Ch. 14: St. Nicholas, Booger Burgers and the Down of a Thistle
Pretty soon, then boys are going to have to make a decision. Or are they?
Killian’s face lit up into a jolly old man smile and he also waved to the boys discreetly, but still enthusiastically.
Since they were already more or less waving, they just continued waving as it would be rather obvious if they stopped because he started and not just at Darcy. So they waved at Killian.
Killian slowed his wave, but kept his warm smile. He brought his hand to the brim of his hat and tipped his hat as the boys had only seen in movies–and old fashioned movies at that.
“Dude, let’s get outta here,” Li said and pulled on Dan’s sleeve. “That guy freaks me out.” Li started to walk out of the kitchen.
Dan continued looked at Killian. In fact, he couldn’t have taken his eyes off of him if he had wanted to. Killian didn’t take his eyes off of Dan. Slowly, Killian brought his hand down but only to the middle of his face. He extended his forefinger and placed it aside his nose and tapped it lightly. Then he brought his hand down. He then winked one time with his right eye and finally turned back to Darcy to continue their conversation.
Dan felt a chill go from the bottom of his spine slowly up his back like ants crawling just inside of his skin.
“Dan, let’s go,” Li called him from the dining room. “What are you doing?”
“I’m coming, I’m coming,” Dan said, still a little startled at the wordless communication with Killian.
When they got into the dining room and started walking, Li asked, “What were you doing in there? Did you talk to Killian or something?”
“I don’t know,” Dan said, walking in something of a daze.
“What’s up with you, you look a little weird,” Li said. “What do you mean you don’t know if you talked to him or not?”
“I don’t know, I feel a little weird,” Dan spoke the words in front of him without turning to look at Li. They made their way outdoors.
“What did Killian do to you?” Li asked again.
“I don’t know,” he paused. “Well, he waved and then his tipped his hat to us, but you saw that. Then he put his finger on the side of his nose and tapped it, like this,” and Dan did what Killian had done. “Then he winked at me and he kept smiling.”
“Oh,” Li responded, a little concern in his voice. “Wait a minute. Did you ever read The Night Before Christmas when you were a kid?”
“I am a kid,” Dan said matter of factly.
“Oh yeah. I forgot,” Li said and looked at Dan and smiled.
“You’re a kid, too, dude. You’re not, like, twenty. You’re just eleven, you’re still a kid, too,” Dan brought Li back to reality.
“OK, whatever,” Li waved his hands and arms to whisk away the conversation. “Did you ever read The Night Before Christmas?”
“I guess so, which one is that?” Dan asked.
“It’s the one where Saint Nick put his finger next to his nose. Don’t you know it, it goes like this,” and Li recited the poem while they walked out to the grounds around the castle.
“And laying his finger aside of his nose,
And giving a nod, up the chimney he rose.”
Li put his finger aside of his nose for full effect. “See, like this.”
“Yeah, that’s what Killian did,” Dan said.
“Hmm,” Li said.
“What’s ‘Hmm’ for,” Dan asked.
Li again recited the poem.
“He sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle,
And away they all flew like the down of a thistle.”
“What in the world are you talking about? Where did you get this stuff?” Dan shook his head like an old scientist who didn’t understand a theorem.
“It’s from The Night Before Christmas, it’s just the next part. But I never really knew what thistle was,” Li said. “I also don’t really know what ere is. I just memorized it.”
“Dude, you memorized that poem?” Dan asked in astonishment. Li went at it again, digging deep into his memory.
“But I heard him exclaim, ere he drove out of sight —
Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night.”
Li continued, “Well, I don’t think I know the whole thing, it’s pretty long, but we still read it every year and every kid had to read certain parts and we would trade off sections. I guess I got that section a few times. I like the last part, we would always kind of say that part really loud. My grandpa gets really into it. We sometimes read it before Christmas, too. My dad bought a really cool book with pop-up paper, too. I think he got it in New York.”
“I still can’t believe you memorized all that poem. Can you memorize stuff like that easily? Dude, you should be an actor or maybe a lawyer,” Dan said.
“Why a lawyer?”
“I think they have to memorize lots of stuff. I don’t know, that’s what my mom said,” Dan explained.
“But Em’s not your mom, right?” Li asked.
“No, my mom lives in Beijing,” Dan cleared that up. “You haven’t met her.”
“Oh,” Li said.
They continued to walk away from the castle on the grass and on gravel. Their feet crunched into the small stones.
“Wait, so what do you mean about the whole Santa Claus and the side of the nose stuff?” Dan asked.
“Dude, don’t ask me, I don’t know,” Li shot back in mock annoyance. “It just reminded me of that when you said he put his finger on the side of his nose, the only time I ever saw that was when St. Nick did it.”
“Do you think it means something?” Dan asked.
“You’re asking me? I don’t know. Maybe Killian wants us to go up the chimney,” Li guessed. “Does the castle even have chimneys?”
“I think there are a few of them,” Dan looked back at the castle now in the distance. “Maybe we’re supposed to put our finger on the side of our nose when we’re under the castle,” Dan tried.
“Maybe we’ll shoot up the castle and get to the roof,” Li guessed again.
“Maybe Killian just had an itch on his nose,” Dan said and looked at Li and Dan laughed at his own joke.
Before Li could laugh, he thought up another one, “Maybe Killian meant to pick his nose and missed!” His voice louder and more theatrical.
“Maybe Killian was trying to tell us that Darcy had a huge booger in her nose and he wanted to warn us,” Dan laughed and spoke. He just kept going, he was on a roll now. “Maybe Darcy’s huge boogers were what made up those burned black hockey pucks we had for breakfast.” Now he was basically out of control. “No, maybe those black pucks are the burned boogers of all of the kitchen people and they collect them and once a month they serve them to kids because they think we’ll eat anything,” he was almost out of breath from his long-winded description.
Li was laughing and doing an excellent job of envisioning the booger-into-puck making process. “Dude, that’s so gross. Did you have a bite of yours?” Li asked.
“No, I was scared,” Dan admitted. “And now I’m especially glad I didn’t eat any!”
“Darcy’s huge boogers,” Li repeated. “That’s so disgusting. That’s awesome. We have to tell Lu and Dec to eat their black pucks.”
“Let’s tell them they’re filled with chocolate,” Dan almost squirmed with excitement.
The boys walked some more, then around some trees, then the path turned back somewhat towards the castle. They slowed down the pace as they didn’t really know where they were going anyway.
“Maybe we’re supposed to use our noses to find more clues?” Dan thought out loud.
“Maybe it stinks under the castle and we’re supposed to bring nose plugs,” Li said.
“What are nose plugs?” Dan asked.
“I don’t know, like ear plugs, but for your nose,” Li said and noticed that he was having fun with a 9-year old and he didn’t even think about it. Maybe it was possible to have fun with 9-year olds. Maybe it was possible with brothers, too.
“Maybe it didn’t mean anything at all,” Dan said as he stood and stared back at the Markree Castle beyond the lush green grass and perfectly placed trees.
“Maybe we should just play soccer all day and forget about it,” Li said.
“Maybe we need to take a little trip under the castle on our own and see what we can find,” Dan said and looked at Li. Li looked back at Dan but then back to the castle.
“Maybe,” Li said.