Short Story Sunday: Bernie Showers in France

Bernie Showers in France

A short story by Aurora Jean Alexander

Bernie Watson, a self-acclaimed womanizer, always wanted to see Paris. One day he managed to travel to France after tediously scraping up the money he needed for the trip. In his imagination, Bernie saw himself sitting in the first class, sipping champagne and enjoying movies, a beautiful woman next to him. He was dreaming about standing on the balcony of a 5-star hotel with a breathtaking view over the city until he could see the Eiffel Tower and the Arc de Triomphe from far.

Reality looked a bit different. Bernie found himself in the middle row of economy, helplessly jammed between an angry tourist at the end of his vacation and a permanently eating eighty-year-old on the other side, with an ancient Pekinese on her lap.

When he arrived at the hotel, he found that the two-star hotel he had made reservations, was even older than he had suspected from the pictures. It was located in the most run-down quarter of the city. Bernie now wasn’t the most hygiene-fanatic on Earth, but after a trip of roughly 9 hours in an airplane, he still felt the need to shower. Usually, he would have used baby wipes to clean the worst, but they had removed them at the customs; the heavy accent of the man explaining the reason made it impossible for Bernie to understand, and he didn’t know where to buy them in France.

He undressed and stood in front of the mirror, looking at his body with appreciation. He didn’t see the pale, almost sick-looking skin that hadn’t seen the sun in the past forty-five years, the slightly protruding stomach, the flat ass, and the wobbly arms which all showed that he hadn’t seen a gym from up close for decades. Also, he didn’t see the missing hair on his lower chest that made his torso look like he was regularly wearing a bra…. But he found himself very attractive, and to him, that was enough, after all, only his own opinion was important.

He climbed into the shower cabin and found himself facing an old construction with two faucets, on one it said C, which he immediately concluded was ‘cold,’ while the other one said F, which he figured, must be the opposite… hot, or (f)arm with a typo… he was in France, after all.

Full of energy, he turned the ‘Farm’ and found himself showered with an icy stream of brown lava… as it was normal in an old building in Europe when the water fuses had not been used for a while.

Immediately ‘Louis XIV,’ his Sun King, resentfully withdrew into his hunting lodge… Bernie, of course, caressed his little king, knowing he had to be careful… after all, he was utterly dependent on his Sun King’s moods.

He, therefore, mixed himself a decently comfortable water temperature and continued showering… until someone in another room flushed the toilet…

In these old hotels, this process had an immediate effect on the water temperature by removing the complete cold water from Bernie’s shower within nanoseconds… He found himself in the boiling hot shower cabin. The door which had only jammed from the outside was impossible to open from the inside. Also, he had no idea that the re-fill of an old toilet tank in a two-hundred-year-old hotel room needed about 25 minutes.

Bernie, while having the hot brownish lava pelted onto his head, he realized, he had only one hand to turn off both faucets! With the other hand, he had to protect his Sun King as well as possible! Because in this country, where he was unable to speak the language, he would not be able to talk someone into helping him with his injured, burned sun king…

 

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(This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.)

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Aurora Jean Alexander is the author of Demon Tracker. She also runs the blog Writer’s Treasure Chest – A blog for authors, about authors, written by an author. Check it out for interesting author interviews, books, and more about the art of writing.

Aurora Jean is one of my oldest and dearest blogging friends. I’m happy to share her work today.

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~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman

 

Tangled Tales

Bad Dogs

Vampire Maman

A few nights ago…

I was camping in the Arizona desert with a few friends under the dark sky with stars unlike what we see at home.

Sleep, as always, was somewhere else. I always figure Sleep is hanging out at a bar somewhere flirting with a beautiful blonde and not thinking of me. He doesn’t care.

But, that said, for a few fleeting moments I fell into a slumber. I dreamed of two men with long brooms sweeping in a world made of blue light. Then the blue changed to black and white, like a vintage cartoon, and I watched a small naked man climb on rocks. He turned from a cave man type character to a Japanese man, then he morphed into a wolf.

I woke and went outside under the stars. In the distance someone was setting off bottle rockets of green and red. If I’d been…

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Juliette’s Book Club: Expanding Your Horizons

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“Wilderness is not a luxury but a necessity of the human spirit, and as vital to our lives as water and good bread. A civilization which destroys what little remains of the wild, the spare, the original, is cutting itself off from its origins and betraying the principle of civilization itself.”
Edward Abbey, Desert Solitaire

 

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My daughter called me to ask if I’d ever read Desert Solitaire by Edward Abby.

It was on a list of about 125 books from one of her classes. She had to choose one. All had to do with environmental issues and/or political issues with the environment. Also on the list were Silent Spring by Rachael Carson, A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson, and Arctic Dreams by Barry Lopez.

Yes, I have read all of them. Everyone should read all of them. I told my child to read all of them.

Then she said, “Mom, I only have to read one.”

“Then read Desert Solitare. That book changes lives. They all do, but read that one first.”

Then we talked about our trip to Arches National Park a few years ago. I told her how much the surrounding area and Moab have changed since Edward Abby wrote his classic book.

Desert Solitaire is a collection of treatises and autobiographical excerpts describing Abbey’s experiences as a park ranger and wilderness enthusiast in 1956 and 1957. The opening chapters, First Morning and Solitaire, focus on the author’s experiences arriving at and creating a life within Arches National Monument. In this early period the park is relatively undeveloped: road access and camping facilities are basic, and there is a low volume of tourist traffic.

Desert Solitaire depicts Abbey’s preoccupation with the deserts of the American Southwest. He describes how the desert affects society and more specifically the individual on a multifaceted, sensory level.

“A man could be a lover and defender of the wilderness without ever in his lifetime leaving the boundaries of asphalt, powerlines, and right-angled surfaces. We need wilderness whether or not we ever set foot in it. We need a refuge even though we may never need to set foot in it. We need the possibility of escape as surely as we need hope; without it the life of the cities would drive all men into crime or drugs or psychoanalysis.”
Edward Abbey

 

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I have started reading Horizon by Barry Lopez (author of Arctic Dreams.)
So far it has been a book that is hard for me to put down.

From the National Book Award-winning author of the now-classic Arctic Dreams, a vivid, poetic, capacious work that recollects the travels around the world and the encounters–human, animal, and natural–that have shaped an extraordinary life.

 

This Book Club isn’t so much about what I’ve read, but about what I’m reading now, or will be reading soon. Like most of you, I have a big stack of to-read books, as well as a long list of to-read books.

~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman

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The Quiet Beauty of the Dead: Colma Part 2

A few years ago (2016) I visited the city of Colma, where almost everyone is dead. Seriously, over a million graves are there with less than 2,000 living in residence. There are no cemeteries in San Francisco – they were all moved to Colma. People and pets are still buried there to this day.

The photos were taken by my friend Amelia who joined Clara and I for the day. Thank you Amelia. These are lovely.

Click here for Part 1.

~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman

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Colma: Part 1, City of Angels – A Photo Essay

Colma: Part 1, City of Angels – A Photo Essay

No cemeteries are allowed in San Francisco. The town of Colma has become the official cemetery spot and now hosts over a million graves. The photos are from The Italian Cemetery, Cypress Lawn, and a pet cemetery.

~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman

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Children's Area Italian Cemetery, Colma, CA

Children’s Area Italian Cemetery, Colma, CA

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Small Ghosts – St. John the Baptist Cemetery – and my weird brother

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You never know who you are going to run into. Last Saturday morning we went out to the Farmer’s Market in Folsom. It wasn’t the usual California Certified Organic Farmer’s Market we usually go to, but one that was closer to home. We thought we’d give it a try.

By we I mean my daughter Clara and my elder brother Max. Of course Max complained that he wasn’t a morning person. I told him it would be just like when we were kids. He wasn’t impressed but enough prodding and cajoling got him up and into his usual black shirt and jeans. I always tell him that a visit to my house never guarantees he will get any sleep.

Yes, that is what this Vampire family does every once in a while. For those of you who are new here…we don’t live in the dark shadows or crypts or old black houses or castles. Our world is the same as yours… only we’re not quite like everyone else.

He wasn’t impressed by the market either. It was small compared to the larger Certified Organic Farmer’s Market we’ve been going to since the kids were babies. On the bright side there was a wonderful tea and spice seller I’d go back for. We also picked up some wool for a friend who spins.

The crowd wasn’t large. Maybe it was the biting cold wind. Despite that Max still got more than his fair share of looks. There is something about him that attracts people – a magnetism that oozes out of him even when he is at his grumpiest. A smile from him can warm and chill like death depending on what kind of mood he is in.

“Your friends are so weird,”Max said out of the blue as I was exploring the spice and tea booth.

“Tell me something I don’t know. At least they’re interesting.”

The night before we’d been out and about doing Vampire stuff (you know – Vampire stuff) and ran into my old pal Foxy Mendoza (aka Mitch aka Jonathan.) Foxy is pretty annoying and an acquired taste like fermented shark or unripe green oranges or dog food on toast. Foxy is always fun and flashy and for some reason he can charm those warm-blooded ladies unlike most Vampires. Women are attracted to Max like they’re attracted to chocolate or shoes. They like Foxy like … I have no idea. Last night Foxy was wearing red pants (something nobody should wear over the age of five) with a blue and green vest that he wore over a black shirt. This was topped with a pork pie hat with a peacock feather in it. None of it went with his strawberry blonde hair and pale complexion. He was talking about how cheese and mustard pairs up and the historic… anyway, it was annoying – but fun to watch. Plus Foxy is always so glad to see us.

So back to the Farmer’s Market. I saw a few parents from the school so we had to chat. Max was charming as I introduced him.

By the time all of the booths had been viewed and we’d visited with our friends Max and Clara were ready to go.

On the way home I decided to stop by the old St. John the Baptist Catholic cemetery (this is really an old-fashioned graveyard.) You’ll find no lavish crypts here. It is a small plot of about two or three acres and a small church founded in 1853. Yes, this was the Gold Rush Era in California. Irish emigrants came here to find their fortunes, make a better life and for many, die before their time. Unfortunately like many cemeteries of that time a high number of the graves are those of children and young people in their teens and twenties. Deaths at a young age were not unexpected, but that didn’t mean it wasn’t tragic or heartbreaking to their families and friends.

Max walked alone for a bit while Clara and I looked for stories in the headstone inscriptions.

A few were born around the same time as us or born before we were. We remembered places like this as a child, but so many are now gone or moved. Maxwell was born in 1849 on a ship in San Francisco Bay. I came along ten years later with three more brothers in-between us. We thought such practices of burying folks was odd, until we were told that we were not like others. If we were lucky and smart we’d be around long after the white stones turned gray with age and wind wore the names down to a faint scratch.

We didn’t feel any ghosts in this place. We never have. Everyone had moved on or moved elsewhere. Maybe under a full moon or an anniversary there might be the spirit of one of the occupants, but the place has never felt overly haunted like other places of the dead. You might find them (ghosts) walking the banks of the lake or sitting on the edge of the bluffs, but not here where they were laid to rest so long ago.

That isn’t quite the entire story. In the back, along the fence is the lone grave of a small child. She didn’t live during the Gold Rush but a much later addition. Her name was Julie Ann and she lived from 1975 to 1983. Over the years her grave has been visited by strangers but there is no sign of anyone around who loved or cared about her. Her stone is covered with dirt, lichen and leaves. She is alone, far from the family graves of children who lived in the nineteenth century.  I hope she was loved. More than anything I hope she isn’t there.

As a rule I hate ghosts, but the small ones are sad little things that need to move on and have their peace.

Clara jolted Max out of his revelries by bumping on his arm and asking, “So, Uncle Max, how long do you plan on having the squirrel on your face?”

“Excuse me?” Max looked annoyed.

“The beard. I think it looks good,” I told him. It does looks good – short and neat, not one of those shaggy things.

“You should shave it off. But I like the glasses,” said Clara. Like a lot of teenage girls, Clara thinks glasses on good-looking guys is ultra hot. She wandered off to look at more stones and find things to tell her friends about.

Max stopped by one of the older stones and smiled. The inscription was of a 21-year-old women from Ireland who died in 1862. She’d come all the way to California only to quickly die.

My brother glanced at me. “She isn’t there.”

“Tell me more,” I said leaning against him in that funny way siblings lean on each other.

“Mom turned her.”

I almost said HOLY SHIT, but let him continue his story.

“The lass was in an abusive marriage. As a Vampire she could have freedom she never had as a young wife with a husband who thought it was his duty to beat her. So with the help of our dear mother she escaped and a stone was placed on an empty grave.” Then he gave a low laugh. “She lives in Seattle now.”

“You know her?”

“Yes, I know her. Oh don’t look surprised. She seduced me when I was sixteen.”

“Why didn’t you tell me?”

“You were only six – just a kid.”

We looked up to see Clara looking at more stones as she made her way back up to the car. I was not going to tell her about Max’s friend. She could learn about that later – much later.

Anyway, for those of you who are traveling around Northern California or in  the Sacramento area and looking for something to do on a Saturday or Sunday check out Folsom. You can visit St. John the Baptist then talk a walk down historic Sutter Street, have lunch, shop or stop by and have a beer at one of the many fine pubs. Walk down to the old Powerhouse or across the old footbridge and get a first class view of the beautiful Rainbow Bridge and Lake Natoma. Then have a picnic at Negro Bar State Park and feed the geese and ducks at the beach. Bring your bicycles and ride around the lake on the American River Bike Trail. Or head over to the Folsom Zoo where you can see the most amazing assortment of wild animals (from tigers to hawks to monkeys) who have been rescued and can no longer survive in the wild on their own. Then take a drive over to Folsom Dam. There used to be water in the lake before the drought (really, I kid you not.) You can also see the famous Folsom Prison which is right next to the lake. Maybe you’ll hear the ghost of Johnny Cash singing in the hills (I doubt that too but it sure would be cool.)

~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman

First published in 2015
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On the American River Bike Trail near Negro Bar.

On the American River Bike Trail near Negro Bar.