Tangled Tales: Ashes

“I want my ashes scattered in San Francisco Bay,” said my sister Roxanne.

“Do you know how many bodies are dumped in San Francisco Bay every year? You’ll be down there with Laci Peterson’s head,” said Phil.

Jeremy looked shocked. “What?” I don’t know why Jeremy looks shocked at anything Phil says anymore.

“You’re disgusting Phil,” I said. “Why do you even say shit like that?”

Phil didn’t answer. He never did when I called him out about his inappropriate comments.

We kept hiking along the winding path towards the beach, a gray haired foursome of two men and two women. My brothers Phil and Jeremy, and my sister Roxanne and I were finally going to scatter our parent’s ashes.

For years Mom had kept Dad’s ashes in a box in the back of her closet, along with the ashes of our two family dogs Weimar and Clyde. Mom had been gone for two years so it was time.

At 62 I was the youngest. Jeremy was the eldest at 70, with Phil and Roxanne being somewhere in between. We’d spent a lifetime hiking with our parents, each other, then spouses, siblings, children, and grandchildren.

Our family wasn’t one for milestones. Nobody was buried in the ground. Ashes were kept closets or scattered bits at a time on vacations over shots of bourbon. Memorial services were casual. Weddings and major holidays were also hit or mis. The only thing nobody missed were graduations. We were big on education. The one thing we did manage to do was our twice a year all-four-siblings trips to the beach house, which now belonged to me.

As a child we’d camped, but then rented the same beach house year after year. It was in a wooded area with a short path to the beach with a mix of pine and cypress trees. My husband and I purchased the house right after we got married. Our children grew up going there, and we let everyone in the family have time on the calendar.

It was down past the estuary, along the dunes, past the tide pools, and a climb down to the isolated beach that was my parent’s favorite spot.

As we saw our parent’s favorite beach from the trail Phil made one of his uncalled for announcements. “This is where Jeremy was conceived. That is why he was always mom’s favorite. When we were kids they’d come here at night to be alone and fuck like rabbits.”

“Jesus Christ,” said Jeremy.

“Jesus isn’t here Jeremy,” said Phil. “I don’t know what the big deal was about this place. It is cold and hard to get to and it smells like seagull shit. It is like Trump hotel. It touts luxury and uniqueness but it is no better than a best western at quadruple the price with room service that taste like generic freezer burned frozen entrees at best.”

“Shut up Phil,” I said.

“I told you we should have never brought him along,” said Roxanna. “Phil always ruins everything.”

“I ruin everything? Oh Roxy, you are so full of shit. Who was having a boob job when our mother died??”

“It was breast reconstruction surgery after my cancer asshole. Don’t twist things around. I didn’t know Mom was going to die. None of us knew. I was in surgery when we got the call.” Roxanna said. She stood looking like a silver haired goddess ready to strike Phil dead with lightning bolts out of her eyes.

Phil stepped closer to our sister. “You’re so vain. Maybe that song was written about you Roxy. Did you ever think about that? Or were you afraid Chet would leave you for someone else if you didn’t have a full rack?”

Roxanna jumped at Phil with her fist balled up going towards his face. He grabbed her by the wrist and forced her onto one knee. She swung around and hit him in the head with her backpack.

Then it happened. Her pack exploded. Dad’s ashes covered Phil. He looked like he’d just crawled out of a volcano.

Jeremy and I stood in shock. Roxanna sat on the sand, face in her hands and started to cry.

Phil gave a whooping war cry and laughed. “I always told you that Dad had me covered,” he yelled. Then he ran into the surf and dove out into the crashing waves.

After about a half an hour I hiked back up to the beach house and called the police for a rescue crew to help find Phil. Jeremy and Roxanna stayed at the beach.

Phil’s body was never found. He was sixty three. His wife Jenny didn’t seem surprised when we told her what had happened. She said she had expected him to die years ago. Jenny was Phil’s 5th wife. He didn’t have any children, thank goodness. A few weeks later Jenny said she was moving back in with there ex-husband and Jeremy took Phil’s old golden retriever Shasta. Despite Phil being such an asshole Shasta was a remarkably sweet and well behaved dog.

The day after Phil presumably drowned we put Mom’s ashes, and the ashes of her dogs into the water. As we watched the sun set over the Pacific Ocean we sang Amazing Grace together.

Later this summer, when maybe the social distancing isn’t so much of an issue, Jeremy, Roxanna, and I will meet again at the beach house with our spouses and our children who are able to make it. We haven’t decided if we are going to tell our kids what happened on the beach.

We didn’t have a memorial service for Phil, blaming it on social distancing. In a normal year I doubt if we would have done anything for him. Maybe his asshole friends or one of his ex-wives might do something. I’ll skip it.

Despite all of the crap Phil always put us through part of me still loves him. Not much. I didn’t say it was a big part. I just remember when we were kids all running down the path to the beach laughing together. Phil was always saying funny things. Only later I realized that he didn’t always mean to be funny. He just didn’t have any filters. Or maybe he was just born a mean spirited jerk. I don’t know. I guess it doesn’t really matter.

I decided it was time to remodel the cabin. I took down the old paintings and stuff Mom had picked out. New furniture was due for delivery. The lumpy old mattresses and hard pillows were thrown into a dumpster with the worn out rugs and pitted yellow kitchen cabinets. I wanted everything to be clean and fresh.

On the bookshelf I arranged a display of family photos going back to our parent’s honeymoon on the beach to last year after Roxanne’s daughter Elizabeth had gotten married in the small beach house backyard. I picked up a photo of Phil, taken when he was younger, just out of graduate school. He stood on the beach looking happy with his long brown hair blowing in the wind. I took the image out of the frame, lit a match and burned it in the fireplace. That would be my memorial to Phil, and the final resting place of his ashes.

“So long Phil,” I whispered. “Rest in peace, and may your spirit stay the hell away from here.”

 

~ end

 

Tangled Tales

 

~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman

 

©June 2020 Juliette Kings / Marla Todd

 

 

 

 

 

 

Short Story Sunday: Pandemic

Austin Durant, college professor, historic restoration specialist, and Vampire Hunter, was working on a time line for when the first Vampire Hunters made their appearance in California. Some said it was 1867 but he knew it was probably earlier. Any written records were difficult to find, and there were no public records.

He closed the blinds in his office. Damn it was hot for April. Like everyone else he was at home, doing Zoom conferencing, and wondering if he’d ever be able to do live classes again.

The phone vibrated on his desk. He was quick to catch it before it vibrated right off onto the floor.

He looked at the caller I.D. It was his fifteen year old nephew Caden.

“What’s up Caden?”

“Uncle Austin, I’m at the hospital. Mom broke her arm. The bone was sticking through.”

“What happened?”

“She was out in the yard and tripped. I drove her here but they wouldn’t let me come in with her. I’m waiting outside in the parking lot. They said they’d call me.”

“It could be hours. Is there any shade?”

“Yeah, I found shade. I don’t want to leave her. I just have my permit. I’m not supposed to drive alone.”

“Do you want me to come down and get you?”

“No. It’s ok.”

“Do you have a mask? Gloves?”

“A mask. No gloves. I’ve got a bottle of hand sanitizer in the car.”

“Do you need anything to eat. Drinks?”

“I went through the drive through. I drove without mom but I turn sixteen next week. I’m sharing some chicken nuggets and fries with Cookie. I got big drinks for both of us. Water for Cookie.”

“Why’d you bring Cookie?”

“I don’t know. Nobody would bother a kid with a hundred pound dog. I have a book too, and my phone.”

“Where’s your dad?”

“Home. Didn’t my mom tell you? He has it. I think he has Covid19. My dad has been in his office on the spare bed for the past week coughing. He could barely get up the stairs by himself. We bring him food and leave it at the door like room service.”

“Is he going to be ok?”

“I don’t know. I think so. They said to bring him back to the hospital if he gets worse.”

Caden’s voice broke. Austin could hear him starting to cry.

“You ok?”

“No. I mean yes, I’ll be fine. I’m just worried about my parents.”

“Do you want me to come to the hospital?”

“No, it’s ok. I just wanted to let you know about my mom.”

“Should I send a friend? You know, a friend.”

“A vampire?”

“They don’t need to social distance.”

“Right. They’re sort of already dead. Um, I’m fine for now. Um, Uncle Austin, could you, uh, have one of your friends check on my dad for me?”

“No problem.”

“Thanks.”

“Would you ask them to stop by Dairy Queen and get my dad a Blizzard. Something with chocolate. Either the Oreo one or the Fudge Brownie one.”

“I think I can arrange that.”

“Cool. He’d like that.”

“I’ll send someone your dad knows.”

“Thanks. Uncle Austin this is so weird.”

“The vampires?”

“No, the pandemic.” Caden gave a little horse laugh, the way teenage boys do. “It is so weird. Thank for being here for me.”

“Always. Love you kid.”

“Love you too. I’ll keep you posted on mom.”

They finished their call and Austin sat at his desk thinking about his sister, his nephew, and his brother in law. His heart ached at the thought of not being able to do much.

Then he picked up the phone and dialed.

“Hey, it’s Austin. Could you do me a favor?”

The silky smooth vampire voice on the other end answered back, “Anything for you darling. Just ask.”

“Have you ever been to Dairy Queen?”

~ end

 

Tangled Tales

 

~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman

 

 

 

 

Fog

Today is perfect. Thick fog blankets the oaks. Small birds dance among the branches. Rain is supposed to come later today, but this morning I will enjoy the cold, damp, beautiful, and mysterious fog.

Out on the deck, in his usual spot, I could see the Ghost talking to my calico cat. Even in the fog, even in his semi-transparent state his black hair shines, and his blue eyes stand out like a Caribbean lagoon.

“I know you’re watching me. I know you’re writing about me,” he yells making the glass of my dining room windows shake.

I went outside, trying not to trip over the cats who are trying to get out and in at the same time. The calico hissed at the younger gray cat. He backed off, then pushed himself around her. They always get so pissy with each other. It is even worse now that the dog is gone.

Last night I was wondering why the area around the cat food bowls is so messy these days. Ahhh. There is no dog to clean up the floor. Damn. I miss my dog so much I can’t even say it out loud.

I make it out to the deck feeling the wonderful cool damp air on my face.

“Do dogs ever become ghosts?” I had to ask.

The Ghost gives me one of those are you stupid or what looks. “No, dogs don’t become ghosts.” Then he looked away, over the trees, then back to me. “I miss her too. She was the best dog I ever met.” Yes, dogs can see ghosts and they love people even when they’re not alive.

We stood together, a Ghost and a Vampire watching the tiny finches and sparrows in the trees.

“When I was in high school, back in the late 70’s we had official smoking areas in school but we couldn’t eat in class. That was so stupid. A kid could take a smoking break but if he was hungry he couldn’t have a snack. Now there aren’t smoking areas but kids can eat in class. Some things change for the better. A lot of things about high school are better now. Where your kids go, went, still go, teachers aren’t having sex with students anymore. Kids have more options on what classes they want to take. There aren’t elite classes reserved for the so called smart kids. Everybody gets a chance to excel. If I hadn’t died so young I bet I would have worked with teens. Fuck that, I would have been a parent with teens right now. I would have had a dog too. And a wife.” Then he smiled. “At least I do have a girlfriend. She is a ghost but I love her as if she was alive. She likes your kids. I like your kids. You did a great job with them, considering you’re a Vampire. My parents were total assholes.”

“Where are your parents Nigel? Are they still alive?”

He smiled a bitter smile. “My dad is in Hell as far as I know. I don’t know where my mother is. Maybe in prison. Maybe shacked up with some meth head out in the desert. She didn’t even go to my funeral. She has never visited my grave. Stupid bitch. I’m thankful I didn’t spend my formidable teen years with either one of them.”

That is all he’d say about his family. His memories of his past are full of memories he doesn’t want to say out loud, and the rest of his memories are filled with holes. I let him ramble on for a while. He’ll talk for hours. I don’t know if he is making up for lost time or if he has always been an extreme talker. I stopped listening when he started to talk about economic theories, and why the Gold Rush era ghosts who hang out by the lake are so annoying and creepy. I’ll have to agree with him on that one. The Gold Rush ghosts are exceptionally annoying and creepy.

It started to rain and we came inside.

Then Nigel smiled. “It is nice to talk to a real person, even if you are a Vampire.”

“You know I’m always here,” I told him.

Then he laughed and vanished.

 

~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman

 

Parent Chaperones Behaving Badly (Or How YOU Need to BEHAVE on Your Child’s Field Trips)

Parent Chaperones Behaving Badly (Or How YOU Need to BEHAVE on Your Child’s Field Trips)

I’ll make this quick, because we all know parents (and I’m one of them) don’t have a lot of time.

If you have K-12 children you know they are going to go on field trips. If they go on field trips you know parents are going to be asked to go along as chaperones. You know that one day YOU will be asked to be a chaperone.

When you arrive to the location of the field trip you might have a guide to take the children on a tour, or to give them some sort of lesson or demonstration, or help with an activity.

Your field trip host might be a park ranger, a docent, or some sort of other adult helper. 90% of the time this guide/docent/helper will be a VOLUNTEER. By volunteer I mean someone who has freely given their time to spend their time teaching something to YOUR CHILD.

As a PARENT on these trips, be it a historic park, an art museum, a factory tour, or a science center, YOU need to do your part to make it a good experience for everyone.

Yes, being a chaperone is fun because you get to go someplace and take a day off from work. Fun fun fun. You also have responsibilities. Those responsibilities include:

  • Keeping the kids from acting like wild animals (including your child)
  • Encouraging the children to stay together
  • Encouraging the children to get along
  • Making sure the children pay attention to the guides/docents/teachers
  • Making sure the children are engaged
  • Making sure ALL of the children feel included in activities

YES that is YOUR JOB. 

  • Also… remember these trips are for the KIDS.
  • Don’t take over activities. If a guide/docent has a question for the CHILDREN let the CHILDREN answer it.
  • Be nice. Don’t be rude to guides or docents. Like I said, they are volunteers. They are doing this without pay. They are doing the best they can. If you’re an asshole it will just take away from the experience of the kids.
  • Don’t use tour time as a way to catch up with other parents. Watch for kids who are wandering off. And YOU are not allowed to wander off. Stay with the children. Stay engaged.
  • Don’t spend all of the time with YOUR CHILD. As a chaperone you have agreed to be with ALL of the kids in your group. Don’t wander off with your kid on a tour. It distracts the other children. It distracts the guide/docent. It distracts the other parents. Plus it is just rude.
  • Listen to the guide/docent and help the children follow the rules. It will make a safer tour and guarantee everyone will have a fun experience.
  • Don’t be an asshole.
  • Don’t look bored. Kids will pick up on that. Like I said, don’t be an asshole.
  • Do a little bit of research before you go on the field trip so you can discuss it with your child and the other kids in the group. There is a wonderful thing called the INTERNET. You can get all kinds of information about EVERYTHING including the location of your field trip.
  • Make sure kids get snacks before the tour or activity. Hungry kids don’t pay attention and tend the fidget. The same goes for bathrooms breaks. Make sure every has gone to the potty before the tour or activity.
  • Yes, you’re the adult. You’re a parent. That is your job when you volunteer as a chaperone.

Everyone wants to be liked. Everyone wants to be known as a good parent. Everyone wants to be asked back. Nobody wants a bad reputation. Follow my guidelines and you’ll be the coolest field trip chaperone in the class. I guarantee it.

That’s it. Simple rules. Be the adult you are. Your kids will than you for it later.

~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman

 

 

 

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

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

Parenting Young Adult Vampires – Quick Notes

vampire teens

Even after your kids are grown, or in this case sort-of-grown, you still worry about them.

They graduate from high school, turn eighteen, vote, drive, get jobs, go to college, and they’re adults.

Sort of.

They’re also maybe drinking, having sex, forming strong opinions, dabbling in drugs, staying out late, and exploring the dark side of culture.

They’re exploring all sides of culture. That could be a good thing. A mighty good thing.

And if they’re Vampire kids you have a whole other thing to deal with.

It is one thing if your younger child starts to hunt a little on their own, but it is a whole new game when a young Vampire turns into an adult.

This isn’t something you can push off on the old traditions. Our old timers didn’t make the rules in the 1950’s. They made the rules in the 1750’s, and those rules don’t work anymore. Just like with any other parent you need to keep up with your kids, be open and honest, and teach them the rules of the 21st Century Vampire.

Your young adult children are going to start collecting their own sets of donors. Make sure they choose wisely. Guide them. By guiding I don’t mean vague references like “don’t  pick criminals,” or “watch for people with Hep C.” They need to pick safe donors. Safe means people with calm personalities. That means people who live private lives. It means people who can mentally and physically withstand being a donor.

You also need to continue to talk with your kids and be open with them. Donors are not friends. They are not serious lovers. They are not someone you will fall in love with. Sure you can care. Of course you SHOULD care, but not in a romantic way. Never get involved romantically with a donor. Also do not turn your donors into Vampires. Do not EVER let your donor know you’re a Vampire. These are tough conversations you need to have with your young adult children.

Encourage them to attend seminars about avoiding, and dealing with Vampire Hunters. They have enough going on with trying to find jobs, go to school, and juggle their activities, and start to live on their own, without having to deal with someone trying to put a stake through their heart, or worse. Make sure their only heartbreak is the kind they sing about in pop songs, not literally having their heart ripped from their body.

Vampire Teens Rock

This is just a quick thought for today. Just a reminder. I’ll go into more depth on the subject later.

In the meantime, no matter how old or young they are, talk to your kids. Talk with them, not at them. Listen to them. Engage them. Laugh with them. Share with them. Learn from them. Yes, learn from them – you’d be surprised what they can teach you.

~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman

 

Vampire mom