Bill poorly mimics the drum blast of Metallica’s ‘One’ against the steering wheel of his 1991 Ford Ranger as his daughter, Lily, giggles at his exaggerated enthusiasm. It’s mid April and they’re on the 202 headed west towards Winthrop after a nostalgic morning of strawberry chocolate chip pancakes at the Augusta House of Pancakes. Not the catchiest title for a diner, but nonetheless, it’s the finest kind of breakfast food in Kennebec County; heck, maybe even all of Maine. Bill smiles back at his daughter, then continues to sing along to the breakdown before the song’s lengthy guitar solo. Lily turns toward the window admiring the seemingly endless rows of pines as they turn onto the camp road. Those from away are usually baffled by highways that lack advertisement billboards selling the latest fast food or even bible verses pointed at teens who are considering abortion. Mainers find comfort in driving, outside of winter of course. They’re able to embrace the full beauty in which the snow blankets the forests, then gently melts weeping into the streets as mud season begins. From there, they witness the green grass peek from the earth’s surface, and maybe just a bit more snow just because. As it reads, or read, crossing the state line, “Welcome to Maine: The Way Life Should Be”.
Bill pulls onto the entrance road underneath a giant log that reads ‘True Cove Camp for Boys’. He’s the groundskeeper and gardener during the offseason for this boys sports camp. Their headquarters are in New York, as are most of these hoity toity New England summer camps, however this camp holds values close to his own. Brotherhood. Faith. Tradition. Bill shifts the truck into neutral, turns the radio down, and looks to Lily.
“You ready?” he asks, playfully nudging her shoulder with a key ring.
“To pull weeds for the next six to eight hours? You betcha,” Lily sarcastically replies.
Lily snags the key ring from her father and exits the truck approaching the locked gate blocking the way avoiding puddles of mud. As she inserts the key into the well weathered padlock, a Monmouth police officer pulls into the drive. Bill exits his truck, right hand gripping the pistol tucked in the driver side dash. Lily eyes the car, pulling her hands away from the lock. Everyone’s still. A loon calls from the lake adjacent to the road as Bill tightens his grasp eagerly waiting for the officer to make a move. Suddenly, the car door opens and the officer steps out.
“Gary?” Bill says to himself as the police officer steps out.
“What the hell are you doing here?” Bill questions, walking towards him.
Lily sighs in relief, then continues to fumble with the rusted lock. Pulling the wrapped chain, the gate creaks as she swings it open.
“Just checking in. Wicked muddy out here, your truck gonna make it up the hill?” Gary asks.
“Yeah, Gar. We should be just fine,” Bill says, moving Gary along.
Gary eyes the bed of Bill’s truck. There’s a large blue tarp covering most of the contents with a few shovels and other miscellaneous gardening equipment sticking out.
“Alright,” Gary starts, readjusting his waist.
“Have at it, give me a shout if you run into any trouble. One must be so careful these days afterall,” he advises.
“Will do, Gar. Thanks,” Bill waves him along.
Gary drives off while Lily jumps back into the truck as Bill continues on the entrance road. The truck wobbles a bit as it attempts to navigate the deep wells of mud. Bill eases off the gas pedal looking over his shoulder out the drivers side window. Suddenly, he slams on the gas just making it past the slippery entrance at the bottom of the hill.
“Every time,” he smirks.
As they pass the first set of sports fields, Bill reminisces about the day Lily was born. She’s sick of the same story year after year but knows her father loves to tell it, especially since her mom passed. He talks about how that spring was wetter than most and while they were churning the old soil with new fertilizer the only sign of life was a Tiger Lily beginning to bloom amongst the natural debri of the baron garden beds. The sun peeked through the overcast skies illuminating the morning dew as if the gods themselves were weeping tears of joy for the birth of an angel. As fate would have it, the first sun shower of spring coincided with her mothers water breaking.
“You’re disgusting. You know that, right?” Lily responds.
“Wouldn’t have it any other way,” Bill smiles, pulling the key from the ignition.
Parking adjacent to the dining hall, the garden is home to a variety of fruits, vegetables, and herbs used right next door inside the camp kitchen providing organically grown meal options with fresh ingredients. Also, a few times throughout the summer, Bill comes out to teach a handful of campers about proper garden maintenance and the best times to harvest. He believes the next generation is falling behind on the importance and benefits of an agricultural education.
Lily throws her water bottle to the side of one of the baron beds along with a shovel and a rake. Bill releases the tie downs over the truck’s bed, then grabs some equipment from the back. They both proceed to put on some work gloves.
“Alright, let’s get to it,” Bill begins, gripping one end of the blue tarp.
“Hooray for us,” Lily adds.
Bill pulls the tarp revealing a morbid collection of limbs. The amount, along with the aroma, is unsettling to say the least, as if they were the rejected pieces of Frankenstein’s monster. Lily grabs the arm of what seems to have been a child.
“Well, shit. Poor little guy,” she starts, pulling their flesh closer to her nostrils.
After an inflated, and uncomfortably enjoyable, inhalation of the rotting appendage Lily sinks her teeth into the meatiest part of the forearm.
“Hey, we just ate breakfast,” Bill shouts.
“My bad, it’s been a year for me too, remember?” Lily replies, tossing the remains aside.
“That’s why we kept our chosen offerings at home. We wait for the Dark Prince—”
“To reveal himself underneath the crescent moon. I’m aware,” Lily recites.
Bill reaches out to Lily, they clasp hands and bow their heads collectively towards the garden.
“Dark Prince,” Bill starts.
“We offer to you that which has been taken from your enemy,” he continues. Lily joins in.
“The false gods sheep; stripped, tortured, and slaughtered. May your darkness spread from our words to their blood within this soil. Turn their ignorant minds to rubble, and their hearts to darkness through the earth’s growth, their sustenance, and your nourishment,” they chant.
“Praise be to you, Dark Prince,” they finish.
Written and submitted for Cemetery Gates Media April 2021 theme ‘The Burial of the Dead’
© John Marrows All Rights Reserved