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Bonus Story

Below is a bonus chapter that doesn't appear in 'Two Seasons', nor will it appear in the follow-up novel, 'Ma's Diner'. It's purely for your enjoyment and to give you an idea of my writing style, and familiarize you with the characters. If you haven't read 'Two Seasons' please visit the 'Characters' section of the site to get an idea of who they are, it may make the chapter more enjoyable for you! If you have read 'Two Seasons', I think you'll enjoy the extra story! *

*My apologies for the formatting. There were restrictions based on the scope that my website would allow.

Ma’s Halloween Scare

 

 

 

“It’s stupid, that’s what it is!”

“It ain’t stupid, Ma. It’s, good, clean fun!” Selectperson Daley responded to the grumpy old woman that was seated in the second row. 

On this evening at the early fall monthly meeting was the mayor at the head folding table with Selectpersons Jacob Daley seated to one side and Paul Doody on the other with Constable Bob in a metal folding chair off to one end. In the first row of the audience sat the Reverend Percible Winkin, with Ma and Elmer directly behind him. On the opposite side of the room in the same row were the McIntyre Brothers, Wally, and Joshua. Seated directly behind Ma was Smirnoff and his wife, Cicely, and in the last row with his head down buried in his snowy white beard was Old Marmaduke, his arms folded across his skinny chest and his long legs stretched out in front of him. Ma’s nemesis and Paul Doody’s wife, Mattie, was also in attendance behind the McIntyre brothers. 

Mayor Wiggleswort continued in the attempts to convince their town matriarch with a hint of pleading in his tone, “It’s all in good spirits, Ma. You know that they got that Fright at the Fort thing down there in Fort Knox, and other towns have their own Halloween traditions. Why can’t we have a haunted house right here in East Puddleduck for the kids to enjoy?”

Dressed in her usual faded floral-patterned sundress and swampers, and with her arms folded and perched on her portly torso, Ma glared at the mayor. “Okay there, Dinglehead, let me get this straight! Do you really have it in your tiny brains that you’re going to set up a haunted house out at the old Skeeter Dyer property?! Well, let me explain a few things to you! First, there’s no proof at all that Old Skeeter is still rocking his dead ass in that chair in the barn’s hayloft to begin with!”

“You’re just being superstitious, Ma,” Bob chimed in. “You know you think he’s still up there too.”

Ma turned her attention to the constable, “Okay, fine! Let’s just say that he is, which he ain’t! How are you morons planning on getting all the children out to the property? Hmmmm? That old farmhouse is way down in the woods off an old tote road!” Ma pointed her stubby finger at the lawman, “Not to mention, Einstein, there’s a big peat bog along that stretch of woods before you get there, in case you don’t remember! What are you gonna do, go get one of them airboats and bring it back from the Florida Everglades to take the kids out there, one by one?!” Ma nodded sternly and sat back in her chair. El reached over and patting her on the shoulder in an effort to calm his wife.

“I hate to say it, Mister Mayor, but Ma’s correct,” the reverend mentioned from his first-row seat, his back to her as he looked forward at the select board members. “There’s not much of a chance of getting anyone to go out there, especially at night around Halloween. Not to mention, that farmhouse is quite dilapidated and not very safe for children to be wandering through.”

The mayor stared towards the ceiling in an attempt to find an answer to their dilemma hidden within the water stains on the drop-down ceiling tiles as Paul Doody spoke up, “Hey, what about the old schoolhouse? It’s been vacant for years ever since Old Lady Crotchrot up and died in there and they closed the place down. There’s no doubt in my mind that place is haunted by her ghost and it’s nearly in the center of town right nearby. That could be our haunted mansion for the kids!”

“Her name wasn’t Crotchrot, it was Cobblepot. And, she died of natural causes,” Old Marmaduke’s monotone voice emitted from the last row, never bothering to lift his head as he spoke.

Ma, who was on the edge of her chair and looking forward, turned her body and shook her chubby finger in Marmaduke’s direction in agreement with his statement, and then swung her pointer finger back at the mayor. “Exactly! That crabby old teacher died when she was in the school’s crapper and her walker got away from her! When she reached forward to grab it she keeled over from a stroke is all! There was nothing supernatural about it! For Chrissake, she was about a hundred and twelve when it happened!” Ma began to rock forward and stood halfway up as she continued to yell at the town’s council, “And that ain’t no mansion, neither! It’s just one tiny room and that puny, little bathroom that she died in, that’s all!” Elmer reached up and brought his wife back to a seated position as Ma scowled at him in return for his efforts.

As if he hadn’t been paying any attention to the complaining woman, Daley continued, speaking directly to the mayor, “Maybe she didn’t die of natural causes, Mister Mayor. Maybe she was murdered or something! Maybe she committed suicide! There was no official investigation that ever took place! Johnson here doesn’t even know how to conduct one!” 

Constable Bob twiddled his thumbs and frowned at the floor in response to the criticism.

The mayor whispered to the ceiling tiles once again, scratching his chin, “He could be right. She could have died in a violent way. That mansion could very well be haunted.” 

Bob leaned forward to address the select board in defense of himself, “I checked her pulse that day! There was no sign of a struggle with her walker or anything else. Ma’s right, it was natural causes from old age.”

It was Doody’s turn again to ignore others and speak up, “Maybe she hung herself or used a gun! Maybe her ghost is still hanging in there with a hole in its noggin!”

Ma’s eyes rolled as she began shaking her head, her arms back tightly folded on top of her bosom.

“She was on the floor!” Bob answered with sarcasm, “There wasn’t any rope, nor a hole in her head neither!”

“Oh, for Chrissake,” Ma turned around in her seat, strategically utilizing her butt cheeks in the assist. She stared back at Smirnoff and Cicely, who both flashed her the “I don’t know” expression on their amused faces. Ma then glanced past the two to Old Marmaduke, who remained motionless, however, his eyes peered up and he blew the old woman an air kiss. She disgustingly turned back and looked over to the brothers, who glanced back and shrugged their shoulders at her. She finally turned fully back to El, who simply raised his eyebrows.

“That’d make a great haunted mansion, Mister Mayor!” Daley shouted and Doody displayed his agreement with frantic nodding of his head.

The mayor also endorsed the idea with a wide smile, “I do believe we have something here. A haunted house at the old school building it is!” The mayor raised his gavel just as Ma's voice cut him off.

“Hey, idiots!” She couldn’t hold her comments any further and she rocked to her feet before Elmer or Smirnoff could make a grab for her, although they both tried. “I told you before, that schoolhouse is only one tiny room and a small crapper! The whole thing is no bigger than a public outhouse to begin with! What are you gonna do, send the kids inside alone by themselves one by one and have the volunteers throw scary looks at them through the boarded-up windows?! Not to mention, again, that nobody was ever murdered in there! There are no ghosts in that place! Don’t make more of something than it is!”

 

Paul Doody whined in response, “It’s big enough. There’s an attic in there.”

 

“It’s a crawlspace!”

The mayor attempted a bit of logic, “Well, it worked just fine until the building aged out and we were forced to move the children to a more modern location over in Skunksquirt and merge with their middle school.”

“You know good and well that we had to move!” Ma threw her arms out in front of herself and blurted, “It was when Stella Babadook’s youngest became of school age and it made six kids in that tiny schoolhouse, and the capacity was only five! If we hadn’t moved, them kids would’ve been sitting on top of each other with Old Crotchrot yelling at them from the parking lot!”

“Her name was Cobblepot.”

Ma tilted her head and yelled, “Shut up!”, to the side wall, making her words bounce off it and back in the direction of Old Marmaduke, who’d corrected her.

“What if there is a ghost in there, Mister Mayor?” Bob leaned forward and remarked, “Maybe we should check it out first. You know, make sure we aren’t putting anyone in danger.”

Ma’s eyes rolled as she sat back down in disgust, throwing her arms into the air.

The mayor answered as he scratched his chin with his gavel, “Well, we could, I suppose. We probably should send someone in first. Nobody’s been in there for quite a number of years. You’re right, we should check it out and make sure it’s safe for the children and the volunteers. Make certain no ghosts and such are going to pop out of the walls at them.”

“Why don’t you do like they do on those haunted television shows and have someone spend a night in the schoolhouse first?” Percible remarked in his usual pompous tone, “You know, I watch those shows quite often when the weather’s good enough to get decent reception. They always go in at night when the spirits are most active. And, they usually antagonize the spirits with negativity which seems to bring the best reactions. Maybe we should try the same.” The preacher displayed an amusing grin and, with his head still tilted forward, he cocked it while his eyes darted off to the side, motioning to the grumpy woman behind him, and the room went quiet.

Ma, realizing something was up, looked up and slowly turned to the room and noticed that everyone was staring at her. “Oh, hell, no! Haunted or not I’m not going to be the one to go spend a night in there! You can all get that idea right out of your foolish heads! Every time someone comes up with a stupid idea, you all expect me to do something about it. Well, not this time!” She sternly nodded to Smirnoff, who smiled and blew her an air kiss. The looks on his, and Cicely’s faces, reflected the hilarity they were experiencing in the discussion that was taking place.

“What’s the matter, Wilomena?” The sarcastic tone emitting from Mattie Doody, “Are we too superstitious, or just too chicken?” A bit of giggling came from the room, specifically from the McIntyres and the Reverend.

Ma’s head snapped to Mattie, “I ain’t neither of those!”

Mattie leaned forward in her seat, and with the same sarcasm, “Then what is it? Hmmmm? You’re supposed to be the fearless matriarch of this town. Are you scared of a tiny little schoolhouse?”

Ma snapped her scowling head back forward to see the four unwise men at the head tables, all with their eyebrows raised and waiting for a response. She turned to Elmer, who simply shrugged his shoulders. She looked back forward to see that Percible had turned in his chair and was staring back at her through the reading glasses that were perched on the bridge of his upturned nose. He too was waiting for a response. Ma stuck a finger in the air and opened her mouth to speak, thought for a moment without utterance, lowered her finger, raised one eyebrow, and an evil smile formed on her face. “Fine,” she said calmly, “I’ll do it,” as she sat back in her chair, “I have two conditions, though.” The preacher’s eyebrows lowered, along with his head as he stared at the woman that was gazing back at him. “First, that Mattie goes in too…”

“...Oh, no…!”

“Second! That the preacher here comes along!” Ma had a full-on, toothy smile displayed.

“Why me?”

Ma’s scowl returned and she leaned forward and stuck her pudgy pointer finger in the pastor’s face, “Because! I want a preacher in there with me just in case there is something to this whole paranormal thing!” She looked up to the mayor, “I want the Holy Ghost and Mrs. Chicken in that schoolhouse with me or I don’t go! Besides, between the three of us, there won’t be any room for a ghost in that tiny building!”

“Ghosts don’t take up much space, Ma,” Bob responded in a serious, soft voice. “They mostly just float around the room.”

“Oh, my goodness.” The mayor sighed, rolling his eyes in disbelief at the lawman’s comments before raising his gavel again and speaking back up, “Fine, it’s decided then.” 

“Decided by whom?!” Mattie blurted as Percible, who’d turned back forward, pointed to his chest, and shook his head slowly, obviously also in protest at having been duped into participating. 

“Excuse me,” Marmaduke’s voice was heard once again from the back row, “don’t those ghost followers usually have some sort of fancy devices and such when they go inside them places to detect the paranormal? What are these three supposed to use to conjure Old Cobblepot, their wit and charm?”

Bob perked up and pointed, “That’s true, Mister Mayor. Most of them ghosts are invisible. They need them electrical gadgets in case you can’t see anything and the ghosts need something to channel through to let you know they’re around.”

The mayor stared at the ceiling again, “Well, we don’t have fancy things like that around here and no money or time to get any. We’re just going to need to come up with something on our own.” He looked back to the room, “It seems to me the only ones that have any electrical experience are the McIntyre’s here, and maybe Runyon. It seems between the three of them they could come up with something.” 

The McIntyre brothers looked at each other, smiled, and nodded in agreement, proud that they were considered to be experts at inventing useful electronic devices, or experts in anything for that matter.

The mayor raised his gavel for the third time, “It’s agreed then!” As he brought the gavel down, striking the piece of hand-cut wood he had sitting in front of him on the table, flipping it into the air and onto the floor below.

“I never agreed!” Mattie’s voice rang out as Percible stood up and turned, a blank expression on his now less-than-confident face and his arms raised to his chest in defense of himself. He looked down at Ma, who simply chuckled an evil, little laugh back at him before standing up to leave.

 

* * * * * *

 

It was just two weeks before Halloween on a clear, starry night. The time was just after 9:00 p.m. and there was a deep-orange, full Harvest Moon in the sky that appeared close enough to reach out and grab. Coyotes could be heard howling in the distance and there was a slight, eerie whistling of the wind through the trees surrounding the old schoolhouse. Standing outside and under a singular, dimly lit streetlight in the parking area was a small group that consisted of everyone that had attended the meeting, minus one. Both Runyon and Puut Voisine had also decided to show up and see what the excitement and chatter was all about and to see if Old Lady Cobblepot’s ghost was actually going to show itself. Everyone was milling around, impatiently waiting for Ma to arrive and looking over the tiny, however ominous structure. The aging schoolhouse had stood since the late 1800s and was of stone construction, the big, wooden front doors were tall and rounded at the top and all the windows had been boarded over many years ago. The roof was covered in moss and missing many of its slate shingles, and the stone foundation and front stone steps were crumbling.

“She ain’t gonna show.”

“She’ll be here,” Elmer answered Jacob’s remark.

The mayor chimed in, checking his watch, “Well, she better show up. We plan to open up this here schoolhouse next Friday as the town’s Halloween haunted house. Ruby Red’s already agreed to organize the volunteers and do the makeup for everyone’s costumes. 

Puut leaned into Runyon and said softly in his heavy French-accented voice, “I’m going to volunteer just to see what Ruby will be wearing. I bet she’ll be all done up as a sexy lady vampire or a skimpy-dressed nurse or something.” Puut’s smile was as wide as his long, salt-and-pepper handlebar mustache. Runyon just rolled his eyes in response, knowing good and well that regardless of what Ruby was to be wearing, it would only serve to tease his friend, as the high-maintenance Ruby Red still wasn’t about to make the town’s resident survivalist her steady beau.

The townsfolk heard the engine of the old Chevy approach as Ma wheeled the speeding vehicle into the parking area, kicking up dirt dust that quickly overtook the small crowd like a dense fog as she slammed the truck into neutral and yanked on the hand brake which made a loud, ripping noise. The onlookers coughed and gagged as the dust settled and Ma dismounted from the driver’s seat. All eyes were on the woman, who, along with her usual old sundress and brown shit-kicker boots, had a baseball catcher’s mask covering her face, along with football shoulder pads and chest protection. In one hand was a tennis racket and in the other a hockey stick, and a picnic basket hanging off her wrist.

“What the hell is all that?” The mayor inquired as he approached the town’s diner owner while others in the small crowd began to giggle. Elmer let out a little laugh and shook his head in response to how his wife was dressed, happy in the fact that he’d taken up Runyon’s offer to bring him to the schoolhouse this evening rather than ride with Ma.

“I ain’t taking no chances!” As she pushed past the mayor with her hockey stick and approached the Reverend Winkin, motioning towards the schoolhouse with her tennis racket, “I might need this stuff just in case there is something in there, and this Bubblehead forgets how to do an exorcism!” 

Percible turned his head away and responded arrogantly, “I watched the movie before coming here. I know exactly what to do.”

Sarcastically, the old woman replied, poking him gently in the chest with the hockey stick, “I’ve seen that movie too, there preacher. In case you missed it, the priests don’t make out too well!” The father glared down with a dirty look on his face in response to her observation.

The mayor waddled back up to the old woman, “What’s in the basket?”

“Garlic and onions!”

“What for?”

“Don’t be an idiot! Vampires!” 

“And the hockey stick?”

“I didn’t have a wooden stake! Besides,” she remarked, waving both of her crude weapons into the air out in front of her, “if there are werewolves or something in this building, I can beat them with these!” 

“There’s no such thing as werewolves or vampires, there Ma.”

“How do you know? Have you ever seen one?”

“No.”

“Well, there you go then. You just don’t know, do you?”

"I know they're ain't any."

"How do ya know? Ever met one?"

"No."

"Well, there ya go."

As the two held their weird conversation, another vehicle arrived and parked alongside the others. Driving the pink-colored, older model Mustang, was Ruby Red. All eyes shifted to the beautician as she exited her car dressed in a flowing black dress, high cut to expose her black heels, long legs, and fishnets, low cut to expose a good deal of the cleavage between her fake boobs, and on her thick-makeup-covered face and head was a long black wig. As she stepped away from her car she bent forward to adjust one of her heels. Puut’s eyeballs nearly popped from their sockets, as did the other menfolks, and the women too raised their eyebrows in response to the peep show before them. 

Ma simply shook her head and remarked, “Elvira’s here.”

When Red stood back up and re-adjusted her top she looked over the small crowd that was all staring at her, “What?”

“Why are you dressed like that?” Mattie inquired with a hint of surprise in her voice, waiving her finger up and down at the “Mistress of the Dark”.

“Aren’t we opening the haunted house tonight?”

“That’s next week.”

Red made a pouty face as Puut, still staring intently with a childlike grin on his face, very similar to the ones on Wally and Joshua’s, inadvertently took a step backward and tripped on his own two feet, tumbling to the ground, “Oomph!”  Ruby waited for his head to pop back up when he rested on his elbows, and she blew him an air kiss, and then another flirty one to the McIntyre’s, along with a wink.

“Oh, for Chrissake,” Ma grumbled and waved her tennis racket at Red, “You’re coming inside with us. Otherwise, all these idiots are going to have wet daydreams while they’re standing out here staring at you, and while we’re inside getting eaten by ghosts!” Red flashed her the “who, me?” look as Ma motioned to Bob, “Open that damn door and let’s get this over with!”

As the lawman climbed the stone steps and began to work on the padlock that had been placed on the door many years ago, the mayor perked up and recalled, “Wait! What about the ghost-finding gadgets?!”

Jacob, shaking his head like a wet cat to bring his focus back from whom he’d been intently staring at, responded, “Oh, yeah! We all got some good stuff put together over here.” As he said this Runyon dropped the tailgate of his pickup truck and he, Wally, and Joshua began removing items from a small box located amongst the other junk in the bed of the truck. The first item to emerge in the hands of a proud, smiling Joshua was a floppy, air-filled piece of rubber.

A sarcastic mayor took the item from Joshua’s hand, “A whoopie cushion? You’ve got to be kidding.”

“Well, we didn’t have one of those electronic devices that lights up or makes noise when a ghost gets near it,” Wally remarked defensively, “so we thought that might work.”

Ma approached and pointed with her hockey stick, “So, let me get this straight, morons. Do you really think that a ghost is going to sit on that thing and make farting noises for us to hear? That’s how they're gonna make their presence known to us?” 

“Well, we don’t have anything else, so you need to take it,” Runyon remarked and removed the next item, a plastic box with a red and black wire attached, and clamps on the ends. He handed it back to the reverend.

“A battery charger?”

“Let me guess, you want us to clamp one end to each of the ghost’s nipples and see if it yells out in pain?”

“No, Ma, don’t be silly. They claim that ghosts are manifested by electricity. You can plug it in and touch the clamps together to charge the air with ions.” Wally was being quite serious, and Bob looked down from the doorway, nodding his head as if he understood the device's use and believed in the intended logic. 

Ma reached over and grabbed the next item, which was sticking out of the box. It was long and made of faded-red plastic. “A moose horn?” Her tone was bitter.

Joshua answered her, “Just in case the ghost can’t use the whoopie cushion.”

Ma’s sigh was obvious, “And you seriously think that if a ghost can't sit on a whoopie cushion, they can blow a moose horn instead?” The old woman’s demeanor turned sarcastic, “Maybe they can do both at the same time and we’ll end up with a brand new national anthem for the town to learn and play each year on the Fourth of July.”

Bob’s head turned again as he fidgeted with the lock and nodded frantically in agreement to the good idea he felt Ma had come up with for the town’s signature jingle. A frowning Ma tossed the moose horn back into the bed of the truck.

The mayor retrieved the next item from the box, a small, hand-held device. He stared oddly at the item. “Is it a mini-recorder?”

Runyon replied, “Yep. They say that ghosts can sometimes be heard on a tiny tape recorder. We thought they should have this turned on while they’re inside the schoolhouse. You know, ask questions and see if they get any responses they can’t hear with their ears. It’s Johnson’s anyway and he never uses it for any real police business, so we thought we might as well make use of it here tonight before the batteries corrode.” 

The frowning constable began fishing through and checking his uniform pockets where he believed his recorder was intended to be, ultimately realizing one of them had stolen it for tonight’s use.

The mayor removed a Polaroid camera from the box, “What’s this for?”

Ma replied annoyingly, “Do you genuinely expect a ghost to pose for us?”

The preacher reached and took the camera from the mayor, “I know what this is for. They say that if you take random photos of a haunted area, you might just catch a ghost in one of the pictures.”

Ma shook her aluminum mesh-protected face as Puut strolled up behind her, dusting the dirt off his clothes, and offered, “If you want, I’ll hold onto that and take a few photos outside here.” He ended his statement by winking in Ruby's direction. The costumed hair-salon owner responded with a dirty “you wish” smirk back at him.

“Shut up, Frenchman,” Ma reached into the box and removed a few bottles of water and flashlights. “These are pretty much the only useful items as far as I can see. We might get thirsty.” Ma pocketed a bottle and flashlight into her sundress and then handed both Mattie and Ruby the same. When she turned to the reverend to provide him a light source and thirst quencher, she inquired, “Speaking of water, did you bring any of the holy kind, there Bubblehead?”

“Certainly not! This is all ridiculous! There are no such things as ghosts or goblins! Not in that building or anywhere else!”

“Well, you better hope not!” Ma turned back to the policeman, “Get that damn door open and let’s get going! It’s already way past my bedtime!”

Bob continued to thumb through the keyring he’d retrieved from the town hall, chock full of all various types of unknown keys until he discovered the correct one and he removed the rusty padlock from the door as the others waited in anticipation of what Ma and her crude, ghost-hunting team may encounter inside the building. Bob, leaning forward as he removed the lock, opened the large wooden door slowly and it creaked on its rusty hinges. He glanced back down to the others who were huddled at the base of the steps, a lump appearing in the lawman’s throat. As the door opened, the cobwebs on the inside tore away, exposing a dark and musty room. Ma stretched her neck out to see inside the tiny schoolhouse and then she glanced up at the preacher, who looked back at her through his reading glasses with a cautious expression on his face. No one started to walk up the stairs.

After a few tense moments, it was Mattie that provided the sarcastic encouragement from behind, “Well? Are you going in or not?!”

“Don’t rush me!” Ma began to slowly walk up the steps, still stretching her neck, adjusting her glasses and squinting, looking inside the dark room as Bob stepped aside from the door. She then glanced back behind, and her nervous look faded as she spied most of the men still staring at Ruby Red who was next in line at the base of the stairs. Ma reached back down and handed the tennis racket to Ruby, and then took the beautician by the arm. “C’mon! Let’s go find a horny ghost for you inside the building!” Ma dragged a reluctant Red up the stone steps and through the doorway, and Percible begrudgingly followed. All three stood just inside the doors as Ma looked back out, “Are you joining the rest of the Ghostbusters, there, Mother Teresa?!” 

Mattie was forced to replace her look of terror with one of overconfidence as she cautiously climbed the decaying stone steps and entered the building while others watched from the ground below. Bob reached and began to close the creaking doors as Ma turned back from inside the doorway ahead of the other three, and he whispered to her, “I’ll be locking you in.”

“What?! Why?” Ma blurted loudly.

“That’s what they do on those haunted shows so the ghosts can’t get away.”

“Are you stupid or something? Don’t you think ghosts can go through doors and walls? The only ones you’ll be locking in are us, you moron!”

Bob seemingly ignored her words as he pulled the door towards him and remarked, “We’ll give you two hours.” Before Ma could reach past the others and make a grab for the door he pulled it tight, “Slam!”, and he placed the lock back on the hasp.

 

“Dumb sonovabitch!” Ma grumbled in the darkness, reaching into her pockets to grab the flashlight and turn it on. When she turned around to the room she came face to face with Percible, who’d poorly decided that he’d attempt to be funny as he was bent down to her, holding his lit flashlight below his face. When Ma turned, face to face with him, Percible let out a loud, “Boo!”

“Jeesus!” Ma belched and reared her head back, striking her noggin on the big wooden doors behind her. Frowning deeply, and with a flashlight in hand, she struck the preacher hard on his shoulder, “Whack!” “Are you entirely stupid or something?! Don’t ever do that again!”

“Ouch!” The preacher let out a yell and took hold of his aching arm.

“The next time you try something like that, you’ll get the hockey stick! I mean it!”

“Sorry.”

“Well, there now. We’ve certainly got the negativity we needed to conjure up some ghosts,” Mattie mentioned. “It’s probably not a good idea to strike a priest, though.”

“Well, he started it with his stupidness!” Ma peered around the preacher to see the other two flashing their lights around the room and, Ma too, poked her light into the darkness and began looking around. In the dim light and through the dust circling the room they all saw that the interior of the schoolhouse, a room only about 30 square feet at best, still had the children’s desks and chairs set up, along with bookcases full of dusty books, and a dust-covered desk at the front of the room in front of a large chalkboard. The ceiling was high, gambrel style with oak logs, and the floor was wooden with large, old, and well-worn hardwood boards that creaked under their feet. Cobwebs filled the corners of the room and hung from the rafters. Ma shined her light to the front to see a tiny coat closet and next to it, the tiny bathroom that Miss Cobblepot had perished within, the walker that she couldn’t reach still tipped over on its side blocking the doorway. Overall, the room had a very creepy vibe to it.

“Just think,” Mattie began as she too shined her light and it glimmered off the walker’s aluminum construction, “right there is where the old schoolteacher died.”

“Maybe there is something to the whole haunted thing. Maybe her spirit is still here,” Red cautiously said, the slight trembling of her hands causing her flashlight to flicker in the darkness. “It all seems like the children could still be sitting right here, too.”

“No, it doesn’t! That’s just silliness that we don’t need!” Ma barked, attempting to convince herself of her own words, “You’re just working yourself up!”

“What should we do with all these things?” Percible asked in general, his shoulder continuing to ache as Mattie set the box down that contained the items that Runyon and the McIntyres had assembled for them.

Ma responded, “Well, the battery charger won’t do us much good, there’s no electricity to the building anymore. The whoopie cushion is just dumb,” as she threw it onto a trash container and then handed the digital recorder to Red. “Here, turn this on if you want, or don’t. I don’t care. You won’t get anything on it anyway!”

“What about the camera?” Percible inquired.

Ma shook her head and said with disgust, “I don’t know. Take pictures if you want, I guess. Ain’t nothin' gonna be on them, anyway. This whole idea is stupid, it’s just an empty schoolroom.”

Ruby Red turned on the micro-recorder and set it on the teacher’s desk as Percible meandered in the darkness, snapping random Polaroids, “Click, flash! Click, flash!” Ma and Mattie stood back-to-back in the center of the room, continuing to shine their lights around.

“We don’t really have to stay two hours, do we?” Mattie turned her head and whispered.

“I don’t see the need to.” The old woman cocked her head and whispered back, “Let’s give it a half hour or so and call it good.” Ma flashed her light back up to the rafters. “I hope they’re ain’t any mice, rats, or bats in here. They’ll scare the crap out of us for sure.”

“Click, flash!” "Click, flash!” Father Winkin continued to walk around the room and snap his photos. 

“Quit playing with that camera! You’re making dark shadows appear!”

“How do you know the shadows aren’t ghosts?”

“Shut up!”

“Click, flash!” Click, flash!” When the camera was empty, Percible set his photos down on one of the children’s desks to wait for the Polaroids to develop as he scanned the room with his flashlight. Unbeknownst to the father, his face displayed the fear he was experiencing at the moment, and his frock was now covered with dust and cobwebs.

Ruby, who’d been sitting on the top of the teacher’s desk and scanning the room with her flashlight, picked up the digital recorder and pushed the "play" button, turning the volume up. The other three looked her way when they heard the initial static sounds and their own voices on the little machine. The recorder had even picked up Ma and Mattie’s whispering from the center of the room quite well. Red held the recorder up to her ears, pulling it away abruptly and staring at the device in disbelief when just after Ma’s voice could be heard referencing the potential for rodents, a deep disembodied voice came through the tiny speaker and was heard to possibly say, “Jump to the left.”

Ma and Mattie’s eyes popped open, as did Percible’s when he looked over to Red, who looked at all three with a surprised and terrified expression on her makeup-caked face.

“Oh, no. That didn’t just say that!” Mattie whispered loudly.

“That was just static! Nothing else!” Ma’s demeanor remained sour, and she blurted out, looking over at Percible who was shaking his head and staring blankly, “Hey, preacher?! Are you okay?”

Still playing the recorder, through the continuing static, Ruby and the others heard the same deep voice, “Step to the right.”

“Holy shit!” Red whispered loudly.

Mattie spun around to Ma, “That can’t be real, can it?!”

“No, it isn’t!” 

“Jump to the left and step to the right?!” Ruby whispered, “What’s it want us to do, the Hokey Pokey?”

“I don’t think it’s the Hokey Pokey, I think it’s the Time Warp,” Percible's crackling voice observed.

“Shut up!”

“It could be the teacher’s voice!” Mattie had a slight panicky tone to her voice. “Maybe it thinks that we’re the school kids or something!”

“Bah!” Ma flashed her light back over to Percible, who was holding his arms to his chest and trembling quite badly. “What’s your problem?! That ain’t real, you know! It's just white noise!”

The father, snapping his head in between Ma and the recorder, and whose mind was racing, attempted, and failed to find an appropriate quote from the good book to cleanse the room that he now had convinced himself was possessed. The father flashed his light around the room and with his other hand he threw the sign of a cross into the air, “Hail Mary full of Grace…if…if…if you don’t eat your meat, you can’t have any pudding! How can you have any pudding if you don’t eat your meat?!”

Red’s eyebrows lowered as she glanced over at the preacher.

“Bubblehead’s losing it.” Ma remarked nonchalantly as she shined her light back over to Red, “Turn that thing off before it wants us to put our hands on our hips.”

Ruby flashed a cheesy grin into Ma’s light, “And do a pelvic thrust that drives us all insane?”

“Shut up, you idiot! It’s all just hogwash and static! Quit scaring the preacher!” 

“Um, Ma?” Mattie’s voice emitted from the darkness. Ma turned to find the woman rummaging through Percible’s Polaroids. Red hopped down off the desk and joined the two while Percible continued to stand still, quaking, and staring blankly around the room, whispering to himself inaudible quotes that were more likely to be song lyrics and not quotes from the Bible. The three women stood together as Mattie thumbed through the stack of photographs. She slowed when she came to the ones that Percible had taken of the bathroom while standing in front of the doorway. The first photo showing the walker tipped over on the floor and the empty bathroom behind it. The next showed the same, however, this time there was what appeared to be a white fog hovering over the toilet. The very next photo, which caused their eyebrows to raise as she slowly thumbed through the stack while the two others held their lights, revealed what appeared to be a thick mist that formed a body and features that resembled an old woman, seated on the toilet seat.

“Holy crap!” Red whispered.

“Oh, my God!” Mattie declared.

“It’s Old Lady Crotchrot on the crapper taking a dump before she died!” Ma blurted.

The reverend, without moving or even seeing the photos, dropped to his knees, clasped his hands together tightly against his chest, and began 'praying' loudly, “The sirens are screaming, and the fires are howling way down in the valley tonight. There's a man in the shadows with a gun in his eye and a blade shining oh so bright…”

The three others, expressions turning to ones of bewilderment, turned their heads to the preacher.

“…Like a bat out of hell, I'll be gone when the morning comes. When the night is over, like a bat out of hell, I'll be gone, gone, gone…”

Ma, returning to reality, shook her head, “Okay, that does it. Bubblehead’s quoting Meatloaf. We’re done here. Enough is enough!”

“What about the pictures?!” Mattie reasoned.

“Glare from the flash, that’s all!”

“But Ma, the voice on the recorder,” Red pleaded.

“It’s just static! Our minds are just playing tricks and we’re scaring ourselves! There’s nothing here! Nothing in those photos and nothing but white noise on that damn recorder! Go ahead, turn it back on and see!”

Ruby scooped the recorder up again and depressed the play button. They heard more static and their own voices, and Percible quoting a rock legend. Red held the recorder to their ears between the three, and after Ma’s final statement in regard to mind games, the same deep, disembodied voice came through and was heard saying, “Need toilet paper.” Red held the recorder out in front of them, her thick eye-makup straining against her bulging pupils.

“Need toilet paper? What’s it mean by that?” Mattie inquired, a bit surprised. The three looked at each other.

“Well, the photograph did show someone in the bathroom.” Red attempted an explanation, “Maybe she’s looking for toilet paper to finish her business.”

“Oh, for Chrissake,” Ma had enough, and her logical side was taking over. “This is all bullshit!”

“…But I gotta get out, I gotta break it out now before the final crack of dawn…” 

Ma shook her head, “We need to get him out of here,” continuing her skepticism and now paying more attention to the priest that was chanting musical lyrics on his knees in the middle of the room rather than the voice on the recorder or the photos. She turned to approach the preacher to help him up when Mattie, who was taking the ghostly signs a bit more seriously, took a step backward, tripped, and tumbled to the floor, “Whump!”

Red shined her light to see Mattie down on her butt and then to the floor where she located a board that was warped and sticking up a bit on one end. Percible stopped praying and looked their way as Ma and Red knelt, and Mattie struggled back to her knees. Red shined her light on the board as Ma reached over and tugged on it. The board, about 2 feet in length, came free easily. Red shined her flashlight right and left, exposing three more boards of the same length and Ma too, removed those easily. Percible crawled over to the ladies as Ma revealed a wooden trap door that had been hidden beneath the floorboards. On one end were two large hinges, on the other end a metal handle. To either side of the trap door were two metal O-rings. 

“Oh, no! No, no, no!” Percible blurted out as he stared at the door, his body still trembling, “We can’t open that!”

“Whatsa matter?” Ma scowled as all four were now on their knees surrounding the door. “It’s just a root cellar.”

The preacher’s head snapped to Ma, “Oh, no! It isn’t! I’ve seen this movie!” The father reached across and grabbed the old woman by her shoulders, which brought a burning response from her eyes to the holy man as he pulled her in close and continued, “It’s a portal to hell, I tell you! There are bad things down there! There are demons possessed by Satan down there! We must never open this door! We must chain this door shut and never, ever open it, and never tell anyone that it’s here!” 

Ma shook her shoulders loose from the preacher’s grip, “Are you nuts or something?! Get a hold of yourself! There’s nothing down there! You’ve been watching too many movies again! And this ain’t the 'Evil Dead' basement! I’ve seen that stupid movie too, you know! I saw it at the drive-in in Skunksquirt when it came out in ’81." Ma turned to Mattie and remarked casually, "It was a double feature along with 'Dawn of the Dead'. They weren't bad, as far as horror movies are concerned." She looked back to the preacher and raised her voice again, "They’re just movies!”

Red offered, “I saw that one too! Bruce Campbell was dreamy, especially the in the 'Ash' series when he was older.”

“I thought it was a stupid movie,” Mattie mentioned, a bit of arrogance in her calm tone. “It was gross and disgusting.”

“Everyone’s a critic!" Ma's tone was full of sarcasm, "Shut up, you idiots! No one cares about the movie or which movie stars either of you had the hots for!”

“I’m just trying to ease the tension,” Red responded.

“Well, stop trying! It ain’t working! The preacher here is about to crap a watermelon!”

“You mentioned it first, not me!”

“Don’t open this door! It’s a portal to hell, I’m tell you!” The preacher reached into his frock and removed his bottle of spring water, holding it tightly enough to pop the cover and squirt water all over Ma's face as he began chanting, “Be gone! I command you! I cast you out, unclean spirit! The power of Christ compels you!” The preacher sloshed spring water onto the trap door in the shape of a cross, splashing all three women as he did so, “The power of Christ compels you! “The power of Christ compels you!” 

The kneeling women appeared quite disgusted as spring water splashed into their faces and dripped from their chins and clothing. Red’s rouge and other makeup began to smear and streak down her face. Ma’s hair bun became soggy, and her hairpin slipped out as her stringy, wet gray hair began to dangle over her catcher’s mask. Mattie's gray roots did the same, and her hair dangled and dripped water. 

When the bottle was empty, the preacher looked up at the women with a terror-stricken expression on his face, and then suddenly realized what he’d done. As the other two gazed in disgust, Ma reached over and grabbed the preacher by his collar with one hand, drawing him in close across the trap door to her own, dripping face. She looked straight through her reading glasses and into his eyes through his and said in the lowest, most composed of tones, “I'm telling you right now, if you even think about doing that again, I’m going spin my head completely around and puke green, pea soup on you. And then I’m going to drag you to the roof by your nuts and throw you off until you crash land on those stone steps out front and break your foolish neck. I mean it.” She gently pushed him back and released her grip on the man. Ma reached down, grabbed the handle, and, as the preacher let out an audible gasp, she pulled the trap door open. Dust flew and more cobwebs tore from the wood as Ma, Mattie, and Red flashed their lights down an old, wooden set of stairs to a dirt floor below. Percible winced with only one eye open as he gazed over the door and down into the hole. 

“There, do you see now? Nothing to be afraid of! It’s just a root cellar! And there might be stuff with historical significance down there, so we’re going to check it out! Let’s go!” 

“I’m not going down there. It smells musty and putrid!” Mattie remarked.

Ma flashed her light in Mattie’s face, “You’re going down there along with the rest of us! Now, c’mon!” Ma swung one of her chunky legs over the edge and planted it on the second step, testing its stability. “It’s fine, follow me!” Ma stood up, placing her other leg on the top step and she started down, looking back up at Red, “Make sure they all come behind me!” Red nodded in her long black wig, her black mascara looked like melted candle wax streaming down her face. 

However, the truth was, Ruby didn’t want to go down those steps either.

Ma stopped at the bottom of the stairs as the other three were slowly creeping down behind her with Red bringing up the rear and gently pushing the other two. The damp ground was soft as Ma stepped forward to let the others descend all the way. All four huddled at the base of the steps, each flashing their lights around the damp, dreary room. The stone walls were badly deteriorated with mold growing in every nook and cranny. The wooden beams above that supported the schoolhouse were rotting away and the room had a foul, damp odor. There were several old boxes strewn about that appeared to contain items that you would associate with school necessities. Some were open, some closed, hiding their contents. There were a few broken, upturned children’s desks and another larger, broken desk in the corner of the room. There was also another closed, wooden door on the far side of the basement. Most everything was covered in dust, cobwebs, and spider-filled webs.

“This floor is going to ruin my heels,” Ruby said quite casually.

“Quit worrying about your footwear and let’s check this place out!” Ma grumbled.

Mattie shined her light on the far door, “Where do you think that goes?”

“I dunno,” Ma whispered, “maybe it’s a tunnel system or something. Or maybe just another room.” The three ladies began to fan out while Percible just stood at the base of the stairs, nervously looking around. 

Ruby approached a stack of boxes and opened the top one, exposing old textbooks and manuscripts. She picked up a book and opened it as dust flew from its pages. “These are old,” as she flipped it back to its cover with one hand and shined her light on it, squinting as dust flew into her eyes. “This one’s about the history of America.”

“I bet you’ll find one called the Necronomicon if you keep looking!” Percible whispered loudly.

Ma’s shoulders slumped and she turned, flashing her light into the preacher’s face, “Stop it! I mean it! I told you before, this isn’t the 'Evil Dead' cellar! Quit scaring yourself and look around!”

“Hey, there’s a bunch of stuff on this desk over here.” Mattie was looking over the ancient teacher’s station. She shined her light on the wall and cocked her head sideways, “Here’s a key hanging here, too.”

“Does it say that it’s the key to the gas pump?” Percible inquired nervously.

“I said cut it out!” Ma turned to the preacher again, “I’m not kidding, you Bubblehead! Get the scary movies out of your brainless head! I told you, this isn’t the basement from the 'Night of the Living Dead'!” There are no zombies down here, other than you!”

“They’re coming to get you, Barbara…” Red groaned in a low voice, smiling to herself until Ma flashed a light her way, wiping the grin from beneath her deep, maroon-colored lipstick. 

While the other three returned to their rummaging, Reverend Winkin, with a flashlight in one hand and his other hand holding his frock tight against his collar as if he had wrapped himself in a protective blanket, began to walk towards the far door. As he stepped forward, the other three women lowered their eyebrows and with befuddled expressions turned their heads to the preacher, hearing him singing softly to himself, “…There’s a light, over at the Frankenstein place. There’s a light..hi…hi…hi…light, burning in the fireplace…” 

Mattie looked to Ruby, who shrugged her shoulders as Father Winkin’s signing became a little louder, “…There’s a light, a light, in the darkness of everybody’s life…”

Ma dropped the old ruler that she’d been admiring that was once used to snap the knuckles of the children, picked her hockey stick back up, and marched up to the preacher, shining her light in his face and poking him with her stick as he winced. “Stop it! Stop it, now! Stop quoting songs from…from? Shit, from…?” Ma flashed her light to Red, “What was that one from?!”

“The Rocky Horror Picture Show.”

Ma looked back up at the father straight through his reading glasses again. The preacher stood straight and regained a bit of his composure and arrogance as he tilted his head, “Singing helps me when I’m nervous!”

“Well, just stop it!” Ma pointed behind herself with the stick and said sternly, “Just go and see what’s on the other side of that door!” Percible responded by once again losing his confident demeanor, looking down and flashing Ma the “who, me?” look. Ma stepped aside, fully expecting the preacher to do as she said while continuing to point at the mystery door. Percible did as he was told, sliding past Ma, and approaching the old, decaying door. 

“Open it!” 

The father looked back nervously as he stood at the doorway, first to Mattie who flashed him the “better you than me” look, then to Ruby who just frowned and shrugged her shoulders to the holy man, then back to Ma, who simply continued to point and scowl. He turned to the door and began to reach for the metal handle, snapping his hand back and turning once again to Ma. “Well, I certainly hope this isn’t a portal to Hell.” Ma rolled her eyes in response as he continued, “You’ll be sorry if I open this up and get sucked down into the fiery bowels of the underworld!” 

“I’m going to kick you straight in the fiery bowels of your underworld if you don’t shut up and open that damn door!”

The preacher turned back and once again reached his arm out to take hold of the door’s handle. And, just before his fingers made contact with the rusty metal, all four heads snapped upward as they all heard the same deep voice they’d heard before coming from the room above them, “Ooooohhhhh…ahhhhhhh!!!”

Flashlights flickered as all hands began trembling and Red called out, “What was that!?” 

Ma held one hand out while still pointing her flashlight up with the other, “Shhhhh! Listen!”

“Ahhhhhggghhh...Unnnnghhhh...Ohhhhaahhhh....Unnnnnnghhhhh!”

“It sounds angry!”

“It sounds agitated!”

“It sounds constipated.”

“Unnnghh!"

 

"Poofffffrrrrrtttt!” 

“Flussshh!”

Mattie’s head snapped to Ma, “What in the hell was all that?!”

Ma, still looking up, shrugged her shoulders. 

“I believe it was a toilet flushing,” the father responded, continuing to shine his light at the ceiling.

“I think it was a lot of grunting, a fart, and then the toilet flushed,” Red replied casually, still gazing up.

As the four continued to stare up, they next heard the sound of “whirring”, and then another, “Flusshh!” Followed by the sounds of footsteps that were accompanied by high-pitched scratching across the floor above them, and then silence. 

Percible’s tone was of desperation, “What was that? What was all that?!”

Ma continued to look up and pointed, “I know that sound! It’s just like the noise that my ice fishing traps in the shanty shack make when there’s a fish on and the line's going out! It was toilet paper rolling off an old dispenser, and then another toilet flush.”

“And then it sounded like someone leaving the bathroom, using a walker, maybe.”

All four wandered to the center of the room, all continuing to look up and shining their lights at the floor above. They stood for a moment, waiting for more sounds, which ultimately didn’t come. Finally, Ma lowered her head and shined her light amongst the others, “Looks like the old woman’s ghost finally dropped the deuce she’s been waiting all these years and left the bathroom on her own.”

Ruby Red perked up with an epiphany, “Maybe that was the answer to the mystery! Maybe she died without finishing up in the bathroom! Maybe she died while still having to take a dump! Think about it, they said she died while reaching for her walker. Well, what if that’s not entirely true?! What if the toilet roll was empty and she didn’t check first? What if she really died while searching for more toilet paper?”

“Well, that would make a person want to hang around and haunt a house, a case of severe eternal constipation because she didn’t have anything to wipe her butt with,” Mattie responded casually. 

The father, quite visibly calmer now, “Maybe she’s finally passed onto the other side, relieved of the 'burden' she’d been carrying all this time.” He looked back down to Ma, who was giving him the “really?” look.

“You’re all kidding, right? A ghost that couldn’t make it to the afterlife because she had to take a shit and ran out of toilet paper?”

“Well, stranger things have happened,” Father Winkin responded with his usual, full-on arrogance to the diner’s owner as he removed his reading glasses to clean them on the sleeve of his filthy frock.

“I can’t believe I’m hearing this. You all truly believe that Cobblepot’s ghost hung around here all these years because she had a dingleberry that she couldn’t wipe off and didn’t want skid marks in her under britches when she got to Heaven?!”

All heads turned, and the nervous glances returned as they heard the static emit from the mini-recorder that Red had brought down to the cellar and sat on the edge of the steps. It had started playing on its own and, after a moment or two, a voice the same as before was heard through the static that groaned, “Ahhhhhhh, toilet paper!”

The four terrifyingly looked at one another and suddenly all their flashlights flickered and stopped working, and they found themselves surrounded by the blackness of the dank cellar. It was Ma’s voice through the darkness that quickly uttered, “Time to leave!” All four scrambled and tripped over each other climbing back up the stairs. When the last one emerged onto the floor above, everyone’s flashlights flickered back to life as they huddled near the top of the trap door. 

“Look!” Mattie yelled out, pointing her light, and there, near the front door, they discovered the old schoolteacher’s walker now standing upright and many feet from where it had been laying for years in front of the bathroom. 

Ma slammed the trap door shut and looked up to the other three as she frantically laid the loose boards back down into place, “Nobody needs to know about that room down there, or the one beyond it! They don’t need to know about the stuff going on up here, either! Let’s get outta here!” 

The other three frantically nodded their heads, “Agreed!”

*   *   *   *   *

 

All eyes looked to the front of the schoolhouse as Bob ascended the stone steps again, responding to the knocking that was coming from the other side of the doors. He turned the key in the padlock, removed the lock from the hasp, and pushed the doors open. The four brave ones emerged. Bob closed the doors again, locking the building back up behind them as they were met at the bottom of the steps by the small group that had been waiting patiently in anticipation of discovering what, if anything, the ghost hunters had discovered.

All heads looked up and down the foursome as they descended the steps. The three women, still soggy from the “holy water” they’d been splashed with, Ma and Mattie’s wet stringy hair dangling and Red’s makeup streaming down her face, and Percible’s frock covered in cobwebs, spiders, and dust.

“What happened in there?” Elmer was the first to inquire.

“You guys were in there a long time,” Rupert observed.

Bob started back down the stairs, “We tried to listen through the doors, but we didn’t hear anything even with our ears pressed up against them.”

Paul Doody was next as he addressed his wife, “It was quiet for the longest time, and then we thought we heard a toilet flushing over and over again. Did one of you have the shits?”

An amused Marmaduke, from behind where he was sitting on the tailgate of Runyon’s truck, “Find any ghosts? How was old Cobblepot? Talkative?”

Ma looked disgustingly at the small crowd, “Nobody had the shits! And nothing happened in there! The building’s empty, just like we said it would be!”

“Well, then, why did it take you so long? And why are the three of you all wet?” Wally inquired.

Ma looked to Red, who gave her the “I don’t know” look, raising her eyebrows under her wig and shrugging her shoulders. Ma glanced at Mattie, who did the same. She then looked up at Percible, who continued with the blank expression he’d had on his face most of the entire evening. Ma shook her head slowly and turned back. “We were holding a séance in the center of the room when Bubblehead farted and set off the sprinklers. That’s all, nothing else! And nothing supernatural! Ain’t that right, preacher?” Ma gave Percible a soft backhand to his gut.

“Huh, what? Oh, yes, that is correct.” The preacher stated arrogantly, nodding to the mayor, “I was a bit gassy and broke wind. Sorry.”

Wally leaned into Joshua and whispered, “There’s no sprinklers in that building.” His brother nodded back in agreement.

“So, now what, Ma?” Mayor Wiggleswort inquired.

“What, now, what? Do your stupid haunted house now, that’s what! Start letting the kids inside next Friday night.” She turned her attention to Runyon, “Just go in there and make sure you nail down some of them loose, old floorboards so nobody gets hurt!” She looked over at Mattie and nodded sternly and Mattie returned her gesture with a wink and a nod. Ma turned back to the mayor, “This foolishness is over and done with! There’s nothing ghostly in there! Let’s head to the diner for some fresh coffee!”

“But Ma, it’s 1:00 a.m...”

“C’mon! To the diner! Go!” Ma began to brush the disappointed onlookers towards her diner just up the road, using both arms to plow them all toward their vehicles, “C’mon, shoo! I need to open it up in a couple of hours, anyway!” Ma shuffled over to her truck, dropped the tailgate, and began to take her safety equipment off and toss it all in the back while others disappointedly strolled back to their vehicles to head up the road to the diner as instructed. Elmer leaned against the rear quarter panel of the Chevy with Old Marmaduke behind him as Mattie, Red, and Percible came up behind Ma. 

El looked to the sad group, “Something happened in there, didn’t it?”

“You did see Old Cobblepot’s ghost, didn’t ya?” Marmaduke inquired in his heavy French-accented voice, a smile could be detected beneath his thick, white whiskers. 

Ma glanced behind to her cohorts before turning back to the two wise men, and with a sheepish expression on her face, she replied softly, “Nothing happened in there that anyone needs to know about.”

“Heh, heh.” El rubbed the back of his neck and chuckled, “I knew that wasn’t going to end well. C’mon, I’ll drive,” as he turned to jump into the driver’s seat and Marmaduke opened the passenger door for Ma.

And so, coffee it was for the four that had experienced something supernatural and didn’t feel the need to sleep that night, nor tell the others the truth about what had occurred. And the others, who obliged and did what they were told, having late-night, or rather very early morning java at the diner. Even though most, if not all, just wanted to go home to bed. 

 

The following week the mayor had his two selectpersons, plus Constable Bob, decorate the schoolhouse. Runyon made certain all of the floorboards were secured and Ruby did the scary makeup for several volunteers who would operate the “haunted house” for the days leading up to Halloween and on All Hallow’s Eve. 

 

And neither Ma, Mattie, Ruby Red, or Percible would partake in the festivities, or go anywhere near the schoolhouse during the season. However, Ma did tell Runyon to make certain there was an ample supply of toilet paper in the building’s tiny bathroom before securing it again until next year.

 

End

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