By K. B. Pellegrino

Jack Gennaro and Bobby Regan, friends, and both 11-year-old sixth-graders lived a block away from each other. They typically walked to school each day together, were noted for getting into a few fracases together, and teased their younger sisters to the exhaustion of their parents as if they planned the teasing together.

All that had changed. It was 2020 and COVID-19 time. They were now parked in front of their computer screens listening to their teacher for six hours per day with a forty-minute break. Their parents and sisters were at a breaking point; Jack and Bobby created nothing but havoc in their homes. Sports and entertainment were not available. Everywhere they went they wore masks and had to keep six feet away. In desperation, the parents, after reaching an agreement to help the boys let off steam, allowed the boys loose in the neighborhood as long as they stayed together, wore their masks, and stayed away from others.

Perhaps the parents should have questioned why the boys did not argue or debate with them for expansion of their fun; but they didn’t.

The boys had a plan for what they would do when they were free. They had several months to figure it out;  to think about what was at all interesting nearby.

There was a deserted house in the neighborhood. It was over hundred years old according to Mr. Gennaro who was into rehabbing old homes and who said this house was a gem. The boys thought it was eerie and scary and so wanted to go inside, but it was boarded up.

However, Jack had noted it had a big overgrown tree growing along-side and he figured they could climb the tree and get into the second story window that was partly open. Only the basement and the first-floor windows were boarded up. There was one big window with wavy glass in it that was neither on the first nor second floor that was not boarded up.

Bobby was certain the house held treasures. He said, “It’s near Halloween and we can’t go trick-or-treating and Mom said this would be my last year going anyway. Not fair! We’ll go into the scary house.”

Jack had some concerns at first because his mother told him that the house used to have a very old lady who lived in it for all her life and she died thirty years before. He wondered why nobody bought the house. He thought it was beautiful; better than some of the houses his father rehabbed. Just what was wrong with this house?

Although the climb looked difficult from the ground, the boys took Mr. Genaro’s climbing cleats to get to the lowest tree limb which fortunately was level with the open window. Once inside they toured the second floor. All the rooms had furniture in them as if someone just walked away one day. The rooms were all twice as big as the boys’ living rooms and they were impressed.

But it was the curved stairway with the enormous wavy window opposite, like they’d seen in a movie. They thought it was beautiful. They slid down the curved bannister, whose curve fortunately prevented them from going too fast, to what Jack thought was the great room. It was enormous. Next to it was a study with wooded paneling and big leather chairs. Searching, they found a box filled with cigars. There also was a closet filled with jackets. The boys sported two of the velvet jackets trimmed in red, lit a cigar with their secreted matches, and sat in the big chairs. Jack said, “When I grow up, I want to live like this. It’s the life, Bobby.”

Bobby thought there should be a footman who would deliver them a martini with olives like in the movies. As they laughed about the possibilities of a future life away from the boredom of little sisters, controlling parents, and boring at home school, a damp mist settled around them. Bobby shivered, saying, “What happened? It’s cold now.”

A kind of filmy vision came and scared them. Jack asked if Bobby saw what he saw and was told ‘maybe.’ The vision smiled at them and sat behind the desk. They thought it was a lady, but she had no eyes. Jack said, “These cigars must have drugs in them. This is like those ghost stories, but my mom says there’re no ghosts.”

The lady spoke, “There are ghosts and goblins, and ghouls, and witches and warlocks, and apparitions, and protoplasm everywhere. You just don’t see them.”

Bobby, always the most fearless, said, “You are real? Where are your eyes and why can I see through you? How can you sit in a chair and I can see the chair through you? I think it’s the cigar giving me visions. You are not real.”

“And the cigar is making you hear me, too? Young men, you are where you are not supposed to be. You are very lucky indeed, that it is I who is visiting you in my study and not my husband. You are wearing his favorite smoking jackets and smoking his Cuban cigars. He would not be happy. What are you doing here anyway? This is not your house. It is almost Halloween when the spirits are most available for you to see. If you visited tomorrow, you would not leave without horror. I’d advise you to get out now.”

Bobby said, “We’ll leave but we have to go to the second floor to climb down the tree.”

The ghost laughed, “Why didn’t you come through the front door? I always use that door.”

Jack sputtered, “You can’t, Mrs. Ghost. It’s bordered up. We can’t go through things like you do.”

The lady said, “I watched you both. You didn’t do your homework before breaking-in. The bottom of the board on the front door has no nails and you two could slip through. The door is unlocked because the lock is broken and you can open it easily.”

Without waiting, the boys ran to the front door. it was not locked and further they saw they could slip through the board opening to get out; which they did. They ran out to the street before they stopped. Bobby denied being frightened, but Jack said, “The lady has to be a real ghost. She told us stuff we didn’t know. It can’t be our imagination. Our parents are wrong. There are ghosts.”

Bobby agreed. “Jack, she tells the truth, maybe we shouldn’t go back there even though we now know how to. If her husband is there, he’ll be really mad at us smoking those cigars. My dad can’t get Cuban cigars for less than twenty dollars each.”

Jack and Bobby returned to their homes and to the surprise of their parents were nice to their little sisters. Bobby’s mom asked him if he had been smoking. Of course, he denied it, but did say he now believed ghosts were real. His mother, of course, ignored him, but did notice that Bobby did all his homework, which was unusual.

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