Only in recent years did such coolness arise between Vi and me.
When I was little, I would play cribbage and euchre with my young mother until midnight, laughing so hard I never wanted to go to the few sleepovers and birthday parties I was invited to. My mother and I held an odd relationship with the town, as we were the last remnants of its founder, Marmaduke Temple, and direct descendants of the great novelist Jacob Franklin Temple, whose novels we read every year in high school, whose link to me would actually make a college professor burst into tears when I confessed it. But we were too poor and my mother was young, unmarried, and too weird with her macrame and loud politics, and so when we left the safety of our eccentric house, it always felt like Vi and me against the world. I remember vividly when I was ten or sowhich would have made my mother my age, twenty-eightlistening outside her door as she wept for hours after being slighted in the grocery store, that one memory standing in for many. I dreamt at night of being so big I could march down Main Street, grinding our enemies under my furious ogre's feet.
Alone now in the dawn, I drank the rest of my mother's tea to melt the block of ice in my gut. Vi was wrong: I did want to come home. Templeton was to me like a less-important limb, something inherently mine, something I took for granted. My own tiny, lovely village with great old mansions and a glorious lake, my own grand little hamlet where everyone knows your name, but with elaborate little frills that made it unlike anywhere else; the baseball museum, the Opera, the hospital that had vast arms extending into the rest of upstate, an odd mix of Podunk and cosmopolitan. I came back when I had to, to feel safe, to recharge; I just hadn't had to in so long.
For a while I sat alone at the table, watching the crows fall into the vegetable garden, pecking at the heirloom vegetables that thrived every year under Vi's benign neglect. Then the motorboat that had gone out before zipped back, and soon more motorboats were roaring out into the lake like a vee of geese. Curious, I slid open the glass door and went onto the porch, in the warming dawn. From where I stood, the hills around Lake Glimmerglass looked like the haunch end of a sleeping lion, smooth and pelted. I watched until the motorboats came back into sight, collectively straining to pull something pale behind them, something enormous and glinting in the new sun.
And that's how I found myself running barefoot over the cold grass down to Lakefront Park, even as weary as I was at that moment. I went past our pool, now so thick with algae that it had become a frog pond, plunking with a thousand belly flops of terror when I passed. I went down the stretch of lawn, across the concrete bridge over Shadow Brook, trespassed over Mrs. Harriman's backyard until I stood in the road at Lakefront Park, and watched the motorboats coast in.
I stood under the bronze statue of the Mohican, the best known of the characters by our town novelist, Jacob Franklin Temple, and, slowly, others gathered around me, people from my childhood who nodded at me in recognition, startled by the great change in my appearance, struck silent by the solemnity of the moment. Somehow, none of us was surprised.
Templeton is a town of accreted myth: that baseball was invented here; that a petrified giant, ten feet tall and pockmarked with age, was disinterred from under the old milla hoax; that ghosts lived among us. And we had been prepared for this day by the myths we'd always heard about a lake monster, the childhood tales around campfires in the summer camps on the lake, the small rumors filtered down. The town crazy, Piddle Smalley, would stand on a bench in Farkle Park wearing his pants backwardurine-soaked, which is why we called him Piddleand shout about the rain-swollen April day when he stood on the Susquehanna bridge, staring down into the fat river, and something immense passed by, grinning its black teeth up at him. He'd shriek at the end of his story Glimmey, Glimmey, Glimmey, as if in invocation.
Excerpted from The Monsters of Templeton by Lauren Groff. Copyright (c) 2008 Lauren Groff. All rights reserved. Published by Voice, an imprint of Hyperion.
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No Man's Land
by Simon Tolkien
Inspired by the experiences of his grandfather, J. R. R. Tolkien, during World War I.
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