Cemetery – Image by KL Caley

For visually challenged writers, the image shows a cemetery path with graves and trees aligning each side of it.

 

I'm writing this for the weekly #WritePhoto challenge by KL Caley at New2Writing.com. Read all about it and join in if you'd like! I think this is meant to be a fall thing for Halloween, but I'm seeing trees just leafing out, not ones that have dropped their leaves, so I put it in early summer.  

Around 800 words this week.

Cemetery Visit 

The shadows were growing longer, though the sun was still bright and the sky blue. In the long alley between the trees there were hints of the darkness that would envelop the cemetery soon enough.

 

Lauren stood close to a tall, lean pine tree. It felt warm and living, and the scent of it helped calm them. Why had the boys said they had to come here so early to start their night in the graveyard? Maybe it was to give them a way out—surely at this hour someone would come along and tell them they had to get out. Though the long early-summer days meant it was already after seven, maybe.


More likely, the boys wanted to give Lauren every opportunity to chicken out. Because he wasn’t a real boy, according to some of them. Lauren’s mother had moved them to a new school where no one knew them from before, but someone found out, and the boys began their torments. Matters had gotten worse since school let out last week. Now they had this one last chance to prove they were as brave as any boy. Any other boy.

 

No one came to say they couldn’t be there. Lauren pushed off from the tree and kept walking down the wide avenue between rows of grass-covered headstones and tilted monuments. No one had been buried here for a long time, maybe twenty years, or fifty, or something.

 

Lauren’s great-grandmother was here somewhere. From all accounts she’d been contrary and stubborn and difficult, but Mom said Great-grandma had loved her, and that meant she’d take care of Lauren. All they had to do was find the right grave.

 

Lauren looked down the “streets” in each direction. Where had Mom said the old family plot was? Not sure what else to do, they kept walking toward the giant monument at the center of the cemetery. Maybe that was great-grandmother. After all, if she’d been so great, she would deserve a bit monument, right?

 

It wasn’t hers. It was a monument to the soldiers who fought in the Great War, whatever that was. Lauren read the names of those who had died, people who had lived in this place a hundred years ago and died in some battle somewhere.

 

There. Evelyn? Wasn’t that a girl’s name? Or just like Lauren, one that could go either way?

 

Strangely comforted, Lauren sat down at the base of the monument. If they couldn’t find great-grandmother, this would do. Evelyn would protect them. Evelyn must have known what it was like. They’d died in that war—what was so great about a war, anyway?—but if there were ghosts in cemeteries, they must be as likely to be friendly as not. Lauren curled up on the sun-warmed stone that made the base of the monument and waited for the sun to set. It wouldn’t be very cold even then, but the warmth felt good, like something living under and around them. They pulled a book from their pocket and prepared to read until dark.

 

When the caretaker arrived in the morning they found Lauren still asleep, head pillowed on a copy of The Hobbit. They knew this drill, though few of the boys they’d ousted at dawn had been so deeply asleep, or so relaxed on being wakened. None had thought to bring a book. The caretaker made sure to speak loudly.

 

“Here, boy, you can’t sleep here. Come on, wake up, sleepyhead!” It was important to let the other boys, the ones who had snuck out of their own beds at dawn to greet the kid in the cemetery with either taunts or acceptance, know that this one had been so unafraid as to sleep soundly into the dawn.

 

Taking Lauren by the arm, the caretaker walked them to the edge of the cemetery, offering advice and a wink at the gates.

 

“You scamper on home and get back in your window, and your mother needn’t know you were out. I guess you’ve slept well enough to fool her.”

 

Lauren didn’t tell him that Mom knew all about it. They especially didn’t tell the boys, who emerged from the morning shadows as soon as the caretaker disappeared from sight. Instead, taking their cue from the man, they stretched, yawned. The book had already disappeared back into a pocket.

 

“I guess I’m ready for a shower and my breakfast. That was kind of fun. I don’t know why you guys make such a big deal about it. I’ll see you around.”

 

They walked away without looking back. Mom had given them a hint about this part, too. “Be superior,” she’d said, “and they’ll think you are.”

 

It was always worthwhile following Mom’s advice. Too bad the other boys didn’t know that.

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©Rebecca M. Douglass, 2022
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