|Sissy and Garryd at Castle LeFini|
Rat-a-tat-tat, rat-a-tat-tat! Holding the sticks the way Marc had showed her, Sissy played Marc's new drums, letting the sticks bounce on the surface of the drums. She played with enthusiasm, rat-a-tat-tat, rat-a-tat-tat. Marc came steaming into the room with clouds of rage pouring from his ears. Blue clouds, Sissy noted. She knew she was in trouble for playing without permission, and lifted the drum sticks like twin swords to defend herself from the onslaught of his fury, but the voice she heard wasn’t Marc's and wasn't screaming. It was Garryd, and he was whispering.
As she dragged herself up through foggy layers out of her dream, she realized that Garryd was tapping on the aluminum frame of the screen on her bedroom window and calling her name in a hushed hiss. "Sissy," he said, this time louder.
"Shhhh," Sissy said, "What time is it?"
"It's only 9:30. You went out like a light."
"I was tired. You slept all the way home. I was writing my report for The Frog Haven Friends who are okaying the funds for our camp experiences, the way Mr. LeFevre set it up, remember? We have to tell what we learned. Justify the expenditure. Did you get yours done?"
"Don't worry, I'll get it done soon," Garryd said, sounding a little annoyed, "Listen, I have important news. Remember how the gangs were acting so weird during the last week of school, and disappearing without telling us where they were going."
"Yeah . . . ?" Sissy, said, drawing it out so it sounded halfway between a question and a sarcastic remark. "It's not like they ever told us where they were going."
"I know, but you're missing the point. You told me to find out, if I could, remember?"
So much had happened at Morgan Mountain that Sissy could only barely remember the whole business of the boys’ strange behavior just before they left for camp. And she was so sleepy she could hardly keep her eyes open.
""Yeah," she said, finally dredging up the memory, "I told you if you could listen in on them or follow them and find out anything, to let me know."
"So, after we got home tonight, I was stashing my sleeping bag and backpack in the garage and I heard voices. I ducked into the pines between our houses, and who should come along but Marc and Paul LeFevre. They were carrying white frog buckets and talking about mortar.
"At first, I thought they meant cannons, weapons, bombs, explosions, it was getting kind of dark, and I thought they might not spot me, so I followed them. They went between Taylor’s and Sampson’s and into the woods, jogged through the woods to the construction site where houses are being built . . . “
“I know the spot,” Sissy said, impatiently, waking up a little.
Garryd continued without pause, “and they got some mortar out of some bags piled under a big tarp—cement-like stuff you put between bricks."
Sissy sat up and rubbed her eyes. "This isn't making any sense," she complained. “Bombs and cannons and bricks? I don't get it."
"They went down the path to Salamander Pond, up Crayfish creek, and through the horse field. They stopped and got a couple wild apples for Whitey."
"Sissy?" Sissy's Mom called, "Is something wrong?"
"I was just having a nightmare Mom, everything's fine. I’m thinking of otters playing." That was her mom’s suggestion for dealing with her persistent nightmares, to picture otters playing. It usually worked.
"Go back to sleep, sweetie, you had a long day."
"Okay," Sissy hollered back. "Talk more quietly," She whispered to Garryd. She was grateful her Mom hadn't come into the room. She must be working on some project.
"Castles, Sissy, they're building castles!" Garryd said.
Sissy knelt and rose up so she could see Garryd better. "Castles? Really? Where?"
"There's a quarry behind the horse field, did you know that?"
"I saw it on Pa's map, the one in their study, but we're not allowed to go to that quarry, it's posted and Pa says the quarry is active, and the workers don't want kids in there. And it’s dangerous, with cliffs that can collapse and stuff. I've never been there."
"Past the quarry, there are these things that look like silos without barns. Marc and Paul are making one into a castle, and it looks really cool. I heard them call it Castle LeFini, and on the way back, I figured that was LeFevre and Mancini and funny. The older McAllister boys have one, too, I heard them say and I think some others do, too, Michael and Guy Lefevre and Bill and Kelvin and all the other kids have their own castle together. There are lots of those silo things, maybe we could have one, too. That would be awesome."
"We're not allowed to go there," Sissy said, automatically.
"Come on," Garryd said, his voice rising with impatience, then dropping to a whisper again. "Come out the window. Put your pillow under the blankets like kids do in stories."
"It's too hot for blankets," Sissy objected. She inched up the screen. It squeaked. She panted onto it, hoping to make it go up more quietly. It seemed to work. Garryd helped her climb out and drop to the bucket he’d upended to stand on. She gently pulled the screen partway back down, being careful to avoid the spot that would make it lock. The pointy edge of the screen frame scraped her inner thighs and inner arms.
Garryd covered his mouth and pointed. Sissy was wearing a pair of lacy underpants with little hearts and roses and a blue flowered camisole that didn't match the panties. She rolled her eyes. She was not wearing a bra, and her stupid breasts, and worse yet, her nipples, were visible under the thin fabric of the camisole, but Garryd didn’t seem to think of her as a girl or, heaven forbid, a sex object. He seemed only to see her as a friend, more like a sister. That was a big relief to Sissy, who really hated the way her body was betraying her. She’d always thought of herself as more of a boy than a girl. How could she be a boy with those stupid ugly, embarrassing things on her chest?
"Look," Sissy said disgustedly, “Mom was doing laundry and took all my camp clothes and said she'd give them back to me clean in the morning—after I shower. The busceebies will probably eat me alive."
“Probably,” Garryd chortled. "Come on, let's hurry." Sissy was barefooted, too, but that was nothing unusual, except that after the Morgan Mountain foot fiasco, where she was required to wear shoes, it felt both strange and wonderful to be barefooted again. They ran along the row of pines between their houses, crossed to the ones between Sampson's and Taylors, and headed down the path through the edge of the Bushwhack to Salamander pond, up the bank of Crayfish Creek, through the horse field, stopping to give Whitey an apple and give his soft muzzle a quick rub. Then they jogged to the edge of the quarry. Garryd led the way down a truck ramp, across the quarry, up the other side and down a dark narrow, overgrown dirt road.
There they were, first the abandoned silo things, dark cylinders rising among dark trees, empty and deserted, and a short ways farther, the castles. They found three castles, about as far apart as the houses on Van Vleck Drive, in various stages of development.
None of the castles were finished. In fact, they were barely begun, but Sissy could see what the gangs had in mind. It was impressive. The boys were building rectangular fortresses around the fronts of the silo things, hauling rocks from the quarry, probably at night, when the workers weren’t there, piling them up around the fortresses and silos to make it look like a real castle and cementing them with stolen mortar. Sissy could see it all unfolding. They would be magnificent.
“WOW!” Sissy said, exhaling a long breath, and then whistling. “WOW!” She repeated.
"We need one," Garryd said. "We need our own castle." Sissy could only agree.
Mary Stebbins Taitt