Spooky Duke didn’t care much for the house he died in. The new owners were committed materialists, so they weren’t tuned in at all to his manifestations. They brushed off the little they saw as light anomalies or unperceived earth tremors. How they could rationalize away their fishbowl being turned upside down with an unperceived tremor dumbfounded the ghost. Did they think the goldfish swam across the room to the glass of water?
Duke called on his friend Marco DePaulo, Realtor for Petrification Properties, to find him a more suitable haunt.
The first place Marco took him was a big colonial on the upper side of Old Town, where big families lived cheaply in houses long abandoned by the rich. There were five bedrooms, a library and a study, as well as a few parlors set up for games, crafts, and intimate entertaining.
The Bertrands, a Catholic family, had seven children, most of them old enough to believe in ghosts, but not too old to pay them any attention. Duke relished the potential for a good haunting.
He started small to get a sense of what he had to work with. He knocked the stuffed animals off a shelf in Terri’s room, their eight-year-old, startling her from her bed. She ran down to her parents in the dining room and told them something weird was in her room. Duke cracked a satisfied smile.
Duke wandered through the walls into Gina’s room. She was twelve. He thickened until he was visible and smiled at her with his best grimace. She squeaked and ran down to her parents.
He found Thomas in the game room, tossing beanbags into a bucket. Duke walked right through him. Thomas barked, “Ah!” He shuddered and held himself. “Wh…who’s there?” A perceptive kid.
Duke withdrew into the attic to avoid overdoing things the first day, but he slipped downstairs at dinnertime to listen to the tense speculations about a ghost in the house.
Jon teased Thomas and the two girls. “Be sure to check your mashed potatoes. A legion of ghosts could be hiding in them.”
His mother Giselle admonished him. “Is this the way an older brother should treat his younger siblings? Say you’re sorry.”
Jon scrunched his face and looked at his plate. “I’m sorry.”
When the table was set and everyone seated, they made the sign of the cross and prayed. “Bless us, Lord, and these, thy gifts, that we are about to receive from thy bounty through Christ our Lord. And may the souls of the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace, Amen.”
Duke felt a great release from his attachment to the world.
No, no! I’m not ready to go back!
He fled the house and found a garden shed for the night.
The next day, Marco took him to a house in the suburbs owned by some occultists. He fluttered his fingers in anticipation.
They sensed him as soon as he’d entered the house, and that night they used a seance to take control of him, force him to dance a jig, make him slap a prudish man in the circle across the face, and extract a groan of inner sorrow from him. “No one understands my sense of humor!” he moaned. More dancing, over the table and around it.
The prudish man sneezed and broke the circle, releasing Duke from their grip. He escaped and overnighted in a vacant doghouse.
Duke spent most of the next day with Marco, a little gun-shy about choosing the next place. He rejected a townhome with Mormons, a mobile home with bikers, and a frat house full of Beliebers. They’d just about reached the end of the day when they came upon a small, one-bedroom home inhabited by a third grade school teacher near retirement, named Marcy. Easy pickings.
As she was eating her oatmeal with peaches and milk, he united his incorporeal ectoplasm with the cereal, and out of the bowl he pushed his face towards her, sneering with an oaten face, his ghostly moan spraying milk.
Marcy flinched back in her chair, eyes wide in surprise, staring into his peachy eyes. Then she laughed. With gusto she laughed.
Duke stopped, confused. He watched her for a minute as she struggled for control. He grinned slightly.
She gets me!