Ch. 9: Everything I know I learned from Donald Duck
When you get your groove on, you talk about what you know.
“Margaret?” Lu tried, but nothing. Just the thumping of the floor below them and the stained glass movie screen of a dome in the middle of the room.
“Why would she leave us here alone?” Dec asked.
“How do we get out of here?” Lu asked. But no one was answering. They looked around, looked into the glass and saw a yellow blob moving from one side of the room to the other.
“Hey, is that her?” Dec asked, pointing at the yellow. “I can see here here, from this one with the oval on it.”
“Hey, maybe that’s an ‘o’,” Lu suggested.
“Oh yeah, I see it,” Dec said. “Oh look through, that is her. Wait, let’s see what happens when she passes into a clear part,” Lu said. They waited. The blob slowed and where she stopped was a relatively clear spot.
“It’s Margaret,” Dec whispered in a quick bout of joy.
“She’s moving again,” Lu said. “Now she’s going out of the room. See?” Dec nodded. “Maybe she’s coming back here,” Lu said and hoped. It was a relief to them both.
As calm and fatigue seeped into their bodies and the reassurance that Margaret was probably on her way back in, the boys relaxed. They moved back a few steps from the glass and looked for a place to sit. There was a box where Lu sat and then a small end table where Dec took a load off of his feet.
“Hey look,” Lu said. “From her, they really do look like letters. See what I mean?”
“Oh yeah,” Dec said.
“I can see the ‘d,’ an ‘l,’ then maybe that oval one is an ‘o,'” Lu said. “What do you see from where you’re sitting?”
“I think that’s an ‘r’ and then another stripe, I guess that’s an ‘l.’
“So d, l, o, r, l. Dee-lor-el,” Lu tried.
“Dude, that means nothing. That doesn’t even mean anything in Chinese,” Dec said and yawned.
“It doesn’t mean anything in Dutch, either,” Lu admitted. “Maybe it’s something in Irish. Oh, is there even an Irish?”
“I think it’s something like Gaelic, my dad knows a few words,” Dec said.
“It’s almost ‘rolled,’ like the car rolled over my foot,” Lu was guessing again.
“Oh, how about ‘Oh Lord,’ like maybe they’d say in church here,” Dec piped up with enthusiasm.
“Hmm,” Lu thought about it and arranged the letters above his head, “But you have an ‘h’ and only one ‘l.'”
“Oh yeah,” Dec sighed.
“Rodll,” Lu yelled. “It’s a Dutch word, it means riddle or joke.”
“How do you spell it?” Dec asked.
“I don’t know,” Lu admitted. “But it’s probably not r-o-d-l-l.”
“Do you like puzzles?” Dec asked.
“Yeah, I do them whenever my grandpa is visiting. He’s always doing crossword puzzles and word jumbles and asking us questions. Like all the time. No, all the time. We might be even out to dinner and all of the sudden, he’ll just ask me a puzzle question and I have no idea what he’s talking about, but he’ll show me his little piece of newspaper and tell me he’s stuck and ask me,” Lu reminisced. “I mean, it’s actually really fun and we both get into it and sometimes the others at dinner get mad at us because we’re not eating our dinner or talking with the others and we’re just doing our puzzle, so we have to sneak it and do it under the table and when no one is paying attention.”
Letters and word jumbles and crosswords and even Sudoku numbers rolled around in his mind and the letters in front of him on the glass seemed to dance and change places. Before his eyes, or behind his eyes, or just in his eyes, the letters turned and moved up and down, next to each other and in other places, spelling nothing and meaning not much. But then the only combination that made any sense went by his eyes and he stopped it.
“Droll,” Lu said.
“Troll?” Dec asked, snapped out of his half sleep. “Like some old thing that lives under a bridge?”
“No, droll with a ‘d.,” Lu said. “I think it means funny or jokey or kinda dorky cute.”
“Is that English?”
“I think it’s really old English,” Lu guessed. “It comes from a Christmas story we read every year. Saint Nicolas has a droll little mouth.”
“How do you remember that stuff?” Dec said, oddly impressed but a little concerned that he didn’t know the word and Lu did.
“I’m not trying to remember, dude, I just remember,” Lu paused. “I think if I tried to remember, I wouldn’t remember.”
“That makes no sense,” Dec said. The boys were silent and thinking of the word droll.
“So what does it mean?” Dec asked.
“Dude, I just told you, like jokey or silly,” Lu wondered what part Dec has missed.
“No, I got that part, but I mean what does it mean for us, why is that word here? Why do we see it now? Tonight?”
“How am I supposed to know?” Lu wondered aloud. “But I’m going to keep it in my back pocket, just in case.”
“What do you mean, in your back pocket? How are you going to put a word in your back pocket?”
“No, I mean I’m going save it for later, I’m not going to forget it, maybe we’ll need it later. Maybe it’s something we can help Alastar with,” Lu said, still rolling the word over in his mind, looking for meaning, for clues, for the puzzle where this piece might fit in.
“Cool, put it in your back pocket for later,” Dec said, sort of making fun of him, but also making note of the saying so he could use it again with his friends back home.
Both boys said nothing and if thoughts were like sugar plum fairies and danced around their heads, they would range from ideas about ‘droll’ and how it fit into the castle, then soccer balls, maybe soft pillows on cozy beds, lots of cheeseburgers, thick vanilla yogurt and what those lights meant down below at the party.
“I’m tired,” Dec said.
“Yeah, me too,” Lu said. “Do you still want something to eat?”
“Well, it’d be nice,” Dec said plainly. “I’m kinda hungry. Do you think they have any burgers in the kitchen?”
“I think it’s midnight or something,” Lu said. “I doubt the kitchen is even open anymore.”
“Yeah, you’re probably right.”
There was a creaking above them and a square of light shone from the ceiling. There was some movement and then a face peered into the room below.
“Hello, lads!” Margaret cackled. “Did you miss me?”
“Well, yeah,” Dec said, annoyed and pleased to see her at the same time. “Why did you leave us?”
“Just needed to check on something,” she said as she rambled down the steps into the room.
“Like what?” Lu asked, probably overstepping some adult boundary about when to ask for more detail or not.
She smiled and did a little chuckle followed by something of a snort. She certainly was entertaining with all of her movements, sounds and facial expressions.
“You are the curious ones, aren’t you both?” she asked, but they didn’t answer. They waited patiently for her to explain where she was as the option of her not telling them just didn’t seem to be a good one.
“Right, lads. There you have it,” she filled the air with her words. “I went down to see my nephew.”
“Who’s your nephew?” Lu asked.
“The barman,” she said.
“Alastar?” Dec wondered aloud.
“Precisely, Dec. Alastar.” The boys waited for more, but nothing more came. When you’re with kids and they don’t quite understand that some things are just left unsaid or none of someone else’s business, they’re not exactly smooth with letting it go.
“So what did you need to talk with Alastar about?” Lu asked and Margaret again smiled and gave in, knowing there was no getting around it.
“Well, yes, right, that,” she mumbled and fumbled her fingers, seemingly looking for a way to put what she was going to say delicately. “So, yes, well then,” she paused and the boys were attentive and quiet like they had never quite managed in school. But this was far from school. “You may have heard that tomorrow night is the full moon and once in a blue moon … ”
Dec interrupted, “How often is a blue moon, anyway?”
“Ha,” she laughed, “Funny you should ask as I don’t rightly know! I use the expression, but I truly don’t know. It’s not like a fortnight or a full moon, it’s a blue moon and I don’t know if it comes around once a year or once every three-and-a-half years or if it has anything to do with time.” She stopped as that was all she knew.
“It’s like the leap year,” Lu spoke up. “It’s sort of an extra moon like every four years there’s a day missing in February, but the opposite as with the moons, there’s an extra one. It happens every 2 to 3 years.”
“Dude, where do you learn this stuff?” Dec said, annoyed that he didn’t know but more curious about where Lu learned it.
“Donald Duck,” Lu said as if it were clear that everyone learned anything from Donald Duck.
“What do you mean, Donald Duck?” Dec asked. “Like Disney? Like Mickey Mouse?”
“Yeah, but Mickey isn’t there, it’s just Donald. Well, and Dagobert and the three nephews. Well, his name is Dagobert in Dutch, I don’t know what he’s called in English,” he thought for a minute, “or Chinese.” Lu was in his element and kept going, Alastar and blue moons forgotten. “Did you know that the three nephews have different names all over the world? In Dutch, they are Kwik, Kwek en Kwak.”
“Yeah, in China they’re called Huī er, Lù er, and Dù er,” Dec added with pride.
“Oh man, that’s so cool that you know that!” Lu beamed with pride.
“It’s just Chinese,” Dec said.
“I know, but you know it, I mean, you know the names in Chinese,” Lu said.
“That’s because I am Chinese,” Dec said. “It’s not that I know it, it’s just who I am.”
“Oh yeah, you’re right,” Lu kept rolling in full story telling mode. “Oh, oh, Dec,” Lu started again quickly. “A friend of my dad’s used to be able to say the names of the three nephews in a whole bunch of languages because he asked a whole bunch of people from a whole bunch of countries, then he memorized them all,” he stopped short, eyes went wide and mouth went open, clearly earth-shattering news having just entered his brain. “Dude, wait a minute. That guy, that friend of my dad’s?”
“Yeah?” Dec asked.
“That’s your dad!” Lu said completely thrilled with the discovery. “Whoa, I can’t believe it, that’s so cool,” he just kept on going and no one was going to stop him. It wasn’t a completely uncommon occurrence.
“We’re here, so far away from home, we’re in this castle with Alastar and Killian and now Margaret,” he waved to Margaret, “and we’re here in this weird room with the IMAX theater stained glass dome and the word droll hidden in the panels and the disappearance tomorrow night and then blue moons and then Donald Duck and then the the nephews and then my dad’s friend and then that’s your dad, Dec.” Lu looked to Dec for some show of congratulatory celebration, but it came not from Dec.
“Lu, I think that’s the coolest thing ever,” Margaret said with all honesty and sincerity.
“Yeah,” Lu said, actually patting himself on his own back as best he could, “It’s pretty cool, that’s for sure.” He nodded his head up and down like a bobblehead doll and smiled and closed his eyes halfway in his moment of pure discovery. “It’s actually the coolest thing ever in the history of the world.”
Dec bobbed his head only because he was watching Lu bob his head and it was contagious. Even Margaret was nodding slightly. The bob fest finally coming to a close, Margaret slowed and looked at Lu. Her eyes narrowed as she realized what she just heard.
“Lu,” she started and her face was close to his and he was reminded that she was maybe 3/4 Irish, but at least 1/4 witch. “I’d tell you what Huey, Dewey, and Louie are called in Gaelic, but I honestly don’t know,” she paused, but quickly continued.
“But yes, right, so, did you say the disappearance tomorrow night?” She seemed to be slowly replaying what he had said in her mind, “You also said there was the word ‘droll’ hidden in the panels. Where did you see that?”
Lu shied away from her and tried to think of what he just said seconds previous. He wasn’t paying attention, he was just talking. “I don’t know what I said,” he thought harder. “I know I mentioned Dagobert and the nephews.”
“You said disappearance tomorrow night,” Margaret accused him. Lu said nothing. “It’s OK, Lu, I’m just curious why you said that about tomorrow night, well, especially about tomorrow night,” she sighed. “How much did Alastar tell you about the history of the castle?”
“He told us about the games and how the king, or whoever he is, liked to try to get people to do crazy stuff,” Lu said, but Margaret kept looking at him as if she was waiting for him to say more, so he did. “And, well, about the four men and the four words and how he liked puzzles,” Lu stopped.
“Wait, four men and four words?” Dec asked. “Were we in the same place?”
“Did he tell you what happened at the end of the night?” she asked, one eye open and one eye closed, one eyebrow high and one low.
“Well,” Lu started, “he said one guy disappeared.” He thought a few seconds. “Uh, maybe I did just say disappeared, but I don’t know. Maybe it’s just because Alastar said that about that night a long time ago. I don’t know.”
“But you said it was going to happen again tomorrow night, Lu,” she said, this time closing the eye that was open and opening the other eye. Lu didn’t know where to look on her face. “How do you know what’s going to happen tomorrow night?”
“I don’t know that I do know, but,” he stopped.
“But what?” Dec said, as curious as Margaret.
“But I don’t know that I don’t.”
Margaret looked at Dec then back and Lu, then back at Dec and decided it was enough for the night.
“Do you guys like yogurt?” she asked.