The thing with a Sammy Keyes book is that it gets very complicated near the end. Actually, it’s complicated all along, but it’s not until the end that the timing of everything matters. It’s like braiding hair, but with ten strands instead of three. You’ve got to concentrate, keep track, and pull each strand evenly because if you don’t one strand will become shorter than the rest and in the end it will mess the whole thing up. And who wants to have some awkward, ugly stump of hair poking out of your rubber band? Not me. The only solution, really, is to figure out where you went wrong, undo the braid to that point and try again. Sometimes what is really wrong is that you decided to use ten strands instead of nine. Nine is so much easier to work with. Three groups of three. It’s always like this at this stage of a Sammy Keyes book, but I always forget that it’s like this, which is maddening because it invariably sends me into a bit of a tailspin and I’m, like, Aaaah! How did this happen??? It’s also the point where it comes out that The Thing I’ve been avoiding for the whole book is the reason my braid is coming out crooked. It is the point at which I finally face up to the fact that if I don’t want a big ugly stump sticking out of my rubber band, I need to suck it up and face The Thing. Of course, first there are the phases of Further Avoidance. This week I further avoided The Thing by driving through graveyards. I really did not know that driving was allowed, but it is. It’s like driving thruogh a little neighborhood of dead people. You can wave and read the headstones and chat with your son about how peculiar the burial ritual is…all from the comfort of your minivan. It’s like being on a little ride at an amusement park without even having been charged admission. That was Phase One of Further Avoidance. I recognized what I was doing, though, so we finally did park and walk around. We had lots of questions that we made up our own answers to…because, obviously, it was easier than facing The Thing. Yes, phase two of Further Avoidance was well under way. And it continued to another graveyard which I thought would be spookier and perhaps have a mausoleum or two to investigate. This time I took both sons and we explored for an hour, answering all our questions with whatever seemed to make sense to us. Plus, there was an enormous pyramid-crypt-thing which was very impressive and fascinating, although of absolutely no use to my story. Yes, I’d entered Phase Three, and it was getting me nowhere fast. Then yesterday Mark and I drove four hours to see a friend in his first starring role in a play—perhaps you’ve heard of it? “Sweeney Todd, The Demon Barber of Fleet Street.” Yes, quite right—it’s the one where the barber slits his customers’ necks and turns the corpses into meat pies. Pail after pail of “blood” on stage. Lots of demented screaming. Lots of death. Oh, and an asylum. Then we drove four hours home. On the drive we “talked plot” and I told Mark about my issues and quandaries and ugly, crooked, stumpy braid, and how I just have to finish this book because everywhere I turn it’s all death-death-death! So we talked and talked and talked, and by the time we got home I knew that I had to unbraid and quit avoiding The Thing. So today FINALLY, I made an appointment with the manager of the cemetery and watched them bury a body. The reason I had such an aversion to this is because I went through it once in real life when we buried my brother. I was so grief stricken then that I didn’t notice anything technical about the process—who cared how it was done? But now I really needed to know, and I was just…afraid. The nice thing about today was that the manager and his crew had a great outlook about what they do. Each of them on their own said, “I love my job.” They’re regular guys who see their role at the cemetery as important and valuable, and the manager was very philosophical about the historic significance and importance of graveyards. Plus, one of the crew has a daughter who reads Sammy Keyes, so that didn’t hurt! So it’s with a big sigh of relief that I tell you I’m ready to unbraid and give it a final go. It’s all there, it’s all good, I just need to go back and make it tight!