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[personal profile] dialecticdreamer is hosting Magpie Monday today, with a theme of "Questions". Give her a prompt, get a ficlet. Go thou and play!
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My email box still presents me with multiple opportunities for Continuing Legal Education (CLE). I delete them unopened, as I am no longer required to keep up with that.

Every time I do, there is a flash of relief, that I need no longer concern myself with CLE. I'm not going back into practice. I am thankful for that almost daily.

On Our Own

Feb. 27th, 2019 10:22 pm
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Something I got a taste of in this past fall and early winter was that my mother is going to reach a point where she needs more care than we're able to provide. I found myself fighting tooth and claw to keep her from being sent home when she couldn't stand up by herself, pointing out over and over that she needed two aides to get her on her feet, that she needed to go to the bathroom every 2 hours around the clock, that at home there was one of me, no relief, no shift change, and that the logistics simply didn't work. "She wont' be safe" I said, over and over, "and if you insist on sending her home without any sort of rehab, when I have told you repeatedly that I cannot keep her safe, then when, not if, she is injured, that is actionable. And when, not if, I am injured trying, that is actionable. You are on notice, now, so if you let it happen it's on you." I learned, in the course of that, the my needs simply weren't part of the equation. I'm not the patient; I'm simply a cipher.

Now I'm trying to investigate options for when her mind is far enough gone that I can't keep her safe for non-physical reasons, like being unable to remember she can't remember where she lives or why she shouldn't wander out the door at 2:00 a.m. when it's below freezing. And I'm finding that the same thing applies. The places that provide that sort of care don't accept Medicaid. If she needed nursing care, that would be a different matter, but for memory care, there's nothing. If she's physically healthy, if what she needs is someone to make sure she eats and takes her pills and so on, then we're on our own.

I don't know when that changed. I know that the nursing home my grandmother was in, years ago, took Medicaid for their Alzheimer's wing. (There was the sweetest pair of old ladies up there who got dressed up to go to the tea room downtown every day.) My grandmother, my aunt's mother and several other family members, all spent time there at the end of their lives. But now? There is nothing. And that's terrifying.
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If you ask the four year old grandson of one of your two protagonists to choose a human name for a dragon, she will end up called "Thundertoes."

That is all.
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[personal profile] dialecticdreamer is hosting Magpie Monday today with a theme of 'Ohana. Leave prompts, get fiction!

There's also a target for tips:

This month, I’m hoping to reach a total of $65 in tips. If I do, I’ll immediately post the full story Ripple Effects. Aida Finn is nowhere near Jules’ class when events transpired on Thursday, but she certainly sees (and feels) the after effects. She turns to Bennett for help coping with one particular surprise. The story is four parts, a total of 5900 words plus a bit, and is ready to post now.
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I am, as usual, very late to the party. That's probably because I check DW last thing before I go to bed.

None the less, [personal profile] ysabetwordsmith is hosting the February Poetry Fishbowl as we speak, and she stays up much later than I do! So should you see this, please, go leave a prompt. The theme is "Rituals."
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My mother, bless her, will be 85 years old this coming Thursday. I asked her what kind of birthday cake she wanted. I was expecting her to say cheesecake, and indeed had all the necessary ingredients already assembled for the creation thereof. Cream cheese, sour cream, and eggs all await their destiny in the auxiliary refrigerator in the garage. The almonds for the crust are ground, and Amaretto for flavoring is in the liquor cabinet.

Mother surprised me. She asked me to make Boston Cream Pie. Now, I don’t remember her ever making Boston Cream Pie the entire time I was growing up, and indeed when I asked her she agreed that she had not, nor did she know how. Nor did I recall my grandmother making it. Grandma, when she was called upon to make a Festive Dessert, always made Sunshine cake, which was her own recipe for hot water citrus sponge cake. Further conversation led me to realize that my memory was not faulty in the least. My grandmother had made Boston Cream Pie for my mom’s birthday, but had done so for the last time when Mom turned 16, the year before she graduated high school. And now, about 70 years later, she wanted another one. How could I make one to match something I’d never tasted – indeed something that hadn’t been made since before my mother met my dad, let alone before I came into existence!

But really, that’s less of a challenge than matching reality, because memory is a slippery thing. We talked about it, mother and I. It started with a sponge cake, but not like the Sunshine cake. It wanted a sponge cake baked in layers, not too sweet and not too rich. The filling was a thick vanilla custard, like the filling in a custard pie, but cooked, not baked. And the chocolate on top was a soft frosting, not fluffy, but definitely not a glaze. I set out to create something to match.

First came the quest through my vintage cookbooks. I have the cookbooks my grandmother and mother were given when they were married, in the late 1920s and 1950s respectively., plus others I've acquired along the way. Those recipes are very different from modern cake recipes. Eggs were clearly expensive then, and recipes are described based on how many they required. They have less sugar than modern cakes as well, by as much as half. I mean that literally: the modern four egg sponge cake I dug out of my current Fanny Farmer cook book called for 2 cups of sugar with a cup of butter. The recipe I ended up using, from the 1953 Joy of Cooking, used 1 cup of sugar. Then there was the pastry cream. That was easy; the filling for a vanilla cream pie worked just fine, thank you. And finally, there was the frosting. I hunted, read, got frustrated, and finally gave up and made up my own based on mom’s description. Melted butter, cocoa powder, confectioner’s sugar, vanilla and heavy cream. It turned out beautifully. Even more to the point, it turned out exactly as described: soft, smooth, and very chocolaty. It was also so dark that my son thought I'd put black food coloring in it, but no - it was all pure chocolate.

And it worked. Mama came in, was handed a piece, and ate it standing in the kitchen, hmm-ing and purring in pleasure, occasionally verbalizing enough to tell me I’d nailed it perfectly. She was on her second piece before everyone else had firsts, and her third before I got one at all. Basically she had cake for dinner, but y’know? She’s 85. If she can’t have cake for dinner now, when can she?

And so I baked a memory, when I wasn’t even sure what she was remembering.

It seems an appropriate birthday gift
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[personal profile] dialecticdreamer is hosting November's Magpie Monday through midnight Tuesday, with a theme of Sankofa, going back to reclaim something lost or left behind. But don't take my word for it, go check it out. Give a prompt, get a ficlet. Sponsor something, get even more. And it's always well worth reading. Go thou and have fun!
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[personal profile] dialecticdreamer is hosting October's Magpie Monday through roughly midnight Pacific time on Tuesday, with a theme of "warnings" Go check it out, leave her a prompt, get a ficlet. Boost signal, get a longer ficlet. Fun stuff!
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My husband's family name is Deer. My mother in law delighted in collecting the deer-themed things that abound around midwinter. So while looking for fleece to make my mom a sleeved blanket, I spotted some holiday cotton fabric printed with deer and snowflakes that mother-in-law would have absolutely adored. First thought: get enough for a throw and pillow, fleece to coordinate, and assemble for midwinter gift. Second thought: does it go with the couch? Followed an instant later by: oh, right. She's gone.

And then this.


One hears of loss
In terms of gaping holes,
As if boulders had crashed
Through mourner’s hearts
Leaving only shards behind,
And I suppose
For some
That is the nature
Of grief.

No one talks about
The small snags
That catch your breath,
Stopping your heart
Just for an instant.
They’re too small
To be worth mentioning.

But they’re the ones
That don’t end,
That come unawares.
The expected call -
“What does he want
For his birthday?”
I know what he wants,
But the phone will not ring.

The holiday fabric
Printed with deer and snowflakes
That you would love,
So that I immediately think
To make a throw pillow for your couch,
Pausing to remember if the colors are right
Before memory moves on -
The couch is gone.
The apartment is gone.
And so are you.

“He has a girlfriend!
“She’s auditioning hard
“For the role of daughter-in-law.
“She’s good for him.”
I want your level head and good sense,
You navigated this territory
With such grace
When I was the girlfriend.
But I can’t ask you.

Little things, all of them.
Small sharp thorns
Of memory or needed wisdom,
Drawing only
A tiny drop
Of blood.

No boulders have crashed through here,
No splintered wrack and ruin.
Just a brief flash
Of quiet grief,
Sharp and fine as a pin,
And too small
To be worth mentioning.
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Yesterday my grand plan was to take my son to class, come home, and go back to sleep.

No plan survives first contact with reality. At 8:30, my beloved spouse, theoretically on his way to a mediation an hour an a half east of us, sent me a text message indicating that he would need rescue after I dropped our kid off. It seems his car died a rather thorough death on the toll road, though it did so in a fashion that at least permitted him to limp into the rest stop a mile further on and park before it quit completely. So off I went, on rescue intent, while he started his mediation by telephone. We arranged for the car to be towed to the nearest Hyundai dealership, called and told them it was coming, and headed home to wait for them to call and tell us what was wrong with it. Our best guess was transmission, and if that had proved to be the case, we were replacing the car.

It does not need a new transmission.

It needs a new engine. At 130,000 miles.

The good news is that Hyundai is providing same. See, apparently Hyundai Sonatas from between 2011 to 2014 were subject to catastrophic engine failure, so much so that it became the subject of a class action law suit. (Who knew? Not us!) The settlement requires Hyundai to replace the engines and provide a rental vehicle until they can do so. Spouse's car is slightly beyond the mileage limit for the settlement, so the dealer had to ask first, but the company agreed to do it regardless. I suspect that lawsuit stung them pretty badly in the PR department. So there's a rental car in the driveway until the end of October, after which Spouse will have, as he put it, a beat up old car with a brand new engine. We can deal with that.
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Ruminations on grief, because I'm grieving. If that's not good for you right now, please skip this. Read more... )
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I am so damned angry I can't see straight.

There is an attorney in Indianapolis who has never been competent at his job, who has always been a bit slimy and less than honorable and is now, if I am reading correctly between the lines, likely to be charged with child molesting. Real sweetheart.

About 14 years back there was a case in Indiana in which a trial judge ordered Pagan parents not to "expose their child to non-mainstream religions". No religious argument between the parents; it was all the judge's own idea. I hadn't been involved in the divorce, but I took the case the Court of Appeals, which appropriately drop-kicked the trial judge's order. It was, at it turned out, the last case I ever handled, and I have always considered it an appropriate swan song, and been very proud of it. It made international news at the time, to my shock.

So now recently Mr. Skeevy has been claiming that he handled that appeal and won it. That he's doing so got back to me by accident. The person who told me said "that was you, not him? That makes a lot more sense!" I'm glad to know she sees it that way.

I don't know that there's anything I can do about it, because at this point it's all either in private contexts or in a sealed juvenile proceeding. I'll look into possibilities in the morning. But for the attorney I most despise personally to claim credit for the achievement of which I am most proud? I am LIVID!
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Ysabet Wordsmith is running her August Poetry Fishbowl today, with a theme of "Poke a Bigot in the Eye: Ableism Edition" Go thou, give her a prompt and get a poem! If you are a new prompter, there are extra perks. And if you boost the signal yourself, go tell DialecticDreamer about it, so she can post a verse to the linkback poem for even more fun!
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I've reached the conclusion that a lot of ableism is neither malicious nor unconcerned so much as utterly clueless.

I just got off the phone from making hotel reservations for a con to which we are taking my mother. I asked for two rooms at the convention rate, one of which needed to be accessible. Okay, says Ms. Perky, I have you down for 2 double rooms, with a request for an accessible room if available. No, I say, we require one room to be accessible. I'll have an 85 year old along, who will not be able to use the bathroom if it isn't accessible. "OH!", says Ms. Perky. "I didn't realize! Let me make some calls and be certain it's arranged." My comment to my mom, while on hold: "What, did she think I asked for an accessible room for the fun of it?"

Forty five minutes later, it's done. We have a room for mom, and a room for us. I had wanted an accessible double room in case I ended up needing to stay with mom for her safety, but that turned out not to be possible - all the accessible rooms are single king rooms. Again, lack of thought - a lot of the people who need accessible rooms also need aides, so where are the aides supposed to sleep? But we'll deal. (I'll also be writing to the hotel's corporate office, pointing out that problem.)

But really, people. The Sapiens attached to Homo theoretically indicates that you possess the capacity for thought. Use it!
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Law that has not forgotten that it exists in a human community for the purpose of improving human interactions. Perhaps, with people like those, I could have practiced longer. Or perhaps not. There's no way to know.

An Innovative Approach To Criminal Justice Reform: Put Black Women In Charge
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[personal profile] dialecticdreamer is running the
July Magpie Monday! The theme is "New Experiences". Anything from standing in the snow in July in North America (her example, which sounds good to me about now) to being part of the majority when you've always been a minority (I've done that; it's disorienting when no one else has that automatic wariness or gets why you do.) She's got a lot of other examples over on her site, along with much more explanation.

Give her a prompt, get a ficlet. Boost the signal, get a longer ficlet. If she gets enough donations, she'll post a full story all at once. Magpies run from Monday when she gets up until Tuesday at midnight Pacific Daylight time, so there's still plenty of time to get in on the fun.

Go thou and play!
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So last week on FacePlant, someone posted a thing about how someone needed to write vampire stories that weren't full of angst and agony, or emo, or sparkles, or horror, or any of that. Suggestions included a person with body-image issues who was just as glad, because hey, no reflection meant no problems with mirrors triggering anything, or a someone whose reaction to the new diet was "eh, I tried Paleo, this isn't that much weirder", or a girl delighted because she's never been able to go anywhere alone after dark, and now she can walk her friends home and know they'll be safe with her. That last one turned out to be a plot kitten with sharp little claws that climbed straight up to my shoulder and perched there, licking my ear and demanding attention. This story was the result.


I sat up, stretching, and looked at the clock. Five p.m., according to the digital readout. I’d done it again; gone to bed close to dawn, and woken just before sunset. It was a total reversal of my lifelong habit of getting up with the sun and going to bed by 9:00 p.m. Astronomy had fascinated me but I’d had to satisfy myself with reading every book and study I could get my hands on; my body just wouldn’t cooperate with the necessary observatory schedule. I wandered out into the great room, following the smell of dinner.

“May? You okay? You’re pale, you’re sleeping all day, and I don’t know what you’re eating except that it isn’t with us.” Angela’s concern was clear, and our other housemates looked up and nodded in agreement.

“I really haven’t felt right since I got back from the con” I told Angela truthfully, “and its getting worse. I mean, a con always messes with your sleep schedule, but this is ridiculous. It’s like sunrise and sunset are reversed. I can’t go to sleep until the sky starts to lighten, but then I’d better be in my bed, because once the sun’s all the way up? Hah! I am out. I don’t think a cannon at close range could wake me. I know I slept through the thunderstorm the other day. Trees down all over, everyone talking about it, and I didn’t hear a thing. And I’m not eating because the thought of food turns my stomach. Water’s okay, or ginger tea or beef broth, but that’s about it.” I didn’t tell her I’d been craving the blood that drained out of the meat. She got queasy at the thought of steak tartare. Straight blood would be a bridge too far.

“That sounds like you really are sick. How about going to the doc?”

“Yeah, the doc’s only open until 5:00, and I am not taking a collection of symptoms that sounds like I’m turning into a vampire into the neighborhood doc-in-a-box, y’know? That sounds to me like a recipe for getting locked up in the loony bin!”

Angela laughed, as I’d known she would. “It does, doesn’t it? Do you have the night vision, speed, strength and hypnotic gaze to go with it?” she asked mischievously.

“Hmm, not that I’ve noticed so far. That guy who was dressed up as Angel at the Masquerade Dance did leave a pair of fang marks on my neck when we danced, though, so anything’s possible. It’s only been what – four days?”

“In our legends, it takes a full fortnight to become a true vampire, once one is bitten” Josephina interposed seriously. “The daylight sleeping comes first, then the person chokes on their food. After that will come a craving for blood.” I didn’t know who Josephina’s people were; she’d never been willing to say. She looked Romani, but insisted she was not, and beyond that we’d respected her privacy. Now a chill ran down my spine.

“And what after that?” I asked lightly. “Is there any way to return to normal humanity?”

She shook her head. “No. There is no cure; there are only choices.” I was smiling; she was not.

Brewing a pot of ginger tea gave me time to think away from their concern and anxiety. I mean, I did want to know what was happening, but it wasn’t going to be the end of the world whatever it was. Finally, pot and mugs in hand, I went back.

“Josephina? Do you have a few minutes?”

She smiled faintly. “Of course. Your room or mine?”
I shrugged with the hand that held the still-empty mugs. “Whichever you’re more comfortable with. I don’t really care.”

“My room, then. If I need my books or anything, I won’t have to leave to get them.”

I just nodded and followed along. Books? There were books about this sort of thing?

I’d noticed before that walking through Josephina’s doorway felt a bit like pushing through an intangible kind of bubble, and that once inside, it was far more quiet than anyplace else I’d ever known. Her room was as impossible to categorize as she was. Indian throws were hung as curtains. Her quilt had started life as a collection of silk saris, now sewn together and quilted to what looked like a heavy silk sheet. Skirts, hung up so that they fanned out in semi-circles, ornamented the walls, interspersed with tiny round mirrors scattered seemingly at random that scattered the light. It was beautiful, but somehow also purposeful.

“Where should I put this down?” I asked, as she cleared fabric off a chair. “And would you like some? It’s plain ginger, and I brought along an extra mug.”

“Just put it on the desk, and yes, that would be lovely. Hang on a minute; I have a pot of honey in the cabinet here.” I hadn’t even realized there was a cabinet under her little altar, but as she shifted the cloth cover aside I caught a glimpse of carved dark wood. In a minute she turned around with a lovely little ceramic honey pot in hand, complete with stirring stick. “Put a lot in yours; you need the glucose” she instructed. I raised my eyebrows, but did as she’d said.

She waved me to the just-cleared chair, settling cross-legged on her bed. “Now” she said firmly “begin at the beginning, and tell me everything.”

“Starting where? I mean, it was a media con, there was a lot going on.”

She looked at me, then touched a single fingertip to one of the tiny, pinprick scabs on my throat. “You said you got those at the Masquerade Dance?” I nodded. “Okay. Everything starting from the Masquerade. I’ve got some guesses as to what’s going on, but right now that’s all they are – guesses. If I’m right, a doctor isn’t going to be able to help you, but I can at least advise you. If I’m wrong” she shrugged “we’ll have spent an evening telling stories.” Her grin was gamine.

I grinned back. “Stories are always good. Okay. The Masquerade theme was Media Monsters, and goddess only knows why, but everyone and their cousin seemed to have decided that this was the Year of the Vampire.” I rolled my eyes. “I mean, Godzilla is still a perfectly good monster, and so are Frankenstein, King Kong, the Creature from the Black Lagoon, but noooo. Everyone was doing vampires! There were some amazingly cheesy Super-Sparkly Twilight types on stage, but the trio that absolutely stole the show was a group that came as Angel, Spike and Buffy. I mean, they had it down cold. You couldn’t even spot the prosthetics on the guys from inches away, and Buffy’s moves? Yeah, she could have given real ninjas speed tips. They did a routine from one of the early shows where they threw things at her when her back was turned, and she caught them. Must have rehearsed for weeks to be that good without Hollywood camera magic. It was incredible.”

Josephina nodded thoughtfully. “Or the magic was real, and so were they. How better to hide than in plain sight?”

“Huh? Hide what?”

“Never mind, go on.”

“So anyway, they won, of course. There was this dance after, and I went up to the Angel guy – don’t remember his real name – to compliment the performance, and he asked me to dance. Hey, he could move, all grace and kind of sinuous elegance; of course I took him up! So we were chatting, and the next song up was a slow dance. And he bent like he was gonna kiss me, but instead he slid in by my neck and nipped me. Just like a pin-prick. And I was like ‘Hey, back off, that’s carrying the in-character thing too far!’ and I shoved him away hard and shouted for Security. Just for a second, it was like shoving a wall, like he was a thousand times stronger than a guy built like that ought to be, but then he stumbled back, and Security and the Buffy girl came running over. And she was like ‘Oh my God, I am so sorry, this was not supposed to happen, he promised he’d behave, I am so, so sorry! Are you all right?’ She reached out, quick, almost as fast as she’d been on stage, touched my neck lightly, and looked at her fingers. ‘No. No, you are not all right. Oh that jerk, I will have his ass on a plate when Security is done with him!’ One of the Security guys was still there with her and me, but she’d really taken charge. She dove into her pocket, pulled out a little bottle of sanitizer, I think, and a tissue, and squirted some on the tissue. ‘Hold still, this is going to sting. He really did get you good. I am so sorry.’ She was right, it stung like hell, but I still managed to tell her it wasn’t her fault; he was responsible for himself. ‘He is, but still my responsibility.’ she told me, and her smile was just so sad. ‘Look, I’m going to give you my phone number. If anything weird happens in the next few weeks, anything at all, I want you to call me. You don’t have to write it down. You’ll remember.’ She was staring really hard at me, really intense. It was almost as creepy as he’d been.”

“And do you remember?”

I thought for a second. “Yeah.” I told her, surprised at myself. “I don’t have the area code – I don’t think she said it, even. But the number’s 867-5309.”

Josephina just nodded. “Got your phone?”

“In my pocket, why?”

“Call her. Now.”

“But what’s the area code?”

“For her, you won’t need it. Trust me.” She was almost as intense as the Buffy-girl had been.

“Girlfriend, you’re scaring me here.” Skeptical, I dialed as instructed, expecting a squeal followed by ‘your call cannot be completed as dialed’, but it rang once before the Buffy-girl answered.

“Um, hi. You probably don’t remember me, but your friend tried to bite me last weekend?”

Josephina muttered something along the lines of “oh, for...” and took the phone out of my hand. “Hi, Jenny? Josie. Yeah, the usual coincidence in our line of work, which is to say none. That girl your friend managed to prick just happens to be one of my housemates, May Hennessy.” A pause. “No, I know he didn’t have time to get so much as a sip, but evidently the contagion took anyway. She made it home okay, but by the next day she couldn’t keep her eyes open if the sun was up, and now she can’t eat solid food. We’re having ginger tea with honey right now; I made sure hers is about half honey. She hasn’t mentioned craving blood, but that might just be because another of our housemates is really, really squeamish.”

Blushing wildly, I nodded agreement.

“Yeah, she’s nodding. So I think it’s pretty much a given. She’s going to be a full vamp in another ten days or so. Do you still have contact with that doctor that will certify fatal sun allergy as a disability? She’s a student, and really bright; she’s not going to want to lose that. We’re going to have to come up with a reason for it, too – we’re on break right now, but classes take up again in a week, and she didn’t have a problem before.”

Urk. I hadn’t thought of any of that. This sounded like they had it down to a system, though!

“Okay, right, we’ll have to take it in stages. Some kind of contact dermatitis acquired on vacation for which she’s undergoing treatment now, that allows her to do the work but precludes attending class or going outdoors in daylight, and then in a month or so a permanent disability as a result.” She listened awhile. “I’ll leave it up to you and your pet doctor what would have that result. Make it something suitably exotic, though.” She laughed. “I’ll look forward to seeing just how creative you can be. Now, next thing. Supply of blood. She hasn’t had any yet, so we might be able to keep it to animal, which would simplify everyone’s life. I’ll check to see if there’s a slaughterhouse near here when we get off the phone – oh, you’ve got your computer up already? You’re a doll. Okay, good. I can contact them in the morning. I haven’t done this part before; will I need to pick it up daily, or can I collect a week’s supply at a time, or what? Should I get a freezer and put it in my room? Locked, of course, locked! Okay, I think we’ve got my end as organized as we can for the next few days. Now, anything I can do to help with your end of it?” She listened; I couldn’t hear individual words, but I could certainly hear increasingly shrill frustration coming from the headset. “Yeah, I know. They’re immortal; we’re not. All they have to do, really, is wait us out. They don’t want to piss us off enough to stake them or shove them outside on a sunny day, but other than that we don’t have much to hold over them.” She shrugged. “Well, we’ll try to see if we can keep our girl here from ending up that way by keeping her away from human blood. I need to explain this before she pops from the questions piling up behind her teeth. Can you see if that biochemist that got turned during WWII has made any progress on finding a treatment for vampirism as if it were a chronic disease, like diabetes? I thought she might really be onto something there. Thanks, Jenny. Later!” She gave me back my phone as I stared at her.

“That...has got to be the weirdest half-conversation I have ever heard” I told her slowly. And then “Josie?”

She grinned. “Yeah. As in ‘Josie and the Pussycats’, which is why I go by Josephina. See, what most people don’t know is that vampires – and slayers, and witches, and technomages, and all the rest of it? Is real. Rare, but real. What happened is that Jenny – the Buffy-girl – and a couple of her vampire buddies decided to hit the con, and one of them got a little too cutsie. You couldn’t spot the prosthetics because the fangs were real. He didn’t feed from you at all – your reaction was perfect, by the way – but there was enough saliva on his teeth to transmit the contagion. That’s current theory, that vampirism is as much a transmissible disease as a magical or spiritual condition. So, there are rules to keep it from becoming a spiritual condition, and to keep you from falling to Evil.”

“Okay, Josie, slow down. You’re making my head spin here.” I meant that kind of literally, and took a gulp of my by now room-temperature tea.

“Sorry. I do get worked up.” She sat up straight, drawing a deep breath and letting it out slowly. “All right. In some semblance of order: Vampires are real, and one tried to bite you. He didn’t quite manage, but did break skin, and there was enough saliva involved to turn you. Jenny wasn’t sure there would be; that’s why she just let you go at the time. But it doesn’t take much, apparently, and here you are. We’re still just starting to analyze this scientifically, like in the last decade or so. So your digestion is shifting from normal human to requiring blood for survival. But we looked at vampire bats, which are the only mammals that are blood-obligate carnivores, and while they require mammalian blood, it isn’t species specific. Turns out, same is mostly true for human vampires. If they don’t taste human blood, they don’t seem to develop that compulsion. That’s the one that leads to predatory behavior, murder, and the fall into Evil. Following so far?” I nodded mutely.

“So what I’ll be arranging is a steady source of beef blood, to be kept on hand for you. It doesn’t have to be from a living animal, but it does have to be raw, so blood sausage won’t fulfill the nutritional requirement. I’ll get a small chest freezer and keep it in here. Both my room and the freezer will be locked, and you and I will have the keys.”

“Why not my room?” I asked with more than a little aggravation.

“Because I want to be sure I know if stocks are getting low, until you have a good handle on self-care. Just like a new diabetic, okay?”

“Okay, that makes sense.” And it did; I just didn’t like being treated like a child.

“You’ll have some any time you’re going out in public, at least at first, just until you know what “hungry” feels like with this new metabolism. Still okay?”


“Now, the rest of it. Some of the legends are true, others not so much. You might or might not have a predator form; not all vampires do. We’ll hope not.” My eyebrows went up at that; I agreed wholeheartedly.

“You won’t lose your reflection in the mirror. That was based on the idea that a mirror reflected one’s soul, and that a vampire had lost theirs. The reflection is physical, and unless you fall to Evil, you’ll keep your soul.”

“So souls are real.” I’d been raised by militant God-fearing atheists.

She smiled faintly. “Yes, souls are real. Guard yours carefully.”

“You can neither float nor fly nor turn into a bat.” A snort seemed all the response required.

“You will be preternaturally strong and fast. You will, after all, be at least a potential predator. If you feel a compulsion to hunt, I recommend strongly you find some woods and hunt deer. That will take care of anything you need without risk to your soul.” Again, it made sense. “You’ll also heal from just about anything that doesn’t kill you. Slicing off your head will kill you; slicing off your arm won’t. In fact, it might not even work, unless the swordsman is really fast, because the cut at the top will heal before he’s done slicing through the bone. It will hurt like hell, though.”

“Yeah, not planning on fighting any swordsmen any time soon either.”

She grinned. “Wise girl. You really will burst into flame instantly if you go out in the sun; we don’t know why. Likewise, a stake through your heart will make you disappear in a puff of dust. And I think that’s about it for Vampire 101. Can you think of anything else right now?”

“One thing. Is it only drinking human blood that will make me fall to Evil, or killing in general, or what? Because if I’m super-strong and I push some guy too hard, I don’t want to risk my soul for that!”

“Ah. Good point. Okay, best guess is that what will cause problems is if you kill a human being by drinking their blood, because that’s effectively cannibalism. I doubt killing in self defense, or defense of another person, would be deemed problematic. Goddess knows I’ve killed enough that way, and Evil hasn’t tried for me.” She was so matter of fact about it that it took me aback.

“Um...yeah.” was all I could think of. “We should probably go back out before the rest of the girls send a search party, though.”

She laughed. “Right. And I could use some more tea after all of that!”

Angela, Holly and Karyn were still sitting around the remains of dinner when we came out; apparently they’d been too worried to scatter to their usual evening activities. I didn’t know what to tell them, but Josephina left it up to me while she trotted off to the kitchen to put the kettle on. I’ve always been pretty blunt, so I just dove in.

“So...Josephina knows what’s going on, and it looks like she nailed it. Seems vampires are real, and one tried to bite me last Saturday night. Didn’t quite succeed, but broke skin and it was enough to turn me. That’s what these are.” I gestured to the two pairs of pin-prick scabs on my throat. “Another week or so, and I’ll be all the way there.”

Silence reigned for about thirty seconds, followed by pandemonium as they all started asking questions at once.

“Are you gonna turn all sparkly, like Edward?”

“Are you going to be a monster?”

“You’re not going to go all emo and angsty, are you?”

“Slow down, slow down! I can only talk so fast.” I laughed. “Let’s see if I can get this straight. I turned to Angela. “Let’s see. Sparkly? God and Goddess forbid! Deity of your choice. Actually, same answer for emo and angsty. Me? Really? Anti-Goth-Girl? Black is so not my color!” I struck a pose. “I shall be the Vampire in Hello Kitty Pink!” We were laughing as Josephina came in with more ginger tea and the household honeypot. “And we’re working on making the answer to monster 'no way in hell', right Josephina? My diet will be a little weird, but I’ll eat in my room so no one gets grossed out, and come sit with everyone for dinner anyway. I’ll take my turn at cooking, too, if it’s okay if dinner doesn’t get started until the sun is down. Or else I can do prep while it’s dark, and someone else can cook. But don’t expect to see me between dawn and dusk. For one thing, I’ll be asleep, and for another, I will have an instantaneously fatal sun allergy. Like, SPF one million probably wouldn’t be enough if I missed a square micrometer of skin.” Josephina nodded agreement.

Tea was poured and honey added; mine was generously sweetened again. It really was making me feel better.

Then it really hit me what all it was going to mean.

“Hey. Hey! You know what? Remember how we were talking about how Campus Security would escort girls home from the library or class after dark if they lived in the dorms, but there wasn’t anything for girls off campus? I can do that, or I’ll be able to once the change is complete. And some of the Muslim girls, who can’t walk with a man they aren’t related to? It would solve their problem too. We’ve talked and marched and planned and written letters and tried to change the culture that makes women responsible if men commit rape, but at least here we really can take back the night! Oh wow. WOW!”

They were looking at each other, back at me. Even Josephina was wide-eyed.

“And you know what else? Now I can change my major to Astronomy, because I’ll be up all night anyway. I can stay up to use the observatory. I bet they’ll let me set up an online course of study since I can’t go out during the day. Setting up meetings with my professors might get a little dicey, even by Skype, because of the daylight sleeping thing, but I bet we can come up with work-arounds for that, if we try.”

“Hey, Josephina!” She jumped, startled. “Can I call Jenny back, tell her thank you? I mean, yeah, this is going to have it’s challenges, but so does everything. But the stuff I can do with it? Is going to be so damn cool!”
mama_kestrel: (Default)
We've lived in our current house for almost four years now. It was thoroughly landscaped when we moved in, so I gave it a year to see what would come up where before I started moving some things, removing others (ornamental grasses aren't, in my opinion), and generally making it mine. I noticed that surface appearances aside, the soil was pretty poor, but figured that if I left it chemical free and let the leaves and such decompose it would recover.

It hasn't. It's simply dead. I went to expand a front bed to add an annual border, which entailed digging up a foot wide patch of grass roots and all, leaving a trench about eight inches deep. I should have gotten worms and wriggling things with every forkful loosened and pulled out. It had rained the day before; I should have been able to smell it. It should have been dark brown.

It was grey and compact. It had no odor at all, and nothing wriggled out of it, not even the occasional sow bug or centipede. I don't know what chemicals our predecessors used, but they must have been something else again. I don't know whether to dig deeper, work in compost and add worms or seal it off and work upwards at this point. Probably a bit of both; work down in the front, where all I'm planting are ornamentals, and up in the back in raised beds where I want vegetables to grow. If there's persistent chemical contamination, I don't want it in my food, and I don't know how to test it. My herbs I'm not worried about; they're in giant pots on the deck anyway. But I have never dealt with anything like this. Usually when I put my hands in the ground, it tells me what it wants. This isn't soil; it's just dirt. It's silent. It's dead. And it's profoundly unnerving.
mama_kestrel: (Default)
Which fortunately for me lasts through Tuesday midnight. :)

The theme this month is Fairy Tales. Take a classic Fairy Tale. Twist it into whatever pretzel form you like. Toss it to Dialectic Dreamer and she will write a ficlet. It's tremendous fun to see what she comes up with.

Go play!
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