The Barrow Bovidae
Dawn stood on the street corner, wearing her usual faded work jeans smeared with soil. Typical archaeologist’s wardrobe. She looked up as I approached, tucked her plum-coloured fringe behind her ear and smiled.
“You’re early for a change,” I said.
“Did you remember all the stuff?”
I flipped my satchel open to show her the notepad, graph paper, measuring tape, pencil, eraser and torch.
“It’s so good to be out of that stuffy office for a change,” I said.
“I know, today’s gorgeous,” she said, smiling. “Where’re we off to anyway?”
“Seaforde. Apparently there’s some nice one’s at the back of the graveyard.”
My study of Mausoleums had taken me practically all over the county during June. Most of the tombs I had surveyed held the skeletons of couples who had owned considerable wealth during their lifetimes. How romantic. Or maybe ironic, considering I was now climbing inside the ancient coffins to take measurements with my ex-girlfriend in tow.
Dawn was a clingy sort of person. She had offered herself up as a volunteer to take notes for me, as I shouted out numbers in semi-darkness. Not too many girls would do such a task. Or maybe it was because of the perks to the job – like the fact that we had a casual thing going. My volunteer in more ways than one. In any case, she was happy with the arrangement, no strings attached and all that. Nothing a man could complain about, really.
The artistic study was coming along well. I would plot a scale version of the Mausoleum, then sketch in the intricate stonework of the facade later. I had covered a nice range of mausoleums in my study – from the more elaborate nineteenth century style crypts, to the simple, weatherworn tombs of the seventeenth century.
We went by bus. The journey took about forty minutes and was uneventful. We passed the house that I vowed I would one day own. I wondered how long it took to build it and what the perimeter measured. Dawn complained about her hay-fever. Once we got off, I navigated with my beat-up map and we found the forgotten graveyard down a stony lane.
My eyes scanned the scattered gravestones that were like small rain-worn hillocks dotted around the site.
“I don’t see any Mausoleums here,” I said, squinting against the afternoon light. “Do you?”
Dawn shook her head. “Looks like there could be a barrow up there, though.” She pointed towards what looked like a miniature, grass-covered, Ayers rock on top of the hill. It was partly hidden behind a clump of trees, but appeared to be no more than about fifteen feet long and about six feet high. The grassy hillock certainly did look like a long barrow. I jerked my bag up my shoulder and climbed the weed jungle of the hill with Dawn at my side.
As I approached, I noticed a metre-wide stone slab above two crudely hewn rectangular entrance posts, each no more than a foot thick. The passageway was blocked with soil and grass. Dawn and I worked to pull away the turf, until the entrance was clear.
“Weird,” I said, scratching my ear. I bent down and entered through the narrow doorway. “Wonder why it isn’t marked on the map?”