A Tale of a broken down car on a not so lonely road.

It was 1932 and my brother Val and I were driving home for the holidays. We decided to drive rather than take the train. It provided us with more freedom and a chance to see some of the back roads of America. In 1932 almost everything was a back road compared to now.

Let me back up a bit. I told a version of this story, about six years ago, without as much detail.

Anyway, we packed up and took our Packard Dualcowl Pheaton on the road. What possessed me to wear silk and fur is beyond me now, but that is just how we did it in those days. Val as always looked dapper and totally relaxed. Val and I are less than two years apart in age and act and look too much alike to be taken as anything other than brother and sister.

Over the years Val and I have had a lot of adventures together, starting when we were children. In the 1860’s and 70’s we pretty much ran the streets as young Vampires anytime we could get away. Sometimes our brother Aaron would be with us. Rarely would our eldest brothers Max or Andy be with us. We saw people nailed to floors, public hangings, fights, and acts of violence that made no sense what so ever. We spied on artists as they painted or had affairs, or did both. We saw dog fights, cat fights, rode on trains and horses, and tried to do things that, as Vampires, were nothing but trouble for us but well worth the effort. We saw Werewolves, Ghosts, and some things we still haven’t been able to explain. We helped the helpless and even exacted revenge where it was appropriate. We kept secrets that we still keep.

So there we were, in 1931, driving on an dirt and gravel road with no name, across the edge of the Sierra Nevada Mountains, on trails that are older than old when something in our beautiful car blew smoke and sputtered and stopped.

It was night, which is no big deal for us. We could see the eyes in the woods. No big deal. Woodland creatures respect as they respect all predators. A couple of bears came cautiously close, black bears. We started to sing and the animals left. No need for bear spray.

“Now what?” I asked my brother. I was absolutely starving and needed food badly. Sure in a pinch an animal would do but human company would be nice. More than nice.

We walked down the road for a mile or two when we could smell the scent of human kind in the air and saw lights through the trees.

Then sounds. Mournful singing. Singing in weird monotone voices, pitched high and ancient sounding.

There were old songs handed down from generation to generation without benefit of written music or any written word. I was sure most of the singers couldn’t even write their own names. I remembered ancient ones singing songs like that when I was young. They were songs as old as the mountains and older than the memory of men.

These were people who had mined, and farmed, and settled the remote edge between California and Nevada. It was a place of unmatched beauty, wonder, and mystery. It was also a place where it cold snow any minute, a face I reminded Val. I did not want to be stuck in the snow and have to wait for someone to dig me out in the spring.

We came to a white washed clappard building, not a church because there was no steeple or cross. It was a meeting house. In neat black script above the door was written Oak Hall – Welcome All. The door opened and an arm motioned for us to come in.

The room was full of folk, plain folk of all ages, singing with unified voices songs of the hills. They sang of life. They sang of lust and greed. They sang of love. They sang of  the spirit that is deep in us all. They sang of all that they knew.

Then they looked at us in their basic work clothing. We were rich city folk, like two people who’d just come off of a movie set. We might have well been John Barrymore and Greta Garbo.

The man who waved for us to come in took us to a table near a stove with a pot of coffee, and a table with cakes and cookies.

“Our car broke down about a mile back. Is there a mechanic in the group who can help us? I can fix a tire or replace a belt but this is beyond my expertise,” said Val.

“The fancy Packard?”

“Yes, that is us. Wrong car to take on a cross country trip.”

“Mrs. Jeeter over there, the one in the blue dress, said she saw you and your wife drinking from a flask when you were pulled over earlier today, between here and Bodie. She said she was surprised you weren’t driving all zigzaggedly. Don’t worry about her, everybody around her partakes every now and then. We don’t care what the government tells us what to do.”

“My sister. This is my sister, not my wife. This is Miss Juliette Todd. I’m Val Todd.”

The man held out his hand, “John Cutter. Glad to meet you. Now that I look at you a bit more I can see how you look alike. Come on in and warm yourself up. We’ll have someone come out and look at your car in a bit.”

Another man, a giant of almost seven feet tall came up to us. He was wearing a black suit with worn work boots. “Don’t be afraid,” said the tall man who was obviously one of their leaders. “We know what you are. You’re people of the night. Show us your fangs.”

Val and I froze as they gathered around us. Then when our fear built up they started to sing.

We are all different
Children of the Earth
God’s blessing
On us all
God’s blessing
On us all
There is no evil
Only fear
There is no evil
No evil here.

Then they sat us down and offered us their wrists. They told us stories of Vampires and Werewolves, of Demons and Ghosts. They told us of all creatures and of their vision of all living in unity. Two of them admitted to being Werewolves. They all had stories of Vampires who’d rewarded those who had helped them.

They said they’d welcomed us because we were lost. They invited us to join them at their Thanksgiving table. There would be fresh turkey and greens, cornbread and black eyed peas. There would be pie and root vegetables found in the forest. There would be kinship and understanding.

We stayed for the feast. And we talked of their kin and traditions. We also told them of our family.

They all wanted to touch us. They all wanted to share their blood with us. We sang the songs with them into the night. We learned their songs and they learned a few of ours – or at least some popular songs of the day.

Val and I slept through the day, and when night came again they walked us back to our car, which started just fine.

I think about those people with their calloused hands and bright eyes. I think of their mismatched untrained voices that sang in unison like an unearthly wind or a chorus of lost angels.

And to this day Val and I are thankful. We never could find that road again and nobody we ever talked to knew of these folk we spent our Thanksgiving with. I’m sure they were real and not just ghosts in the woods. I’m sure this Thanksgiving one of their great grandchildren is listening to the story about the time those rich Vampires came to visit.

Thanksgiving isn’t just about who you want to be with, but maybe who you need to be with. We’re thankful for all of them. And thankful for the haunting memories of music and fellowship. Most of all we’re thankful for good intentions.

~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman

 

2019 Nano Pablano Cheer Peppers. 

A Werewolf’s Train to Nowhere

Right after I’d graduated from college (the first time) from one of the rare Universities (now a well respected and famous school) that accepted women I took a trip across country on a train to meet my brother Val. He’d gone to New York City without me, leaving me, a young woman, unescorted. I would have done fine on my own but back then, in 1881 young women, even Vampires, didn’t travel alone.

I got on the train on a dark full moon night and made my way to my car. I was to share a car with several other students and some sort of chaperone. What I found was three young men dressed in rather garish suits of the latest fashion (or so they thought) and nobody else. Two had short beards, again, the style of the time. I recognized one from school. The train started to move. There was no getting off. OK I could have jumped, but I was in a long dress with a bustle no less and jumping wasn’t a practical option. Contrary to popular belief I couldn’t turn myself into a bat and fly away. So I stayed. They were horrible the entire time making crude jokes and being as vulgar as they could be. They insulted me for being a Vampire, calling me dead and cold and well, they were vulgar to say the least. I was in Hell and ready to get off of the train.

I sat took claim to a settee with a small table and tried to ignore my garishly dressed companions. A young woman climbed aboard and the three men cheered. She was dressed as garish as they were in the most stylish of gowns but it was a bright orange color with brown beaded trim. Her hair was as orange as the dress and piled high on her head. That included a lot of fake hair to go along with her real hair.

She eyed me up and down. “Who invited the Vampire?”

“I’m Juliette,” I said to the Werewolf girl. Holy crap I’d been stuck for a cross country trip with four Werewolves. Every muscle and bone on my body tightened up. I wanted to scream. Instead I just kept my place in my corner while my companions made as much noise as they could laughing out loud and of course the alcohol and drugs came out. Of course.

Just as the parting whistle blew the door opened again and in stepped my friend Pierce. Finally, another Vampire had arrived, and a strong protective one at that. His father owned the train car and I didn’t even put the two together. Pierce was a friend of my brothers Max and Andy. At age 28 he was the oldest of our group. We made quite a contrast in our highly fashionable yet subdued attire compared to the flamboyant brightly dressed Werewolves. We were also a lot quieter.

The Werewolf girl who was named Phoebe gave Pierce a long hard look then smiled and licked her lips. Pierce is attractive with a narrow face, a sensuous mouth and dark heavily lashed eyes. Of course she noticed him. She’d no doubt try to have his clothes off, have her way with him then tear his throat out. Well, maybe not, but I didn’t want him to get her claws into a friend who was almost like a brother to me.

The males were Luke, Seth and Eldon. I’ll never forget their names. They were rude and loud and young. Had they been Vampires I might have thought they were fun, but since they were Werewolves I thought they were disgusting. Phoebe was just as bad with her crude laugh and dirty jokes.

Pierce and I played cards and stood on the back of the train in the night air. We mostly talked. I asked him about people we knew who’d gone out into the world – the young Vampires we’d grown up with. Pierce was on his way to New York. I was on my way to New York as well to meet my brother Valentine. After that we’d board a ship to London.

Conversations with the Werewolves were in bits and pieces of insults and crude jokes. Pierce’s father did business with their families. To keep the peace and keep favors in check he’d offered to let the young adults of the pack to ride with us. Also, by being with Vampires the Werewolves were more likely to behave themselves. At least that is what everyone thought.

On the second night, after a half of case of Champagne, the young Werewolf men, Luke, Seth and Eldon stripped naked right in front of us and said they were going out for a run. Phoebe decided to stay in. They ran out and I could hear them up on the roof of the train car howling, then down a side ladder and they were gone. Phoebe sat by the window looking at the full moon. She’d taken off her jacket and bodice down to a short-sleeved lace covered blouse. Long dark hair sprouted on her arms and hands. Her fingers grew claw like. Fur grew down the side of her face. She ignored us as a low growl came to the back of her throat as she watched for her pack mates.

Peirce and I watched three huge wolves run along the side of the train. The moonlight reflected off of their silvery gray fur. They were beautiful.

Then we heard horrifically loud shots. Our fellow passengers a few cars down were shooting at the wolves. Pierce ran out of the car. I could hear him shouting for the men with the guns to stop. Phoebe started to scream and scream and scream.

The next day we heard news of three young men found dead by the side of the tracks. The story was they had been drinking and had a fight on the top of the train and fell off after shooting each other.

I will never forget holding Phoebe in my arms and rocking her, trying to tell her that everything would be alright. I knew it would never be alright but I said it anyway.

For the next week as we made our way across the country she’d howl mournfully at night. The passengers said the train was haunted. I knew they’d brought on their own ghosts when they killed the wolves for no reason.

Werewolves and Vampires are predators but even we don’t partake in the senseless of killing animals for no reason other than target practice.

Pierce and I related the story to others but over the years we’ve kept a lot of the details to ourselves. It seems like so long ago. It was a long time ago. A long long time ago.

 

~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman

 

First published here November 2014. I’ll be back with a new post soon. 

 

e61f15eccbdfa4f49cacbee7cd27fee8

Unlikely Friendships

My brother Val and I were telling my kids about the time we didn’t spend Thanksgiving with our family.

In 1966 we were driving up the coast from Southern California to our parent’s house in San Francisco.

We turned off to take a back road, Val wanted to talk to a guy who built furniture. It would take maybe and hour he said. About ten miles off of the main highway a black sedan came up to our bumper. Another black car passed us, and before we could say “Change the radio station,” they had us blocked in and off of the road in a ditch.

It was cold and foggy out. I was in a great geometric design Mary Quant dress but had the good sense to be wearing flats. Val was in a suit. I mean, it was a holiday and we wanted to be respectable young Vampires and look good for our parents. I’d just turned 107 in October and Val was 108. We were still their babies.

Five men came out of the cars. “Don’t look into their eyes,” yelled one of the men.

Val swore under his breath. The men were Vampire Hunters. Just our luck. It was the day before Thanksgiving and we were, as usual, already late, and now this. It was always this.

And to add insult to injury one of the assholes torched my car. I’d had it for about six months. My beautiful green Austin Healey 3000 up in flames. Thank goodness my purse was still on my shoulder.

We stood in the light of the fire, surrounded. Our fangs were out.

“Gentlemen, why don’t we make a deal. If you let us go we’ll grant you a favor just like a genie in a lamp. We can do that. We can make sure nobody ever hurts you or your family. How about it? We can make sure your son’s draft number never comes up. We can make sure your daughters don’t fall in love with a dirty hippy. Think about it,” I said.

It was true, I could do all that and more. I could, but I’m no genie which means I can also lie about it. I can guarantee you that I wasn’t telling the truth, but they didn’t have to know.

To make a long story short, they started to come in closer with knives, guns and fire. Then shots. LOUD shots and the sound of a revving engine.

“Get the Hell out of here,” someone shouted, then shouted in the direction of Val and me and shouted, “GET IN.”

So we got into the truck. Two Vampires in the dark surrounded by angry Vampire Hunters often don’t have other options.

I slid in the middle seat between Val and the man driving. A large happy black dog was jammed in there with up.

The man didn’t look at us but talked as he drove. “God damn Vampire Hunters. You ok?”

“Yes, thank you. We’re ok,” said Val. “What do you mean by Vampire Hunters?”

“I know what you are. Fuckers. Not you, the damn Vampire Hunters. I swear one of these days I’m going to blow their heads off.”

I glanced over at Val trying to recalculate our situation.

Our driver continued, “I know you’re wondering how I know. My sister Debbie, the bitch, is dating one of those guys. My other sister Lydia is a Vampire. You know who I’m going to side with. Debbie is bat shit crazy, not to mention has bad taste in men. I’ll drop you off at the Greyhound station and wait until you get on your bus. It will take you as far as San Francisco. If you’re going anywhere else you’ll need to make a transfer.”

I looked over and saw his face. He was younger than he sounded. We talked more as we drove another hour to the bus station. His name was Bill. He’d just served a tour in Viet Nam and was home for a while before he had to go back. War was an ugly thing he said. He had no tolerance for violence at home.

“So you don’t care if we’re Vampires?” I had to ask.

“Why should I? The world is a strange and violent place. But the world if full of all sorts of creatures and I don’t see your kind, or most other creatures creating the problems. It is the assholes I’m concerned with. You know who I’m talking about. Hell, I think you’re interesting. After I get out of the Army I plan on spending more time with Lydia and her friends. They’re the only people I know right now who make any sense.”

“Some people believe we’re dead,” said Val.

Our driver laughed. “A lot of people are dead. Why should that bother me?”

We took the bus up to San Francisco and were picked up by our parents at the station.

That was such a long time ago and until today I’d almost forgotten about it.

Thanksgiving was great. My husband Teddy brought home and old bugle that we all made a lot of noise with and laughed so hard our sides hurt. The kids had fun being home from school. All was well.

And everyone made it here, with no adventures, no hold ups, no Vampire Hunters. Everyone was safe. It was all we could ask for.

After a sampling of Bourbon and dark chocolate I called my old friend with the truck. He is now living in Monterey in a house with a view of the Pacific Ocean. He is 73 years old now and retired from a career as a politician and environment lawyer. His grandkids and his sister Lydia were all there.

You never know where you’ll meet life long friends but it is always a blessing.

Wishing you all a blessed season of joy, and love, and all good things.

~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman

 

 

 

 

Bad Dogs

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 at home I would have been in fear of fire but not here.

Walking away from the tents I stood listening to the sounds of the night. I could hear trains in the distance and the sound of the wind in the trees.

Four figures approached me from out of almost nowhere.

Oh crap. Werewolves.

Half human, half wolf, they circled me with low growls, showing huge teeth.

“Hey, guys, what’s up?” I said that to them trying to be cool and defuse any potential trouble.

“Vampire you are not wanted here,” growled one of the Werewolves. The voice was hardly human.

“You will be our feast tonight,” said another.

“Really? Stop the dramatics. You have to know Vampires are not worth the effort. If you kill me there is a 80% chance I’ll turn to dust. If I don’t turn to dust I won’t taste good. I haven’t fed on prey in a couple of days so I’m going to be kind of dry. Plus I’m tired and cranky which will add a bitter taste to my flesh like you can’t even imagine.”

The largest wolf man, obviously the leader growled out a response. “We will eat you alive. First we will eat your limbs, then rip open your belly and eat all but your heart, then we will eat off your face. And last we will eat your beating heart before it turns to dust.”

“Right now my heart isn’t beating much… but listen guys, my friends at home raise their own sheep. They have freezers full of good stuff for those night time cravings. There is no reason for this kind of behavior. I mean, can’t you go find some rattlesnakes or something?”

They didn’t back down. I showed them my fangs. The group backed off. I was no longer a woman in jeans, a tank top and flip flops, but a powerful force to be reckoned with. You know, I was just being myself.

And I don’t know why, but I yelled, “BAD DOG.”

All the sudden them all stopped and put back their ears. Their tails tucked. They whimpered and backed off.

“BAD DOG,” I yelled again. Pulling together all of my energy I put feelings of guilt into their canine filled heads. I channeled my own dog (the best dog in the world.) My dog is the Queen of Guild. We never dare say “bad dog” to her.

The Werewolves, uprighted themselves and morphed before my eyes back into humans. Yes, it is an ugly disgusting process. If you ever have to make the choice between becoming a Werewolf or a Vampire, pick the Vampire.

They stood like guilty children. Then they walked away, naked, into the night.

Well, that was exceptionally weird.

Now I’m home. Home sweet home. I’m still recovering from some road born bad blood illness. Exhausted from 24/7 activity and driving. Popular culture is wrong – Vampires DO get tired.

I hear my teenage children moving upstairs. They sleep so much. And I think of future posts for this blog. And drink coffee. Lots of coffee.

I’ll have to call my friend Adam the Werewolf and see what he thinks of my desert friends.

Oh well.

~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman