Ch. 15: Gravestone Garden
Headstones sprinkled over the grass. Wait, is this a cemetery?
“Hey, look at that,” Li pointed to the ground.
“Is that a gravestone?” Dan asked.
“I think so. Look, there’s writing on it,” Li said.
“It’s all dirty,” Dan added.
“Dude, it’s been here for, like, centuries,” Li noted.
“I can’t really read anything, it’s just a bunch of letters with dirt on them,” Dan said, discouraged.
“Hey, there’s more,” Li looked up.
“Whoa, there are lots more,” Dan said.
“They look like white rocks, maybe people don’t even notice them,” Li said. “Kinda weird that they’re just out here on the grass.”
“Maybe we’re standing in the middle of the graveyard,” and with that, Dan felt immediately creeped out, even in broad daylight.
“Do you watch The Walking Dead?” Li asked.
“Oh yeah, we watched that a few times when we were in Boston. It’s crazy scary,” Dan said, looking around at all of the gravestones.
“What if all of these gravestones started moving and all these zombies popped up and started walking towards us? Wouldn’t that be cool?” Li imagined the whole scene.
“Dude, you watch way too much of that. How are you going to kill them anyway?” Dan asked.
“You can’t kill them, they don’t really die. Wait, they’re already dead, so you have to chop off their heads or arms or legs so they can’t walk or grab you,” Li relished the thought of slicing open zombies. “If they bite you, you become a zombie too,” Li thought for a second. “Wait, we need machetes. Dude, that would be so cool if we could find machetes. Do you think they have machetes somewhere in the castle?”
“Don’t you get nightmares watching that stuff?” Dan asked.
“No way, I’m not scared,” Li said as he scanned the area to see how far the gravestones went. While he was looking away, Dan kneeled down and grabbed Li’s ankle hard.
“Aaaahhhh!” Li screamed in pure horror and jumped away as if he had just been electrocuted. His face went from fear to anger to laughing in a matter of seconds.
“I thought you said you weren’t scared?” Dan said.
“Dude, don’t do that!” Li said, catching his breath. “If you were my brother, I’d tackle you into the ground right now and pummel your head into the grass until you had dirt in your ears.”
Dan reached out for his ankle again even though Li was watching his every move. Li was shocked at the gutsy 9-year old and lunged to pounce on him. Dan did a quick roll to avoid Li landing on him, was on his feet in a flash and started running. Li got up as fast as he could, still reeling from the surprise attack and follow-up dare and darted after him.
Dan was fast, but his game was playful. Li was fast and was looking for revenge. Revenge beats out playful on the field of battle.
Dan turned as sharply as a gazelle in the middle of the grasses and Li dove for Dan’s legs. Missed. Dan cried out in half horror, half glee as he thought Li couldn’t catch him.
Li was up in an instant and thought about his position, where Dan was and where Dan was heading. Not where Dan was, but where Dan would be. He headed that way at full lion hunting speed.
Dan looked over his shoulder and was pretty sure he saw fangs dripping slimy drool poking out of Li’s mouth and shrieked in boyish delight. He ran faster, but he wasn’t running strategically and Li was on him. Li went for Dan’s thighs this time and got a full right shoulder into Dan’s thigh and Dan went down like a Dik Dik on the savannah. He laughed and cried as if someone were tickling him, which is more or less what was happening as Li was strangling him, but in a friendly way.
“Thought you were fast? Thought you could outrun me?” Li taunted in his best sports figure and mafia hitman tough guy tone.
“OK, OK,” Dan squirmed, “You got me! Now get off of me,” he cried while laughing.
Li turned Dan over in a wrestling move and had his face pinned to the grass, but under that grass where Dan’s eyeball practically touched the ground was a clean white stone.
“Hey, another gravestone,” Dan giggled and tried to change the subject so the 11-year old beast would loosen his grip.
“You can’t distract me, you are my prisoner,” Li said, not quite out of gaming mode yet.
“Here rests Rufus McGillicutty, son of James and Dorothy, husband to the beauteous Charlotte,” Dan read.
“What are you going on about, convict?” Li whispered in Dan’s ear, having seen way too many cops and robbers shows.
“I’m just reading, see?” he tried to point, but realized Li had most of his body pinned. “It’s right here, but pretty small.”
“Oh yeah, cool,” Li said. “Look how the R is filled with, what is that? Is that gold?”
“Nah, it couldn’t be,” Dan said. “That would have, I don’t know, worn away over the years. Right?” Dan asked.
“I don’t know, but it’s still sort of shiny,” Li felt it with his finger. “It’s smooth, too. Wow, that’s cool. Do you think it’s real gold?”
“I don’t know,” Dan said. “Dude, could you get off of me now?”
“Oh, sorry,” Li laughed. “Hey, there’s another one right there, see it?” Li pointed to another stone just near them. “Aren’t gravestones supposed to be standing up? Why are these just flat in the ground like this?” But Dan didn’t answer, he was squirming out from under Li to look around.
“Hey, there’s more gold on this one,” Li said. “This guy is Bartley MacAuliffe, may God rest his soul.”
“Is there gold on that one?” Dan asked.
“Yeah, this one is on the ‘u,'” Li replied and stared at the stone, spending a few seconds on the life of poor Bartley and wondering what he had to do with the castle.
“Got another,” Dan said as he crawled away. “This guy is Conchobhar Callaghan and he died in 1684. Man, how did this guy even spell his name at school when he was a kid?”
“Is there gold in one of them?” Li asked.
“Yeah, the ‘o’ is gold,” Dan said.
“So now we have r, p, and o, right?” Li asked.
“Yep,” Dan said. “Poor, like I only have eight dollars.”
“That’s two o’s,” Li corrected, but it wasn’t even worth a reply from Dan, just a look to Li that said, ‘Duh, dude, I’m just playin”.
“Here’s Derry Fitzpatrick, but there isn’t any gold,” Li found another one.
“I found Donncha Keating,” Dan shouted.
“Gold?” Li asked.
“Ultan Mac Kenna has gold on the ‘u,'” Dan found another.
“R, p, o, and now u,” Li said, thinking aloud. “Ropu,” he tried.
“Puro,” Dan guessed. They both kept looking.
“Hey, Liam Cassidy,” Li said. “That’s a good name, sounds like a cowboy from the wild west.”
“That’s Butch Cassidy,” Dan corrected. “Does he have any gold, your Liam?”
“The ‘d,'” Li said and rolled it all through his head. He rearranged the letters in his mind and saw them like little stones scattered on a table. R, p, o, u and now a d, he thought. He almost had it when Dan cried out.
“Oh man, I have the best one yet, Gearoid Mac Donagh. How do you even say that? Gearoid? What does that mean? I mean, what kind of name is that?”
“Dude, it’s Irish,” Li said flatly.
Again Dan with the head down, eyes up look, but this warranted a comment, “Ya think?”
Both boys laughed, but Li’s letters still tumbled around in his head. Pourd. Druop. Rupod. Nothing was making any sense.
“Gold letter?” Li asked.
“Do you think that’s all with the gold?” Li asked as they scoured another dozen stones, but no more gold. He stared over at the castle in the distance. As he looked up and stopped with the juggling of the letters, he had it.
“Proud,” Li said.
“Proud of what?” Dan asked.
“No, those are the letters. They spell proud.”
“Oh yeah!” Dan arranged the letter in his head and said aloud, “p, r, o, u, and d. Li, you did it.”
“But maybe there are more gold letters,” Li wondered aloud.
“I’m not seeing any,” Dan said.
“Maybe there’s an ‘e’ and an ‘r’ somewhere and it’s ‘prouder’ or something,” Li said.
“I guess it could be, but I’m looking and I don’t see any more gold. Do you think it’s just around here? Maybe we need to go somewhere else?” Dan asked.
“I don’t think so. I mean, Darcy said to come out here, maybe this is it. Maybe it’s just the word ‘proud,'” he stopped and thought to himself. “But,” he paused and looked at Dan who turned to look at what Li was going to say, “Does it mean anything? What are we supposed to do with it?”
“I’m proud I didn’t eat that booger-filled hockey puck this morning,” Dan said.
“I’m proud I’m not scared of going under the castle tonight,” Li said and before Dan could comment, he added, “I’m proud I figured out the word proud in gold letters.”
“I’m proud that I’m smarter than my brother,” Dan said and nodded in agreement with himself.
“I’m proud I’m a faster runner than you,” Li said.
“You’re so not faster than me,” Dan said, took one glance at Li and with the quickness of a Thomson’s gazelle, bolted away from Li.
Caught off guard, but with cheetah-like reflexes and hunger for the kill and the pride of a Lion, Li was after him just as fast.
Well, almost as fast.