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Authors: Joanne Dahme

Creepers

BOOK: Creepers
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Table of Contents
 
 
 
For
Victoria
Brownworth,
 
my teacher and friend, who made the
miracle of this book happen.
 
And to
my writing mates,
Diane, Jane, & Lisa,
who provided
endless encouragement.
THE FIRST THING I NOTICED WAS THE IVY, NOT THE sun-bleached tombstones with their off-white color, which jutted from the cemetery grounds like old bones. We moved into our house just a week ago, and when we pulled into the driveway behind the moving van, I saw that the ivy was everywhere—twisting up the trunks of the trees and dribbling across the lawn. Its vines clung to the old stone house and the leaves displayed various shades of green as they fluttered in the light August breeze.
“What's with all the ivy?” I asked my parents. They were staring at it, too.
My mother cleared her throat and gave a surprised little laugh. She looked at my dad to catch his expression, but he was already getting out of the car to direct the guys in the moving van.
“It's English ivy, Courtney. It's an exotic plant. It's the same ivy you see on the walls of castles and universities.
You know, like the ivy league colleges,” she said with a little chirp in her voice, as if the connection had just occurred to her.
I opened my door and stood beside the car to get a better look at it. “Well, I don't like it hanging all over our house like that. It's sort of creepy.”
She was leaning against the car now, too, watching my dad as he instructed the guys with the big muscles to be careful with the furniture.
“Well, it's known for its ability to spread quickly,” she said, turning to smile at me. “Don't worry, I'll ask your dad to cut it away from the house after we're settled. Although. . . . ”
She paused for a minute as she stared at the front door. A couple of vines seemed to be sunning themselves on its worn stone steps.

Hmmm
,” was all she added.
Dad was right behind us and recognized the potential tripping hazard. He tackled the job as he does everything, without asking for direction or assistance. He talks to himself, though.
“Jeez, this stuff is incredible,” I could hear him grumble as he yanked at a strand that was twisted around the front stair railing.
The branches made tiny popping sounds as he yanked
at the roots of the vines that trailed all the way to the corner of the house by the driveway.
“Ivy can damage the mortar between the stones,” he announced to no one in particular. “We'll need to remove it.” My mom shrugged and smiled at the movers.
It was a hot and sticky day, and I could see that Dad's T-shirt was stained with sweat. The ivy must have been holding on to the stones and mortar with all its might, the way Dad was tugging at it. His face screws up like a little kid's when he's frustrated.
He was working like a maniac, grabbing handfuls of vines and shoving them into a big plastic bag almost the same camouflage color of the ivy. I knew I should help him, but first I had wanted to check out the ivy in the cemetery.
I stepped over some vines, careful to avoid them like cracks in sidewalk pavements.
What did we like to say in the little kids' game I had played with friends? Step on a crack and you'll break your mother's back?
I wondered what we would have said about the ivy vines all over the yard.
Step on a vine and you'll kill time?
I crossed my arms and rested my chin on the stone wall that separated our yard from the cemetery. The ivy vines were everywhere—creeping in all directions across the grass and the winding gravel paths to rest on the long-ago-collapsed
mounds settled beneath the shadows of the tombstones.The ivy looked more natural in the cemetery.
“Courtney, could you grab another bag for me?” Dad yelled.
“Okay,” I called back, slightly annoyed. Why did he have to tackle everything right away? I felt like the ivy and I were still getting acquainted.
By the following Saturday, Dad still had not made much progress with the ivy, which was considered an outside chore and therefore under Dad's responsibility area until he relegated gardening chores to me. Mom had him beat with the inside tasks. Within a week she had the furniture arranged, the curtains hung, the pots and the pans in cabinets or on hooks, and boxes placed in their respective rooms.There were a few boxes marked WINTER STUFF that were stored in the basement.
I was sitting on the stone wall that separated our yard from the cemetery, watching my dad toil while waiting for my mom. I had told her that I would go to the supermarket with her, since I had nothing better to do. It was sunny and hot, and the ivy was all over the cemetery again.
Little rivers of it flowed over the grassy mounds or twined around the old gravestones. Single vines of it dangled from the branches of trees like plastic bags snagged in the wind. I squinted at some leaves swaying from the nearest tree. They seemed to be trembling even though I couldn't feel even the smallest breeze.
Was the ivy there when we had first looked at the house last May
? I could not remember, although I purposely had not paid a whole lot of attention to the cemetery. When my mom had told me that we would be living next to a crop of tombstones in addition to fields of corn, all I could think about were the millions of scary movies I had seen—withered hands thrusting through the dirt to lunge for ankles—but after a week I was getting used to the vines. Looking at the moonlit cemetery from my bedroom window gave me a different perspective. The cemetery was quiet, almost asleep. It looked magical with the tombstones reflecting the moonlight like stars. And in the gauzy glow, the ivy was invisible—either blending in with the dark green landscape or shriveling up at night like morning glories.
Unlike those movies, the cemetery I saw from my window at night was not stocked with zombies or ghosts, but instead remained respectfully calm, with only the sound of the cicadas filling the air. My mom liked to tell me how your mind can play tricks on you when you were staring at
something that is supposed to be scary. The scene that I gazed upon over the past week had nothing to offer except for the hundreds of somber stones that seemed to meditate beneath the moonlight. Perhaps the ivy did indeed crawl up to sleep there, it was so quiet.
“Hey, Courtney! I could use a little help here.” My dad's voice broke my concentration. He was attacking the ivy again, this time on the side of the house facing the cemetery.The ivy seemed to crawl up the side of the chimney. He held a pair of shears in his hand like a weapon as he squared off to confront it. I could not help but laugh at his face, streaked with sweat and dirt. He looked annoyed, though—always such a serious guy.
“I'll be with you in a few minutes, Dad. I'm just getting my bearings here.”
He shrugged and shook his head, the same way he does when my mom puts him off. I know he did not have a clue about what I was talking about. I am not sure I did either. I just wanted to remember whether or not the ivy had been in the cemetery all along.
I was so focused on the ivy—its yellow veins glowing against the dark green underbelly of its leaves—that I did not see the older man and the girl enter the cemetery. An old black fence surrounded the cemetery, except for its stone border with our yard. Whorls of acorns and fruit
were welded between its rails for decoration and there were a number of gates that led to various walking paths in the cemetery. I heard the clang of the iron gate and saw that the man and the girl had entered one only a few hundred yards down the road from our driveway. I squinted into the sun to get a better look at them. The man was holding what looked like a bundle of brochures.
I guessed the man was going to lead one of the cemetery tours that my mother had read about at the Murmur Information Center. She had been excited when she learned that this was one of the oldest cemeteries in the country and that tours were given to show the Puritan carvings on the tombstones. The guy looked at his watch and touched the girl on her shoulder.They began walking up the path that led toward the cluster of tombstones not far from our wall.
Normally I would stop staring. I am never outright rude and my mom would have been appalled, but I was almost hypnotized by the man and the girl—and the ivy. Suddenly they made a threesome. The ivy was no longer swaying. It seemed to be holding its breath at their approach.They were the only living things in the cemetery.
They stopped a mere hundred yards from me.The man noticed me as he stopped to kneel by a tombstone and gave me a friendly wave. He did not seem to think it odd
at all that some girl would be sitting cross-legged on the cemetery wall.
This guy was probably much older than my own dad, who is in his mid-thirties. His hair was sort of gray and he wore those big black glasses that make your eyes look cartoonish. He wore a nerdy short-sleeved plaid shirt and jeans with black shoes.
Then she looked into my eyes. She just stared at me until I made my own sort of dorky wave.Then she turned away, like I was invisible.
The girl looked about my age, although in appearance she was my opposite. Her skin was very pale, as if she never went outside in the sunlight. She had very dark hair, almost black, and she wore it in two braids that dropped down her back, thick and heavy like rope. I could not see the color of her eyes, but I could see that they were large in contrast to her face. She was thin and almost fragile looking—like those porcelain figurines you see in china closets. Or maybe it was the slow and careful way that she moved that made her appear delicate. The man put his arm around her, tucked the brochures under his other arm, and gave her a playful squeeze. I realized they were probably grandfather and granddaughter by her tolerant expression and his expectant one. Maybe they were visiting the grave of her grandmother.
I turned away then, feeling like I was intruding on a private family moment. Even I got embarrassed at some point, staring like I was from my spot on the wall.
What is it about Murmur, Massachusetts that made me act and feel so strangely?
When my mom told me that we were moving into this house, she took me for a ride to show it off. She said that if I saw it, she
knew
I would love it.The house is big, made of gray stone, and three stories tall, if you count the basement, which is partially above ground. It was built in 1719 and looks like many of the old houses in New England. Every room had large, lead-glass windows.The roof sloped nicely around the triangular, gabled windows, and there were two huge stone fireplaces—one in the living room and one in the dining room. The wood trim around the windows and doors had been freshly painted a forest green. The house was big but cozy—a great place to be stuck inside during a snowstorm. I pictured afternoons sipping hot chocolate and reading a good book next to one of the grand fireplaces.
BOOK: Creepers
6.94Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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