The Weeping Angel
FRIDAY, OCTOBER THIRTY-FIRST. A thick screen of milky white fog covers the WELCOME TO SALEM sign, but I knew the instant we had arrived in Salem, as it was marked by a bat flying straight into the windshield. The only way it could have felt more like Halloween at this moment would be if the Headless Horseman were following along behind us. He just might be too, if the fake cobwebs that Templeton decorated the entirety of my car with weren’t preventing me from seeing the road behind us.
With Templeton behind the wheel, it had only been a thirty-five minute drive from Boston to Salem, but it seemed as long as the boat trip to Hades must feel like. Through the gate at Lake Avernus. Although I was hoping our destination wouldn’t be nearly as final.
The buildings in Salem have what is often referred to as ‘charm,’ but they only seem old and run-down to me. And yet, all of the boxy First Period and Gothic Revival architecture seems to take on an absolute feeling, as though something horrible had happened in each and every one of these houses at some point in history. Were there really ghosts behind every wall in Salem? Or does this place simply have the knack for playing tricks on one’s mind?
The city of Salem is an odd one. Many people still associate it with the Salem Witch Trials of 1692; and that’s the first thing I thought of too when Templeton suggested this trip. But even if that’s not all that the city has to offer, they do a good job at making it appear otherwise. Salem police cars have witch logos on their doors. We drive by a public school and I notice the name: Witchcraft Heights Elementary. There’s a ‘GO WITCHES!’ sign hanging beside the high school football field.
I take another Three Musketeers from the warm dashboard and gobble it down as I try to confirm with Templeton just what exactly it is we’re doing here tonight. “Tell me again why I agreed to come here?” My Sunda Varanus blend, an unanticipated earthy complexity of smooth-bodied flavor, had been empty five minutes into the drive.
“You know you didn’t have to come along,” he replies, with his usual absence of romance. Why is it that the incantation of the words Templeton speaks makes it sound as though he had not only planned to come to Salem alone, but that having me here with him bothers him to no end? I try and find reasons why I shouldn’t want to be here with him, but I’m finding it more and more difficult to feel as though I don’t need Templeton anymore. It’s funny to think about how quickly people can change.
We follow Lafayette Street all the way to Salem Common, where we find ourselves right in the middle of what Templeton had referred to as the Haunted Happenings festival. It’s a steaming cauldron full of parading candlelit walking tours, kids dressed as ghouls, pirates and Harry Potters, vendor tables full of charms, voodoo dolls, kettle corn, pies and candy apples, and the odd booth set up by local psychic readers. I shiver as the eerie music and wicked laughter streaming through the air scratches along my skin.
There’s a row of zombies beside us, stumbling along the sidewalk. Their makeup is grotesque, with open wounds and faces covered with blood. One appears to have taken a gunshot to the skull, and it reminds me a little of the male Hairy Woodpecker (Picoides villosus), which is easily spotted because of the red patch of feathers on the back of his head. Unlike zombies though, the woodpecker has probably the strongest brain in all the animal kingdom. They lack cerebrospinal fluid, so their brains are packed tightly, preventing it from bouncing against the skull and causing damage when it pecks wood at twenty blows per second. Although far less advanced, I imagine the brains of these zombies are probably about the same size as a woodpecker’s. They try to entertain us by swarming around my car, slowing us down. Templeton just lays on the horn and speeds up a little, almost running over their sticky, blood-covered legs. A few of the zombies break character, and curse at us as the car peels around the corner.
Templeton parks in a small, empty lot. I direct his attention to one of the signs clearly indicating that parking is not permitted here due to the festivities. He quickly dismisses the warning, and tells me, “Don’t worry about it. We’re not bothering anyone.”
I realize then that all of his “don’t worry about its” are starting to add up, and they’re really beginning to grate my nerves.
He turns the engine off, pockets my keys and gets out of the car. He seems to take in everything around us, as if for the first time. With all of my upper-body strength, I push the frozen passenger door open and step out into the cold night.
“Let’s get a look at you then,” Templeton says, turning in my direction. These are the first words he’s spoken in the last three days that show any interest in me at all. I flatten my costume down with my palms, still warm from holding them against the heater for the last half hour.
There’s a costume shop on Newbury Street that opens up for six weeks of the year around Halloween, and I stopped in for the first time on Wednesday after work to pick something out. Spotting an intricate pair of sparkling, feathered wings on one of the mannequins, I decided to start there. Angels intrigue me, as they seem like nothing more than the perfect marriage of humans and birds. The inclusion of the attached glittering sequins aside, these wings would certainly never be adequate for an angel’s flight. The elliptical wing shape is completely inaccurate, as the low aspect ratio of elliptical wings on birds allows for tight maneuvering in confined spaces, such as dense vegetation.
I put my mastery of the science aside, and I bought the angel wings. The rest of the costume didn’t matter much to me at the time, so I finished the look off with a green knee-length velour dress with sleeves so long that they cover my hands and black fishnet stockings. Of course, now that I’m standing in a Salem parking lot on this cold October night, I’m beginning to wonder why I’ve never seen pictures of angels wearing insulated pants and ski jackets.
“It’s a good look for you Bella,” he says. It might be unintentional, but Templeton sometimes says the sweetest things to me at oddest of times. And for once, he isn’t following it up with something rude.
If my costume had been telling this story, it would be awfully close to the truth.
I try to straighten my secondary covert feathers, brushing them downwards. “I think the wings got bent on the ride up here.”
Templeton studies them for a moment. “You do realize that the mechanics of those wings wouldn’t help you achieve flight, don’t you?” Maybe this is the insult I was expecting, but if it is, then it’s an extremely educated one with very little threat behind it. Wing shape aside, an angel could never become airborne, since they lack the powerful muscles attached to a deep-keeled breastbone. And angels don’t have the hollow bones and toothless jaws as birds do, an evolutionary development that cuts down on body mass.
“I know,” I say to him. “It’s pretty obvious, isn’t it?”
“Come on, let’s get moving.” Templeton takes my sleeve-covered hand, and we walk into the crazed streets of Salem. “It wouldn’t have killed you to show a little more leg, you know.”
“Unfortunately for your libido, I’m not that kind of angel. I’m the good kind.”
I should point out the fact that Templeton isn’t wearing a costume tonight. It seemed so important to him that I dress up for Halloween, but when he showed up at my apartment earlier wearing nothing but his usual attire, I had to ask him:
ME: “You said if I was going to come with you, I would need a costume. Correct?”
HIM: “That’s right.”
ME: “Well, what about you then? What are you supposed to be?”
HIM: “I’m nothing.”
ME: “If I’m going to be something, you can’t be nothing. It doesn’t work that way.”
HIM: “Fine. If it makes you happy, I’m a pedestrian.”
ME: “A Pedestrian? You can’t be a pedestrian for Halloween if I’m going to walk around dressed like this. That’s a total copout Templeton.”
HIM: “Maybe so, but was it ever agreed upon that I would be wearing a costume tonight?”
ME: “Well…no. But that’s not the point. As far as I’m concerned, you’re dressed as a hypocrite.”
HIM: “Fine then. I’m a hypocrite. Can we just get going already?”
Templeton holds onto my hand as he navigates us through the streets, winding his way seemingly unnoticed through the costumed crowd in true pedestrian fashion.
The colors, smells and sounds are overwhelming my senses. The people of Salem live for this moment; as though they’ve planned all year for this festival, and as soon as it’s over they’ll begin plans for the next one. Their costumes range from the frightening to the playful, and everything in between. I see witches with noses shaped like those of the Long-Billed Curlew (Numenius americanus). I see a can-can dancer with the train of an Indian Peafowl (Pavo cristatus) on her head. I see a child dressed as a bat, but with large leathery wings on his back like a bird, rather under his arms like a bat’s should be. All of them make my angel costume appear so meager by comparison. There are firecrackers exploding everywhere. Dogs are barking. Werewolves are howling. Crazed denizens of the night run right up into my face and shake their tongues, hoping for a scare. Smoke machines are generating so much thick smoke that I can’t even see where we parked the car anymore. Scents of sulfur, incense and kids smoking pot all mix together and irritate my nostrils. Children bump me. People push me. There’s broken glass on the road and it crackles between the snow and my footsteps.
I take in a long, deep breath as soon as we emerge from the dense crowds. Templeton leads me to a cemetery, just one of many in Salem. The old rusted gate is locked up, seemingly since the turn of the century. Last century, that is. Templeton hops over the gate, waving for me to follow.
“There’s no way I’m going in there,” I say.
“Come on.” He urges me from the other side. “Why not?”
“Because it’s not right. That’s a graveyard Templeton.”
I don’t want to tell him that being here right now only reminds me of one thing; and that’s Claude, and the fact that he’s still missing. Already twice now tonight, Templeton has asked me to stop brooding over my loss. “I just don’t want to be thinking about death at a time like this,” is what I tell him. “That’s all.”
“Are you kidding me? There’s no better time than this. Come on.”
I still haven’t spoken to Templeton yet about his strange behavior at my place on Monday night, nor did I make a deal out of the fact that he got up and left me without a saying a word. I’ve gotten used to the fact that this man operates a little differently than most people. And if I asked him, he certainly wouldn’t give me a straight answer anyway.
As Templeton helps me over the gate I tear my stocking on one of the protruding metal spikes. This cemetery must be one of the oldest ones in the city, and I can tell there must not be a groundskeeper here anymore since the weeds are growing everywhere. Many of the tombstones are all but covered in a splattering of overgrown dandelions, ivy and Virginia creeper. What really strikes me is the richness and elegance of these old gravestones: highly decorated and elaborately carved sandstone, marble and limestone markers, all ranging in size. This cemetery is not just filled with uninteresting run-of-the-mill tablet-style headstones; there’s a wide assortment of scattered, beautiful stone-carved markers.
Many of these are embellished with avian figures, popular amongst cemetery symbolism. Sitting birds on a headstone generally signify eternal life, while birds in flight commonly symbolize resurrection. Specific types of birds can represent different ideas altogether. The large tombstone I’m standing next to right now has a dove with an olive branch, a symbol for peace.
Templeton’s already forty feet ahead of me. “Where are you going, anyway?” I call out to him. He doesn’t acknowledge my question though. He keeps walking away from me, disappearing into the fog.
I run to catch up, dodging gravestones as best I can. I pass a tombstone with a Rooster (Gallus gallus) on it, which represents awakening or resurrection. I see a Bank Swallow (Riparia riparia) and I instantly recall its purpose as a sign for hope, fertility and the renewal of life. There is another headstone embellished with a Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) wrapped in stars and stripes, signifying liberty and eternal vigilance.
After a few minutes of cautious footsteps, I find Templeton waiting for me. He’s smoking a cigarette and sitting on another forgotten grave off in the back of the cemetery. This one is a large sandstone block, on top of which is a four-foot tall sculpture of an angel weeping. Her wings are spread high above her head, with one of them only half the size, having crumbled apart after years of neglect. Her tears of poison ivy wind all the way from her hands to her mossy feet. It’s beautiful though, and one of the most striking statues in the entire graveyard.
The plaque on the stone block reads:
WILLIAM S. ENDICOTT: MAY 29, 1799 – OCT. 31, 1841.
ROSE M. ENDICOTT: JUN. 1, 1810 – OCT. 31, 1841.
Above each name is an etching of a winged face, which represents an effigy of the deceased souls, also known as the Flight of the Soul. I wonder what intriguing event transpired that William and Rose would both die on the same date, and today’s date no less. I’m also wondering why I ever agreed to come to this horrible place.
Templeton blows out a puff of smoke. The nicotine wisp blends seamlessly into the fog. “Do you ever think about the dead?” he muses.
I hope that this is a simple question that will quickly head somewhere else, because all I can envision in my head is Claude being uncovered behind a dumpster somewhere. I recall sitting outside Templeton’s apartment three weeks ago and I summon up the image of the dead pigeon with the crushed skull on the sidewalk. And I remember the bloody raven lying on my open textbook. Of course I think about death. “Isn’t that normal?”
“Yeah but…” he takes another drag of his cigarette, “…what’s the fucking point?”
“You mean, why we can’t all live forever? I think that would get pretty lackluster after a while. Imagine eight million years of this.”
My humorous attempt bounces off of him, unnoticed. He stamps the ground with his foot as he continues his thought. “All of these bodies buried beneath us had to die in order to get to where they are now. So what’s the reason for living for so long if all you’re doing is simply waiting for the end to come?”
“Is that what we’re doing right now?” I ask him. But more specifically, I ask, “Are you just waiting for the end?”
I don’t get an immediate response, but that’s fine. I honestly hadn’t gotten my hopes up that I would actually receive one. Templeton continues to smoke his cigarette, as though the question was never asked. The sounds of a thousand firecrackers pop and crackle in the distance. Bursts of light seep though the mist and reflect off of Templeton’s face. A cold shiver shoots up my spine when I imagine the hundreds of dead people lying no more than six feet below me.
“You seem uneasy Bella.” As much as I dislike hearing him call me Isabella, I think I’m even more bothered by Bella. There’s something about the way he says it that seems to scare me a little bit more. Especially tonight, given the setting.
“It’s this graveyard. You know I’m not comfortable being here.”
Templeton holds his cigarette out towards me. “You should have a smoke. It helps.”
“No thanks. I’ve never been one for peer pressure.”
“Come on,” he presses. “Just one puff is perfectly harmless. It’ll help calm your nerves.”
I take the lit cigarette from his steady hand, and examine it for a second before plugging it into my mouth. I inhale. I let the smoke wrap around my tongue. I can feel it winding down my throat. I almost feel like I’m choking, and I uncontrollably cough it back up. The exhaled smoke from my mouth mixes seamlessly with the fog surrounding us. The cigarette falls from my hand into a patch of snow at my feet, extinguishing it immediately. I imagine this is no different from anyone’s first attempt at smoking, but the taste in my mouth has a comfortable familiarity to it.
“You feel better now, don’t you?” Templeton asks, still perched on the grave marker.
“Not really,” I cough the words out. Now I’m thinking about a whole mess of new problems; like cancer, heart disease, emphysema and possible birth defects for my hypothetical children.
“You’ll get used to it.” He takes another cigarette from his pocket and lights it up. I’m staring again; I don’t know why I’m so compelled to watch his face whenever it’s illuminated.
“How long have you smoked anyway?”
He leans against the weeping angel now, thinking back to the point of time in question. “I don’t remember.” And just when I think he’s planning on leaving the subject there, giving me one of his usual non-informative answers, he continues. “I used to have a girlfriend in Schenectady. She was the one who first convinced me to start smoking. She said that she liked the taste of cigarettes on guys’ tongues when she kissed them.”
“That’s pretty gross,” I say, finding a disturbing familiarity in what this unnamed girlfriend had practiced.
“She had long blonde hair and green eyes, just like you. But her fingernails were always painted brown. I remember thinking how unusual it was for a girl to have these muddy brown nails. Then one day she painted them orange, and that was the day that I dumped her.”
“You broke up with her because she painted her nails a different color?”
“I broke up with her because she made out with practically every other guy in school.”
“When I was in high school, I had a boyfriend who smoked. I admit that I started to get used to that taste in his mouth when we kissed.”
“Oh yeah? What was his name?”
“That’s not really important,” I say meekly, thinking that I would probably die of embarrassment should Templeton find out Claude’s name. For the first time, I start to wonder what Templeton’s childhood must have been like. How many girlfriends did he have? How many had he slept with? How long had he lived in Schenectady? Did he have any siblings? Surely his home life could not have been any stranger than mine was. What did I have? Three hundred brothers and sisters? I’ve never discussed the finer details of my past with Templeton. Like I said before, our relationship was mostly just sex and homework anyway.
“Did your parents approve of this guy?” he asks me.
I wonder why he’s showing this sudden interest, but I can’t afford to miss out on what might pass as a meaningful conversation. “They only met him once,” I say. All I can envision is my parents in the halls of Doneau High, surprising me at my locker on Valentine’s Day. “It was awkward, to say the least.”
He takes another long drag on his cigarette. “Those kinds of things usually are.”
I think about my parents a little more, and I try my best to see things from their perspective for once. “Honestly though, I never really understood my mother and father very well. I couldn’t figure out how they could ever be happy with the lives that they had chosen. But I think I was like any other kid: I only ever wanted to be something special. Someone completely unlike my parents.”
“And now?” He asks, as though sensing a change of attitude.
“Now?” I want to tell Templeton that I think it was inevitable that I would feel the way I do now; that sooner or later everyone decides their parents really did have it all figured out. Now I’m yearning for the simplicity, for the normalcy of everything they had. I opt to leave out the more complicated details though. “Now I think that I need to re-evaluate those ideas. Now I think that I’m simply ready for a change.”
“I think you are too.” Templeton blows four or five smoke rings from his mouth. Aside from cartoon characters, I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone do that before.
“What about your parents Templeton? What are they like?”
His answer is short and delivered quickly. “My mom is dead.” He doesn’t seem fazed at all by the thought of it. “And I have no idea who my father was.”
“I’m sorry,” is the best that I can do. In a way, I guess Templeton is kind of an orphan himself. Just one more from the litter of angels.
“Don’t worry about it,” he says, as though he’s been telling people the same thing for
years. “It’s not your fault.”
I’m at a loss for words. Maybe I shouldn’t have tried to be so inquisitive about his past. I should have left our relationship where it was. I’m sure Templeton’s probably dealt with it for a long time now, and has already gotten over any negative feelings about his childhood.
Still, I can’t stop myself from saying it again, “I’m sorry.”
“What do you think ever happened to Claude?” He asks me. Even though I didn’t tell Templeton the name of the boy from my past with the cigarette tongue, that’s the first image that comes to mind. It doesn’t help that the two of them are so remarkably similar. Just replace the sandstone block he’s sitting on with the yellow electrical box behind the gymnasium. Voila.
But I come to my senses before answering him, and I recall the tragic disappearance of my bird on Monday night. “I have no idea what happened to him. I don’t really want to think about it.”
Templeton removes the infamous googly-eyed frog from his pocket, and suggestively rattles the change around inside of it. I still find it hard to believe how cruel he can be sometimes. Sadly though, I’m starting to get used to it.
“How can you even imply something so awful?” I ask him.
“It’s just all this talk about death. Can we please discuss something else?” I rub my arms, trying my best to not feel the cold.
But Templeton won’t change the subject for me. “He was locked in a cage and down to his last wing. Don’t you think that bird was ready to die? It’s like I said earlier: what’s the reason for living for so long if all you’re doing is waiting for it all to come to an end?”
“Well, I’m not ready to die! Is it so wrong for someone to try and find something in life to enjoy?”
“People don’t deal with death well enough. They’re all bound to it, but they just try and ignore it.”
“People like me you mean?”
“It’s everyone, Bella.”
I think back to our conversation on the sidewalk a few weeks ago. When he told me that I would only see the negativity surrounding death, whereas he would look for the signs of life instead. Now he seems to be contradicting his earlier beliefs. Templeton stuffs the frog back into his coat pocket.
The noise from the streets of Salem is so loud I’m finding it hard to focus. I can still hear the firecrackers and the children laughing and the witches cackling and the werewolves howling, all in celebration of the most haunted holiday of all.
I almost make another worthless point, but I let Templeton continue instead.
“Have you ever heard of The Dick Van Dyke Show?”
“What?” Sometimes I find it hard to keep up with his wildly random thoughts. “Dick Van Dyke?”
“Did you get that program up in Canada? You must have.” He kicks the heel of his shoe against the grave marker, and some ash from his cigarette flutters to the ground. “I remember watching a rerun when I was about eight years old. My mom used to think it was funny.” Templeton leans back, and tilts his head up, blowing smoke at the unseen stars. “There was one episode that was taped right after everyone had found out Kennedy was assassinated. They had all heard the news during rehearsals, and the episode was filmed a few days later. The actors still delivered their lines, but to an empty audience. I guess because nobody felt like laughing. It didn’t matter though; the laugh track was added after all of the jokes anyway, whether they were funny or not. But you could see tears just behind their eyes. They all tried to hide it, but they couldn’t. There’s this unseen black cloud hanging above them all when you watch that episode. Even if you saw it today and didn’t know what the reasons were, you would still feel it.” Templeton spits a wad of phlegm into the dirt. A tree above him is dripping melted snow, and he shakes the cold drops out of his hair. “All of the camera angles were slightly askew too. My mom didn’t pick up on any of it, but I did.” I wonder what the point of this story is, and he stops for a moment to try and understand my reaction. “Don’t you see? They were all trying to ignore death. Whether they knew it or not, they were all just waiting for their own end to come, but at the same time they weren’t about to let anything allow them to acknowledge it.”
I shuffle my feet around in the snow, half in an attempt to warm them up and half due to this nervous feeling inside me. Templeton is talking strangely, stranger than usual. His peculiar fascination with death is beginning to scare me a little. The fog seems to be getting thicker. The fireworks continue to flash off his face, but they’re fainter now. “Is this why you brought me here?” I ask him. “To tell me about The Dick Van Dyke Show?”
“We’re just talking Bella. It was only a memory that came to mind. Besides, I didn’t bring you anywhere tonight. You followed me, remember?”
I don’t answer him. Instead, I search his eyes with mine. I see if I can go longer than him without blinking. I lose in less than ten seconds.
“Why are you fidgeting? What are you scared of Bella?”
“I already told you.”
There’s an uncomfortable silence between the two of us for a few moments. He continues to smoke, while I remain shivering in the cold. Templeton is picking at the statue beside him. He’s digging his fingernails into the cracks of the angel’s wing, collecting the built-up moss and dirt onto his fingertip.
I can’t help but ask him the very same question he refused to answer just minutes ago. “Are you the same way Templeton? Are you sitting around waiting for the end to come?”
“Me? No. I have better things to be doing with my time here.”
“Really. Unlike me, right?”
“Exactly. Unlike you. And unlike all of these people around us, who have already begun to walk the path of angels.”
“Angels?” The sparkling wings on my back catch my peripheral vision. “Well I’m already an angel, so I don’t need to wait, do I?”
“You’re only dressed as an angel babe. You’re not the real deal.”
“So you believe in angels?”
He keeps picking away at the rock with his fingers, answering me most matter-of-factly. “Of course I do.”
“Really? Are you serious?”
“Of course I am.” I think this is the first time that Templeton has ever convinced me that he believes in anything at all. “Maybe not in the way you might think, but I do.”
“Well, have you ever seen an angel before?”
“You mean a real one, right? Not just a costume?”
“Not yet. You?”
“No. But I don’t believe in angels.”
“Well then…” Templeton finally removes himself from his perch. He jumps down onto the ground below him with a thump so solid that the bones of William and Rose Endicott probably rattle beneath him. “That’s a pretty strange costume choice you’ve made.”
“At least I made a choice.”
“Do you know what an angel is?”
This is the same question I asked my father when I was a little girl. “Angels are just like you and me and your mother,” is what he told me.
“I have no idea,” I say.
“What’s their purpose?”
“They’re regular people that just want to help one another out,” is what my father said.
“I don’t know.”
“Some people will tell you they’re guardians. Some will say that angels are messengers. You might even hear that they’re supposed to be warning signs for the Apocalypse, if you could ever believe in shit like that.”
“I don’t,” I tell him.
“Neither do I Bella. But that’s what people will tell you. Because that’s what people will believe.”
“So what is it that you believe in Templeton? If you refuse to believe what you’ve been told?”
He takes one last drag of his cigarette before tossing it over the fence. “To molt is to change, correct? To change is to evolve. Let’s just say it all comes down to evolution.”
I look him over, and watch as the lights continue to bounce from his face to my wings, and back again. This was the same thing he had said to me in my class a month ago. To molt is to change, whether psychologically or physically. Temporarily or permanently. I still don’t quite understand what he means.
“Listen Bella, don’t think me any less intelligent than you because my beliefs differ from yours.”
“That’s ridiculous. You’re the most brilliant student I have. You know that.”
Templeton turns his eyes to look beyond the graveyard. There’s a small cluster of old heritage homes in the distance. There aren’t any lights on, but even from here I can see the shadowy outlines of three people wandering around out there. One of them appears to be walking awkwardly, as though hopping on one leg. Probably just some kids looking for somewhere quiet to drink and get high. Templeton notices them too, but he turns back to look at me. “Don’t condemn me for having different feelings than you do Bella.” I’m not certain if he’s still referring to the angels, or if he’s moved on to our relationship. “I can’t force you to wholly believe in the same things I believe, but at the very least, I can make you accept it.”
Was Templeton even there at all, or was he just one more from the litter of angels?
Templeton just stands there, his hands in his pockets. I have no reply for him. No answer for any question still hanging unasked. I don’t know if I want to move closer to him, or further away. All of the angels and winged sculptures surrounding us seem to be on the edge of their gravestones, just waiting for me to make my next move. This man has always made me unsure of myself. He’s never left my side without leaving me questioning something gone unmentioned. Was it right for me to feel this way? He stands there looking me over. I don’t want to, but I feel as though he’s trying to push me away.
He walks back over to the weeping angel. I imagine it’s still warm from him sitting there for the last fifteen minutes. He brushes some more dirt off with his sleeve. “Do you see this grave? This is the reason I come to Salem every Halloween. William and Rose are distant relatives of mine; seven generations removed. William was a fisherman here, and he fished for Atlantic cod. Rose gave birth to John Endicott, who was my great-great-great-great Grandfather.”
I feel foolish. I feel as though I’d forced myself to come along to Salem with Templeton tonight when it’s clear now that he was only coming here for personal reasons. I still don’t know what I want to tell him, but it’s okay because it was inevitable that he would once again beat me to the punch anyway.
“Would you mind leaving me alone for a moment? Maybe you should wait for me back at the car.”
“Can’t I just wait for you by the gate? You know this place gives me the creeps.”
“Wait for me at the car. I think I’d like to spend a few minutes alone here.” He stands beside the grave, just waiting for me to leave him.
“It’s freezing out here,” I plead with him. But I don’t receive any further response. He’s unmoving. Unwavering. The kids in the distance have disappeared from sight. “Will you take me home after this?”
“Of course I will. I’ll see you in a few minutes.”
I don’t have anything else to say. I turn around and wind my way back out of the cemetery. I lift myself over the gate, and tear my stocking again on the metal spike. Eerily, the fog seems to clear as soon as I return to the sidewalk.
I’m waiting for over an hour before Templeton shows up. He still had my car keys in his pocket, so I’ve been huddled up on the ground beside the passenger door trying to keep myself as warm as I can with what little I’m wearing. I make an attempt at wrapping my angel wings around myself, but they keep springing back open. As if they want to take me away from here, to lift me off the gravel parking lot and take me somewhere better.
I was relieved to find that there was no parking ticket folded under the windshield wipers, so Templeton was right when he told me not to worry about it. However, there is a scratch on the hood that wasn’t there before. Somebody carved ‘PUFFIN’ on my car with a knife by the looks of it. Whatever it was that the unknown vandal had meant by it, I find it hard to imagine it has something to do with the auk of the same name. I have no idea how much it’s going to cost me to get it fixed, but I’m not terribly concerned at the moment. I just want to get out of Salem.
I try to ignore Templeton when he does shows up; partly because I’m ashamed I gave him such a difficult time in the graveyard, but mostly because he left me trapped outside of my car, unable to warm my hands up against the dashboard heater. Conveniently, he ignores me too, and simply opens the trunk and then slams it shut again.
He comes back around to the front where I’m crouched in a ball and holding my wings in my icy fingers. He slides a toque over his head. “It’s fucking cold out here tonight, isn’t it?”
I roll my eyes in total agreement.
“You know, you’d have been warmer if you kept walking around, instead of just sitting there.”
“Probably. Or you could have given me my keys before sending me off. Where’d you get that toque anyway?”
“I had it in your trunk.”
“Since when did you start keeping things in my trunk?”
“I’ve got a shit-load of stuff back there.” It’s misdirection; he doesn’t answer the question, but rather he amuses me by creating a slew of new ones. And just like a magician, he makes a pack of cigarettes appear from up his sleeve. “I’ve got smokes in there too.” He takes one out and lights it up.
“Some nitwit carved the word PUFFIN on my hood while we were gone.”
He looks at the scratches, correctly identifying the genus, “Ah…Fratercula.” He mumbles something else to himself, but I can’t make out the words. He turns and looks off nowhere in particular, speaking as though whoever committed the act might still be listening. “That’s not a very nice thing to do, Fuckhead.”
My wings spring open again, and I stand up now, rubbing myself in another failing attempt to warm up. “Do you really have to use language like that all of the time?”
He laughs a little. “Is me calling someone a Fuckhead any different from you using such charmingly derogative names like nitwit? Or Cheese Monkey? Or Dilly Bar?”
“There is a difference, yes. I was raised better than that.”
“Come on. Just give me a ‘Fuckhead.’ I left you out here in the freezing cold; it’s the least you could do. Really lay it on me.”
“I don’t think so.”
“How about Cunt Flap?”
“Well how about this then: how about you promise me that you’ll make your last words the most appalling words you can think of?”
“My last words?”
“You know, right before you die. Just yell ‘em out loud for everyone to hear.”
“I’ll try to remember that when it happens,” I tell him. “Can we just get going now?”
“But of course, my lady.” Templeton graciously opens the passenger door for me, and I climb inside. I’m already pre-adjusting the heater settings in preperation for when he turns the engine on. But he insists on finishing his cigarette outside before fulfilling any of my needs. My anger might be enough to warm me up anyway.
As we find our way back out of Salem, a couple of firetrucks blast by us, sirens blaring. Of course Templeton doesn’t pull off to the side of the road to ensure them easy passage. I can’t help but notice that there’s a house on fire in the distance. It appears to be one of the old heritage homes that I’d spotted earlier this evening from the graveyard.
I point out the house to Templeton, who replies with a very disinterested, “Well, well. Now that’s a fucking shame, isn’t it?”