Authors: Delia Ray
THIS IS A BORZOI BOOK PUBLISHED BY ALFRED A. KNOPF
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
Text copyright © 2011 by Delia Ray
Map art copyright © 2011 by Fred van Deelen
All rights reserved. Published in the United States by Alfred A. Knopf, an imprint of Random House Children’s Books, a division of Random House, Inc., New York.
Knopf, Borzoi Books, and the colophon are registered trademarks of Random House, Inc.
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Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Here lies Linc / by Delia Ray.—1st ed.
Summary: While researching a rumored-to-be-haunted grave for a local history project, twelve-year-old Lincoln Crenshaw unearths some startling truths about his own family.
[1. Cemeteries—Fiction. 2. Families—Fiction. 3. Death—Fiction. 4. Junior high schools—Fiction. 5. Schools—Fiction. 6. Iowa—Fiction.] I. Title.
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who’s always there to fill in my blanks
OST PEOPLE END THEIR LIVES
in a graveyard. Sometimes I think my life began there.
: Crouching behind a crooked headstone, playing hide-and-go-seek with my dad.
: Jeeter, the groundskeeper at Oakland Cemetery, who used to let me ride along on his big mower for hours whenever he trimmed graves.
: To Smith’s Burying Ground in Franklin County, Ohio, so my mother could study the inscriptions on the pioneers’ tombstones.
I could go on. This is the kind of life you get when you grow up next to graveyards and your mother happens to be a history professor who studies burial customs.
When I was little, this didn’t seem so weird. I was used to my mom slamming on the brakes on country roads all across the Midwest, swerving onto the shoulder whenever she
spotted even the tiniest cemetery set back in the trees. Once in a while I would whine, “Do we have to, Lottie?” (Lottie was Dad’s nickname for my mother, and people tell me I used to copy my father whenever possible.)
But whining never worked with Lottie. She didn’t even seem to hear it as she hid her car keys under the mat and turned to squint at the spots of stone in the distance. So I’d tag along, over guardrails and barbed wire fences, past cows and horses, through plowed farm fields and weeds and brambles. Lottie would bring her camera and notebook. I’d bring the ratty quilt from the backseat in case I got sleepy while she was wandering around taking notes.
“Some people might think this is disrespectful, Linc,” I remember Lottie saying as she settled me in for one of those naps, spreading the quilt over a grave so that the headstone looked more like the headboard of a bed. “But not me. You know, the word ‘cemetery’ comes from a Greek term that means ‘a large dormitory where lots of people are sleeping.’ ” She laughed as she bent down to kiss me on the cheek.
I would wake up from my naps and stare at the writing on the gravestones above me, trying to sound out the words and figure out how old the people were when they died. Lottie swears I taught myself to read deciphering headstones.
As I got older, I entertained myself during Lottie’s cemetery trips by keeping a journal of my favorite epitaphs written on the stones. And in her office my mother had books full of interesting inscriptions—from ancient tombs in Europe or the headstones of well-known authors and actors and leaders buried around the world—so I added some of those to my
journal too. It was like collecting autographs, but more interesting.
I got one of my best ones when Lottie and I took a research trip through Missouri, from the grave of the outlaw Jesse James:
APR. 3, 1882
BY A TRAITOR
IS NOT WORTHY
TO APPEAR HERE
But most of the epitaphs in my journal weren’t from the graves of famous people. Most I scribbled down because they were strange or sad or just plain funny, like Number 42 in my notebook:
I Told You I Was Sick
Number 79 came from the grave of someone named Elizabeth Rich, buried in Eufaula, Alabama:
Honey, you don’t know what you did for me,
Always playing the lottery.
The numbers you picked came in to play
Two days after you passed away.
For this, a huge monument I do erect
For now I get a yearly check
How I wish you were alive,
For now we are worth 8.5
I liked the fact that epitaphs didn’t have any rules, that headstones could be etched with whatever crazy thing people needed to help them remember the one who died—a winning lottery number, a portrait of a favorite pet, the name of a Cub Scout troop, or lyrics to a song.
That’s why I’ve never been happy with what Lottie decided to do for Dad. Even though I was only seven when he died, I still remember exactly how I felt when she took me out to Oakland to see his grave for the first time.
For one thing, there wasn’t even a headstone. Instead of leading me across the cemetery to one of the newer graves scattered on the fringe like I expected, Lottie stopped at a long wall made of shiny black granite. I had asked Jeeter about the wall when we rode past it on the riding mower one day. A columbarium, he called it, pronouncing the syllables as if they left a bad taste on his tongue.
“That’s where they store ashes of cremated people,” he said. “Call me old-fashioned, but when I go, I’d rather be laid out in a nice roomy burial plot ’stead of getting sealed up in a hole no bigger than a post office box.”
Lottie had walked about halfway down the wall and gently placed her fingertips on one of the black compartments in
the third row from the top. I had to take a few steps closer to read the small writing. This is what it said:
Lincoln Raintree Crenshaw
That’s it, the end.
“That’s it?” I remember asking. “
Lottie turned toward me. “Well, yes.… Yes, honey,” she said. “You know your father. He liked to keep things simple. This is what he would have wanted.” But her voice didn’t sound so sure.
She reached out to touch my face then, with that same hand she had pressed on the wall. I didn’t let her. I yanked back as if her fingers were on fire, and ran crying through the graveyard, all the way home.
Like I said, I felt gipped. Gipped by only two lines of writing on a tiny little square of stone. Gipped by the heart attack that took my father, out of the blue—my dad, of all people, who never got sick and used to swing me up on his shoulders and had climbed more than fourteen thousand feet to the top of Mount Rainier in Washington State. Dad, who the ambulance guys said was riding his bike to work at eight o’clock one morning and then lying on the sidewalk on River Street by 8:05.