This is a bit of what will eventually be “The Groundskeeper: Hoodoo You Do” when I’m finished with it. The joke is all on the First Reader!
Chloe put her hands on her hips. Her purple hair, now with blue tips, was slipping out of her messy bun and tickling her forehead, where it wasn’t sticking to the sweat. It was itchy, and she wanted a shower, and iced tea, but first…
“Spit it out, Selah.”
The boy twisted his newsboy cap in his hands, looking down at the battered toes of his own boots.
“It was in the cupboard under the stairs.” He said, speaking so rapidly his words almost blended together.
“What was?” Chloe understood him. She’d had conversations with him before. She knew she was making progress with him. Sometimes he looked at her grass-stained sneakers instead of his boots.
He’d been, as best she could tell from their brief chats, an honest-to-god newsboy before his death. From the looks of his clothing, that was sometime in the 1920s. Before the Great Depression, she thought.
“I’d got a job.” He said.
Well, that made nothing at all clearer.
“In a cupboard?” Chloe prompted. That seemed improbable, but then again, her job was equally so. Caretaker to graves, and those inhabitants of this cemetery who had inconsiderately opted not to stay buried. Like Selah.
“In a buildin’ doing maintenance.” He clarified dutifully. “It was mah first day.”
“Ok.” Chloe cultivated patience. She’d been doing that a lot, since she came to Belleview. It helped, knowing she could go to Mr. Cruor with knotty problems.
“I was tole to clean out the cupboard.” He went on. “Mah boss, he said that storage space was needed.”
She caught a flicker of something. Almost an upward glance. He was looking at her shoes now, which was good.
“I was ignorant.” He sniffled. A wet sound, and a bit ominous. “I din’ know, until that day, what a ghast was.”
Chloe, it had to be confessed at least to herself, was also ignorant of a ghast.
“There was a bundle of ol’ clo’es. A shoe stickin’ out.”
He turned his head and looked off to his left. Chloe followed the direction of his gaze, but didn’t see anything. She looked back at Selah’s uncovered, bowed head, and suppressed the urge to tell him to stand up straight and look into her eyes. She knew from past experience that would just get him to run.
“I bent over to pick it up and… it moved.” Selah shuddered. “I squealed like a pig. Then there was this wispy sorta laugh. And a voice in the shadows all cracked, sayin’ ‘don’t play with your food, Lila.’ and then I ran.”
“Wise,” Chloe commented. “What was it? A ghast?
“I’m aghast it was a ghast.” Benny’s voice made both of them jump. Chloe’s heart went up with her, and stuck in her throat as she came back down. By the time she had caught her breath, Selah was gone.
Chloe rolled her eyes so hard she could almost see behind her.
“Benny! That is an awful joke!”
The ghoul giggled so hard he bent almost double.
I was prompted this week by Becky Jones with “Your first day on the job as building maintenance and your boss asks you to clear out the old storage space under the stairs. What you find changes your entire world view.”
I prompted Becky in return (we don’t plan these things! ) with “ripped from the headlines: “Oklahoma police found their vehicle contained a rattlesnake, a canister of uranium, an open bottle of whiskey and a firearm” Why…?”
To join in on the fun, and to read other prompt responses, go on over to More Odds Than Ends. We’d love to have you!