Frogs, Rain, and Finding Unexpected Company Under the Floorboards: Keeping in the Light

In the land of eternal drought it has been raining. It has been raining a lot.

The rain means frogs around my house. From May to October we get very little or no rain. In the summer most of the frogs go underground into their mud shells and wait for the rain. A few come up to my deck and hang out in the planters, or hide underneath the front porch in the hot weather but most vanish under the ground.

Anyway right now their chorus is deafening at night. They’re called Sacramento Valley Chorus Frogs. Really. That is what they’re called. They’re tiny little things with huge voices.

My dog lets me know when deer and coyotes come into the field behind my house. There are always turkeys. If I look up into the sky I can see eagles, hawks, and a large assortment of song birds. If I go outside the humming birds will buzz around my head. The hummers are fearless because they know nobody can catch them.

Occasionally my brother Aaron will call me to help distract some old dried up shadow creeping Vampire from a building. His friend Austin Durant, a Vampire Hunter, often is along. The only reason they call me is because I’m not afraid and I’m the only one small enough to get into most of the tight places under houses and in attic walls.

I guess the point is that even when it is raining or seems like nasty out nobody needs to stay hidden behind walls. I wonder why my brothers, friends, and I choose to Vampires who live in the real world, and others crawl away and hide. Sometimes they hide for years, until they dry up, like frogs who live in a drought for a hundred years.

There are regular people like that too, living like the frogs who get stuck in the hardened ground forever.

If you know anyone like that you need to go water them. Bring them out. Let them sing their songs again.

Then again, if they’re Vampires, leave that to the experts. Let me know and I’ll hook you up with someone who can help. You don’t want to mess with Vampires.

~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman

 

Rain and Frogs

One of our frogs. They’re tiny. You could fit 6 or more in the palm of your hand.

Storm

I never realized that the high rise downtown held the Federal Courthouse, art, poetry, and historic displays. There are also incredible views, even in the storm. Yes, I was there yesterday afternoon.

Even with the Federal Government shutdown there is still almost no parking to be found on the downtown streets. I finally found a spot near the old rail yards. The old rail yards is a yet to be developed area that used to be, well, rail yards. Old brick building still stand waiting to become trendy and useful again. Acres and acres of land waits for something, or maybe nothing. I’d like to see just a big park. Tracks still go out in all directions.

The active rail station is also near by taking commuters to the Bay Area and to far off places. I’d say exotic but only because it sounds more fun. Right now taking the train from Sacramento to Reno is the only way to go. I think the highways are closed this morning due to snow. If they aren’t closed it is painfully cold and slow. Over the past 24 hours the snow has come down not in inches but in feet. Dozens of feet.

Anyway, the only parking I could find was about five, maybe six blocks away, over an overpass that went across the old rail yard and tracks. On the wide sidewalks of the cheerfully designed urban bridge were homeless structures made of shopping carts, blankets, tarps, and bicycles. Across the way, and below, under more underpasses, and along walls were more homeless staked out in small groups of two or three, waiting out the storm. They’re just waiting out life. Just waiting.

I walked over the bridge, bundled up in my wool coat with my big blue umbrella. Within about a half minute I was soaked. My pants were soaked. My feet, through my boots, were soaked. Granted my boots are Doc Marten’s but they’re a heavy canvas. I should have worn my leather boots. My coat was soaked.

Ghosts stood on the bridge, on the side with the two homeless forts. They looked at me with blank eyes that stared out of gray holes in their heads. Two wore baggy suits and looks contempt. A woman in a long dirty blue dress with a bustle stood alone. Three Chinese ghosts huddled with quilted coats and  long pigtails.

I walked on. I hate ghosts. A gust of cold wind hit my face along with about a gallon of water. A ghost stood in front of me. She wore a sort coat, open with a short orange dress underneath. Her feet were bare. Long dark bangs skimmed the top of her eyes.

“Are you here to feast on the almost dead below?” She pointed down to the homeless camps. “Will you take them?” She pointed to the blanket and tarp fort across the street by the bus stop.

I tried to walk on but she followed me making hissing noises. I stopped despite the storm.

“There are already Vampires down there but I am not like them. Let me be,” I said.

“They will be found dead and cold, and nobody will know,” said the Ghost.

“Not because of Vampires,” I said and walked past the Ghost.

I know the kind of Vampires who are down there. They too live on the streets, or roam the streets then after feeding go back to the cold dark places they call home. They take what they need – blood and nightmares.

I am not one of them.

This morning I’m watching my cat, his fur wet, drinking fresh water from a bowl. My dog is curled in her bed. There are no Ghosts in sight, not yet.

~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman

 

 

 

 

 

The Quiet Beauty of San Miniato al Monte

Last week, it seems like yesterday, and it seems like a hundred years ago, I was at San Miniato al Monte monastery and cemetery in Florence, Italy.

The church was built in the year 1018 with no power tools, and workers who no doubt couldn’t even write their own names. It is beauty from a dark time.

It was an unexpected, moving, and beautiful find.

We (my husband, children and I) expected to find an old monastery at the highest point in Florence. We did not expect to find the huge cemetery surrounding it.

There was not enough time to spend there. I could have spent a week looking at the hundreds of touching statues that spoke of memories, but there by those who loved and those who lost their hearts. So many dates were from the 1940’s. So many were children.

The ghosts lurked far from us, watching us walk through the rain. More than anything we could feel the love and the loss. It is a special place where those who are no longer remembered by anyone now living, are still touching our hearts and souls.

~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman

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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

 

 

Musings on Quiet Time in a Public Place (with Coffee, Rain, Math and Vampires)

Saturday means coffee, and math. My seventeen year old daughter Clara meets with a friend at a local coffee place to figure out math. I write and wait for things to happen.

It is Saturday so I check other blogs like Evil Squirrels Nest (Saturday Squirrel), The Secret Keeper (Vincent Van Gough), and J Mounts Written In Blood (Saturday Short Film). Every Saturday. Every single Saturday. Hey, even unscheduled scattered Vampires like me have our routines.

It is a place where they roast their own coffee. My daughter was able to smell the ground beans before her drinks was made. Two men sit at a table next to me. One is working a crossword on his iPad, the other is doing the crossword on paper. They’re talking like old friends do.

The Coffee Works is a block from my husband’s business, and not far from my brother Aaron’s house. Even in the pouring rain people come in and out. They gather here for warm drinks and good karma.

A few minutes ago I saw Austin Durant, Aaron’s friend. I guess I could say he is my friend too. He is a Vampire Hunter, but not of my kind. He rids buildings of the dried up creatures who sleep under floorboards and between walls. They’re the dusty husks of people who have since moved on into the light, with only their confused and hungry bodies remaining. Anyway, Austin also teaches history the local university, and restores old buildings.

I saw Austin in line and waved. He gave me a smile and headed over to my table after he got coffee.

“A lot of Vampires are out today,” he said, looking around. There were about five of us in the place, but nobody but the Vampires, Austin and I knew it. “How are you Juliette?”

“Good. Clara is meeting with a friend. They’re doing math stuff. I’m just writing. You know Vampires and coffee.”

We chatted a bit more, you know, the usual small talk. Then when he said he had to go I said, “be careful out there.” He knew I wasn’t just talking about the traffic.

But traffic is bad. I live in a place where it hardly rains. Now it is pouring and will pour for the next week. Since we’ve had a drought forever nobody knows how to drive in the rain. Still, I love the rain. I love sitting next to a window and reading or writing.

As I was rummaging through my computer bag my brother Aaron pulled up a chair next to me at my table.

It was great to see him. He is usually so formal and serious, but today he was in jeans, with a flannel shirt, and his hair sort of messed up with the wind and rain. He invited me over for Christmas evening festivities. We made no jokes about him being both a Vampire and an attorney. We didn’t even talk about being Vampires, just like we didn’t talk about a lot of things that would interest others if they imagined Vampire siblings talking over coffee on a Saturday morning. We just talked about our families, Christmas lights, our dogs, and books. Aaron and I always get to books.

After Aaron left, Clara was still working on the math. I find myself, no, take that back – I allow myself to think of what I will write next, and what I will draw next. There are so many things I need to tie up, that get in the way of what I need to do.

I wonder about my husband Teddy down in the Delta today selling a yellow Porsche from the late 50’s. It is a beautiful car but it is time to find it a new home. I watch as two guys roll a recycle bin down the sidewalk. There are fewer cars than normal, and almost nobody on the usual busy sidewalks. I hear the people at the table behind me. There is another woman named Juliette. I wonder what her blood type is. Hey, I’m a Vampire. I think about those things. I can’t help it.

On the way here Clara and I talked in the car about how toddlers are like dogs. They try to understand but they just don’t always get it. We laughed about how toddlers will go stiff as a board if they are put somewhere they don’t want to sit, or are picked up when they don’t want to be picked up.

It is those random thoughts and memories that are sometimes more important than the big things going on in the outside world.

I told Clara that people keep asking me, “What will you do when she goes off to college. You’re so close. How will you manage?” They never ask is Clara will manage, because everyone knows she’ll do great.

Clara said, “It isn’t like I’m going to suddenly not want to be around you or Dad.”

We’ll always be close. We’ll call. We’ll text. We’ll know that we are always part of each other.

I’m now sharing my table with a senior couple who came in for coffee. They just left, but I’m glad to share. Someone else took one of the chairs. I’m glad to share. I’m glad to see so many people in this place who are part of each other. They’re also part of the community we all belong in. There is a small old man with a Santa beard. There are students and study groups (not just my child), there are young and old people together. After over an hour the old guys are still working on their puzzles and talking by the window.

Hey, I see my friend Adam, photographer, and Werewolf coming in. I motion for him to come sit with me. Alright. Have a good Saturday everyone. Adam and I will have more coffee and I’ll treat him to a berry scone. Hey, Werewolves like scones. My dog likes scones.

I’ll be posting a few Christmas stories later today. Have fun and keep checking back.

~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman

Trying to Believe

Oh what is this water falling from the sky? Rain maybe?

——————

“Do you remember Douglas and Cassandra?”

“Vaguely,” I said to my husband. “What did they do this time?” They were famous for pulling stunts and living dangerously close to being found out.

“They left.”

“Left? Oh. When?”

Doug and Cassie had been Vampires since the early 1930’s. The last of their children has passed away from old age so they decided to end it. From time to time it happens. Maybe more than any of us would like to admit. It didn’t surprise me. They’d never been happy with their choice. No kidding. They’d been party animals who decided to become Vampires after (yes after) their kids were born. Bad choice. They had no idea what they were getting into. Kids change people. Becoming a Vampire with three children at home at the same time is not a good idea.

I barely knew them, but it was still a shock, but then again it wasn’t. After sitting in the back of the memorial service for their 89-year-old son, their youngest child, they decided to move on too. Doug and Cassie crawled into a crypt they’d purchased decades before and sealed the door.

I won’t say that I started to think of my own choices. These days I’m beyond thinking about any choices I’ve ever made in the past. One can only think of those sorts of things so much before feeling rather stupid.

What I was thinking about was how to write the transition pages that would tie a book I’m writing all together. I was thinking of bringing my old dog to the vet for a bad leg. Down under the basement of an empty Victorian building my brother and I own I was looking for some of my old drawings I thought I’d left there about a century ago.

My friend Adam (a Werewolf and brilliant photographer) dropped by. I’d told him I’d be there.

“What do Werewolves do when they get depressed or feel regret for being what they are?” I don’t even know why I asked him that. I guess just the mood of the night.

“We howl at the moon. I don’t know, drink, pick up women, chase cats…take drugs, sleep, rip flesh, you know, the usual. What brought that on?”

I shrugged. Adam stepped closer. “What do you do when you get depressed Juliette?”

“I have no idea. I don’t get depressed.”

We ended that conversation as quickly as it started and moved on to general gossip about people we know.

I pulled out a file of sketches and spread them out on the table. Adam looked them over a bit. Then he edged closer, his shoulder touching mine.

“Remember how we were before I knew you were a Vampire?”

“Before I knew you were a Werewolf,” I said. I didn’t add before you almost ripped my throat out.

“Do you believe things happen for a reason?”

“Not really. I mean sometimes. Right now I’m trying to believe it. I’m trying to believe in the impossible.”

“What is the impossible?”

“I am. Everything.”

He put his arm around my shoulder and gave it a squeeze. “I believe.”

“Good.”

We went to breakfast, more for him than me. Then I took my daughter to school. On the way we talked about a boy in her school who’d come from Africa. His parents were wildlife naturalists. His mom passed away. They lived here now. Then we talked about the world economy and endangered species and phone chargers and roller skating.

Conversations are like rain the way they just fall. Crap, that was a line out of a really bad movie. I can’t believe I even wrote that.

In a bit I’m taking the dog to the vet for a limp, then for a few hours I am on my own, and trying to believe.

 

~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman 

 

 

Vampire Maman