Dia de Muertos Overload (and ghosts with banjos in my kitchen)

I swear sometimes it feels like…

Halloween is just around the corner. Day of the Dead. Día de Muertos.

Sometimes the dead get too excited about the Day of the Dead. Sometimes the dead can’t wait.

As a Vampire I can see ghosts. I can see them almost all of the time. They’re everywhere, but they generally respect the space of others – especially those who are on the edge of the shadows.

But not this October.

I’ve got things crawling up my walls. Small hominoid weirdness in the form of shadows crawl up the walls and around the ceilings of my breakfast nook. I have no idea who they were or where they came from.

Then there are the 49ers, not football players but the ghosts of old gold miners camped out in my living room playing guitars and things that look like banjos. My house is built right next to a major gold mining area. People who mined gold tended to die young and away from home. Their ghosts linger around looking for comfort. I just wish they’d find comfort somewhere else.

For anyone else, anyone who can’t see ghosts it isn’t a problem. OK it usually isn’t a problem but I want my space back.

I’ve tried to shoo the gold miners away. They just look at me with sad faces and fade away for an hour or two, then I hear the music again. The music is horrible too. They’re going to make my ears explode.

As for the nasty little crawlers, They disgusted and frustrated me beyond just about everything I have ever known.

For the past week I’ve been seeing every ghost except my ghost. That would be Nigel the Ghost. And I can’t forget his charming girlfriend Mary. Nigel isn’t always that charming. In fact he’s a major asshole most of the time, but he is my asshole ghost.

Nigel didn’t come with the house. Neither did Mary but they’re here. We don’t know why, but look up the old blog posts about them.

Anyway, I’ve got a woman with her head in her hands walking up and down my stairs. I’ve got some musicians from the 1920’s hanging out in the kitchen. More just come and go. It’s a mess.

I was at my wit’s end but I had things to do, places to go, people to meet.

When I came home from a couple of meetings I had today the ghoulish gold miners were still playing their mournful songs.

“You guys are worse than leaf blowers,” I yelled at the. “You need to go away NOW.” I showed them my fangs, like that would do any good.

A small dark shadow sat in my kitchen window watching me with dark mournful eyes. I wondered if ghosts could get pink eye because this guy sure did have it.

The woman on the stairs had put her head back on, and she was now sitting on my stairs alongside another woman who had a huge knife sticking out of her chest. Their large skirts covered about half of the stairwell. I walked right through them on the way up to my bedroom. I thought about changing clothes but I had no idea who would suddenly appear.

This is ridiculous I thought. And it was. I mean, who likes a house full of ghosts? Nobody.

Then just about the time I almost felt like screaming in frustration I smelled a hint of red wine, gardenia, and oil paint. Turning around I saw Nigel, The Ghost.

“They’re all gone,” he said, as he rolled up the sleeves of his white shirt. Then he shook his head and let his shaggy black hair fall into place around his pretty but very male face.

“Thank you,” I said.

“Anything for my favorite vampire,” he said with a slight smile. “They think you’re safe, the ghosts do. They think you’ll like them and blog about them. Like all ghosts they’re just a little confused and posts. They just don’t want to be forgotten.”

“That isn’t my problem,” I said.

“Obviously it IS your problem. But I took care of it Juliette. You owe me.”

“Yes, I do,” I said. I also regretted saying that as soon as the words left my mouth.

Nigel came close and I could feel him put his cold ghostly hands on my cold vampire shoulders. He put his face close to mine and whispered in my ear, “Even the most tormented souls long for a champion. Even those who live in the land of nowhere, in the perpetual hell of a tortured soul, and a fractured reality need love and a sense of safety. That is why they seek you out. Don’t be a bitch Juliette.”

Then he kissed my cheek with lips so warm it surprised me, then he stepped back and vanished with a wisp of blue smoke and the scent of pumpkin spice.

I stood for a minute, my mind full of ghosts, and my meetings, my family coming home in a few hours, and everything I needed to do in the next few hours. But I thought before I left home again that I’d share this.

October is here. As usual my brain is full.

And Nigel, if you’re reading this… don’t get too full of yourself.

~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman

 

 

Crawl Space (and Thoughts on Halloween, Parenting, and Vampires)

Crawl Space

I took off my sweater and handed it to my brother Aaron. There was no way I was going to crawl on my stomach under the crawl space of a house with it on.

“So tell me again why you can’t get the bodies out from under the building first?” I had to ask.

“They’re not quite dead yet and they might attack Austin. He’s human, a Regular Human,” my brother told me. Austin by the way is a Regular Human and sometimes Vampire Hunter and usually just a guy who does a great job restoring old buildings that seem to be filled with scary shit like ghosts and old musty Vampires.

And of course Aaron was wearing a $5,000 suit of course he couldn’t crawl under the house.

“You might know them”, added Austin, meaning the creatures under the house.

I almost gave him a fang filled snarl but I just gave him a weak normal girl smile.

Wearing garden gloves I crawled on my  hands and knees over bare dirt.Even in the dark I could see assorted bugs and cobwebs. Rat droppings were scattered around. Why the crap would any Vampire want to sleep under floor boards?

About 20 feet into it I saw the boxes. OK they were coffins.

I thought back of when I was a kid and always the one to crawl under houses and into tight spaces. It wasn’t because I was small. It was because I pretend to be fearless and now it is because I don’t take any bull shit from Shadow Creepers and dusty old Vampires who can’t deal with the modern normal world. We’re not having a Nosferatu and Dracula Hoedown kids, this is the 21st Century.

The lids were on the boxes. I managed to kneel on my knees without banging my head on something and pushed one off. Inside was a male in a pinstripe suit. His face was waxy looking and pale. I noticed sunken cheeks and lips that seemed a little thin. He hadn’t fed in a while. The box next to him contained a female. Skin stretched over her face, a hint of teeth including fangs showed beneath parted lips. Oh come on, all Vampire girls know not to sleep with their fangs exposed. She wore some sort of black dress thing. The scent of rotted roses and cigar smoke came from her box. In the third box…nothing jumped out. It was another male. I recognized the face. His eyes open a bit, yellow green rolls to stare at me. I see recognition in his face; a fact that was once handsome and could be again, but he was so strange, so weirdly in the shadows and cold, not like Vampires I associate with, but like a dead fish.

Then my butt vibrates. My phone. I pull it out. Garrett, my darling son is calling from college. I’m a mom. I must answer.

“Hey mom, what do you call two ducks and a cow?”

“What?”

“Quackers and Milk.”

“Good one. What do you call an Englishman, two ducks and a cow?”

“Graham Quackers and Milk. Love you mom.”

I hear a groan from one of the box. I slap it hard with my hand and hiss at it. The noise stops.

I keep my eyes on the yellow green orbs that watch me as I talk to my son. He rattles on about classes and girls he knows and sings me a song he wrote. He says he goes to the beach almost every day and is going to go surfing on Sunday. He says it is the perfect college for Vampires. He is so excited about school. My heart melts a little.

Then he asks me what I’m up to.

“I’m under a building with three boxes full Shadow Creeping Vampires. You know me, everyday is Halloween.”

“How’d you end up there?”

“Helping your Uncle Aaron and a friend. Long story, but the short version is that I was the only one wearing jeans and I’m smaller than they are so I got elected.”

Old Green Eyes started to sit up. “I gotta go Garrett. I’ll call you back later today.”

“Love you mom.”

“Love you too sweetie pie.” I looked at my old friend. OK he wasn’t a friend. I’d met him before, a long long time ago. “What are you doing here?” I said trying to keep myself from sneering at him.”You look like a fucking Zombie. What is wrong with you people? Have you lost all self respect?”

“Juliette,” he whispered my name in a dry voice, like old coffee grinds and gravel.

“Jasper. That last time I saw you was…1923, New Orleans. What are you doing here?”

He started to tell me something in French that I couldn’t quite make out when I stopped him. “Listen, you have three choices. The first is that you agree to live like Modern Vampires and stop this nonsense of lurking around like you’ve just come out of some creep show. The second is that I leave you to the Vampire Hunters. The third is that you let one of my friends, and I use that term loosely, take you to San Francisco where you can be with others of your kind. But you can’t stay here. We have enough problems in Sacramento without your kind.”

“My kind?” He opened his eyes wide and showed his fangs.

“That is exactly what I mean, you giving me the evil eye and trying to scare me with your ugly mug. You used to be handsome and well, you were never charming but you used to be, well, not THIS.”

I crawled back into the sunlight which was no cup of tea, believe me. I might spend time during the day but the sunshine, especially after the darkness under a house, always comes as a shock. I pulled out my sunglasses put them on then took a deep breath and brushed off my pants. Filling Aaron and Austin in on the situation I told them that I’d let them decide what to do with Jasper and his friends.

I had to go home and take a shower and scrub my skin off with steel wool, or at least that is how I was feeling. The image of his eyes stuck in my brain like Poe’s Tell Tale Heart story.

“It is impossible to say how first the idea entered my brain; but once conceived, it haunted me day and night. Object there was none. Passion there was none. I loved the old man. He had never wronged me. He had never given me insult. For his gold I had no desire. I think it was his eye! yes, it was this! He had the eye of a vulture –a pale blue eye, with a film over it. Whenever it fell upon me, my blood ran cold; and so by degrees – very gradually –I made up my mind to take the life of the old man, and thus rid myself of the eye forever.”
― Edgar Allan Poe, The Tell-Tale Heart and Other Writings

His eyes will haunt me for sure. Maybe I’ll check on him in a few months time, out of morbid curiosity. That is, if the Vampire Hunters or other creatures don’t get them first. There are Shadow Creepers who seem so vile, but then there are other Vampires who I don’t even dare name or ever seek out for any reason.

Like I’ve said, Halloween is never far from my reality.

I called Garrett back. He listened to my story. I didn’t make it into some cautionary tale or anything like that. We just talked. He told me that I was the most awesome mom ever.

So anyway, that is what I did today.

~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman

What if… questions of history and an alternate reality

Oscar Wilde

I have always adored Oscar Wilde.

What if history had turned out differently? We’ve all thought or read about it. Some of us have even written about it. The more common “what if” questions are: What if the South had won? or What if Germany had won WW2? or What if Kennedy or Lincoln hadn’t been shot?

I was recently thinking about the tragic end of Oscar Wilde, and that got me thinking about a lot of things.

What if Oscar Wilde had stayed in California and never gone back to England after his tour? Would he have lived a happy life and died happy surrounded by friends?

What if cats never did funny things?

What if slavery had been abolished during the Revolutionary War?

What if women had been given the vote in 1787 when the American Constitution was written?

What if Frida Kahlo had never been in the bus accident?

What if Leonardo Di Vinci had been born a woman?

What if Philip K. Dick had decided to go into politics instead of writing?

What if dogs had never been domesticated?

What is Disney never made any princess movies? What if Walt Disney had made erotic Westerns or graphic Horror films?

What if Sylvia Plath had lived and divorced her husband and found happiness?

What if Errol Flynn had been cast as Dracula in the 1931 film?

What if a large group of Bigfoots had rescued the Donner Party in 1846?

What if Amelia Earhart and Fred Noonan had never been lost?

What if humans didn’t have finger prints?

What if Vampires were accepted into society?

What if Galahad had found North America on his search for the Holy Grail?

What if people weren’t stupid?

 

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What if? I don’t know. But I did name my cat after Oscar Wilde and he is extremely happy. I also have a beautiful sweet German Shepard named Alice but that isn’t her in the meme above.

What do you wonder about? Let me know. Also feel free to use any of these questions as writing prompts. I’d love to see what you come up with.

~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman

Marla Todd _ Oscar Gray

This is Oscar. I love this cat so much. He was named after Oscar Wilde. He is gray like Dorian Gray but unlike Mr. Gray, he doesn’t have a weird painting in the attic, at least not last time I checked.

 

 

 

Short Story Sunday: House by the Ocean

220px-Sir_Galahad_(Watts)

“My parents were sluts, both of them. I’m the last person to throw stones but my dad was sleeping with the Queen, his best friend’s wife, and my mom lied about everything she ever did in her life.”

“Don’t be hard on them Galahad. Lancelot might not have been the best father but, well, he was a shitty father, and your mother Elenore, well, lied about everything. I think her lies were more of survival mode thing. You know, fight or flight, and by sleeping with your father it was her way of fighting for what she wanted. As for Guinevere, I have no good feelings for that woman or your father. They played the victim card far too often and at the expense of people who loved them. But that said, none of this reflects on you. Don’t ever let yourself think that you are your parents.”

Galahad, all of nineteen, Knight of the Round table had spent the past year traveling in search of the Holy Grail and all that was good. He was pure of heart and body, but there were questions that ate away at his soul. The very idea of his parents bugged him to no end. The contradictions of the Christian faith and his search, with magic, wizards, fairies, and the laws of nature confounded him.

Galahad had come to the estate on the hill that overlooked the ocean. He thought one day someone will write a song about this place. He wanted to wash away all of his critical mistakes.

He’d been drawn to the direction of the place when he’d come to a fork in the road, and even more so when he heard the crashing waves of the ocean.

A man with pale blonde hair, and a goblet of wine in his hand, who looked to be Galahad’s age answered the door. He invited him in, already knowing who he was. The man introduced himself as Tellias. His accent was different but yet slightly familiar. Maybe at one time Tellias had lived in Rome or somewhere South that Galahad could only dream of. Oh to live near the Holy Lands.

“Galahad. My friend Druce, who just happens to be sort of a wizard predicted you’d be here this week. As for me, I can’t predict shit. Come in and join us. We have a warm bed, and even a fire in your room. I take you can read. We have some books we thought you’d be interested. My God I can’t believe that nobody can read anymore. One day I’m sure someone will label this moment in history The Dark Ages. Oh how they embrace ignorance and fear.”

And from there Galahad was brought into a warm and inviting room unlike any he’d ever been to. The walls were covered with weavings, paintings, and shelves full of beautiful pottery the likes of which he had never seen.

There he met Morcant, and exceptionally handsome man who was built like an ancient God. He also met Druce, a Warlock that Merlin had told him about. Druce was an average man of average height, but he had a warm smile, unlike most men of magic. Galahad had been told that Druce could be trusted and was wise with matters of the heart and soul.

Standing by the window, with the summer breeze in her long curls was a beautiful girl with a smile that melted his heart unlike any other girl he had ever met. Her name was Eleora. It turned out that she was the beloved of Tellias and his mate for life.

During food and wine Galahad told his new friends of his quest for the Holy Grail and how there had been a prophesy about Joseph and so much more. He also told them of his travels and brave deeds that left him feeling good but sort of shallow.

Then Tellias asked Galahad, “But something is missing, isn’t it? Tell me about your family. It’s complicated isn’t it?”

Eleora sat next to Galahad and took his hand in hers. Her hand was cold like winter ice, but a warmth spread through his entire body.

And he told them things he had never told another living human being. He told them about his mothers, his father, and the complicated and twisted relationships they’d centered their lives around. He told them of a somewhat lonely childhood spend in reflective prayer and study.

They all listened. It was wonderful. Nobody had ever really listened to him before. He had just listened to others then done his duty.

After he and Tellias had talked of his family, Galahad said, “You and Eleora seem so young. You’re young like me, yet you seem so old, in a wise and wonderful way.”

Nobody said a thing for a while, then Morcant said, “Are you going to tell him Tellias? Eleora?”

“We’re Vampires,” said Eleora gently putting her hand on Galahad’s cheek, then she stood and walked over to where Tellias sat.

“What are Vampires?” Asked Galahad.

“We drink the blood of men. We live a long long time, longer than men. Some say forever. I was here before the Romans came.”

“I was one of the Romans,” said Tellias. “I was there when Christ was born. I was there when he died.”

Galahad looked at them in shock.

“Oh get over yourself. It isn’t that bad. We’re biologically different from you. Put it this way, if we were animals I’d be a horse, and men would be asses.”

“Most men are asses after all,” said Eleora.

“Like you Eleora is pure of heart. She just doesn’t have the physical hang ups,” said Tellias.

Galahad looked at Morcant. Maybe he was a normal man.

Morcant shrugged. “I’m a Selkie. You know what a Selkie is, I’m sure you do. I turn into a seal when I want to, you know, when I get tired of people.”

“Fear not,” said Druce the Warlock. “There is no evil here. Only good. In fact, you might not know it but that cup you’re drinking out of. THAT my son is the Holy Grail.”

Galahad blinked a few times and fainted.

2018

The Dark Ages didn’t always seem so dark when Galahad thought about them. He looked out of his back window over Monterey Bay. California hadn’t even been a dream back then. On the mantle over the fireplace was a simple silver cup. There was no power in it except it had been used in the name of love. How he wished the world had more love in it, but maybe one day.

Legend had it that he’d found the Grail and gone to heaven with Joseph. Instead he’d chosen to live, for a long long long time as a Vampire. Funny how things worked out.

Tellias and Eleora and Druce were coming for a visit and would be there soon. Morcant had passed on years before in the great San Francisco earthquake of 1906. It had broken his heart. He had become great friends with the Selkie.

But now he did have his house by the ocean. He didn’t worry about critical mistakes because he knew love, and had spent the centuries doing good. It was his way, even as a Vampire, for his heart, as always had stayed pure. And most of all, he realized that in their own weird and twisted way his parents had loved him.

~ End

For another tale of Druce and Morcant Click Here.

Tangled Tales

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Allegory of Art and Life and Whatever (and College Students and Vampires)

I couldn’t sleep last night thinking about art.

Yesterday I stopped by my brother Val’s office/house downtown. I’ve always loved this large stick style home. He purchased it around 1910 and has done a remarkable job of keeping it up over the years when so many Victorian and Craftsman style homes went into disrepair.

Val’s office is on the bottom floor. The second floor is a comfortable space where Val keeps his official home address. On the third floor is an apartment occupied by a couple of college students.

Neither one of the young men, now in their third year of college, would have been able to go to school away from home without the horrible nightmare of college loans had it not been for Val’s Home Away From Home (so they call it.)

I’m not completely sure where he found Colton and Luke. I think Val met Colton studying in the old cemetery or something along those lines and the other kid came along. Colton was worried he’d have to move home and transfer schools and majors, or maybe just drop out. In exchange for rent they watch the place when Val is gone, do yard work and house cleaning, and keep their grades up.

The boys aren’t Vampires either, and they have no idea about Val. All they know is that Val is exceptionally cool and a little different.

Anyway, I was at Val’s thinking about art. Luke showed me some sketches he’d done of some friends of his on his way out to classes at UC Davis (a short trip across the causeway.) The kid is good. I’m ready to beat the crap out of anyone who discourages him.

Val was at his big desk with his computer checking all kinds of financial stuff I know nothing about. I looked up on the wall at his Maynard Dixon painting. It was of a woman wrapped in a shawl looking in profile towards a gold and orange landscape.

“You should donate that to the museum,” I said. “It is a hidden uncatalogued gem.

“Maybe. I haven’t had it that long.”

“You bought it from the artist. How old can it be?”

“Sometime in the 30’s. A mere matter of days for the typical Vampire.” He smiled and gave me that amused look that makes the girls all melt. Well except me because I’m his sister and I know his tricks.

“Why don’t you donate some of your art Juliette? God knows you’ve got it coming out of your ears.”

“I can’t. Not yet. I’m too attached. And I need more. I always need more art.”

Val laughed. I continued. “I bid on something for the art auction, you know the one for public television. I’m spending at least one day a week at the museum. Clara is taking an art history class so we’re talking about a lot of art. That isn’t a bad thing mind you. I’m also working on my art again. I’m also reading a book about art. My house is full of art. I’m going to go into an art coma.”

“Is that a bad thing?” My brother looked at me as if I’d lost my mind.

“No Val, it isn’t a bad thing. It is a good thing. I’m just kind of overwhelmed. And I don’t have a Burning Question for Saturday.”

He told me to make it about art. We thought about it and threw around a lot of really stupid ideas, which is par for my Burning Questions feature.

I’ll think of something, or use one of our ideas.

Around that time Luke came rambling downstairs to say hello to Val. He was a typical twenty year old male with that sort of cute and, always together, always smart, and always on the verge of some sort of disaster look. It was charming.

“The outside lightbulbs are out, on the front and back porches.” said Luke. “Do you have any extras?”

“Sure. In the second story hall closet, next to the laundry room.”

“Thanks. Hey, can I ask you something?”

“Go ahead,” said my brother.

“You kind of like the dark don’t you. I know you aren’t cheap so it isn’t the electricity bill you’re worried about,” said Luke.

“Good observation,” said Val. “Glad you asked. My eyes are sensitive to the light and I just need to rest them.”

“Makes sense. OK I’ll change those bulbs, then I have to study.”

“On a Friday?” I asked.

“For a bit. I’m going out later. There’s a movie at the Tower, Sisters Brothers or something like that. I’m going with Madeline.” Then he gave a shy smile.

Val slipped him a couple of twenties. We talked for a little bit longer.

Val and I are very old. It is always good to be around the very young.

But now my old brain must think up a Burning Question for October 6. It will be something about art – that thing which has twisted up my heart and soul for as long as I can remember.

~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman

 

Allegory of Painting

Allegory of Painting, Crocker Art Museum, Sacramento, CA

 

 

 

Vintage Halloween (with Vampires and Wolfhounds)

A large wreath on the front door was made of faded and cracked plastic flowers. You know, those plastic flowers that were sold in the Five and Dime stores in the 1960’s. Faded ribbons and bows hung in odd gray pastel tones.

Without even asking I knew Eleora had taken the flowers off of graves that nobody had visited for years. Long forgotten wives and mothers. I knew Eleora had replaced the faded flowers with real ones and taken time to sit and chat with the departed and sing them songs from their times.

Eleora opened the front door and greeted us wearing a bright yellow skirt with a well worn orange sweater with black cat head shaped buttons. Her feet were bare and her toenails painted a glossy red on one foot and black on the other.

“Do you like my Halloween wreath? I made it yesterday.” She took my hand and led me inside.

“Shabby chic.” I said. “Very nice.”

She gave me a hug and kissed my face all over then took the hands of my children and danced them into the house.

The old lab mix slid around the corner barking, followed by two HUGE wolfhounds.  I was surrounded by a sea of happy wiggling dogs. The sharp spikes in my leg was a tiny black kitten who had enthusiastically crawled up my jeans.

“Who are you?” I asked picking up the tiny purring monster. “Oh my goodness you’re cute.” It mewed back in one of those precious tiny kitten voices.

My brother Max had been there, because the wolfhounds were his. My daughter took the kitten who was named Jinx. A fitting name for a black kitten.

Eleora and Tellias are ancient Vampires. They’re seniors, despite the fact that they look like they are in their late teens or early twenties.  This dear old couple has been together for over 2,000 years – a long time for any romance.

Eleora had decorated the walls and windows with old paper Halloween cut-outs. Mostly cats with a few pumpkins and other creatures of the night. She’d also included decorations made by generations of both Vampire and Regular Human children who’d come in and out of her life over the past century.

Tellias came down the stairs, his white blonde hair pulled back into a ponytail and wearing old farmer overalls without a shirt. He had a Mr. Rodgers cardigan on over it.

He gave us all hugs and kisses, a smile on his lovely face. Ancient yet forever young.

“Let’s celebrate Halloween early. Max dropped off two cases of Poet’s Blood!” He led the procession of dogs and family to the formal dining room and took crystal goblets from a large ornate hutch.

I heard a car door close and knew my brother Max had arrived. He came in looking handsome as usual obviously straight from work all in black leather.  I noticed he still had a weapon on his belt. The dogs went crazy dancing and barking.

Halloween is a time to celebrate. More than that, it is an excuse to celebrate and have fun. But we need to celebrate good times and those we love more often without an excuse of a holiday or other special event. It is always time to love and share, especially if you have elders or anyone who is alone or needs a little extra help or company.

xoxo

~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman

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