by Silver RavenWolf
Welcome to Part III of my Beboodle fictional series. Parts I and II are available on this blog in the archive section. Happy Reading!
Night of the Living Beboodle by Silver RavenWolf
“I cannot believe you tricked me,” I said as I sulked in the passenger seat of Marlene’s junky Bronco.
She grinned as she hit the brakes too hard, peering over the steering wheel looking for a place to park in the alley next to the cemetery.
I crossed my arms defiantly over my chest. Note to self, pay more attention next time Marlene tries to ply me with booze.
“The moon is right and the time is right,” she said, practically hopping up and down behind the steering wheel in her excitement. ” I couldn’t think of any other way to get you out here. You are the bravest person I know when you’ve had too much to drink. And that’s a fact!”
If looks really could kill? Marlene would be dead. “You can’t park back here, Marlene. The Bronco’s too big. We won’t fit.”
Marlene frowned, sighed and motored out of the alley. “Then we’ll park on one of the other streets.”
“You do that. I won’t be getting out of the vehicle. And something smells in here.”
“Probably take out from yesterday, or maybe the cheeseburger I bought the day before. I couldn’t eat it all,” she said, mindlessly waving her hand in my direction.
My stomach roiled and I put my hand over my nose. There’s nothing worse than being drunk and smelling bad stuff.
We spent the next ten minutes looking for an obscure place to park. “I told you that this is a really bad idea,” I said as Marlene barely missed clipping a parked SUV. “This is inner city Carlisle. I realize this burg isn’t massive; but, we’re not out in the country!” We passed the front entrance of the cemetery, which faced a line of two story row homes. The entire area blazed with street lights. “No way,” I said. “It’s too bright.”
Marlene put on her determined face, an expression that is a cross between a glare and a leer with her right eyebrow raised– hard to describe; but, when you see it, you know you’ve lost the battle. Sometimes I just call it The Stink Eye. I sighed.
Resolute, she whipped the Bronco onto a side street and squeezed in between a construction dumpster and a pickup truck. Candy wrappers, spent paper cups, and a sundry of other items slid into my lap. Something squishy rolled under my sneakered feet. My stomach protested.
“It’s twenty minutes to midnight,” she said, ignoring my disgusted expression. “We’ve got to get moving!” She cut the engine and pawed through her canvas backpack. “I’ve got a flash light, a metal spoon to shovel the dirt…”
“A spoon? You brought a lousy spoon? Why didn’t you bring a garden spade?”
“Oh, I guess that would have been better, wouldn’t it? But, I didn’t want to be walking into a graveyard carrying a shovel. Too obvious, right? Oh well, we don’t need to get much the first time? I also brought a plastic bag. I read online…”
“Online! I looked up how to properly gather grave dirt.”
“Something like that is online? Are you kidding? What is this world coming to?”
“Really, Lyddia, sometimes you are just too stuffy! Anyway, I read on-line that you should leave an offering of booze? Preferably white rum? But, I didn’t have any of that. Do you think tequila will work?” She pulled out one of those itty-bitty liquor bottles that wouldn’t give a worm a buzz.
I rolled my eyes and picked a candy wrapper off the sleeve of my sweatshirt.
Undaunted, Marlene continued. “I even brought us black baseball caps, too, since people might see the light shining off our grey hair.” She handed me the cap and I had the distinct urge to hit her with it. Tomorrow, after I sobered up, I was going to buy some damned hair dye. After donning her own cap, she stuffed her supplies back in the bag, opened the vehicle door, dangled her feet over the edge of the seat and slid out, her canvas bag of grave dirt robbing goodies clanking and jingling as she pulled it out behind her. “Come on!” she whispered loudly.
“No. This is stupid,” I said, waving the ball cap at her. “I will not wear this ridiculous hat. I will not get out of this vehicle.”
“Please! Just walk with me to the back entrance. I saw a place where I think I can get in when we drove down the alley. You don’t have to wear the hat if you don’t want to.”
I looked down the murky, deserted street with dotted pools of light. She shouldn’t be walking in the city alone. I sighed, slumped my shoulders and got out of the Bronco, ramming the ball cap in the front pocket of my sweatshirt. As I slammed the door, thunder rumbled overhead. “Great, just great,” I muttered, trudging reluctantly behind her as she hurried toward the alley. A flash of lightning split the sky with brilliant forks, illuminating massive hemlocks and crooked tombstones beyond the spiked cemetery gate up ahead.
“This is as far as I go,” I said.
“You’re kidding! You’re not going to let me go in there by myself!”
“I am. This is illegal. See the sign? I pointed to the bent metal sign hanging on the gate behind her. No Admittance Before Sunrise or After Sunset. Violators Will be Prosecuted,” I read aloud. “That would mean us. Corney would not be amused if he came home on Sunday to find me in the Carlisle prison as a result of a grave robbing charge while illegally intoxicated.”
Although, to be honest, I was already just about sober because I was so pissed.
“I told you, Marlene, this graveyard is not safe! The terrain is incredibly treacherous. You can easily trip in the broad daylight let alone at night. Many of the family plots have wicked metal fencing, others have concrete borders with heavy metal pipe that you wouldn’t be able to easily see in the dark. Besides that, I saw a groundhog as big as a dog the last time I was in here. For all I know, he’s munching on corpses and is rabid to boot. From here on, you are on your own,” I stated firmly, putting my hands on my hips.
Like that would matter.
“We aren’t going to rob any graves!” she wheedled. “Just get a little dirt.”
“No! There are spikes on that gate,” I said, pointing to the five foot metal monstrosity before us. “They are there for a reason. To keep stupid people like us out. I will not be impaled for a damned doll!”
“We don’t need to climb over the gate,” she replied. “We can get over the wall easy!”
She was right. The limestone wall on the left side of the gate was only about three feet high with a nice, smooth cap and plenty of foothold room between the uneven stones. Before I could reply Marlene was up and over the wall, her small feet thudding on the other side. “Shit, its dark in here,” came her disembodied whisper.
I pulled the baseball cap out of my pocket and slapped it on my head, then leaned against the wall, crossing my arms, trying to look still and insignificant. I heard them before I saw them. A raucous bunch of young people, probably college students from nearby Dickenson College, entering the alley from one of the side streets, laughing loudly, totally immersed in themselves. They didn’t see me; but, I knew they would. They could be decent kids…
or not. I was, after all, standing here alone (sort of) leaning against the cemetery wall, dressed from head to toe in black, at almost midnight. I decided not to tip the hand of fate. Over the wall I went.
Landing right on top of Marlene.
“Watch what you’re doing! You almost broke the booze!” she protested.
“Shush! There are people out there,” I said, putting my hand over her mouth and crouching against the wall. We sat on the ground, quietly waiting for them to pass. Thunder rumbled again. A chill from the damp earth beneath my knees sent goose bumps up my back. When the alley grew quiet again we slowly stood, trying to get our bearings. “There’s the memorial,” said Marlene.
“I know, I told you I’ve been here before.”
The Molly Pitcher Memorial stood about thirty yards ahead to our left, illuminated by a single floodlight angled toward the American flag that whipped and whined overhead as the storm approached. The larger than life metal statue of Molly, towering above the granite memorial, stood assertively holding a field artillery cannon ramrod as if she was ready to destroy any enemy she surveyed. Marlene broke our silence by saying, “You know, I read that the face of that statue? Is a composite of Molly’s five great granddaughters.”
It was a strong, good face.
“I also read that she chewed tobacco,” said Marlene.
I was starting to like Molly, despite myself.
“And how do you suddenly know so much about Molly Pitcher?” I asked.
“Once we figured out that we needed dirt from her grave, I wanted to know why. I thought I could figure that out by reading about her.”
“And did you? Figure it out?”
Thunder banged again and another streak of lightning zipped across the sky, right over the head of Molly Pitcher. “You know,” said Marlene, “They say that if you are going to get hit by lightning? You get a warning? All the hair stands up on your body and you have a strange, tingling sensation. If that happens, you are supposed to drop low to the ground.”
I shook my head and sneered. “You’re just a fountain of knowledge this evening.”
Below the statue sat a refurbished Revolutionary War field artillery cannon, positioned on a bed of white stones encircled by neatly clipped grass. In front of the cannon was a large, concrete pad ringed by a concrete footer with three inch metal piping running through it — a place where tourists could stand and take pictures of the monument and historical markers. All this surrounded by a sea of uneven and crooked tombstones with the occasional massive hemlock.
Standing here, looking at the memorial…there was something about the power of Molly. Something I’d never felt before when visiting any cemetery.
“Wow, would you look at that tree! It must be over a hundred years old!” whispered Marlene, pointing to the four-foot wide hemlock in front of us. A gust of wind sent the heavy, low slung bony branches skittering across the tops of the tombstones. It sounded like fingernails. “Its just like Night of the Living Dead, huh?”
Okay, so that knocked me out of my historical reverie.
“Let’s just get the damned dirt and get out of here,” I muttered. “Watch your step and remember what I told you! Spikes. Chuck holes.”
“Yeah, yeah. Wait, let me get the flashlight,” she said, fumbling in her backpack.
“No!” I said, grabbing her arm. “Do you want the world to see us?” I pointed out across the graveyard at the row homes across the street. “If you live over there and you’re in your bedroom upstairs, dipshit, you’d see a bobbing light down here, now wouldn’t you?”
“Keep the light off and we’ll just go very, very slow. Right?”
“I’ll lead the way. Okay?”
So that worked for about twenty steps.
“You did not twist your ankle,” I said, turning to see Marlene sprawled on the ground. Okay, well I sort of saw her because she, too, wore a black sweat shirt and black sweat pants. An attire that tends to blend in with tombstones and cemetery shadows. “I did,” she answered.
“I’m going to be sorry tomorrow.”
“Can you keep going?”
“Maybe.” She tried to get up. Ow! No.” She sat back down.
“That’s it, we’re going back,” I said, retreating toward her. “Game over.”
“No! Please! It’s not that far away! You can go ahead and get it. I’ll stay right here.”
“This is absurd, Marlene. You’re hurt. Let’s just call it a midnight failure and go home. You can make your Beboodle without the grave dirt.”
“No!” She crossed her arms defiantly. “I’m not budging until you get that dirt. Its a vital ingredient! We can’t skip it!”
“Oh for God’s sake!” I said, grabbing the backpack. It was so heavy, I dropped it. It made enough racket to wake the dead. “What the hell do you have in here?”
“Stuff. In case we need it.”
Did I mention that once upon a time Marlene was a Cub Scout Mom?
I sighed. “Just give me the spoon, the booze and the bag for the dirt. You keep the backpack, okay?”
She dug into the pack and whipped out something short and black. “Here,” she said, pressing a button. The unfurling nylon nearly knocked me off my feet. “It’s starting to rain.”
“You brought an umbrella?”
“There’s one for me, too.” She opened the second umbrella just as the downpour began. “I’ll wait here. The rain ought to make it easier to dig. Oh, and here,” she handed me a big stick of blue chalk, the kind kids use to draw hopscotch on the sidewalk. “The article I read says you have to make three equal-armed crosses on the tombstone, and then pour the tequila on the ground before you dig. Oh! And you gotta knock three times on the tombstone. If you don’t do that, then the dirt is worthless.”
“You have got to be kidding.”
“No, I’m pinky-tie serious!”
“Huh? Pink what?”
“You know, when you swear an oath on something or you are absolutely telling the truth and want to prove it? You lick your thumb? And then lock the other person’s little finger with yours while you touch thumbs? Pinky-tie serious! Don’t you remember?”
I cannot express to you how stupid I felt slogging across uneven graves in the pouring rain, holding onto an umbrella, thunder rumbling over head, just to go dig some dirt with a spoon to put inside a dumb doll. The fact that said thunder was accompanied by lightening made me feel more than idiotic, given the fact that if I did get fried, at least I was in the right place. I could just fall in one of the chuck holes and save my family the burial expenses.
As I neared the memorial I remembered one unfortunate fact from my previous genealogy visit, Molly Pitcher’s grave is not beside nor in front of the concrete and bronze display. It is hidden obscurely behind it.
Of course it was totally black back there.
I tripped twice and fell once before I finally gave in and whipped out my cell phone to use the dim display as a makeshift flashlight, trying to angle the umbrella with my other hand to shield what I was doing in case someone was looking out of one of those two story windows across the street. With the wind picking up and the rain growing heavier, I was more worried about doing a Mary Poppins than anything else. It took a good ten minutes before I reached Molly’s barely readable, white tombstone complete with concrete patched diagonal crack. I tried to make the three marks with the chalk; but, the blue stick skittered across the slick stone leaving not quite discernible lines. Well, maybe effort counted. I tapped the mini tequila bottle against the stone three times, then poured the booze on the grave. I thought about drinking it myself, but, decided that Marlene would smell the alcohol on my breath and I knew I’d never hear the end of it if I didn’t do this right. I could see it now, I mess up here and the BeBoodle Marlene so desperately wanted to make to protect her prized son, Junior, would turn rogue and eat him for a California brunch.
With wet, freezing fingers and wheezing lungs I dug fast and furious, trying to wedge the wind floating umbrella between the stone and my body. I clawed the stubborn ground with that stupid spoon until it bent in half. Swearing, I resorted to my hands, dragging clumps of grass and mud into the plastic bag. Marlene would just have to throw it all in the oven to dry it out when we got home. She could darned well pick out the weeds and pebbles later. Thunder roared overhead and lightning flashed closer as I hastily tied the bag and stuck it in the front pocket of my black hoodie. My mission complete, I tightly held onto the umbrella and began slipping and sliding back around the monument, tripping only once. My sneakers, long since water logged, squished heavily and made my feet drag. I stopped for a moment on the grass by the field cannon of the memorial to look ahead. I wanted to make sure I was facing the right direction before I concentrated on putting one foot in front of the other on the uneven ground beyond the concrete pad ahead. It was raining so hard, I couldn’t see Marlene; but, I did make out the huge hemlock.
One moment I had my focus on that tree, and the next I thought the sparks careening through my head were a result of one mother of a lightning bolt. I teetered, stumbled, one foot catching on the large wheel of the cannon. I tried to mouth Marlene’s name; but, nothing came out. The umbrella flipped out of my hand, nylon tearing from the ribs. Its metal stretchers clawed the air like maniacal robot hands as the wind dashed it against a tombstone. As the pain in my head increased, I slumped forward, my face kissing the patch of stones under the cannon.
“Take that you bitch!”
I rolled over and squinted heavenward, my sight hampered by the cannon above me, the pelting rain and the blackness oozing over my left eye. I heard the thwack of wood against metal, and the bore of the cannon reverberated.
At first, I thought that the young people in the alley did see me, and were watching the entire time, waiting for the right moment to attack. I shook my head. That couldn’t be right. Even with my impaired senses, I didn’t see a group of people nor did I hear several voices. Just the one, whispery, scratchy screech that seemed to indicate I was a bitch.
So what else is new?
“You monsters took my son away! He was such a good boy! He would never cause any harm!”
I shimmied further under the cannon trying to process just what the hell kind of threat I was facing.
Another thwack. Another reverberation. This time off the edge of the cannon wheel, too close to my temple for comfort.
“I’ll stop you! Do you hear me? You’ll not ruin another family like that horrid Peg with her damned dolls. My son lived for those babies. I know they say that women fight like a mother bear for their children; but my Hiram? He would have moved heaven and earth for those little ones!”
This time, something struck my kneecap. It felt like a baseball bat. I winced and tried to wiggle away from what appeared, at least by sound, to be a mad woman.
“He was such a good boy. A wonderful husband to his wife. And then she bought one of those dolls. Those horrid, awful dolls! My son was a saint compared to most men! But, my daughter-in-law was weak. Selfish. She said my Hiram did bad things. Told the whole town. Everybody believed her! She brought the doll into the house and he was so fearful, he ran away. He ran away!”
“That’s not what I heard,” said a different voice. I stopped wiggling. Now who the hell was that? It wasn’t Marlene. And where was she, anyway? A moment of terror gripped my lungs and I almost couldn’t breathe. Maybe the screaming nut job had already killed her. I peeked my head around the wheel of the cannon. Two women, definitely. One pale and so old, she looked like she’d just crawled out of a nearby grave and the other, tall, dark and slender, standing defiantly between me and a wavering shotgun. “I heard,” said the younger woman. That Hiram beat the shit out of his wife and broke his kid’s arm one night after boozing it up.”
“No!” shouted the old woman.
The younger woman took a step forward. She seemed familiar. Where did I know her from? The Lavender House. The owner! Riva! She took another step forward. “I heard that Hiram raped the Whiskey Springs Tavern waitress. And, I heard they found Hiram dead, lying in a creek down Louisiana way, six months later. Nobody cared because he got what he deserved, Mrs. Witherspoon.”
“Its not true! My Hiram was a Saint!”
“Saint my ass,” spat Riva.
“I knew you were in with them,” said the old woman. “I heard you talking to those women. You thought it was your clerk that was listening at the door; but, it was me. And I know you are going to make more dolls, the three of you, that will destroy more families! Its perfect that you’re here. Where’s the other one?” She jerked the muzzle of the gun as if it could mythically hone in on my missing partner.
She hadn’t found Marlene. That was good, except where the heck was she? She had to have heard or seen us. Thirty feet isn’t a football field, even if there were a lot of tombstones and trees in the way.
“Get out from underneath that cannon, Missy, or I’ll blow pieces of your friend all over this graveyard!”
Reluctantly, my head pounding and my knee killing me, I slowly managed to get to my feet and stand beside Riva. “What are you doing here?” I whispered.
Riva cocked her head and whispered back, “It was obvious the two of you don’t know what you’re doing. I thought you might need some help; but, this wasn’t the type of assistance I had in mind.”
“Shut-up!” yelled Mrs. Witherspoon. “Now, who do you think I should shoot first?”
I could take her. I knew I could. She was a little old biddy that could hardly control that shotgun. How she managed to get out here in her aged condition boggled my mind. But, it was the gun I was worried about.
A single jingle bell rolled across the concrete pad…
…followed by a stealthy, belly crawling Marlene, holding the Beboodle out in front of her like a Roman shield.
Looking back, I can’t tell you exactly how it all happened. I watched that jingle bell roll, it seemed, in slow motion. Riva’s head turns, her eyes huge. Marlene inches over the concrete, and the Beboodle appears to dissolve in her hand, rising into a wide, undulating wraith of dark fog.
Every hair on my body bristles and I feel a strange tingling sensation. I grab Riva’s arm and fling us both to the ground.
The sound of thunder.
The crack of a massive lightning bolt, searing the nostrils with ozone and blinding the eyes.
Ripping, screaming, tearing slurping.
No more rain.
No more thunder.
No more sheets of lightning fingering across the sky.
Riva and I turned our heads at the same time. There lay Mrs. Witherspoon, wide-eyed and absolutely dead, with Molly Pitcher’s ramrod sticking out of her chest and the ribs of my broken umbrella jutting out of her head. When I looked up at the statue?
It was smiling.
Grave Night – Fiction – Part Two of The BeBoodle Mystery (silverravenwolf.wordpress.com)