Cold Morning Coffee And A Ghost

My husband is rebuilding our lower deck.

That isn’t remarkable except for the fact that he is doing a beautiful job, and that the lower deck is where the Ghosts hang out.

On any given day I can see one of two of them standing out there looking out over the oak trees behind the house no doubt with hearts heavy with ghostly thoughts of what might have been. Or maybe they’re just enjoying the view in a spot where they know demons and excorcist alike are not welcome.

Most of them came to California during the California Gold Rush where they died along with their dreams of wealth and glory. Some of them just dreamed of getting away from the poverty, social restrictions, and other constraints of their former lives. They broke free from their own society only to die a few years later on the banks of the river a block from my home.

“I didn’t die here.”

Sitting across from me was Nigel, The Ghost. He takes my coffee cup in his semi transparent hand and slides it across the table, then takes in the aroma.

“There isn’t any blood in this cup is there?” Nigel asks me.

“No,” I say. “You would have smelled it. Why are you such an asshole?”

“I was just asking.”

“No you were being snarky because that is what Ghosts do.”

“Fine.” He put his face back in the cup, then looked up at me with his black eyes that suddenly turned to a bright hazel blue. He pushed his shaggy black hair out of his eyes and took a deep breath.

“My life was good before I died. It wasn’t always that way up until my foster family adopted me. Before then I didn’t know that you could put a turkey in the oven at home and cook it. I didn’t know that people could be nice to each other all the time. I didn’t know that some parents never went to prison, or passed out on the floor, or brought home boyfriends who’d try to… well, I just didn’t know. I suspected that there were other ways of living but it just seemed like fiction.”

He looked out the window then stood up and put his face close to the glass. “The deck looks good. Teddy is doing a great job. The Gold Rush Ghosts like to go up there and look at all of the tools. They’re kind of odd but I’ve gotten used to them. There is a big difference between someone who died in 1866 and someone who died in 1986. Did you realize that I would have been sixty one years old now? Sixty one. Six one. I bet my hair would be gray, or at least the temples might be white. A few weeks before I died I met a woman in an art gallery in San Francisco. We exchanged numbers. Had I lived we might be married now with a couple of kids going to college over Zoom. I left her a message, and she left me one. It was phone tag. Then it was Thanksgiving. Then I was murdered and I never saw her again. I don’t even know if she knew I died. I’m sure she must have if she followed the art world. She must have known.”

“What was her name,” I asked.

“I don’t remember. I was hit in the head so I don’t remember a lot of things. Or maybe it is just this ghost thing that scrambles my brain. I don’t know. Sometimes I just don’t know. Do Vampires forget their former lives?”

“Some do,” I answered, “but it is usually intentional.”

“I understand,” said Nigel. “You need to warm the coffee up. It’s cold.”

“I’ll warm it up and make another cup for me,” I told him.

I made coffee. The cats circled Nigel’s feet. I watched him as he sat thinking about his former life and the woman he’d met back in 1986. Before the water even got to a boil he faded away and vanished back into his Ghost world, or wherever he goes when he fades away.

I made more coffee and looked out on the deck. My kids are still here from Thanksgiving. We’re going to help Teddy put up the stairs today.

The morning is still cold, clear, and everyone is asleep.

Right now I’m looking out over the deck and there are no Ghosts. Only a lone squirrel sitting on the edge where a rail will eventually go.

December is almost here. I guess if you’re a Ghost it never changes, but then again, I’m not a Ghost, and they aren’t too open about giving answers.

~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman

Our First Feast

“I doubt if our parents care what we do, or anything about us at this point,” my brother Val told me. It was November of 1878. I had just turned nineteen and he was twenty. They’d moved to San Francisco, leaving us behind in Sacramento. The house they’d left for us was like a rabbit warren of rooms. Our brother Aaron, aged twenty five, was married and living a mile away in his own brand new Italianate mansion (where he still lives). The eldest two (Max and Andy) had long moved on and were now in San Francisco setting up their glorious careers.

They’d sold the big house we’d grown up in, which burned down as soon as we’d cleared out. I often wondered about that, considering we had been a large family of Vampires and didn’t always do things the same was as everyone else. Our (mine and Val’s) house was built in 1869 with a lot of rooms with no purpose and tall stairs from the sidewalk up to the front door in case it flooded. We had a front porch, a back yard with a few rose bushes, and not much else. It was plain and un-charming.

Val and I were determined to give this house charm. We decorated our modest home with used furnishings and a lot of green and cream colored paint.

After that we decided to do what most young people would do and have a party.

“Should it be all Vampires?” I had to ask.

Val shrugged, “No. We can invite others. We will have to warn our fanged friends to keep to themselves and only drink from bottles we planned to keep well hidden in our kitchen.

I told him not to invite all ladies and he started to argue with me.

“NO,” I said. “You are not going to turn my home into your own personal whore house.”

My brother looked at me as if I’d slapped him in the face. “I would never,” he said. “Never.”

I held my shoulders back and my head high. “Valentine, I will never judge you or be like some warm blooded prude, but I expect a certain amount of modesty and decorum from you.”

“Fine. I will allow you to see my guest list, as I expect you to show me your guest list.”

“Agreed,” I said. “What about food?”

“We need food?”

“Of course we do.”

“We don’t cook. We hardly eat. We don’t have domestics.”

“We could hire a cook,” I said.

“We could.”

“Where would we find one?”

“We could put out a post. Cook wanted for fashionable party. Or we could find Constantine. He knows everyone.”

“And he is always fashionable.”

Constantine was both a Vampire and extremely fashionable but he had just jumped on a train to travel east, then take a boat to Europe to buy art. So we put up our flyer and waited. Soon a small man named Orlando George St. Cloud came to our door. He said he had cooked for the royalty of Europe, the Emperors of China, and the highest of Sacramento high society. We didn’t really believe him but we hired him on the spot.

The night of our party Mr. St. Cloud fixed:

Stewed Eel

Filet of Sturgeon with brown butter and tarragon

Curried Crawdads with spinach

Roasted Capon with creamed trout sauce

Roasted potatoes

Rat tail soup

Onion and walnut tart

Fried chicken feet with olives

Orange milk pudding

Apple pie

Fried frog legs with smoked trout and fiddle head fern sauce.

Roast beef

Head cheese

Blood pudding

Wild lettuce salad

Tomales Bay Oysters on the half shell

Fried eggs with wild mushrooms and boiled wheat berries

Pears poached in wine and honey

Toast points with river clams and fresh butter

Meatballs with wild dill made with ingredients of unknown origin. 

Marrow bones with sage and sherry sauce.

We also managed to acquire copious amounts of alcohol.

Fifty four guests arrived. Nobody went hungry. Twenty were female. Thirty four were male. Twelve, including Val and I were Vampires.

Of course the party was a success. Val did not sleep alone. I watched the sunrise with a dozen people in my garden before going inside, drawing the curtains and sleeping for the next two days. Mr. St. Cloud brought in a crew to clean and lock up.

For the next thirty years Mr. St. Cloud cooked for us when we needed it. He also taught us to cook. He told us, “One day I shall be gone and you will be at a loss.”

I learned to cook everything except the rat tail soup. I never cared for eel. Many of the dishes made me sick but I learned to cook them anyway. Eventually Val also learned to cook, and he even attended classes. We both became experts in cooking for Vampires such as us. We don’t live on blood alone.

From then on Val and I have both welcomed guests of a wide variety to our homes to celebrate friendship and love.

Wishing you all a wonderful Thanksgiving and welcome in the holiday season (which started on Halloween.)

Cheers to all,

Juliette aka Vampire Maman

Intentions: A Thanksgiving Story

Stay with me on this one…

After skate practice (roller) my daughter grabbed my purse for me and said “WHAT DO YOU HAVE IN THAT THING?”

I said “River rocks.”

She said, “I will never carry a purse and fill it full of crap.”

I told her that it was none of her business what I had in my purse or how much it weights.

And by the time we got to the car she said a gun in my purse would be heavy. Then I told her I didn’t have a carry permit and she said I didn’t need one. Yes, this is the 14 year old, but we have hypothetical conversations like this all the time so don’t worry about it. Anyway, she asked if she had a needle, like a knitting needle would that be considered a concealed weapon. I told her it was a matter of intent. Does she intend to knit a scarf or stab someone with her knitting needle? Intent is everything.

The the conversation moved on to bear spray. I could have bear spray without a carry permit, or at least I think I could, but hey, who is checking my bottomless bag of mystery and fear (what the kids call my purse.)

Clara said that bear spray would come in handy for the upcoming bear apocalypse. I wondered if bear spray would keep zombies away.

I’ve been up close and personal with a lot of black bears. They have run across paths I’ve hiked (with and without fish in their mouths). They’ve walked along beside me on trails (I kid you now, it was weird.) They have sniffed around my tent.

Grizzlies on the other hand are another matter. I’ve never seen one in the wild but I’ve come across their fresh prints. That even puts fear into the heart of the most hardened Vampire. Grizzlies CAN bite your head off. Really. No amount of bear spray is going to do the trick on a Grizzly. Yikes.

So the point of this, aside from the fact that we have a lot of silly conversations just for fun around here…is that a bear once lead my brother Val and I to an unusual place. It wasn’t our intent but it was where we were supposed to be, even though we were not supposed to be there.

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.

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.

So there we were driving on an dirt and gravel road with no name, through hills that are older than Vampires when something in our beautiful car blew 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. Except there were bears who came cautiously close, black bears. We started to sing and the animals left. No need for bear spray, if we’d had 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.

Country folk with age old songs that they 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.

A we came to the meeting house 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 God and the spirit that is deep in us all. They sang of all that they knew.

Then they looked at us in their poor clothing. We were rich city folk, but more than that.

“Don’t be afraid,” said a 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 spirits and Werewolves and Ghosts. They told us of all creatures and of living in unity.

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 bare feet and drab clothing. Their odd twangy 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

Vlad’s Vampire Diary: Grocery Store Adventures

Dear Diary,

The pandemic is still without end. 

For a Vampire such as myself this is only a minor inconvenience. For my friend Cassie who owns a bar it has been devastating. Her business is nonexistent right now. To make matters much more grim she and her bartender Diego will not be able to see their families on the holiday of giving thanks called Thanksgiving.

To help support our friends my Vampire lover Gillian, and my Vampire friends Randolpho and Constantine will make a Thanksgiving feast for Cassie and Diego. 

I have never made a Thanksgiving feast. Gillian said she can cook. She knows how. I asked her what I could do to help. I understand that is the polite thing to do. She said I could help and gave me a list of things that needed to be purchased at the grocery store. 

When I was King of Vampires years ago, before I was locked in a crypt for three hundred years, I did not have to cook. I was the King, and I am a Vampire.  

I have gone to the grocery store for cat food but never explored the abundance of wonders to be found in the isles until today. 

Gillian’s list looked easy enough.

  • Flour
  • White Sugar
  • Baking soda
  • Baking powder
  • Salt
  • Onions
  • Brown Sugar
  • Green Beans (fresh if they have them)
  • Potatoes
  • Mushrooms
  • Half and Half
  • Shortening
  • Butter
  • Pumpkin
  • Whiskey
  • Rolls
  • Cream Cheese
  • Whiskey
  • 2 dozen eggs
  • Cranberries
  • Oranges
  • Sage Sausage
  • Corn meal
  • Heavy Whipping Cream

As I walked through the grocery story, wearing a mask of course, I found myself in a somewhat confusing wonderland of human food. I was confounded by Gillian’s list.

  • Pumpkin

I could not find pumpkins. Instead I put two acorn squashes in my cart. It is fall. Acorns are fall vegetables. Acorn squashes will do nicely.

  • Half and half. 

Half of what? 

I asked a woman who stood six feet from me what half and half was. The woman said it was what some people put into coffee, like coffee creamer.

I did not find half of anything in the coffee section. What I did find was Pumpkin Spice coffee creamer. That will make the acorn squash taste like pumpkin.

  • Shortening

I do not know what this is or what needs to be shortened?

  • Rolls

I am not sure what she means by this. It might be something round. I ask a worker where the rolls are. He tells me in the bakery section.

There were pies. Beautiful pies. I got a large apple pie for Cassie. I know Cassie likes apples. 

There were also bags of small bread balls called donut holes. I thought they would roll better than anything else I saw. I got two dozen of them, which is twenty four.

  • Butter

I did not know which kind to get so I got unsalted butter, peanut butter, and cashew butter. 

  • Turkey

Finding a turkey was easy. There were also vast amounts of blood red meat. I got several large pieces for later. That will be a treat.

  • Potatoes

I did not know how many to get so I got two red potatoes. I am a Vampire. I like red.

  • Baking Soda

I could not find anything called baking soda. I put a bottle of something called Club Soda in the basket. It was the closest I could find. It has bubbles. I think it will do nicely for whatever Gillian was going to make. I will make a joke and tell her that now we belong to the club.

  • Baking Powder

I found baby powder. What madness is that? I did not get powder of any kind.

  • Cream Cheese

I found cream by the milk. Near it was something called half and half. I put a container of that in my basket. Then I went in search of cheese.  I liked the name Monterey Jack. I do not know who he is but I might like to share a glass of whiskey with him. I also got Swiss cheese, smokes Gouda, and Sharp Cheddar cheese. 

  • Sage Sausage

I do not know if that means it is smart sausage or seasoned with herbs. I will assume it is the herbs.

  • Corn meal

I looked all over the freezer section for corn meals and in the deli section for a corn meal. Nothing. Into the cart went three cans of corn. That would make a nice meal for someone who wanted corn. They could mix it with the cranberries.

  • Heavy Whipping Cream

What fresh hell is that? There will be no whipping on Thanksgiving Day with friends. 2020 was bad enough without any additional violence. I do not know what Gillian was asking for when she put that on the list.

  • Mushrooms

I assumed Gillian did not want the poisonous kind. None of the mushrooms were marked poisonous so I got several of each kind. They all looked beautiful

When I arrived home Gillian was waiting for me as I brought the groceries into the house. She said unpacked the groceries then said, “It’s a good thing you’re so cute.”

Then she took my hand and led me upstairs and made love to me as only a Vampire lover can. Bliss. I guess that was my reward for a job well done.

~ Vlad

Kissed by a Vampire

This has been the 65th installment of Vlad’s Vampire Diary. Click HERE to read more entries.

Over the river and through the woods to nowhere.

This year Thanksgiving will be small. Yes, even Vampires have holidays. Even Vampires have things to be thankful for.

The children, despite being adults, are going through a period of angst that they skipped when they were teens. Thank you Covid-19. Or should I thank all of the people who refused to take this thing seriously and said wearing masks had anything to do with their rights. Oh cut the crap. When Vampires start to complain about it then you know it is bad. When Vampires start to feel nervous and unsettled you know regular people are starting to become extra stupid.

So back to my kids. Only one will be here for Thanksgiving but that is alright. We’ll have some sort of Facetime or Zoom call. We’ll have good wine and a small gathering of four or five.

Sometimes I believe it comes down to this: Humans are the only monsters. The most dangerous disease they have is ignorance. There is a cure but those who have it are bound and determined to say it isn’t real.

Like my friend Randolpho says, “Anti vaxers and Covid deniers cut into our food supply.”

The fog finally arrived for the Thanksgiving season. Cold mornings mean a dog walk by the lake. It will be like going over the river and through the woods this morning but not to grandmother’s house. My dog is waiting. I must go. With any luck the walk will bring more positive thoughts…even Vampires need positive thoughts.

~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman

Short Story Sunday: Gerald Atkins Vampire Hunter

“Now take that Gerald Atkins. He was the worst Vampire Hunter I’d ever seen. He could spot them but that was about it.”

“What was wrong with him?” Austin poured Grammy another cup of coffee.

“Oh he thought he was so suave showing up all dressed up like Sam Spade in his over coat and hat, smoking those smelly cigarettes of his.”

Grammy put some half and half in her coffee and continued. “Gerald would do stupid things like show up with holy water he’d gotten from a nun down at the Catholic church. I told him that he’d just as well throw Coca Cola at a Vampire for all the good it would do. I believe he was having sexual intercourse with that nun. Sister Ann was her name. I bet half the babies in that orphanage where hers.”

“They weren’t her children,” said Austin.

“You don’t know that Austin.”

“Oh Grammy.”

“Just let me finish my story. Gerald Atkins was an idiot. He showed up at a party with his detective get up, with his briefcase full of holy water, a cross, and some old spike he carved out of a 2×4 piece of lumber. Of course he had a knife too but I doubt if he ever sharpened it. The man was goddamn lazy if you ask me.

In a back room back away from all of the drug addicts doing their cocaine on the glass top tables Gerald Atkins finds a couple of Vampires hanging out. There’s a male and a female. Mr. Vampire looks like he belongs to one of those hair bands. It was the 80’s you know. Miss Vampire wore a royal blue silk dress with the back open almost down to her butt crack. So Gerald Atkins takes a look at then and throws his holy water at them. It splashes all over Miss Vampire’s expensive dress and does nothing but make a bunch of stains. The Vampires jump all over Gerald’s ass and suck enough blood out of him to almost kill him, but not quite. Then they dump him in a gutter.

He wakes up in the hospital blubbering on about Vampires. The doctors were convinced he had bats in his attic and was full goose bat shit loony, and locked him up in the mental ward for a few days.

Another time he decided he wanted to date a Vampire woman. Gerald Atkins was so stupid thinking he might get lucky before he killed her. He talked her up trying to tell her how beautiful she was in a cool sort of way. She listened to him and beat him to any game he might have been trying to play. He ends up telling her his life story and about all of his pathetic sorry romances except for his diddling Sister Ann. He never dared speak of Sister Ann but everybody knew about them. Everybody.

Then the fool thinks the Vampire woman is falling for him because she is smiling so sweetly and making her eyes go all twinkly and pretty the way Vampires do. That Vampire woman tied Gerald Atkins naked to a bed in a fancy hotel and left him with the bill. She never took a stitch of her clothing off. Just left him there naked as the day he was born with a couple of holes in his neck. Idiot.”

“Is he still hunting Vampires Grammy?”

“Gosh no. Those Vampires got tired of his shenanigans and cut his head off one night. They left him in the Old City Cemetery with his body laid out on a random grave and his head on top to the tombstone.”

“That’s awful,” said Austin.

Grammy shook her head. “Not really Austin. He wasn’t careful or smart like we are. He never did his research. He could tell if someone was a Vampire but he sure didn’t have any talent to hunt them down properly. He gave us all a bad name.”

Austin offered Grammy more coffee. She nodded yes.

“No thanks. I will have another one of those sugar cookies you made. I’ll take two.”

“Do you think you’ll ever hunt Vampire again?” Austin asked his Grammy half joking. Just half.

Grammy took a bite of cookie and thought a bit. Then she smiled at her grandson. “I don’t know. I can’t run like I used to but you never know. They wouldn’t expect an old lady like me now would they.”

Austin just smiled and took a cookie. No they wouldn’t expect anyone like his Grammy. Nobody ever expected Grammy.

~ end