Tag Archives: daily

Boys – Part VII

Tears would have been easy. They were building to the brink of release as a sob hung in his throat waiting for permission to go. But Taddy held firm, dropping the doorknob and fiercely wiping his eyes clear with his now dusty sleeve.

For the moment, Gunther was gone, but his words hung with him. “Do you want to be the crier?”

Even at his young age, the catalogue of monster flicks and horror movies the two devoured gave him a substantial amount of data to work from. Real or imaginary, didn’t much matter.

He knew that nothing good comes to the ones that lose their cool. The hero stays focused. The “crier” just ends up being the next on the list. Every movie they saw seemed to have one. Someone so freaked out that all they can do is sob and yell about their impeding doom as if it were some sort of self–fulfilling prophecy. They got in the way of the ultimate resolution and you were relieved to see them go. The boys suspected even the producers were happy to get rid of those annoying characters for they often suffered some of the more excruciating deaths.

He would not be the crier. Cliff from The Cult of the Bleeding Eye might have said it best, when it all starts to crumble and things seems dire, there are always two things to focus on. One – survival. Two – rescue.

Taddy found the flashlight and clicked in on, grateful for even the dim light that it offered. He stepped through the shattered pantry door and into the kitchen. Crouching low to the ground, he moved the small puff of light over the tiles. The markings settled into the crushed ceramics looked like giant – hooves.

“Crap.”

Standing, he made his way to the island, now set askew by whatever invaded their kitchen and began to paw through the utility drawer until his hand brushed against an opened pack of batteries near the back.

He shuddered through a breath of relief and quickly replaced the batteries in the flashlight. Clicking the button, a newly revived and strong beam of white light filled the room. Taddy smiled. Success!

He then ran to the counter and grabbed a large knife from the block of wood on the counter. The sounds that engulfed him were the now familiar sounds of the storm. No more heavy asthmatic breathing. No more stomping and growling.

Taddy burst from the kitchen, ran down the foyer and into the front sitting room. Everything was in shambles. The couch and table were crushed, the front bay window, smashed. Shards of glass and debris were everywhere. The cold autumn wind and sheets of rain whipped at the open space as if trying to climb in.

Taddy dropped back to the front door and slid his feet into his sneakers. He had to remember to tell his mom that this was exactly why he never untied them. He swung open the front door and stepped out onto porch. The fierce storm welcomed him to its realm by nearly blowing him over. The rain was hitting him so fast it was hard to keep his eyes open.

“Gunther!” he yelled, trying to brush the rain from his face while working to shield himself from stinging, cold, wind-charged droplets.

“Gunther!”

A bolt of lightning crashed hard and bright nearby and the following thunder marked the strike with an earth-shattering rumble. Through the wind and rain it was difficult to define, but out back, or along the side of the house, there was a substantial crack and a crash.

Taddy ran to the far end of the porch, leaping over a couple of the giant hoof prints that had crushed their way into the wood. Even with a renewed life, his small flashlight just didn’t have the power to give him enough beam to see down to the back of the house.

“Gunther!”

He waved the flashlight urging it to go farther, but it was at its limit.

“Graww!”

The now familiar growl fought its way through the storm to Taddy’s ears from the backyard.

Shoving the knife through his belt loop, he grabbed the porch rail as he had done hundreds of times and vaulted over the edge to the increasingly soft, rain-soaked ground. After the initial cold and uncomfortable shock of the icy water draining into his shoes, Taddy tore out for the backyard.

Boys – Part V

“Taddy?” Gunther said, in a whisper just loud enough to be heard over the rain attacking the attic roof.

“Yeah?”

“How long are you going to hold my hand?”

“Shut up,” Taddy said quickly letting go. “Just shut up and give me your flashlight.”

Gunther felt around him. “Wait,” he said. “”I thought you had a flashlight.”

“Mine’s dead, remember?”

“Well, I don’t have one,” Gunther said, trying to force any sign of a whimper from his voice.

“Then we’ve got to go get the one my mom has in the kitchen,” said Taddy, still whispering as if the darkness demanded it. “And we’re going together.”

“Right,” Gunther said. “I mean you’re not leaving me up here by myself.”

“Let’s go then.”

Taddy started to inch his way toward the hole in the floor and stuck a foot down through to find the ladder. Gunther inched with him, keeping a hand near Taddy’s shoulder so he wouldn’t lose touch as much for the connection to comfort, as it was a way to accidentally fall down the hole.

“Don’t push,” Taddy said.

“I’m not,” Gunther insisted.

Once on the ladder, Taddy’s instincts took over. He made the climb and descent in the dark thousands of times and was able to slip down into his bedroom in seconds. Gunther followed with a little more caution, but made it to the floor safe and sound.

“I can’t see a thing,” said Gunther. “This is crazy! I mean, look how dark it is. Where are you?”

“I’m over here.” Taddy clapped his hands and reached out for his friend. Gunther found him and the two began to slip their feet along the floor, inching their way to the door.

“Gah!”

A large flash of lightning filled the house, trailing off into the flicker of tiny strobes of light. Any progress the boys made toward adjusting their sight to the darkness was dashed in those seconds of brilliance.

“Boom!”

The thunder followed as they were still rubbing the brightness of the flash from their eyes.

“This sucks!” Gunther shouted. “I can’t see. Now I can’t hear. Really … this sucks!”

“Come on,” Taddy said. “There’s a flashlight in the kitchen. We’ll be there in a hot second.”

They continued their careful movements across the floor, to the stairs and down to the foyer. They inched their way to the kitchen, running their fingers lightly across the wall as a way to stay clear on their path.

Taddy reached the cold tile first. He stepped forward and reached out for the chopping block top of the island in the middle of the room. Finding it, he walked himself around to the second drawer where his mom kept the flashlight and any other number of assorted and likely useless odds and ends. He pulled the drawer and pawed around inside until he found it.

Click.

“That’s it?” Gunther asked, still standing on the edge of kitchen.

A pathetic, whimper of a glow lazily forced itself from the small light. Bringing recognition to Taddy’s face. He smirked and shook the light. It went dark. He hit it a couple of times and the light came back a little stronger, but not much.

“This is all we have unless I can find some more batteries,” Taddy said. “Or, until the power comes back.

“What about candles?” Gunther asked. “Do you have any candles?”

“Yeah,” Taddy said. My mom has a bunch in the…”

Any word Taddy might have said was murdered by another glaring flash of light. The boys had just enough time to look at each other before the thunder followed.

BOOM!

“Ahhhh!” The boys screamed.

“I wish it would stop doing that!” Gunther pounded on the wall next to him.

CRASH!

“What was that?” Taddy yelled. “What did you do?”

“Nothing,” said Gunther, running into the kitchen. “I … nothing. It sounded like window in the front room. You saw me. I was right there. I swear I didn’t…”

“Shhhh! Shush! Hush! Shut up!” Taddy said, trying to cover Gunther’s mouth.

The boys stood in the faded yellow glow of the sad flashlight, listening hard for whatever it was Taddy thought he heard. After a moment, they turned slowly to face each other.

“Footsteps.”

“Breathing.”

While they spoke at exactly the same time, it was clear, they each heard something different.

Boys – Part III

“No!”

“No, wait!”

“NO!” After yelling in unison the boys fell backwards onto their sleeping bags. The television screen turned from blood red to black, followed by the slow silent scroll of the credits to the 1957 terror classic, The Cult of the Bleeding Eye.

“You’ve got to be kidding me,” Taddy said. “What a rip job!”

“Dumbest movie ending ever,” said Gunther, as he popped the last bit of his pizza crust into his mouth. “I’m officially removing that movie from the ‘classic’ list. I mean … you can’t kill everyone at the end with a giant explosion.”

“Right,” said Taddy.

“And, what the heck happened to the eye?”

“I dunno. I’ll bet it hid in that cast iron stove,” Taddy said.

“What for?” asked Gunther.

“Duh, to not explode.”

“How would it close the door?” asked Gunther. “It was just an eye.”

“It was just stupid,” Taddy said, sitting up. “Except that part where the eye attacked that those people in the park.”

“That was classic,” said Gunther, jumping to his feet to playact the scene. “Tell me Julia, what’s wrong? You look … scared.” As quickly as he got to his feet to recite the line, Gunther jumped to his left to take the form of the worried heroine, his voice high and his pose demure. “Oh, it’s nothing Cliff. I just … I just … can’t shake the feeling that we’re being … watched!”

“Ah – ha, ha, ha, ha!”

The boys both tumbled down to the floor, laughing hysterically.

“Aaaaah,” said Gunther, “And, there was the bleeding eye trying to hided behind that one little pine tree! Ha!”

They laughed until a couple of deep and hearty sighs brought them to base. While easy to make fun of, the movie did provide them with a few jumps and “eeews,” that set a perfect tone for the evening. In the hour and forty-three minute running time, they laid waste to the pizza and corn chips, had dug deep into the bag of popcorn and finished off two Gremlin colas apiece.

“So, what’s next,” asked Gunther.

“Well …,” said Taddy, as he reached under his sleeping bag. “I found this in my dad’s office.”

“What is it?”

Taddy held up the box.

“No, waaaaay,” said Gunther, pulling the box from Taddy’s hand and pulling it close to read. “Video Hell – Unrated. Featuring twelve shocking minutes not allowed in the theatrical release!” He looked at Taddy. “Tell me we are watching this.”

“We are watching this!”

“I read that this movie was so scary, people died while watching it in the theaters,” said Gunther slowly as Taddy pulled the disc from the box and slide it into the player tray.

“I don’t know if they died, but Boosh Tompkins said his older brother totally crapped his pants he was so scared.”

“Crap,” Gunther whispered in awe.

“Exactly,” said Taddy. With great flare he pointed the remote down at the machine and hit play. This time, the large screen faded from black to blood red.

Outside, the storm was building strength and anger.

 

Boys – Part II

The boys waved from the window as the Reef “Caddywagon,” or “Beef,” as Gunther’s dad called it, drove down Lystrick Street then turned onto Barting Road and drifted out of sight. The growing winds outside marked the event by skittering a small flood of leaves across the road. The crackle and scrape of the dry leaves reached up to them. Their mutual grins spread ear to ear.

“Monster night! Monster night! Monster night!”

Taddy started the chant off slow and low, as if almost a whisper. Gunther joined in while still waving.

“Monster night! Monster night! Monster night!”

The instant the van disappeared the click of freedom was nearly audible. The night was theirs.

“Monster night! Monster night! Monster night!”

The chant grew louder and faster as the boys began to stomp around the coffee table near the center of the room.

“Monster night! Monster night! Monster night!”

Hoots and hollers embellished the base sentiment until the boys were hopping and dancing their way around the room. Their arms shot up and down as they stomped and posed, stomped and posed to the rhythm of their words.

“Monster night! Monster night! Monster night!”

Eventually, in a manic and crazed release of energy, they ran and jumped and hopped and skipped and laughed until they collapsed on the small couch, breathing heavy in the afterglow and the wonder of their youth.

“Oh yeah,” Gunther said. “Monster night at last.”

While this was the sixth monster night for the boys, it was their first where they would be left entirely on their own. At least until their parents worked their way through a “ double date night” out in Beaumont. That would give them at least until midnight, and of course, Gunther would stay over anyway so it was really the best of all possible worlds.

Pulling themselves up from the couch they headed to the kitchen for supplies before settling in up in the attic. Debi Markum had ordered the boys a pizza for dinner and made sure it arrived just prior to their leaving so that the boys would not have let the pizza man know that they were there alone. Taddy tried to protest, saying they might want the pizza later in the night and that they could handle paying the pizza man and making sure the lock was set, but Debi stood firm. It was early pizza or no pizza. The boys agreed that monster night required pizza, period.

In the kitchen, Taddy gave Gunther the pizza and gently stacked a bag of potato chips, a bag of pretzels, a bag of corn chips and a large bag of popped corn on top. He then grabbed the six-pack of Gremlin cola from the counter, a special Halloween-themed brew from Capri Beverages, and perfect for and evening like this, along with a package of Jelli-Strings cherry licorice, a bag of chocolate-caramel Knots, the gum, and, at his mother’s insistence, a large roll of paper towels.

Loaded for bear, they trudged carefully down the foyer an up the two sets of stairs to their new lair in the converted attic.

Taddy’s dad practically made the space specifically for them as his bedroom was so small. The attic space was small too, but provided plenty of room for them to spread out sleeping bags and pillows in front of a large old television that sat under a small round window, place to stash the food, two large benches that converted to boxes for toys and games.

The boys had gathered their potential movie selections after trimming back the list of about 35 possibilities from a list they developed over the last week to about twelve sure to be scary winners.

“Ok, we have to kick off this thing right,” Taddy said.

“There’s only one choice then,” said Gunther, pulling the pizza box to him and flipping open the lid. A grin spread across his face as the pizza was revealed. “Bog Man’s Revenge.”

“We can’t watch Bog Man’s Revenge before we watch Bog Man’s Attack.”

“We’ve already seen Bog Man’s Attack.”

“Then why did it make the list? You said it would be great to watch them both back to back. You said that.”

“Oh, yeah,” Gunther said through a mouthful of pizza. “Then how about The Gore Creature from Nicronus?”

Taddy flipped through the discs. “That works,” he said, but not convinced. “There’s this.” He held up a movie case for Gunther to see.

“The Cult of the Bleeding Eye,” Gunther said in his go to spooky voice. As he pondered the title, he stopped chewing and looked up at Taddy. Without a moment’s pause, they both drew slow breaths.

“WINNER!”

Taddy popped the disk into the machine and hit play. The room filled with the dancing blue light from the large screen. Tiny bits of debris tapped against the small window as if the wind was trying to get their attention.

Boys

Gunther Reef and Taddy Markum might have been Cardington’s most likely pair of best friends. They met, unofficially, in Cardington Memorial’s maternity ward, when fate placed them side by side in the viewing room after being born a day a part from each other.

They met officially in kindergarten. Due to Gunther’s preoccupation with tiny metal robot toys and Taddy’s incessant drawing, it was three days in before they actually connected. It could also be said that fate played a strong hand in their association, for the occasion of their connection, the spark as it were, was a shared deep, rolling on the floor type belly laugh generated when Cassidy Lombeck dropped her glasses in the class fish tank.

All the elements were there. Both Gunther and Taddy had independently come to the conclusion that Cassidy Lombeck was a snob. She hovered over that fish tank like she owned it. She took great pride in telling everyone everything she knew about aquariums and fish and such because her Daddy told her it was so when they got a fish tank at home. Which, of course, was much bigger and better than this.

Cassidy was holding court at the tank on the morning of that third day. It so happened that the boys were in proximity to each other, not by design, but by happenstance.

First, Cassidy explained the proper way to feed the fish to prevent them from over eating, getting sick and possibly exploding. It was a delicate balance she liked to say and her hands moved with a fluid grace as she demonstrated her technique.

After the feeding lesson, Cassidy explained to her curious onlookers that if you wanted the fish to like you, you needed to talk to them. The best time to talk to the fish of course is when they’re eating because it brings them closer to the surface and they can hear you better. Duh.

Despite the grace she displayed while feeding the fish, her method of establishing communication was less so. The table on which the aquarium sat was sturdy but high and Cassidy needed to step up on a chair to look up and over the edge so that she might share her wisdom with the lesser creatures. When the eager to watch and wanting learn Orlan Phibbs stepped a little too close, a little too fast, he jostled Cassidy, forcing her to jerk in a way that saved her balance and avoided toppling the aquarium, but launched her glasses into the air.

It was enough of a commotion that the boys turned from their respective hobbies to watch as the pair of glasses lifted off the girl’s grimacing face. They floated and spun in mid-air for what seemed like a long slow motion movie shot before descending with a plop into the water. The moment of hilarity was not so much the glasses hitting the water, their long slow, swirling decent to the bottom of the tank, or the look of complete terror and rage that contorted Cassidy’s face.

Rather, the glasses landed in such a way that, from the boy’s perspective, when Rascal, a Black Demecin swam into the lens, it made his already large and bulbous eye appear cartoonishly enormous and somewhat expressive.

After watching the action unfold before them, they turned to face each other, as sometimes people do, they caught each other’s gaze and burst into speechless laughter. The fact that the first outburst forced a glob of snot from Gunther’s nose, which landed squarely on the toe of Mary Hasting’s shoe, bumped the laughter level up from holding your sides funny to silent, hard to catch a breath, tears dripping from your eyes hysteria.

Once they figured out that they lived three slight blocks away from each other, they became virtually inseparable. Not in a “peas in a pod” or a “two sides of the same coin” kind of way. There were definable differences between them. But, their friendship grew from the basis on which it started, a silent common understanding, a way of communicating beyond the standard surface chat, and in many ways, unknown to them at the time, a certain admiration and respect.

On the night of the storm, when it was still just large weather pattern far off to the west, the boys were setting up for a night of monsters and snacks in the converted attic of the Markum house. Both sets of parents were set to be out for the night and agreed, that if they boys could be responsible they could stay alone together without someone to watch them.

Of course they could. They were in the seventh grade now and practically invincible. Plus, as Taddy’s mother pointed out only about fifteen times, the number for Mrs. Krepp’s from next door was on the fridge if they needed anything.

It was all they could do to contain themselves as the cars drove off in the night, with the boys waving vigorously from the large bay window in the Markum’s front room.

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Doll – Part X

Doll – Part X

Margie drove the car as Chalmers sat quiet and uneasy in the passenger seat. The doll sat on his lap staring straight ahead as he did. They followed Officer Granger through town and to the northern end of the Cardington cemetery. It was the southern end of the cemetery that suffered the most damage. While it was the most picturesque part, with dense trees lining the banks of the Marklin River, the hill on which the tombstones sat proved no match for the heavy waters which ravaged the town and the surrounding counties.

Chalmers never made this trip before. He stared out the front windshield as if staring into his own end. He struggled to calm his heart which itself was being ravaged by sorrow, apprehension, guilt and a reborn sense of loss. It was only Margie’s gentle hand and soft silent urging which got him this far.

The cars pulled up to a large tent and stopped. There was a flurry of activity as workers and volunteers focused on the task of bringing resolution to this most unfortunate disaster. One portion of the tent was set up for viewing and identification. As Margie stopped the car, Chalmers saw an older woman being helped into another vehicle nearby. He guessed her sobs were the result of her own reopened wound of loss.

Granger walked back to where they were parked. He opened Margie’s door and offered a hand. He followed behind her respectively as she walked to Chalmers’s door. He continued to sit with the doll both staring forward as she swung the door open. He only moved after she placed her hand on his shoulder. As if she activated some sort of on-off switch, the power of her strength and support carried him out of the car.

The tent sat about twelve paces from where they stood, but for Chalmers the space expanded to appear like miles. Margie looped her arm inside his and when he was ready, they took their first steps. Each footfall sounded in Chalmers’s head like a steady heavy drum. Any sounds from the area, birds or the wind in the trees, were effectively blocked by the sound of his own heartbeat.

Granger opened the panel to the tent. Inside sat a line of folding chairs and a long table draped with a sterile white sheet. Underneath…

Chalmers stopped at the tent opening. His eyes fixed on the table and tiny mound that sat hidden by the sheet.

Margie waited. She felt the heat of anxiety and panic coming from Chalmers. She waited. With an attempted deep, but shaky breath, Chalmers took a slow, tentative step inside.

Once they made it to the chairs, the officer and an assistant pulled the sheet back for viewing. Chalmers stared at the ground and the trampled grass beneath his feet.

“Oh,” Margie said, beginning to cry. There was little that lay before her that could remind her of the beauty and grace that was her daughter, but having selected the dress for her, while time had stolen it vibrancy, the memory was clear. “Oh … my Paisley.”

Chalmers continued to sit stoically with his eyes glued to the ground. Margie’s soft sobs filled the hollow space. His breath was fast and heavy. A bead of sweat dripped from his forehead and down the side of his face. While he knew he was in a chair firmly attached to the ground, he felt as if he were standing on a tiny ledge outside a high-rise office building window. Half of him was urging him to jump. Half of him was urging him to run, to wake up from the nightmare and just run.

Suddenly, Chalmers stood bolt upright with a speed that made him slightly dizzy. Margie reached for him then stopped. Her hand hung in the air reaching out for him, but she held it there as he staggered forward one step and then another. As if some force where trying to pull him back, Chalmers fought his way to the edge of the table.

Officer Granger, who had been standing near the back started to approach, ready to act or react as needed, but Margie waved him back.

Chalmers had his eyes closed tight. As one hand he clenched the doll, the other gripped the edge of the metal table as if it were the only thing that prevented him from falling into a pit of his own demise. Heavy, panting breaths escaped him. Tears, squeezed from his eyes and his nose began to drip.

Slowly he raised the doll, and brought it down to the fragile array of remains that sat before him. Gently, he placed the doll on the table. Slowly he dared to open his eyes.

Before, on the table, was not a small pile of bones expected, but the smiling face of his beautiful Paisley, smiling at him. He sobbed a great sense of relief, as he tried to smile back and show strength for her. A small laugh escaped him. He looked down at the who in the moment he set her down, had transformed into the beautiful toy, her daughter loved so much. Two clear blue eyes stared back at him and the clean eternal smile greeted him even as his sight grew bleary with even more tears.

“Thank you, Daddy.”

The words reached as clear as if they were spoken and not imagined, but maybe they were. He smiled again, the best he could. “You’re welcome Pumpkin,” he whispered.

“Daddy, I love you.”

Chalmer’s whispered back, “I love you too. I’m so … sorry.”

Then, as if tucking her in for the night, like he had done so long ago he raised sheet to her chin and stared her one last time.

“Goodbye,” he said. “Goodbye my sweet love.”

He turned away from the table then and completely drained of whatever strength he could ever muster. He dropped to his knees.

Margie, who had stood to move behind him, caught and much as she could and helped to guide him gently down to the ground.

Again, they sobbed together, and they held each other, with only the future before them.

The end.

Doll – Part IX

Thump, thump, thump, thump.

With Margie just behind him, Chalmers paused at the front door. He flexed his hand a couple of times as he slowly reached out for the knob. The approach was hesitant, as if he almost expected it to burn him the second he touched it.

He looked to Margie. She put her hand on his shoulder, first with a light squeeze and then with a slight rub back and forth. She offered a slight smile of encouragement. The gestures poured a flood of familiarity into him. It was a signature move for her and one he remembered finding great comfort in. They were never overly expressive back in the day, but the subtleties of their actions always spoke volumes. It was the shot of courage he needed.

Chalmers grabbed the now less than intimidating door handle, turned it and opened the door wide enough to include Margie in whatever awaited them.

“Sir. Ma’am.”

Officer Telly Granger filled the doorway in full uniform. With a clipboard and pen at the ready, he greeted the man and woman inside with a serious demeanor, but he hoped not without an essence of compassion. In his six years, he never had this duty before.

“Officer,” Chalmers said.

“Sir, I’m looking for a Chalmers Elk.”

“That’s me.”

“Sir, might I come in? I have some information I need to share with you.”

“What sort of information?”

“Sir, as you are probably aware, the recent flooding has caused a level of damage not common in this area.”

“My house was checked out. I was told I could return.”

“Yes, sir,” Granger said. “There is no known problem with either your house or your being back in the area sir.”

“Then I don’t understand.”

“Uh, the problem sir, is with the Cardington cemetery.”

Chalmers stiffened at the sound of the words. His breath hitched and his heart began to beat a little harder in response. Once again, a slight squeeze on his shoulder from Margie, triggered a greater calm in him that worked to quell the uprising of anxiety.

“Please,” Chalmers managed. “Come in.”

Margie offered coffee as they moved into the kitchen and toward the table. Granger declined. She couldn’t miss his eyes catching sight of the doll that sat perched at the far end of the small table.

Once seated, Granger first apologized, for as he understood it, this duty would not normally fall to him, but since recovery efforts were still underway and some parts of the area were still underwater, this task was his as part of the community relations effort.

With Granger on one side of the table, Chalmers and Margie sat on the other. Instinctively, their hands entwined.

“Sir,” Granger said. “The extraordinary flooding we’ve seen from recent storms has caused a substantial amount of damage to homes, businesses and other properties.”

Chalmers and Margie sat still and quiet.

“As the waters continue to recede, we’re finding unprecedented instances of disruption and destruction.”

“I’m sorry,” Chalmers said, interrupting. He had become more of a “pull the bandage off quickly kind of guy” over the years and grew weary of the build up. “What does this have to do with the cemetery? With us?”

“Yes, sir,” Granger said. “The cemetery saw water flow and activity that created a level of damage that might create certain health and safety concerns. You see … several of the burial plots were washed out or severely damaged. I understand you have a relative buried there.”

Chalmers bit down, his lips tightened. His hand tightened around Margie’s.

“Our daughter,” Margie managed softly.

“Yes, ma’am,” said Granger. “I’m terribly sorry to bring you this news, but if at all possible, we would like you to come down and help us identify the remains so that they can be returned to their proper resting place.”