“I—I don’t think we’re supposed to be here after dark.” Andy played with his tail nervously.
“Of course we’re not. Do you want to talk to your grandpa?” Lester stopped between headstones labeled FATHER and MOTHER, cut deeply enough to be read in the moonlight.
A car drove by. Kevin turned so his high-necked vampire cape was toward the road. “Come on, guys, we’d better get further in. If the police see us, we’re toast.”
“Lead us to your grandfather’s grave.” Lester intoned. He gestured for Andy to lead. He knew exactly where the grave was, but wasn’t about to admit that.
They followed Andy. Milo was last, feeling ridiculous in his pumpkin costume and tacky candy bag. He kept imagining he heard echoes of that old Snoopy cartoon as his oversized orange body floated over the gravestones. He’d wanted to be something scary, but Lester had bribed him to carry stuff, and he needed something that could hide the bag. Belatedly, it occurred to him he could have been a hunchback, and just covered his backpack with a cool, ripped-up costume shirt. And still got the Game Boy. He kicked a gravestone in disgust.
Andy wove back and forth. Lester started to wonder if he would ever find it.
Kevin tripped over an old, worn stone and bashed his knee. There was only a little blood, but the scent seemed strong.
“Are you OK?” Andy rushed to his friend. “We can go back, if—”
“No, I’m fine.” Kevin stood up, grimaced, and limped forward. “I want to see this ghost.”
“It’s just Grandpa.”
“He’s still a ghost. If he shows up.”
Lester laid a hand on Andy’s shoulder. “We have to start before midnight.”
They walked on, more slowly.
Finally, Andy found it, breathing a sigh of relief. “There you are, Grandpa. I brought you—“
“Wait.” Lester said.
Kevin sank to the ground with a curse.
Lester continued, “Not yet. It has to be done right.”
Andy frowned. Milo reached inside the pumpkin, bringing out a silver platter, candlesticks, candles, and “Spooky” incense sticks.
Lester set them up, right on the grave and lit the candles.
The other boys looked around uneasily. They were deep in the graveyard, and couldn’t see any streetlights or hear any cars. The only light came from the moon, which looked eerie, tattered thin clouds giving it a ghostly aspect.
Lester walked around the area, waving a lit incense stick.
“What’s that for? It smells like a wet dog!” Kevin wrinkled his nose.
Milo snickered. “It smells more like Pine-Sol to me!”
Lester frowned. Jokes would not help his intended effect. “Hush, I’m casting the magic circle! We have to use incense or chalk—you want to draw a chalk circle in all this grass?” Lester abandoned the circle and walked back behind the gravestone. “Now I’ve got to start again, ‘cause you guys were goofing off.” He glared at them. “Look, once I get this done, we’ve got to hold hands. Get over here and get ready.”
Kevin rubbed his leg, near the bleeding knee. “How about we hold hands over here?”
“You want to speak to the guy in that grave? That wouldn’t be fair to Andy, but—“
“No, no, I’m coming.”
“Good. Now get ready, and be quiet.” Lester started to circle again, an eerie figure in dark robes. Once he returned to where he started, he bent over, planted the incense stick in the ground, and surreptitiously pushed the button on the tape recorder he’d hidden there.
Then he settled next to Andy, and they made a circle with their hands. Kevin sneezed, and Lester glared. But he was on a timetable now. “Repeat after me. In the name of the gods and spirits,”
“In the name of the gods and spirits,”
“We are here to call Andy’s Grandpa from the grave.”
“We are here to call Andy’s Grandpa from the grave.” Milo and Kevin repeated dutifully.
Andy, however, just said “Hey, Grandpa—come out! I brought your favorite, Grandpa—a caramel apple!”
Lester could hear the music he’d programmed starting now, very low. There were more words he’d memorized, but Andy’s cheery outburst threw him off.
Andy placed the caramel apple on the plate, and the other boys added candy from their bags. Lester hurried to do so too, trying to guess how much time was passing, and how to change his planned invocation.
The light brightened as soon as the caramel apple landed on the plate. It twisted oddly, then firmed, and there, all in light, was Andy’s Grandpa. He was laughing, laughing so hard tears poured from his eyes. Lester’s jaw dropped, even as his music rose.
The ghost wiped its eyes. “Andy, my boy, you’ll have to eat that apple for me. “ Andy nodded, and took the apple in his hands like it was precious.
“And Milo, Kevin, good to see you. Is it as exciting to see a ghost as you thought?”
The other boys nodded, eyes wide.
Finally, the ghost turned to Lester, laughing again, “And you, boy. What are we going to do with you? Trying to scare your friends with recorded music and pyrotechnics!”
Andy looked at Lester. “You mean this was all a joke?”
The ghost patted him, its insubstantial hand flickering as it went a bit into his shoulder. “Don’t get mad, my boy. This did get you here in time to say goodbye, after all.” The music rose behind them. “Besides, as it turned out, the joke’s on him!”
Andy and the ghost talked for a bit, words the others could never remember, afterward. The spooky music played incongruously in the background. Lester wondered what happened to the words he’d recorded with the music.
A while after the tape recorder clicked off, the ghost started to fade. “I love you, Andy. That won’t change. And, boys, I’ll miss you. Get home safe, and be sure to get Lester to show you those special effects.” The ghost, laughing again, gave Lester a thumbs-up, and was gone.
Copyright 2009 Deirdre M. Murphy
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