COVINGTON, KY–In what promises to be the biggest neighborhood event since July's golf-ball dismantling, Andy Mefford, 9, announced plans Monday to exhume Marshall, his sister's deceased pet gerbil.
"Guys," said Mefford, addressing fellow fourth-graders from the jungle gym during recess, "this Saturday morning, right after Batman Beyond, I'm gonna dig up Marshall to see what he looks like now."
Marshall, who died June 24 of complications from an eye infection, was laid to rest the following day beneath the large oak tree in the Meffords' backyard. The gerbil was entombed in a styrofoam hamburger container, along with a daisy and a poem written by its devoted owner, 7-year-old Kimberly Mefford.
Mefford's decision to exhume the rodent, made partly in response to a recent Learning Channel Secrets Of The Pyramids documentary, has sparked excitement among children throughout the Reardon Street area.
"That's gonna be so cool," said classmate Danny Stossel. "I bet it's all gross, with worms crawling out of his eyes and stuff."
"My brother once dug up a parakeet after it was buried for, like, three weeks, and it was all black and hard," next-door neighbor Douglas Beane, 10, said. "This'll probably be even better."
Added Beane: "I wonder if the tail will still be there."
Despite such enthusiasm, not all neighborhood children support the gerbil exhumation.
"You can't dig somebody up after you bury them," said Amy Coryell, 7, who will not attend the dig. "That disturbs their spirit, and then you can get haunted by the dead ghost, I bet."
Speculation regarding the contents of the Marshall gravesite is running high, with guesses ranging from a gerbil skeleton to a gerbil zombie. The latter theory was posited by Bradley Dorner, 9, who has been fixated by death and zombification since an Sept. 15 viewing of Return Of The Living Dead on cable TV while his parents were out at a play.
"Seriously, there are these zombies, and they're dead bodies, and they come back to life and try to eat your brains," a visibly agitated Dorner told Mefford upon learning of the plan. "Including animals. I saw it."
Unbowed by the prospect of attacks by the undead, Mefford reiterated his intention to open the styrofoam crypt. As a concession to those concerned about zombies, however, basic precautions against the undead will be taken, including the presence of garlic, a cross, and a Bible. In addition, a large shovel will be kept nearby for the purpose of hitting Marshall if he moves posthumously in any way.
As an added measure, all children who plan to attend the ceremony have been sworn to strict secrecy by Mefford.
"My mom is gonna take my sister to dance lessons at 11, and my dad never gets up before noon on Saturdays, so we have to do it between 11 and 12," Mefford told his jungle-gym audience. "But nobody tell anybody, or we'll get busted, okay?"
Mefford warned potential security threats that compromising the secrecy of the event by tipping off neighborhood adults or engaging in any other form of "telling" would result in their being barred from all future Mefford-sponsored events, including street-hockey games and secret-fort meetings. In addition, tattle-tales would be subject to revocation of treehouse-hideout privileges for one year.