The car left Marvin's village, his hometown. It rambled past acres of farmland, and entered a valley surrounded by hilltop cemeteries. In the center of the valley sat an enormous stone mansion, completely enclosed in a high brick wall.
They pulled past a wall bearing a large brass plaque reading,
"Randolph Mortician School for Boys (L. Randolph, proprietor)"
The driver then pulled through the gates and parked in front of the school.
"There ya are, boy," he said. "Go into the main entrance, third hall on your left, next right. You'll need this." The man handed Marvin a small sealed envelope and reached across Marvin to open the car door. "Best get going."
Marvin slid out of the car and lugged his little suitcase up the steps and into the front hall. Its walls shone of polished marble and angels of stone stood vigil in niches. Marvin had never seen such things except in church, and then never in such quantity.
He got lost twice; once he wound up in a drafty janitorial closet, and then staring into a classroom filled with unfriendly children and a severe professor, who responded to the interruption with a fixed stare over his bifocals. Marvin left quickly.
He finally found the right hall, the right door, and the right desk behind that door. An elderly man who looked like he might be more comfortable in the cemetery next door greeted him with a tired but friendly smile.
"Welcome, my boy. Have papers, do you?"
Marvin assumed he meant the envelope. He handed it to the man.
The man perused the note slowly, finally setting it down and pulling from a desk drawer another set of papers. Marvin just watched, occasionally looking around at the ornate appointments in the room. The man scribbled at the papers for a bit, then stamped them with various insignias, then turned them around and offered Marvin a pen.
"Sign here," he said.
Marvin peered at the papers and saw many big words.
"Don't have all day," the man encouraged.
Marvin scrawled his little signature where he was told.
"And... there," the man pointed at another spot.
Marvin signed over and over. Finally, the man nabbed the papers up, tossed them into his desk drawer, and slammed it shut. He gave Marvin a small slip of paper.
"Out the door, turn left, go to the end of the hall, up the stairs..."
Marvin got lost again.
He finally made his way through a large double doorway and into a long hall filled with bunk beds. The slip of paper led him to his own bed, number 113... a top bunk. He hauled his little suitcase up, then himself, and stared out the window. Almost at once he fell asleep.
Written, illustrated and Copyright © 2001 by Kevin Kelm