Ch. 10: Keys, puzzles, moonlight and, finally, yogurt.
How does not wanting something make it easier to get?
Although studied by science, it’s not very well understood how quickly children can become attached to adults they just met. Even though she had certain witch-like qualities, there was something about Margaret that the boys quickly latched onto. Maybe it was when she played hard to get–or hard to find–and left them on their own. They were scared but it also inspired their independence and it showed that Margaret trusted their judgement enough to leave them alone. Or she just forgot about them and needed to talk to Alastar.
“Why does Alastar need us?” Dec asked as they climbed the stairs of the secret ceiling room back to the simple hallway in a the faraway wing of the castle.
“Yeah,” Lu chimed in before Margaret could answer. “Why doesn’t he just go into that room on his own? He seems to know everything that needs to happen, I don’t get what we have to do with it? We’re just kids.”
“Aha, dear boy, that’s just it, you’re just kids. You’re also not from around here, you’re not family and you don’t know what lies beyond those doors under the castle,” she said as they walked down the empty hallways. “You don’t want it and that’s going to make it easier to get it.”
Dec thought about that for a second. “That doesn’t make any sense.” Then he thought for another second, “You know, Margaret, lots of things people say around here don’t seem to make any sense but then they come back and say that they do make sense and then it’s really weird, but they kinda do make sense after they say that it does make sense.”
“I know, lad, I know. It’s hard to understand.”
“Well,” Lu added, “it’s not so much that it’s hard to understand, it just doesn’t make sense. If you want something, doesn’t that make it easier to get it?”
Margaret smiled and chuckled and her body shook like jelly. “Watch your footing here, lads, these floorboards are loose.”
“Ooh, maybe there’s another room under there,” Dec said excitedly.
“Now, now, deary, let’s move along, just move along,” she took a deep breath as she labored up a set of five steps. “That’s enough adventuring for one night.”
“So how does us not wanting the thing we don’t even know what it is help Alastar get it?” Lu asked, not giving up just yet as he walked and peered down a hallway. A well-dressed couple held hands and the man held his other hand on the wall as they swayed away.
“You might be part of the puzzle, part of the key that lets us in,” she said as she wobbled and turned her head back to them to speak.
“What puzzle?” Dec asked. “And who’s us? Like you and Alastar or you and Alastar and the four of us boys?”
“The puzzle of Markree Castle, son,” she said. “Us is the family, the decedents of Markree. Did Alastar not tell you about the puzzle?”
“He told us about the card game and the turning out the lights and how he had to match up dreams or thoughts or languages or something with the one who would inherit the castle,” Dec said.
“But then that person that connected with grandpa disappeared,” Lu added. Their memories did work, just not for items like shoes, toothbrushes or school books.
“Yes, there was that, hmm, right,” she said all of those words and said nothing at all.
“So, what’s the puzzle then?” Lu asked as they went down a flight of stairs and ended near the kitchen. They stepped inside a vast and tall room.
“Is that food?” Dec asked.
“Let’s see what late-night nibbles we might be able to find, lads,” she stopped, turned and whispered to them. They entered the kitchen. It was empty of people, but full of cabinets, bins and buckets, pots and pans, jars and jerrycans.
“Are you allowed to take whatever you want?” Lu asked.
“Well, officially, we’re not supposed to take anything. It’s for the guests, of course. But the staff of the hotel does eat here at mealtimes,” she said but it wasn’t clear to the boys if that was a yes or a no. Instead of asking whether it was a yes or a no, the boys just stared at her like puppies waiting for a treat. “I think we can find something for you lads,” she succumbed. They smiled because they were genuinely happy–and hungry.
There was steel everywhere and it was sparkling and inviting. Lu opened cupboards and Dec pulled on drawers. Margaret opened the huge latch to the walk-in refrigerator. “Come on in here, boys, let’s see what we can find.”
They walked into a paradise beyond description. Tubs of butter, loaves of bread, baskets of colorful fruit and shelves of canned everything.
“Aha,” Margaret said, “Just what the Irish doctor ordered.” She held up a huge tub of yogurt.
“Oohh,” he said in awe as if she had held up a bone of a pterodactyl. “Is it vanilla?” Lu asked.
“Let’s see,” she adjusted her eyeballs and closed one and squinted the other. “It says plain yogurt. Is that the kind you like?”
“Vanilla is my favorite,” Lu said.
“Hold on a just a moment, my young scout,” and she walked out of the refrigerator and over to a shelf. They followed her. “Aha, here we go. We have pure vanilla and even a bottle of honey.” Before Lu could say anything, she spooned out three heaping spoonfuls of creamy yogurt, she drizzled a few drops of vanilla and squeezed a stream of gooey honey on the top. “Ooh, a strawberry,” she squealed.
Lu licked his lips like a labrador.
“What do you say, Dec. Do you fancy a yogurt as well?” she asked.
“I do now,” he said in a voice he didn’t recognize. But he was also in a place he didn’t recognize with people he barely knew, so it was all completely appropriate.
“I think I’ll have a little dollop myself,” she said as she heaved a mountainous spoonful of silky white yogurt into a bowl and followed up with the same toppings she had created for the boys. “I know where we can sit for just a few minutes, then you boys really need to go to bed.” Their ears heard words, but their eyes took most of their attention as they watched the porcelain bowls float past their noses and towards the back of the kitchen.
In a far corner stood a small table near a group of narrow windows. They all took a seat and as Lu and Dec were about to insert spoon into mouth repeatedly, Margaret put up a hand above the middle of the table.
“Just a moment of silence for my son and our Markree ancestors. They are in us and around us,” she said to the boys and it sunk into their ears and swirled around in their heads like smoke. She bowed her head and the boys only knew to follow suit. They did the same. They all closed their eyes.
Within just a few seconds, she was head back up and said, “Go raibh an bia blasts.” Of which the boys understood nothing and they dipped their spoons into the bowls, lifted the delights to their lips and let is slide into their mouths.
Such richness and smoothness was previously not known to the boys for even the best of vanilla yogurts couldn’t compare to Margaret’s droplets of vanilla and lakes of honey in their white bowls of goodness.
Not much more was said for the night except, “Sleep well, lads.” and the next thing they knew they were up the stairs, back in bed and resting their heads on pillows and falling asleep, dreaming of keys, moonlight and yogurt.