And This is Why I Write
This past Sunday, my daughter Amber and I were on our way to visit my sister Peggie when Amber asked if we could make a quick stop before crossing the bridge to Washington.
She needed a different picture of a headstone for her genealogy study of our family. We were way too early to visit Peg and had several minutes to kill, so I agreed.
Springdale is a beautiful cemetery. So peaceful and historic. I love going there. This is pretty amazing since, in my youth, the only way to get me to a cemetery was by dragging me kicking and screaming the whole way, but because of Amber’s desire to learn all she can about past family members, I have changed.
Some of that change came about when I started to realize all of the stories held within the stone gates. I have written several stories based on messages on stones and the softly waving giant tree guardians of the park-like settings.
All of this sounds profoundly moving, but in fact, one of my stories is about a serial killer and others are about ghosts who leave the grounds to haunt a small town library. In my Murder in the Library series, Larissa and crew come upon all kinds of spirits trapped on the earthly plane until justice is served. And if this too, sounds serious, it is, somewhat, but mostly just …well, if you know the characters you will know what I mean.
But, back to my story. Amber and I were moving through the cemetery, me driving, her reading a tiny map on the screen of her phone. And then the stories start flooding my brain.
“Amber, what about a story about someone getting lost in the cemetery? And no cell reception and it starts to get dark?”
“Not funny, Mom.” Amber is the navigator, because I, as my family is aware, can get lost driving around the block. It doesn’t scare me though, because I know Amber has a great sense of direction, even in a cemetery the stretches over 200 acres with 6 ½ miles of winding roads.
The roads were made for horse drawn hearses and the sides of the dirt and gravel roads have weathered away in several places. Having a small compact car is a great advantage, and it is a beautiful tree lined drive, with hardly another driver in sight.
Two women walk their golden retrievers outside of the pet cemetery section cordoned off by wrought iron gates guarded by the statue of a faithful canine. That story is too sad to tell, I think, and my brain flits around for other ideas as we zag right and left.
We pass a rusted, but beautifully maintained gazebo, an empty bench the only occupant besides scattered wild flowers and a single bouquet.
“Amber, have you ever wanted to sit in the gazebo?”
“No, Mom. Someone died there,” she answers without taking her eyes from the map.
I motion to the several hundred monuments within my viewing area.
“I mean really died, not dead. As in, she was killed on that spot and haunts the grounds.”
“Okay, maybe not. Turn right or left here? Up the hill or down?” We continue to snake our way through, slowing as we get closer to our destination.
Amber makes a Dr. Who reference to a mausoleum festooned with weeping angles as we round the curve. “Look at that one, Mom.”
I look out of my side window at the menacing sight. Dark and highly overgrown my mind starts to weave a tale. Amber goes back to her map. Then I notice that one of the small panels has been ripped away. Someone trying to get in? Or something trying to get out? I blink and blink again as something black bursts through the open pane and streaks straight out. I scream! Amber screams! I jerk the car back onto the road, just short of the ditch and take my foot from the gas.
I turn to Amber.
“What the hell!” she yells. “Are you trying to kill us?”
I screw up my face and shrug my shoulders. “Sorry?”
“What was that about?”
“Squirrel,” I explain timidly.
Does Amber chastise me for almost wrecking the car and us in it? No. She laughs and says, “Mom, you have got to have this happen to Larissa.” And that is why I write.