privacy. You’re lucky you didn’t touch my piano. What I should do is call the police.”

“You’re a Vampire.”

“So tell me something I don’t know. I pay taxes. I own a home. I vote.”

“But…”

“Jenna, stop.  I’m not happy about what you and your boyfriend have done here tonight. Plus you’re a bigot who got nothing what so ever from my speech to you about bigotry and ignorance. What the hell is wrong with you? Honestly?”

Andy ran his hand through his hair and took a deep breath. The house reeked of gasoline and fear. The morning sun just started to come through the windows. He turned back to Jenna.

“The only reason I’m letting you live is because I don’t want to deal with your bodies. I already have enough of a mess. The reason I’m not calling the police is because I’d rather not have to deal with a trial. In the meantime every Vampire on the West Coast will know your names and what you’re up to. You can’t hide. You will never be able to hide from us. So if you’re smart you’ll stay as far away from any Vampires or Vampire Hunters as you humanly can. Now, I am going to take my bags upstairs. When I get back down I want you gone.”

After they left Andrew surveyed the damage. He’d have to call the furniture guy and the alarm company. Someone would have to take a look at the rugs and the hardwood floors.

But before he did any of that there was someone else he needed to call. Andy dialed the number he knew so well. She picked up on the first ring. He closed his eyes and sat down. “Hey Mom. I’m home. Can you come over?”

~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman

 

This was first published here in March of 2014.

Short Story Sunday: Fall Garden

I’m at Sacramento 2018 WordCamp this weekend. In fact I’m speaking today. But fall is in the air so is post-summer, pre-winter gardening. The following was first posted here a year ago. Hope this gets you into the festive falling leaves, pumpkin spice, and falling acorns kind of mood. I’ll see you next Sunday with Tangled Tales Short Story.

fallcolorleaves

Fall Garden

So I’m digging away, trying to put in some sort of flower beds in my rocky garden. It is foggy. It is cold. And I am not amused. That is what happens when you live in a house built on gold mine tailings. Rocks. Nothing but river rocks coated in a tiny bit of dirt and a shit load of weed seeds.

I’ve got the pick ax out, and I’m jamming the shovel in a hole, with the cold nose of a ninety pound German Shepard in my face, when I FINALLY get the last rock loose before I can plant a small dwarf lime tree. The dog goes nuts. I push her away and pull out the rock.

It isn’t a rock.

It is a skull.

A human skull.

Shit.

My son comes out with a fresh cup of coffee for me (did I mention it was cold.) He looked at the skull and then calls up to the house.

“Hey Dad, she found another one.” Then he turns to me. “This one is small. Man, woman, or child?”

I toss the skull in my garden gloved hands. “It might be a woman but you never know.”

“Want me to put it with the others?”

“Sure,” I said, handing the skull to my sweet teenager.

I could hear him in the side yard opening the 50 gallon Rubbermaid storage container, and dropping in the skull.

He came back to me after about a minute. “Hey Mom, the container is almost full.”

I took a deep breath. “That’s a lot of skulls.”

He gave me an uncomfortable look. “It sure is. Who do you think they are?”

I put my arm around his waist and gave him a hug. “I have no idea. But thanks for the coffee sweetie. Let’s go in. I think I’m done out here today.”

 

~ End