Ch. 15: No time for patience
Be? We have things to do.
The boys tried to hold back their questions, but the words just came out.
“Killian is your brother?” Dan asked.
“Wait, what?” Li asked.
“It can’t be true,” Dec said.
“Is he your older brother or your younger brother?” Lu asked.
“Ach, lads,” Margaret smiled and rolled her head back and laughed a jolt of a laugh. “You’re all so kind,” and she looked around at the boys. “But yes, he’s my brother. Don’t you see the resemblance?” With that, she opened her eyes wide and made funny faces at each one, a different googley-eyed face for each boy. They didn’t see any resemblance and were wondering why this old woman was making little-kid faces at them. It was both scary and funny, but mostly it just made them like Margaret even more.
“Oh, the eyebrows,” Li said. “You both have bushy eyebrows.”
“Excellent, my dear Li,” she said and her faced morphed back into the regular Margaret.
“Margaret?” Lu asked.
“Yes, Lu,” she said formally.
“When I was hanging upside down, you said that you had something interesting to show me. Have you shown it to us yet?”
“An elephant of a memory you do have, sweetheart,” she caressed Lu’s cheek with the back of her hand. “I said that indeed and I had forgotten myself,” but then she paused and it seemed to take forever.
“So,” Lu started, “Are you going to show us?”
“Of course,” she said, but then again with the pause, again with no action. She just looked at them as if she didn’t understand what she was saying or when she was supposed to do it. The kids didn’t quite understand this lack of immediate action so followed up.
“Like, today or, you know, maybe, like now?” Lu said as politely as he could. “Or did you mean like someday or maybe tomorrow or tonight? I’m sorry, I don’t mean to be rude, but I’m just curious and I can’t, well, I can’t wait any longer.”
She smiled again at Lu and again didn’t say anything, as if she was toying with them, holding a treat out in front of a sitting dog, testing to see if he’d stay seated. The boys finally learned to not speak.
“You fine young men certainly have the curiosity to make strides in your lives,” she started. “You haven’t given up yet, so that might be a sign of the perseverance that you’ll need as well, but you’ll need at least one more thing to get there, to arrive at the top of the mountain or the bottom of the castle,” she again stopped, waited and the boys didn’t know if they were supposed to ask what that thing was or were supposed to do jumping jacks, but they were too scared to say anything so they said nothing. She waited and they waited. The master with the treat and the sitting dog in front of each other, playing the game of waiting. The boys weren’t going to lose even if it took every molecule of effort they could muster.
“Patience,” Margaret finally said and then nothing more.
The boys looked around with their eyes without moving their heads as if they would see what this meant. They soaked the word in, but then Dan had a question that they were all thinking but Dan was the first to formulate.
“So,” he started, “Do you mean that we need to have patience or are you saying that we should have patience to wait for that one thing that we still need? Do you see what I mean? Is patience the answer or do we need to be patient to hear the answer?”
Margaret let loose a canon of a laugh that physically blew the boys’ head back a few inches. Some boys even quivered in shock and others tried to shield their faces from the roar and possible flying spit or maybe a coughed up tonsil. She cackled and cawed and certainly woke up any nocturnal animals hibernating deep under the castle. When she finally caught her breath, she slowed down enough to speak.
“Oh, how I miss the innocence of youth, the inquisitive but twisted thinking of young boys,” her words soared above their heads and echoed throughout the caverns of the castle. She spoke like sometimes when the boys went to see a play on a school field trip and someone had a big speech. She used strange words and her voice was a song, but the melodies seemed to be always in the wrong places. She was practically crying or laughing or maybe a bit of both. She continued.
“Oh, I must not forget this one, Dan. Is patience the answer or do we need to be patient to hear the answer? I must write that one down. Oh, dear lads, you give your old Margaret the spark of youth and I’m confident that you’ve just given me three and a half years added to my life and for that, dearest castle dwellers, I thank you.”
But she still didn’t give us the answer, the boys all thought even though they all searched for it in her words. Lu was about to speak, even brought up a finger as if raising his hand in class, but Margaret might have been as old as a witch but she was quick as a fox and she cut him off.
“Patience is both what you need to learn the answer and is the answer itself,” she said. “It’s such a difficult trait to accumulate because, well, because you need to wait for it and it seems like you’re doing nothing and that, in fact, you are doing nothing, but what you’re doing is being.” Her words circled around the boys, but they sunk in eventually, at different rates for different boys. Her words seeped slowly into their brains, although they still weren’t terribly clear.
She added, “It’s possibly the hardest one to learn and put into practice.”
“So what do we do, to, well, um, be patient?” Li asked.
“A positively perfect question, Li,” she said and looked like she was about to go into another long speech from the heavens. “The trick is to not try so hard doing what you think you’re supposed to be doing, so by doing something else, you’re really doing nothing and then you’re just being.”
“OK, I totally don’t get it,” Dec admitted.
“You’re all focused on what’s under this castle, it’s all you might think about,” she paused, “Well, at least for some of you,” and she winked at Lu, who smiled. “So what you need to do is to do nothing about figuring out what’s under the castle and go about your day as if you already know the answer, as if it doesn’t matter whether or not you’ll figure it out, because you know you will figure it out. It’s a bit like you don’t want the prize because you already have the prize.”
“OK, now it makes even less sense,” Li said.
“You all have an uncle, right?” she asked.
The boys nodded, thinking of uncles.
“Quick, what’s a name of the most boring uncle you have?”
The boys frowned and furrowed brows and pursed lips and couldn’t think of a single uncle’s name.
“Aha, you can’t think of an uncle’s name, right?” she asked.
“Well, I have lots of uncles and I’m thinking of one that’s sorta boring, but I can’t think of his name right now,” Dan said.
“Exactly, sweet Dan,” she again raised her arm and pointed her finger to the ceiling to make her final point. “But I bet when you walk out of here in a little bit, when you’re heading for lunch, you’ll think of your boring uncle’s name,” she paused briefly. “And why does that happen? Because you’re not thinking about it, then you remember it. Does that make a little bit of sense?”
The boys nodded and still tried secretly to think of an uncle’s name that wasn’t their favorite uncle, but another one.
Dec had a question he felt worthy of answer, “But we only have until tomorrow here, Margaret. How can we have patience if we don’t have any time?”
“Aha brilliant point, my young scientist!” she beamed and shot up her hand in the air and again the boys were taken aback, although they were getting used to bouncing back when she spoke.
“Patience is relative,” she said and stopped as if that explained the whole thing. By the looks on the boys faces, it didn’t clarify much of anything, so she kept going. “If your journey is 1,000 miles, then patience might look like 100 miles. But if your journey is a single day, then patience is smaller, but still as important.”
“Our journey is just right through that door,” Lu noted, but this got no response from Margaret, only a smile. “That’s not even 10 steps.”
Margaret didn’t answer, but did have an answer to an earlier question.
“Lu, I said I had something to show you when you came down, right?”
“Uh huh,” Lu said, mostly expecting another riddle or a speech or a song and dance about something or other that would take actual thinking to figure out.
“I’ll show you,” Margaret said and the boys knew by now not to jump, not to shriek, but to do just one thing, or rather, be one thing.
And on that note, dearest reader, we’re going to ask you to do the same: be patient.
This is the last chapter that we’re publishing live here on the site and for the rest of the book, you’ll just have to, you guessed it, be patient until April 1, 2016. At that time, you’ll be able to read the story in its entirety right over here: The Key to Markree Castle.
Thanks for reading, see you in the next room …