Vampire Lives Matter?

All the colors found in the skin tone of a typical Caucasian. Note, white is the last one.

The only thing I have to say to all those people parading around with White Lives Matter posters is, you’re not white. Often you’re raw siena and alizarin crimson, or you’re cadmium yellow and carmine. You have aquamarine or viridian – depending on the amount of yellow in your skin tone – in the hollows of your cheeks, under your chin and along your hairline. 

But guess whose skin tone is mixed using mostly titanium white?  Vlad the Impaler, otherwise known as Dracula. So my take away is that y’all White Lives Matter folks are trying to save your guy, Drac, from that evil Buffy the Vampire Slayer, right?  Such a kindly gesture and come Halloween night, I’m sure he’ll slither on down your chimney to say thanks and invite you to donate to his favorite charity, Vlad’s Blood Bank.

But seriously, if those White Lives folks want to know who really matters, they should go to a museum.  Might I suggest the one below?

It’s the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington D.C. When you first enter this museum, you are directed to an elevator large enough to fit a football team and taken three flights underground. There, in the dim light, you relive the experience of being chained together in the dark, dank bowels of a wooden sailing vessel with no idea where you are going or what will happen to you or the ones you love.   As you make your way up the ramps leading from floor to floor, the often bloody history of the African American struggle for equality unfolds.  I didn’t get many pictures as the halls were dark and the atmosphere, reverent.

In contrast, the upper floors of the museum are full of light, color and music as they celebrate the contributions of African Americans to our culture. You leave those floors grateful that Black Lives really do matter and without them, American culture would certainly not be the envy of the world. Think the experience would cause those White Lifers to change their attitudes?

Happy Halloween everyone!  I hope you all spend it with the people who matter the most to you.

From Brownie Fright Night

So Say the Winos, The End

All that we see or seem is but a dream within a dream. Edgar Allan Poe

Broken glass. He almost stepped on it. He had to keep his eyes glued to the ground and seldom look up, otherwise he’d end up with a jagged piece of glass in his foot and bleed to death. Or get an infection and watch his foot grow black with gangrene.

“Pleasant thoughts you’re having this morning,” Daniel said to himself. It was time for him to go. He wondered if it was necessary to give two weeks notice at a gas station and then decided, it might not be necessary but it was moral. He knew the boss would hate to see him go. Unlike other grease monkeys, he was reliable, courteous, didn’t smoke or drink and could help with the bookkeeping. But the boss had mentioned retirement on many occasions and so maybe Daniel’s leaving would give him impetus to take that step and thus all would conclude well. Daniel liked conclusions that ended with both sides clear of conscience.

He was only at the station for about an hour when he looked up from sweeping the garage to see the girls from Nevada loaded down with all their earthly possessions and heading for their Volvo. Remarkably it had survived an entire night on the street or so he thought. He watched as they were approached by a panhandler. At first the man seemed satisfied with what they gave him. Then he turned around and followed them demanding more. When they refused, he grabbed one of their guitars.

Daniel ran across the street still holding the broom. It, plus their screaming, was enough to make the man drop the guitar and run. “Let’s get you guys out of here,” he ordered as he pushed them down the sidewalk.

th-10“Oh no,” the Catholic’s Daughter cried. “Look at my car.” The passenger side window had been shattered. Glass shards covered whatever remained inside, which wasn’t much. Just that head of Aragorn looking wistfully up at them. “Oh no! My flute! My flute is gone! We’ve got to call the police.”

“They won’t even take a police report. There are so many robberies down here.”

“That’s so awful.”

“That’s why you need to get out of here. Go across the street to the gas station and ask the man to help you. He’s a crusty old guy but his heart is pure.”

“How about you?”

“I have someplace I need to be.”

“We’ll never forget you.”

He chuckled. “Get on your way now.”

They drove across the street and cautiously approached Daniel’s boss who’d been watching them. “Daniel said you would help us.”

“He did huh?” He disappeared into the grime of wilted walls and then returned with a newspaper folded neatly into a square which he handed the girl who seemed the most sensible. The paper was dated October 27 1967, a year ago to the day.

img_2339

“Terrible thing,” the boss continued. “What happened to him shouldn’t happen to a dog, no sir. And that poor woman,” he shivered.  “Terrible. Unthinkable. Gives me the willies. You know, Daniel was a good kid, a little mixed up but then you should have met his mother. That lunatic held vigil here at the station for three days thinking her son was going to resurrect like the friggin’ Christ.”

The girls didn’t say a word, even amongst themselves.  Perhaps he should have softened the blow but then he hadn’t had much experience with the so-called fairer sex. “It’s been a whole damn year and they still don’t have any suspects. Not a one. I shoulda retired.”

“He’s dead?” One of the girls mumbled as the newspaper fell to the ground.

“Yeah, but don’t worry. I see him too, always looking lost. Like maybe he don’t know he’s dead. Sometimes I even talk to him. The winos claim he’s waiting for the return of some ship called the SS Connemoira or so they say.” He shook his head. “Yup, that’s what they say. Okay, let’s get you gals fixed up and outta here.”

He helped them sweep out the inside of the Volvo and put cardboard over the shattered window. He even gave them a can of oil after checking the dipstick and sighing in disgust “women never check the oil, or the tires. We’d better check them as well.” When he was satisfied the little car just might make it to Massachusetts, he gave them directions on how to get out of town. He watched the little car as it sputtered down the road, thick smoke pouring out of the exhaust, young arms fluttering out the windows. They’ll never make it, he thought, but he waved back anyway. Then he disappeared inside the station. He’d dispensed with enough good will for the day.


Happy Halloween, everyone!  Did you guess the ending?  If so, how early in the story?  Like elements of many of my stories, there are bits of a real-life adventure in this piece.  Many people have asked what happened to the three girls – well, after their adventure in NYC they had marriages, divorces, children, careers and two have sadly died – but they never forgot Daniel.

So Say the Winos, Part 14

After Jamie escaped, Martin turned his fury on the huddling group. “What’s the matter with you? A few minutes for ten thousand dollars…”

“Ten thousand dollars, Martin. Really?”

“I told you, silly woman, he’d just signed a record deal. To the people in the record industry ten thousand is chump change. All one of you silly, stupid birds had to do was pretend to like the little pervert, but oh no. You didn’t need to fuck him. I could have rolled him.”

“A record deal! He’s probably a drug dealer. What were you thinking?” Marcia was so angry she could hardly speak. “I can’t… I can’t believe you brought that guy here with these innocent…”

“Innocents?  Ha. Given the right circumstance anyone would do anything for money. Believe me.” He zoomed in on the Catholic’s daughter like a raven about to pluck out her eye, “Hello, Innocent.  A few moments with my pigeon, Luv, and you wouldn’t have to return to Nevahda to live out the rest of your miserable life with the jackrabbits and sagebrush and the arse who got you preggers. Oh yeah, he’s an arse. He’ll bring you only pain.”

The girl began pulling a cross from her still beating heart. “Oh I see. You’ve found your soul mate, Darling, in your state no amount of  Hail Marys are going to save you, but a few thousand dollars would have.”

There was a gasp from the other two girls.

“Your friends didn’t know did they? They trusted you, the silly twerps. And what were you doing while they planned their escape from fucking Reno Nevahda? You let them think you really wanted to go while all the time you were fornicating your friggin’ brains out with lover boy! You and your Mr. Wonderful forn-i-cating wherever you fucking could, in your mother’s bed, in his car – probably even in the church basement! Innocents! Ha!” he began to howl. The sound was unlike anything Daniel had ever heard.

Then Martin put a finger to his mouth and feigned concern. “Oh I forgot. You’re in love so you weren’t forn-i-cating. Or screwing. Or fucking. Or even balling. You were making love!” He turned the other two girls, his voice dripping with hate. “I’ll bet she made your lives a bloody hell, didn’t she? You know, she never really wanted to go on your silly, little romp across country. But she’d promised. She felt obligated. The most pathetic of emotions. Obligation. Now, see how she despises you. Despises you because she wasn’t bloody strong enough to be honest and tell the truth. Despises you, the hypocritical little minx.”

“Martin!” Marcia pleaded. “That’s enough! Enough!”

“Obligation, love, guilt — bullocks! You might as well all wrap yourselves in chains right now and jump in the river!” He threw his arms up, “You pathetic bunch of losers.” He swirled and with a nightmarish laugh, disappeared through the open door.

Outside the sun began to sparkle through the spires of St Mark’s like confetti on the New Years Eve. Daniel put down the knife and for the first time since Martin’s arrival, took a deep breath.

Suddenly he pictured Marcia in a tract home in the suburbs, with Bill the Lawyer. The poster of Che safely tucked in a trunk in the basement, perhaps looked at in twenty or thirty years with a sigh. A nice suburban tract home with a lawn, fence and dog. Maybe some children – if Marcia could convince Bill to adopt. Daniel doubted that very much. The lawyer looked like a man who would want his own children, not someone else’s.

Marcia floated to the stove to fill the tea kettle. She neither smiled nor spoke. He moved close to her but didn’t try to interrupt her thoughts. He put his hands flat down on the yellowed Formica and tried to summon the words to say but they wouldn’t come. Not one word of scripture. His brain had been scrubbed blank.

On the floor the girls whispered viciously to each other of betrayal and hurt as the Catholic’s Daughter admitted Martin had been right, right about everything which meant … he was a devil. Only a devil could know all those things. It was useless, she said, to explain her feelings to them. They did not know what love was and how love and sex were so intricately entwined that you can’t have one without the other. She was angry with them. She’d sacrificed herself for them and now, instead of being grateful to her, they attacked her as if she’d done something wrong; as if she had ruined their dream. How she hated them. Really hated them. Worse than she’d ever hated anyone.

Marcia finally ended their squabble with camomile tea. Then turning her attention to the Catholic’s Daughter she said. “You have options. You don’t have to have this baby.”

It was then that Daniel knew he had to leave. He’d had a glimpse of the good ship Connemoira floating through the mist. Shore leave was almost over.


Tomorrow – have you guessed the ending?  

So Say the Winos, Part 7

Marcia began grilling the girls in her best professional voice. Where had they come from?  How would they make money?  So on and so forth.  She finally ended with “…and you have to admit, coming to New York City not knowing anyone or having a place to stay is a very bad idea.”

“Thus sayeth the Social Worker!”  Daniel quipped as the bedroom door squeaked tenuously open. What emerged was a lawyer.  Of that fact, Daniel was 99% sure.  Brooks Brothers suit, well-shined shoes, monogrammed shirt, and a smug, superior look on his wishy-washy face.

“This is Bill, a friend from work,” Marcia reported clinically of the man.  “Bill, Daniel is the younger brother of my best friend in high school.  He has a tendency to appear without any warning but he’s harmless.  And these young ladies are in need of a place to crash for the night.  I guess you’d call them, castaways.” th

“Castaways, hey?  Like in Gilligan’s Island, ha!”

His joke fell so flat that not even Marcia attempted a giggle. Across the courtyard the chanting ballooned in intensity as though gallons of orgasmic god juice had been thrown upon the Institute.

“Shit, those Krishnas have gotten loud.” The lawyer continued, “Are they always like that?”

“Only until the moment of a shared cosmic orgasm, which — I’ve been assured in triplicate  — can only be achieved if you chant Hare Krishna and spin in circles for several hours.  After that, they’re quiet.” Daniel replied.

Marcia chuckled as she walked to the kitchenette to make a pot of tea.  Looking for chamomile, Daniel thought as he watched her.  Always chamomile in the evening.

“The noise ordinance specifically prohibits any sound louder than a trumpet at this hour and I’d say they’re getting close.”  Bill the Lawyer reported.

Again no one responded and so he continued to another subject, “So, Daniel, you and Marcia grew up together?  You’ll have to tell me what she was like when she was a little girl.”

th-3

My favorite slimy lawyer – Jerry Orbach in Chicago.

Aha! A married lawyer.  A married lawyer, playing around, Daniel assumed.  Did Marcia know?   He clutched the ironing board and, using it as a pulpit, began: “Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy. Nothing is hidden that will not be known.  Whatever you have said in the dark shall be heard in the light, and what you have whispered in the private rooms shall be proclaimed upon the housetops.” 

The lawyer looked to Marcia for explanation. 

“You should have heard him when he was a true believer,” she began.  “My God, all the girls adored him. Once his mother held this overnight retreat for troubled teens and the girls cornered Daniel in the kitchen.  His sister and I had to come save him!  Remember that Daniel?”

Before Daniel could repudiate her story, the lawyer said.  “Well listen, man, I could have never hacked it as a priest either.  All that abstinence BS.”  He stopped to check the time.  “Oh shit!  Is it 8:45 already?”

“Wife and child expecting you?”  Daniel asked.

“No, sorry Daniel.  Not married.” He replied, waving the naked ring-finger of his left hand as he grabbed his overcoat, “Listen, I’ve got to catch the nine o’clock express.  I’ll see you in dependency court, Marcia.  Good luck girls.”  With that, he left.

  “A fellow social worker?” Daniel asked, as he watched the lawyer try to make his way through the throng of Krishna disciples who’d spilled out into the courtyard for air. He stopped to talk to one of them. A mistake. Daniel laughed. “Looks like he’s trying to explain the noise ordinance to the Krishnas.”

He’s a public defender.” She mumbled.

“I knew it. Still going for that house on Long Island. Shall we try to save him from the Krishna’s?”

th-4“No. He can handle them.” Marcia absentmindedly replied and then quickly she changed the subject, “Listen, girls, I have to be at work very early tomorrow morning so, you can crash here on the floor for tonight but tomorrow you have to find another place, okay? I can help you, if you want, but you’ll have to find another place.” Mumbling their thanks, the girls dropped their things to the floor and slumped onto the resulting pile. They looked exhausted but relieved as they removed wet coats and kicked off shoes.

Daniel took a deep breath. His mission was over. “Daniel, are you staying here tonight too?” Marcia asked as she pulled mismatched cups from the cupboard. She was so predictable. Every event ending with a tea ceremony and a heart-to-heart. Something without caffeine, seductive, relaxing and healthy, of course.

“No, I have to go. I have things to do.” He replied, walking to the door.

“What things? Why haven’t I heard from you for over a year?” She snapped, “I was worried you know. What have you been doing?”

“I think this line of questioning falls into the same category as ‘why are you screwing men you hardly know and don’t care about,’ don’t you?” The teakettle began to whistle. Why had he said hurtful words to her? What right did he have to judge anything she did? He walked over to her and muttered an apology “Their throat is an open grave, they use their tongues to deceive. The venom of asps is under their lips, their mouth is full of curses and bitterness. Their feet are swift to shed blood and in their paths are ruin and misery.”

She smiled. “You bastard.”

“Thank you.” “

You really know the Bible.” The Catholic’s daughter needlessly pointed out.

“If I remember correctly, Romans.”

“Why didn’t you become a priest?” He knew she would ask that question. It was always the first thing out of a girl’s mouth when they’d found out he’d been a seminarian. Particularly a Catholic girl. Before he could say something snide, Marcia intervened: “He didn’t want to be Daniel, Beloved of God.”

And she was right.


th-2Dear Readers – I’ll be back on October 20th to introduce Martin, who for reasons you’ll soon see could well have been the Devil. What do you think?  Does the Devil exist or is it all a fantasy developed by the church to keep worshippers in line?  That’s what I used to think.

Happy October!

So say the Winos, Part 4

Part 4 of my October offering to you. Read from the beginning here.


A creature, once  human as it possessed massive arms and legs and a head to go along, had one of the girls tucked under his arm like a long, lost teddy bear and was dragging her back into the alley.

“. . . in the shape of a man, moves beyond the pale, bigger than any man, an unnatural birth, called Grendel by the country people.” Daniel mumbled under his breath, of which he suddenly had little.

th-7

Illustration of Grendel by J.R. Skelton from Stories of Beowulf.

“Oh baby, baby,” the creature moaned, eyes half closed, “Come with Daddy.” He was dressed head to toe in rags, his face too smeared with dirt and soot to tell his race, his bloodshot eyes empty.

Daniel looked around for something to swing at him. There was nothing. They were cut off from the civilized world, up against a man whose senses were lost to reason. Negotiation was futile. He had nothing to offer that would tempt the man from his prey nor was there anything nearby with which to distract him.

“Let me go! “ The girl screamed, swinging a guitar case into the chest of her captor. The blow did nothing. He twisted the case from her hand and threw it to the ground.

“Now come on, honey bunches, be good to your man.”

The girl reached into her coat and withdrew a crucifix. “Holy Mary, Mother of God! Pray for us sinners now and at the moment of our death.” The man’s eyes widened. What was his pet dangling in front of his face? Then recognizing the symbol, he threw his head back and began to roar with laughter.

th-1By now the other two girls had joined in the melee, bombarding the behemoth with guitar cases and bags of clothes, only adding to his merriment. To a man of his size, they were nothing more than a trio of puppies yapping, nipping and spinning in frenzied circles. When they failed to amuse, he knew he could easily smack them against a brick wall or kick them angrily to the gutter but he had time to play with them, or so he thought. The laughter had shaken loose phlegm trapped in his lungs. He began to choke. Then hack. The hacking increased in intensity until he had no choice but to release the girl and lean into a nearby wall for support.

She stood motionless, glaring at the evil her priest had warned her about, a demon up from the pits of Hell who could be dispensed to the nether regions by symbols of Christianity.

“A crucifix isn’t going to save you, Catholic!” Daniel snarled, pulling the girl away, “It just distracted him for a minute.”

“I’m not a Catholic!”

“If you’re not a Catholic then why are you waving a bloody crucifix around?”

“Her mother’s a Catholic.” Venus of the Sewers explained. “She’s what they call a “charismatic” and does the laying on of hands and talking in tongues and all that stuff. ”

“I’m not a Catholic!”

“Okay, okay – you’re not a Catholic. Now kindly get a move on it before Grendel here catches his breath.”

th-2Quickly they grabbed their bundles and shuffled off down the street, glancing back every now and then to make sure they weren’t being followed. Finally they reached a neighborhood that had not been completely abandoned to night creatures. Here and there were pockets of light; storefronts that were only gated for the night and not boarded up forever, apartments appeared to be occupied on the upper floors and every now and then a car rolled past.

As they neared Marcia’s block he heard what sounded like a hundred wind chimes. Well, at least they haven’t moved, he thought. He watched the girl’s faces in amusement as rounding the corner they saw a cloud of light, spilling forth from one of the storefronts into the misty street. Into and out of the cloud, shadows fluttered like moths.

So Say the Winos, Part 3

Dear Readers – this month I’m posting one of my oldest stories in celebration of Halloween (my favorite season and holiday).  It’s a long piece so I’m breaking it up in parts. To recap, three young girls run out of gas in NYC and are taken under the wing of a troubled man named Daniel. You can read from the beginning here.


“I have a friend you can crash with for the night. It’s not too far and it’ll be safe for you.” Daniel said.  The girls stared at him blankly, their eyes like shiny pennies.

“She’s a social worker.” His sock was wet. The next time his mother came to town he decided that he’d show her the hole in his shoe, then she’d insist on buying him at least two pairs of shoes, one of which he would give to the first shoeless street person he met, of course. That would make her happy. She wanted Jesus as a son but a well dressed Jesus, not a scruffy one.

“Look,” he added, “What choice do you have? You can’t sleep in the car. Not in this neighborhood. And the hotels are filled with … well, you don’t want to stay in the hotels.”

“But are you sure she won’t mind a bunch of strange people staying with her?”

“She won’t mind. Strange people are her business.” The sewers were backing up. Ah, the smell of Manhattan, Daniel thought, motor oil and garbage rotting, thick, moist human goo. In the country, the first rain cleanses. In New York City, it backs up the sewers and washes pigeon poop off the high rises down onto the pedestrians.

img_2158“Hurry up and make up your mind,” Daniel ordered. He knew what happened after dark in that part of town. The needy and vague-eyed — from drink or drug or mental illness — materialized from crevices of abandoned buildings, crying and moaning and demanding money while in the distance sirens wailed, but always in the distance. A loud crack echoed in the alley across the street, probably just a trashcan being emptied for use as shelter from the rain, but it sounded like gunfire.

“Okay,” they muttered. “But what shall we do with the car?”

“Drive it around back where it might have a chance of surviving the night in tact,” he replied, “but I doubt it.” He followed the car and then helped to remove anything of value. Bags of clothes, guitars, and pillows. One of the girls handed him a terra cotta sculpture of a young man’s head.

“This is Aragorn. He goes everywhere with us.” She explained.

“Aragorn?” Daniel asked. The thing weighed a ton.

“You know, from the Lord of the Rings.”

“Oh yeah?” said Daniel, “Leave him here. No one is going to steal him. I know what. He can be Aragorn, Defender of the Volvo.” Giggling they set the sculpture down on the driver’s seat where in the dim light it looked like a severed head. “That’ll scare the crap out some poor wino just trying to find a place out of the rain.”

They followed him on a zig-zag path down broken sidewalks, passing boarded up storefronts covered in obscenities, always careful not to step on glass or into gutter streams of piss and worse. Every now and then they heard a scream or a car screeching on rain-slicked streets, normal sounds for that part of the city but he could tell from the gasps behind him, they would not last long in the city. Soon they would be begging to leave, to return home to a safe suburb where the lights are out by ten and the police have little more to do than investigate mailbox crime. Some place like his parent’s house on the river, idyllic but sometimes too peaceful for his mother. Periodically she had to suffer for Christ.

Then it dawned on him. Marcia might have moved. He couldn’t remember the last time he’d seen her. One summer had passed, at least. Maybe two. During that time, he’d moved many times. Maybe she had too. Maybe she’d married and moved to the suburbs. Maybe she’d died. No that wasn’t possible. His mother would have told him. Maybe he’d be stuck with the girls and forced to walk them all the way to Father Frank’s. Maybe that was a better plan in the first place. Maybe, maybe, maybe. He couldn’t decide.

They were halfway to Marcia’s when one of the girls screamed “Let me go!” Daniel froze then turned.

Make New Friends

SnoopyAs promised, the end of Brownie Fright Night.

To recap the story thus far, twenty girl scout brownies and their chaperones (mothers) caravan in their mini-vans to an abandoned tubercular asylum for a stormy weekend retreat. After settling around a struggling fire and singing girl scout songs, one of the mothers begins a ghost story set in her native Norway but before she can finish, the lights flicker out.  The mothers decide it’s time to turn in.


th-1Ruthie finally got more wine (once the girls settled down.) By that time, we all really needed a drink. The little darlings had chosen to bunk in the large room at the end of the sanitarium because it had enough cots that they could all be together. The problem was the room also had an exterior door and we had at least four flight risks. After much debate we agreed that one mother would bed down with the girls while the rest of us chickens slept next door.  Sylvana, of course, volunteered.  She just couldn’t get enough of “her girls.”

Once things were quiet, Cate, Marith, Ruthie and I slipped down to the kitchen where we drank wine from metal cups by candlelight. Outside, branches from nearby trees raked the side of the building but at least the rain had abated.

“Do you think the girls will get any sleep?”  Cate asked.

“You haven’t been on too many sleepovers, have you?”  Ruthie chuckled. 

“Well then, maybe one of us should sleep in there with poor Sylvana.”

“She’s the heaviest sleeper I’ve even seen,” I assured them. “As soon as her head hits the pillow, she’s in Snore City.  At the girl scout jamboree she slept through the tent collapsing and all those girls screaming their bloody heads off.”

I thought it was funny but Marith didn’t smile.”It is not normal to have so much energy and then to drop into a sleep like that. Maybe that is why she goes to Dr. Paulson.”

 “You don’t mean Sam Paulson?  Gwen’s husband?” Ruthie asked.

“Yes, she sees him three times a week.  Gwen says she even shows up at their house!  Uninvited!”

“Shit!  You know what Sam’s specialty is, don’t you?” 

We shook our heads no. 

“He’s the shrink who testified at Meryl Ottoman’s trial.”

“Meryl Ottoman?   

“You weren’t here then, Cate. Meryl Ottoman slashed her sister to death a few years ago – with a machete! She claimed her evil twin did it.”

“Don’t girl scout leaders have to take psychiatric tests,”  Cate asked.

I had to laugh.  The only reason I’d signed on to be a girl scout leader was because no one else would and Sylvana made it clear that if no one signed on to assist her, there would be no Brownie troop. “I had to get a TB test and that’s it.  I’m sure Sylvana’s just depressed.  I don’t think things are going well in her marriage.”

She crashed my Christmas brunch last year dressed as a clown! She scared Winston half to death, poor little thing.  He peed all over the carpet.  Maybe we better get back there.” With that Ruthie corked the wine and put it into the cooler.  In the space of a few minutes Sylvana had gone from being the world’s best girl scout leader to a clown-faced axe murderer with an evil twin. 

We returned to a scene of relative calm.  As I’d predicted Sylvana was dead to the world leaving the girls to entertain themselves with the flashlights they had been ordered to turn off.  A lantern in the hall provided just enough light should one of them need to visit the bathroom.

After confiscating the flashlights and responding to their complaints – two girls had upset tummies, one couldn’t find her sleep bear, one demanded to call her mother and the “usual suspects” wanted to take a midnight stroll to find banana slugs – we took to our bunks fully dressed, knowing we probably wouldn’t get much sleep.  

th-4The lantern in the hall provided just enough light to bring splotches of pealing paint on the ceiling to life. I kept thinking that only a few decades before the room in which we were trying to sleep housed patients in various stages of tuberculosis, some even dying. As I tossed and turned within the tight constraints of the sleeping bag, those splotches grew and shift-changed into the former residents of my bed singing their sad stories in my ears, or so I dreamt.

I woke to a grumble and then footsteps as Ruthie made her way down the hall. She has to go to the bathroom, I thought. Better her than me.  Walking the halls of the old sanitarium, with its creaky wooden floors, bleached beyond character, and yellowed walls at night with a flashlight, well, let’s just say, I’d really have to pee. 

After a few minutes Ruthie returned.  “Jan – I thought I heard someone sobbing but I checked on the girls- they’re all okay.” th-2

Cate snapped to a sitting position.  Followed by Marith.  They’d only been pretending to sleep or maybe like me, had been haunted by previous residents.

Ruthie lit another camp lantern.  “I’m not sitting here in the dark. I don’t care if we don’t have enough fuel…”

She was cut off by a low rumble.  Earthquake, I thought but nothing moved. Mudslide? Rivers of mud run under and destroy the foundations of many structures on the mossy side of Mt. Tam.  Was the sanitarium about to be washed away?

Then we heard the howl of a lone wolf.  Followed by another and another as their pack assembled somewhere not far away. 

I tried my best to make light of our situation. “Well thank goodness we’re not in tents! The wolves probably just killed a deer and are inviting other wolves to… ” 

“Shush!”  Ruthie ordered.  “Do you hear that?” We sat around the lantern listening to what sounded like a pack of wolves sniffing and scratching just outside the undraped windows.  “Go see what it is.”

“Me?” I asked. 

Before any of us could move, there was a racket at the back door, shortly followed by the screaming of brownies.   A pack of wild dogs now snarled and tore at the flimsy door. The usual suspects viewed the whole event with great glee and somewhat perverse scientific interest while the others ran into our room. 

IMG_0973
The “usual suspects” view our plight with delight!

“The kitchen!” Ruthie cried. I’m not really sure why it made sense but we gathered the girls and off we ran down the halls with hearts racing.  Once there I realized why it made sense.  The kitchen windows were small and far above the floor and the exterior door, for reasons I can’t fathom, was metal.  Quickly we did a head count – yup all twenty girls were present and accounted for. 

“Where’s my mommie?”  Sylvana’s daughter cried.

“My god – she couldn’t have slept through all that!” Ruthie said. “Shouldn’t we…”

But there was no reason to worry about Sylvana.  A howl just outside the kitchen door, quickly followed by the scurrying of the rest of the pack informed us that the dogs had followed us to the kitchen.  

Don’t scream girls,” Marith pled, as they began to shriek. “This metal door is strong.  If you scream it gives the dogs what they want.  Let’s sing a song. I’m sure Mrs. C knows a good song.”

I had only one thing on my mind at that moment and it wasn’t a Brownie song. “Ah, ah..  let’s see.

th-7“We should call for help,” Cate said.

“Who’s going to volunteer to fight their way through mad dogs to the phone booth?”

The usual suspects stepped forward, one of them pointing out that she had a yellow belt in karate as she kicked imaginary dogs with her fluffy pink slippers.

“If we sing the dogs will know we are not afraid and they will leave.” Marith explained.  “That is what we do Norway.”

“How about Make New Friends?” One of the girls suggested.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sMAxP-95yn4

We survived that night by soothing mad dogs with girl scout songs but left in the daylight as soon as the coast was clear. Our first stop being the coffee shop.  Sylvana, who’d slept through the whole thing and awoke bright and perky, risked her life by suggesting we at least take one short walk in the nearby woods before leaving.


Thank you so much for reading!  If you want to read the whole story without breaks – click here.
Happy Halloween!