Another Suit

“Jolly Jim” Cardwell opened a hotel. In fact, he owned several, but this particular hotel was something of an oddity. It was perched at the top of what is now called Donner Summit. This isn’t in and of itself an oddity, as people have been building resorts in picturesque places since the Roman times. What was unusual about this hotel was its positioning. It was beside the railroad, its front door directly positioned upon the entrance between two railway snow sheds.

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You see, the Sierras are treacherous in the winter. As the oft referenced story of the Donner party might suggest, the snow could get twenty feet high. Avalanches were common. Blizzards were frequent. Even though most of the Transcontinental’s movements were cut into the very mountain, there were still portions of the rails that ran around the outer edges of ridges and along the sides of mountains. Where the tracks were bared, great wooden structures were erected, manmade tunnels with very few openings. These allowed the trains to come and go without becoming stuck in the snow, and at Tunnel 6, the Summit stop, the hotel took in all the off boarding passengers.

Before the highways and interstates were put in, there was an old mining road called the Dutch Flat. This too ran within sight of the Summit Hotel, and it was from this barely carved trail amongst the trees that I had my first view of the place.

Pardon me for not discussing all the particulars of how I came to be there. Suffice it to say that I had been forced to leave. Pinkertons can be a bit testy when you’re accused of massive theft and the murder of a lawman, and sometimes even faking your own demise doesn’t work out so well. I’d spent the better part of two months gambling on my earnings, growing a small fortune through the preternatural gifts I possess. But Truckee had run dry and truthfully, had taken an extremely hostile temperament with me, and so I’d determined it was time to move on.

So I spent a day walking, moving my carcass as swiftly as I could up the Dutch Flat road. For a number of reasons, the train wasn’t truthfully an option for me, and I wasn’t at my best. Then there was the added difficulty of my nearest cousin, who appeared to be following me. I decided it was time to stop, and that the Summit Hotel was as good a place as any.

The place was like a beehive in many respects, much of it a honeycomb of wooden tunnels connecting buildings, painted a pale golden color. I entered off to one side, thinking it would lead me to the entrance. I found, however, that it lead me straight into a bear cave.

I call it that, because at the mouth of this lean-to hallway, there was a bear.

He didn’t seem particularly interested in mauling anyone. In fact there were a few people entertaining him by tossing fruit at his head, and he seemed to be chained to the spot. Creeping around behind him, I was put in mind of the old days, of the South Bank and my time in the theater district. I don’t like seeing animals chained. It irks me in a way I cannot adequately put to words, but I’m also equally out of love with large predatory animals like bears, so in this case was willing to overlook his treatment.

He was a black bear, quite common in those parts, but his fur was a soft brown, whiter at the neck than the back. He wasn’t too large—I put his weight somewhere around three hundred pounds, but that’s far superior to my bulk anyway. As I snuck around his back, he caught the feel of me, and immediately wheeled round. The tourists were treated to a full display of him on his hind legs, grunting at me in challenge.

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Animals don’t speak in words, my friends. They only know feelings. Normally, I own whatever land I occupy and assert dominance, but these weren’t my territories. I wasn’t about to put out anything that made me seem a danger to him. Instead I stood very still, except for a slight bow. I kept my eyes on the ground between us as the stupid people clapped. After a time, he accepted our truce, and landed back on all fours.

I moved inside as swiftly as I was able. The proprietor was there and seemed surprised to see me. Evidently this time of year, he had few patrons coming via the muddy road from Truckee. I got a room and was given a promise of exceptional food. He didn’t know the cooking I’d left was some of the finest I’d ever had, but how could he. I went up to my room and washed up.

In the evening, a train came through. It brought a number of new guests and some people who simply wanted to pop over to the hotel for the merriment. None of them were from Truckee, so I didn’t trouble myself as I looked out the window onto the gap between the door and the snow sheds. The bear was a cause for delight and many of the patrons gave him a wide but laughing berth.

Dinner was a bit of a fancy affair. Despite the time of year and the snow still plastered to the mountain outside, there were people of all types, some of whom had brought some very fine dinner attire. I sat by myself as usual, and ate my dinner in peace, until Jolly Jim came and put a hand on the back of my chair.

“Did you like the bear?”

I shrugged.

“Someone said he gave yo a bit of a turn when you arrived. I hope he didn’t scare you.”

Those words had mockery to them. I wiped my mouth. The three men at the table beside mine gave a chuckle at my expense.

“He’s a fine chap.”

Jolly Jim grinned ear to ear. “You’ll be happy to know I’m bringing him inside for a bit, then.”

I stared up at him. Was he daft? Putting an animal like that indoors, with all the tobacco smoke and the food smells. The poor thing would be in misery in an instant.  “Are you sure that’s wise?”

“Oh, he does it all the time.” Jim dropped his voice. “I do it for the guests! They love it. Bring him right up to the bar and give him a beer glass.”

As he walked away, I took a deep breath. The poor animal was dutifully brought in a few minutes later, led by a chain around its neck. As if it expected it, the bear waited beside the bar for his beer, which the bartender gave him very gingerly. The bear stood up and stuck its nose into the glass, sucking out the beer to the amusement of all. I sat back from the spectacle, aware that my mere presence there was a danger to everyone.

I ate and I pulled myself in as much as I could, but I could tell the bear’s behavior was off. Jim had to scold it several times and eventually, it became so belligerent that a somewhat apologetic handler had to take it outside via another door.

Jim clapped his hands. “Terribly sorry ladies and gentlemen! I’m afraid our friend is a bit irascible today! It’s my fault. I promised him a good wrestle this morning and only ended up giving him a hug.”

There was laughter. Some of the women were shaking their heads in astonishment.

“I’ll wrestle with him,” said a man whose accent was German.

Jim laughed, but I could tell from his voice that he wasn’t confirmed that was a good idea. “I’m sure you would, sir! And from your brawn I’d say you could win too!”

I shook my head and finished my meal, tossing my napkin upon the table. The audacity of a man doing such a thing to a large beast purely for his own amusement was obnoxious to me. I had no desire to see any more of it, nor to bother the bear further with my proximity. I stood up and began to make my way from the room.

Jim was telling everyone a story about the time the bear nearly took off the former bartender’s arm, when the German persisted. He wanted to have a go at this bear. Jim laughed.

“He chooses his own opponents!”

I looked up through the window. The bear was trying to come back into the bar, dragging the handler behind him. As he shoved his bulk into the doorway, the space between us opened and the bear caught sight of me. He let out a long growl and would have turned Sampson against the pillars if not for Jolly Jim jumping between us.

Chuckling nervously, he turned to me and whispered that I should help him for a moment. I had no idea what he was talking about, but the bear kept tugging and aiming for me.

“Go out to the front, Mr. Graves, if you please, sir!” Jim hissed at me. All at once, understanding dawned for me and with a long-suffering sigh, I turned on my heel. Walking out the front door into the sludge and dirty snow of the courtyard, I waited. The bear ambled out behind me, very swiftly, followed by a number of Jim’s patrons.

“It seems, Mr. Graves, that my friend here has decided he’d like to wrestle you!”

The crowd got a good chuckle from this—thin, darkly clad me with my silver topped cane and my sour expression. There wasn’t a person there who could have thought me healthy enough for such a leisure activity, but the bear could see through all that. He wanted a piece of me. He wanted to finish our conversation from earlier.

The handler tangled with him as Jim approached me, and in his low whisper promised me a free night if I could be asked to let it transpire. I glared at him, and he apologized profusely, but there was nothing for it. The bear had his eye on me and he would not be dissuaded.

I took off my coat and handed it off to Jim. He wanted a spectacle. He was going to get one.

I’ve never fought any large animal before. I seldom if ever need to. Usually, I either know precisely what the animal wants and make allowances, or I convince it to leave me alone. But this was a wild thing raised by a man who liked to entertain. It didn’t know the proper etiquette. It didn’t have the proper bearing…if you’ll forgive the pun. I was going to have to hurt it, I supposed. And likely end up killing one of these fine folk to make up the difference in strength. It would have to be Jim, though that would most definitely cause me a few problems.

I rolled up my sleeves and checked my braces.

There goes another suit, I thought. This trip was proving to be very rough on my wardrobe.

The bear was freed from his chain and immediately made his display of height and strength. I kept still, my arms at my sides. When he dropped, it was into a full charge. I heard the heartbeat of every man standing about leap into full race and a woman scream. I sidestepped. The bear wheeled around, very close to, and brought up an arm.

With the force of a stamp mill, the bastard swiped downward at me, caught me in the chest, and put me on my back. As I lie there, looking up at him in astonishment, he stood atop me, pressing me to the ground. His head came very close to my face and he let out a slavering roar.

I thought for certain I was about to be eaten, which would have been appropriate, to be quite honest. I raised my hands to take hold of its jaw, but suddenly the bear was being pulled backward by Jim and a few hotel staff members, one of whom threw a rope around the bear’s neck. Suprisingly, the animal allowed it, and in a sullen series of moans, was pulled back to his usual post.

They fed him a large sack of fruit, while I, covered in mud, was bodily lifted off the sticky ground.

I have fought many men in my life. From Burgundians to Red Coats, and this was the first time I’d ever been put on my back so easily. Wincing, pieces of my skeleton barely hinged together, I stood huffing in the cold air, several other patrons patting my back. A large glass of brandy was brought to me and I drank it up. It was good brandy too—Hine, if I’m not mistaken. I slurped it down and took a second when it was offered. The crowd got their laughter and commiseration out of the way.

As they all repaired back to the warmth of the hotel, Cardwell slapped me on the back and asked if I was well.

“I’ve just been stood upon by a cinnamon bear, sir. How do you think I feel?”

He laughed. “Give your clothes to the steward. I’ll have them cleaned up. Shoes too! And have a bath too. I’m sorry about that. I don’t know why he was so belligerent. It had to be you, I’m afraid.”

I stood up. Something cracked loudly. His eyes went wide.

“I’ll take some more chops up in my room if you’ll do me the kindness.”

“Of course, Mr. Graves.” I put out a hand for my cane, which he dutifully gave me. “Sir, you’re faring remarkably well. You wrestle with a bear before?”

“No sir. And never again, I’m afraid.”

He chuckled and saw me back indoors. As promised, I was given a free stay, but as I took my leave, I felt it incumbent upon me to say a farewell to my adversary.

He was sitting just inside the entrance to the tunnel, huffing at me, but I could see that he was afraid. Poor sap. He’d done the one thing most people never survived—getting drunk and trying to win a fight with a monster. No telling, but it felt as if he truly wanted to beg pardon and fall upon my mercy. As if a night of thought had made him look on his actions a little more sensibly.

I stood opposite him for some time. Talking with animals takes time. Stillness too. It takes a kind of poise that humans seldom manage. I took a seat on the footing of the snowshed.

“You gave me quite the walloping, sir,” I said aloud, but with my whole being, I told him it was all in good fun, and that I wasn’t upset about it. There were a few half barrels of fruit and slop just out of his reach. I tossed him a soft apple. It sat beside his paw untouched.

He made a small, plaintive moan.

“Go on then. I’ll have one too.”

I bit into mine. It was rotten, but so what. You eat a ten day old drowning victim a few times and an old apple gives no pause.

He ate his in one great bite. After I’d eaten most of mine, I tossed him the core and got on my way.

And that is the story of how I had a free hotel stay at the Summit Hotel, by virtue of wrestling a bear. Though to be fair, he won.

You might be asking yourself what happened to the bear, and I do know the answer to that. Why? Because I never take defeat without knowing my enemy better for the next encounter. It’s tragic, I’m afraid, which is one reason I hesitated to tell the full story.

Jolly Jim was forced to shoot the poor dear only a year later. According to what I was told, he’d tried to eat a horse inside the stables at Truckee, where he was housed after Cardwell purchased the Kaiser House. It seems a few boys threw some stones at him to stop him, and he chased them from the property.

It’s a sorry tale, but in at least one way, I am content. The only enemy to ever fight me and win, no longer exists to do it again.

And I have learned my lesson. I will never again wrestle a bear or even joke about it. They are lethal killing machines, to be sure.

Creature’s Cookbook series now out in print

Creature’s Cookbook series now out in print

As of today you can purchase all the Creature’s Cookbook series, which includes two novels (Let us be honest, the first book is the length of two novels) and a collection of short stories. They are available in every format.

It’s appropriate that these came today:

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As I can now begin mailing out your prizes to you–those who won the Halloween challenges!

I hadn’t forgotten, but was merely waiting…

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My Favorite Homemade Dry Spice Mixes

autumnherah:

blah blah blah I was sad that so many store bought spice mixes featured gross things in them like ungodly amounts of processed sugars and unnecessary preservatives so I went out to find homemade spice mix recipes and these are now all staples in my diet. Why am I sharing them with you? No idea, but I am gonnnnnnna.

Buffalo Spice Mix

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ingredients 

  • 2 tsp chili powder
  • 4 ½ tsp paprika
  • 2 ¼ tsp cayenne pepper
  • 3 ¼ tbsp garlic powder
  • 3 tsp mustard powder
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 1 tsp ground pepper
  • 4 tsp onion powder

directions

  1. combine all the spices in a mixing bowl and lightly whisk together.
  2. store in an airtight container like a mason jar

how to use

  • I generally mix a tablespoon or two per pound of meat (depending on how spicy you want this)
  • it also makes an AMAZING seasoning for homemade fries

Ranch Seasoning

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ingredients

  • 2 tsp salt
  • 4 tbsp parsley
  • 3 tsp dill weed
  • 2 tsp dried chives
  • 4 tsp garlic powder
  • 4 tsp onion powder
  • 4 tsp dried onion flakes
  • 2 tsp black pepper

directions

  1. combine all the spices in a mixing bowl and lightly whisk together.
  2. store in an airtight container like a mason jar

how to use

  • about two tablespoons of this mixture = one packet of store bought ranch mix
  • add it to a mayonnaise of your choosing to make a DIY ranch dressing
  • I like to make air fryer hot wings with buffalo sauce and then toss the wings in this seasoning for a really lovely flavor
  • sprinkle it on everything, ranch tastes so good on everything, literally just add this to everything and make it ranch dressing flavored

Taco Seasoning

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spoiler alert – this is a copy cat Taco Bell taco seasoning mix

ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon dried minced onion
  • ½ teaspoon paprika
  • ¼ teaspoon onion powder
  • dash garlic powder

directions

  1. combine all the spices in a mixing bowl and lightly whisk together.
  2. store in an airtight container like a mason jar

how to use

  • add one tablespoon of spice mix for every one pound of taco meat you use. Use your hands to thoroughly mix the tablespoon of spice mix into the ground beef. Add the seasoned beef mixture and ½ cup of water in a skillet over medium heat. 
  • also very good on homemade french fries

Baharat Middle Eastern Blend

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ingredients

  • 2 tsp smoky paprika
  • 2 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 1 tsp coriander
  • ½ tsp nutmeg
  • ½ tsp cinnamon
  • ¼ tsp cardamom
  • ¼ tsp cloves

directions

  1. combine all the spices in a mixing bowl and lightly whisk together.
  2. store in an airtight container like a mason jar

how to use

  • that is a good question. I am very recently branching out my spice pallet and trying on some new things. So far I have used this as a dry rub for chicken which has been phenomenal.
  • one tablespoon per one pound of ground beef for grilled smoky, spicy burgers

Everything Bagel Seasoning

listen, not all of us live near Trader Joe’s

ingredients

  • ¼ cup sesame seeds
  • ¼ cup poppy seeds
  • 3 tablespoons dried onion flakes
  • 3 tablespoons dried garlic flakes
  • 2 tablespoons coarse sea salt

directions

  1. combine all the spices in a mixing bowl and lightly whisk together.
  2. store in an airtight container like a mason jar

how to use

  • on top of homemade breads
  • added to breads with cream cheese
  • on top of your eggs
  • mixed into burgers
  • on top of avocado toast
  • basically anywhere you would normally use salt give that food an upgrade and use everything bagel mix instead

Creature’s Cookbook 2 and Simon’s Snacks

simonalkenmayer:

Creature’s Cookbook 2 and Simon’s Snacks

My second book and the collection of short stories are now available for pre-order, with a release date of July 2.

You can pre-order a copy in any format you wish. I believe that the Snacks are being released individually in ebook formats, and then released together in print format in a single volume. The relevant links are as follows:

Screen Shot 2018-06-24 at 2.11.18 PMThe Creature’s Cookbook 2 Monster’s Mise En Place:

Amazon
B&N
K…

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How do you feel about immortal or nigh-immortal creatures in relationships with humans? You’ve got personal experience, with chef at least, so I wanted your view. Twlight and things like it are gross because centuries old vampire and a highschooler- but there’s still a huge age gap even if they’re 50 or even 90 (what we do in the shadows had a joke about this). Adults can do as they like, but it still feels weird. People, even monsters, crave intimacy, though- romantic and/or platonic, right?

Firstly… I acknowledge no other monster than my own species. No such thing. Deal with that.

Because I acknowledge no other species, I can only tell you what I think about my own experiences, both of having a relationship with a human and watching humans slowly sexualize my race for their own purposes.

I dislike the human quality that attempts to absorb or make less frightful, a thing, by fucking it. Really. It’s absurd. Reproduction is perhaps the strongest motivator, I understand, but somehow that conflicts with your higher brain functions in an altogether astoundingly hideous way to the objective onlooker.

I am all for your species coming to understand us better. I am entirely happy with you perhaps growing to appreciate, be fond, have affection for us, but if you please…on our terms. Don’t make sparkling, passionate previously human models of us. We never were human. We aren’t like you. We don’t think the same way. Our concepts of ethics and morality differ vastly and our capacity to act on those far exceed yours. What little similarity you see between yourself and me, as I sit on these websites and offer up my thoughts, is merely a figment of translation. I can only make myself understood by discussing myself in your terms, because I am speaking your languages and comparing to your experiences, which, as I have said, are nothing like mine. Which means that any impression you gain of me is unfairly tilted in the direction of painting me humanlike.

I have a difficult time making you understand certain things, and invariably, you transform them into human things. When I tell you I am in a mood, in a state, in a funk, feeling dispassionate or so forth…you all inevitably come to me and ask what you can do about it. You try to “make it better”. You equate it with depression, or malaise, or ennui, when in fact it is none of those. There is nothing “wrong” with me. That’s just what I am. I work very diligently to keep myself in a “human form” or keep my thoughts in the human sphere. I try daily to restrain myself into a semblance befitting interaction with you. Every now and again, I can no longer manage it. I have to return to my natural state, which is very different from yours. I don’t know how else to qualify this except to say that I appreciate your desire to help me, but help isn’t necessary. 

Do not hug the snarling animal. Do not feed the wild things. It isn’t wise. And I know everything in your culture attempts to absorb animals and things of this earth by humanizing them–then either turning them into games, costumes, romantic partners, plot devices, etcetera–but please don’t.

And as for my relationship with Chef…it is complex and nothing like a human romance. We tried that. It lasted less than a year because I cannot maintain that facade for any length of time. He is the person I protect most sincerely, after whom I worry, the one whose well-being is critical to my thoughts, but he has his own space. I have mine. He lives his life and I participate, but he no longer attempts to insert himself into my affairs unless he is trying to explain something to me. He has learned that he isn’t allowed to make me into something like him.

What we have is emotional, yes. For him it is somewhat romantic, but that is modified. He uses me as a control mechanism over the parts of his mind that he feels are uncontrollable. He is in therapy for this and as he grows, he requires less of that from me. He finds other humans he enjoys and he spends time with them. I am pleased with this, because it means that he is growing. Out of me? Perhaps so. Do I mind this? No. 

You say immortals want companionship, but do you even understand what that means or what you are saying?

You are seeing from human eyes yet again. Not perceiving us as we are. We are, even those of us who do not speak, solitary by nature. We like to sit in high places and look out. We are always listening. That is our chief enjoyment and sense of ourselves. Yes, we like the odd interaction, it’s true, but for us that is a “ping” and not a necessity. It’s data collection. It’s a momentary interaction with the system we are observing. 

Those of us who can speak, we have developed the capacity to understand you as more than that. We see that you are complex and unique and we want to understand it, because my species is curious by nature. We want knowledge of you, not to be your chums. It isn’t emotionally possible for us to be chums with so many. 

You say to me, “But Simon…you’re so friendly! you talk so well in conversation! You spend so much time being available and dispensing advice! You’re so open.”

And I say in reply that that is an illusion aided by the distance of modern communication, the ease of technology, the go-between which is the internet. I can be open with you here, because it is words on a page that I post when I care to. Thoughts and nothing more. I interact with you, yes. Some of you come to me privately and develop friendships with me, yes. But I have and always will warn you not to become to dependent on your version of the monster. You need to see that in many ways, you are grafting me into your consciousness, not allowing me to exist as I am.

I do enjoy you. I am your friend. I am kind so long as I maintain discipline. I can translate myself into a version that will make sense to you, tough all of you will find your own version of that sense. 

This is a human world now. Whatever we were in the past, we aren’t anymore. Our existence is being threatened, and most strongly by your denial of us by that slow transformative effort to turn everything different into a version of yourself.

I wonder, do you have any theories of how the belief that crosses and holy water repeal things?

To be honest, it has more to do with ancient mythology about pagan wardings, amulets, and such, than it does with Christianity. The faith actually warns against such things and calls superstition the action of the Devil, but for some reason, in it’s early days, Catholicism could not combat that pervasive idea, and so it absorbed it. It retained it even as it claimed such things weren’t godly. And no wonder why…the first meaningful conversion to the faith, and the reason that the Church ever became a dominant force, was the conversion of Emperor Constantine. He did it for many political reasons as well as his own personal beliefs, but…the myth grew surrounding his defeat of an army while carrying a relic before his forces–supposedly a piece of the true crucifixional cross of Jesus. In truth, it was likely just a piece of moldering wood, but he did it. They won, and of course, their victory was attributed to the protective powers of the piece of wood. No mention made of those who still died, despite the “protections”. Holy water has it’s origins in the ritual of baptism, which is meant to cleanse all previous sin and worldliness from the soul and make one new in the eyes of god. It’s also seen as something of a bargain between the individual and God. The cleansing property of course became synonymous with repelling evil. And there you have it.

Pagan, superstitious people’s embracing new ideas in traditional ways.

Creature’s Cookbook 2 and Simon’s Snacks

Creature’s Cookbook 2 and Simon’s Snacks

My second book and the collection of short stories are now available for pre-order, with a release date of July 2.

You can pre-order a copy in any format you wish. I believe that the Snacks are being released individually in ebook formats, and then released together in print format in a single volume. The relevant links are as follows:

Screen Shot 2018-06-24 at 2.11.18 PMThe Creature’s Cookbook 2 Monster’s Mise En Place:

Amazon
B&N
K…

View On WordPress