Melissa turned up her pointed nose and sneered as though someone had pushed a spadeful of manure under it. “Acorn and jam sandwiches?”
“No, marmalade,” corrected Joel. “Acorn and marmalade… in a currant bun.”
“What person with normal taste buds would eat acorns and jam in a currant bun?”
“Sammy does, though she much prefers raw mushrooms and honey in Rivita. She used to like vinegar on them as well, but it made them soggy,” explained Joel. “She's got these amazing teeth and likes to bite into things.”
David was beginning to lose his appetite for the dinner of grilled sausages waiting for him at home. “Yuk! Where did you find this character? Sitting on a toadstool?”
Joel smiled agreeably. “No, actually she was sitting on the old mayor's tomb - You know, the one with the Victorian angels.” It was no good; he knew the expression his friends wore all too well. “You don't want to come and meet her then?”
“I'm playing tennis with Angela,” said Melissa hastily.
David also backed away. “Me Mum will wonder where I am.”
Joel shrugged and grinned to himself as they scurried off. Melissa was a snob, and David scared of his own shadow.
Joel pushed his hands into his pockets and sauntered off towards St Minion's, the parish church, and wondered how Sammy would like the sandwich he had in his satchel. This time he had excelled himself. His parents were going to wonder about the amount of mustard he had used, though they surely wouldn't miss that slice of elderly pineapple and crusts from yesterday's loaf.
Joel picked a few sprigs of hawthorn and half ripe sloes. There were several ancient yew trees in the graveyard and Sammy was crazy enough to try a handful of their berries for dessert instead. As they got on so well, he didn't want their friendship to end abruptly.
There she was in the late afternoon sun, sitting cross legged on the corn merchant's tomb.
Joel joined Sammy and pulled out the pungent brown paper bag containing her sandwich. As his friend smelt the fragrant meal her eyebrows arched in approval, and in four gulps it was gone.
The friends chatted about dragons, food, and boys who wear Bermuda shorts, and then Joel pointed to the hardly legible inscription below them. “Tell me about the corn merchant?”
Sammy chewed a few bitter sloe berries before remembering, “Oh yes, his family built a watermill. The local miller was afraid of losing business so paid some locals to divert the course of the stream one night.” Sammy gave a grin so wide she resembled a frog.
“The stream flooded several orchards and destroyed the trees, so the farmers burnt down his windmill.”
“Then what happened?”
“Black Death arrived the next day. They all died.” Sammy pointed to several medieval gravestones. “Everyone.”
The sun was setting and painting everything with its long red rays.
Joel shuddered. “I'd better go now, Sammy. Will you be here next week?”
“As long as there's no weddings or funerals. They don't like me being down here when there's weddings and funerals.”
Joel jumped down from the tomb. “Have you ever tried pitta bread?”
Sammy scratched her flat nose. “Filled with those nice crunchy corn bits and onion?”
“Cornflakes and onion?” Joel shrugged. “If you like.” He fastened his satchel and put the smelly brown paper bag which had contained Sammy's sandwich in the graveyard waste bin. “See you next week then.”
Sammy wistfully watched him go.
As the sun set, two granite wings unfurled with a sharp crack from her short back. A brisk downbeat propelled her upwards to the corner of the 60 foot high bell tower where she precariously perched, overlooking the small parish. Slivers of quartz glinted in Sammy's eyes as her smile became stony, and a water spout appeared between her lips.
The pride of St Minion's, the church's last intact gargoyle, glowed as she caught the last rays of the descending sun.