I must leave; I need to bring home the dead. And I dont know how to speak to children, especially of such things. To the cemetery, like the one across the street.
She nods, though she doesnt move. But where do they all go? Her right hand finds its way back to her hair and she begins to twirl a section near the crown.
Im mesmerized by the motion, distracted. I wonder what she means, and then I understand. True, this is a place that inspires such questions, and each time a child passes through here, inevitably he or she asks Linus or a family member. No one has ever thought to ask me. Some people believe that after they die, they go to heaven.
She stops twisting her hair, her forehead wrinkled and mouth open. Ive confused her. How to explain such a thing?
Like perennials. I point to a lavender flower in one of the old womans arrangements. Irises lie buried during the coldest part of the year until they blossom in May. By late spring their flowers fall away, and the leaves die in the fall. All winter they lie dormant under the ground until the next spring. Then they come back to life and bloom again.
Trecie tilts her head and looks at the stained-glass window casting garnet speckles across the far wall. She resumes her twisting. Is that what will happen to all those people in the cemetery?
No. Ive made things worse. I try to imagine a world that would appeal to a child, a beautiful lie, and try again. Do you have a favorite place?
Isnt there someplace else? Somewhere special?
Victor took me to the Marshfield Fair once. I had cotton candy and got to see the whole town from the top of the Ferris wheel.
Well, heavens like that. You go there.
I brace myself for more questions I cant answer, preparing excuses and a quick exit, but she laughs, wrenching her hand free of her hair, taking several strands with it. Youre lying!
I start backing out of the room, my beeper vibrating against my hip with each step. No.
Yes, you are. You die - she smiles, snapping her fingers - just like that.
I say the only words I know to say. Thats what some people believe.
Trecie looks at me again, and Im reminded of Mr. Mulrey, of being seen for the first time. Isnt that what you believe?
I feel in my pants pocket for the car keys, in my blazer for my cell phone. You may stay here, but dont go downstairs. Thats private. Only Mr. Bartholomew and I are allowed there. Do you understand?
She catches herself before a smile parts her lips, and nods instead. It occurs to me as I hurry toward the hearse that Trecie knows this already. She knows because shes been downstairs.
Excerpted from Tethered by Amy MacKinnon. Copyright © 2008 by Amy MacKinnon. Excerpted by permission of Random House, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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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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