“He’s dead, Lulu. I killed him.”
Huge tears rolled down Lulu’s face, but I didn’t care. Lulu had gone in my room while I was at soccer practice to jump on my bed because it was bigger than hers and spilled chocolate milk all over my favorite bedspread.
It was a beautiful bedspread. It was pristine white with little eyelet cutouts and embroidered flowers that curled on vines. I loved that bedspread and she had destroyed it.
We were moving in three weeks and I was mad. I decided if I couldn’t take my most prized possession with me, she couldn’t take hers. George Orangejuice was Lulu’s imaginary best friend. No one knew what he looked like. Lulu said if you couldn’t see him then George didn’t want you to. But, we all knew that he liked to watch TV while sitting on the coffee table and that is where I got him. While Lulu and George were watching cartoons, I walked in and murdered George. I sat on him. In the moment, I felt that I possessed the “butt of justice”.
Lulu screamed. I yelled at her. My parents yelled at me. But, Lulu had it coming. I loved that bedspread. I was grounded for the last week we lived in the apartment I had grown up in.
Lulu held a funeral for George the next day. I felt bad for the incident by then. I tried to be especially nice to Lulu and even asked her to play Barbies with me before the funeral. She said “no”.
The whole family attended George Orangejuice’s funeral in the bathroom. We found out that George had been very small (my butt had great aim) and wished to be buried at sea. Since we lived in Tennessee, the toilet was as close as we could get. Lulu sang “This Little Light of Mine” and Dad made a speech. Mom had the honor of the flush since Lulu was crying. I felt so guilty for my crime of murder, but still had to choke back a snicker when I heard the flush. I guess I was hard at nine years old. I had committed murder.
The next week our parents took us to see the new house. Lulu had forgiven me by then and was back to her pestering six years old self. We were very excited to the house because our parents called it “the dream house”. However, when our parents took us to see this “dream house”, I thought they were playing a trick on us. It was so far out in the country that we didn’t have any neighbors in sight, I had to go to a new school that was a thirty minutes school bus ride away from the house, and there was no pavement just a gravel driveway. Where was I going to rollerblade when my parents bought me the new rollerblades for my birthday in two months?
The actual house was the worst thing of all. It had been boarded up for eight years and was the nastiest place I had ever seen. Mounds of moldy clothes and trash were heaped in every room, even the kitchen. The kitchen was also littered with canning jars that had been opened at some point in time and the contents of the jars had oozed over the brim and puddled in a variety of shades and consistencies on the surfaces they rested on. Lulu and I made a game of trying to guess what the alien substances were. We determined that the five jars on the floor by the sliding glass door had been cat brains because there were small, orangey brown, dried lumps that squished a little bit when we poked them with sticks.
“Do NOT touch anything,” Mom yelled from the other room.
Lulu and I looked at each other. How did she know? “We just poked the cats’ brains with a stick, Mama. We didn’t touch it, the stick did,” Lulu screeched back in her chipmunk voice.
What?” Mom called back.
“The jars full of cats’ brains by the glass door in here,” I explained.
“Those aren’t cats’ brains. Those are old peaches. And don’t touch them or let the stick touch them. You hear me?”
“Yes Ma’am,” Lulu and I shouted back.
I didn’t care what Mom said. Those were cats’ brains. The people before us had obviously been devil worshippers. I knew the truth even if Mom didn’t. But, cats weren’t the only things in this evil kitchen. Evidence of animal sacrifices and experiments were everywhere.
There were half a dozen jars full of puke green puppy dog tails floating in pond scum on the counter tops, thirteen jars of rabbit hearts that Lulu found in the rusted refrigerator, and a variety of other jars full of what we simply declared to be a guts soup. The guts soup was a dusky, gray-green color with yellowish white boogers floating in it. Lulu and I giggled in hushed tones as we stuck the broken radio antenna we found in the pile of trash next to the refrigerator into one of the jars. We weren’t touching the jar and neither was the stick. I swished the antenna around in the soup. Slimy bits of guts clung to the antenna. After stirring the soup and flinging it on the wall, we determined that the ingredients were as follows: squirrel boogers, puppy slobber, bird poo, but only the good white kind, cow pee pee, squished up chicken eyeballs, and melted slugs.
Mom came walking around the corner into the kitchen as Lulu stuck the antenna back into the soup. “I told you not to touch anything.”
“I didn’t Mama. The antenna did and Katie said it was okay for the antenna to as long as I didn’t. ‘Cause you said we and the stick couldn’t touch anything. You didn’t say the antenna couldn’t,” Lulu said.
“Kathryn Marie Greene,” Mom started. I knew I was in trouble. She used my whole name. “When I say not to touch something I mean it.”
“We didn’t, Mama the antenna did,” I said.
“How did the antenna get in the jar?”
“We put it in.”
“It didn’t sprout legs and jump in?”
“Then, you used the antenna to touch that stuff I told you not to and now we have canned okra all over the wall.”
“So you did touch it.”
“Well I guess I can’t trust you two in here by yourselves. Go outside and when we get back to the apartment, no TV.”
“But, what? Finish that sentence and it will be a week with no TV. Do you two understand?”
“Yes Ma’am.” Lulu and I answered in unison. Lulu and I trudged outside.
“Why do you have to make it worse?” Lulu said.
I reached over and smacked her on her head. She started crying and yelled for Mom. I knew that this house was going to be bad luck. I hated it already.
Over the next two weeks, Mom, Dad, Lulu, and I worked cleaning up the house. Since it was summer, Mom said we could consider this our summer homework. I hated school homework, but this was worse. For Lulu and I, it was two weeks of picking up garbage, sweeping, mopping, and scrubbing, but we still weren’t allowed to touch the jars.
One afternoon during a lunch break, Lulu and I snuck over to the pile of trash behind the house and found the boxes that all the jars had been put in. We were determined to give those poor animal parts a proper burial. I grabbed the big, heavy box with the soup and rabbit hearts in it and a shovel that was propped up next to the house. I told Lulu to pick up the lighter box that contained the puppy tails and cat brains. We walked to the very back of the field that was behind our house. The grass was almost as tall as Lulu. When I looked back all I could see was her head bobbing along. We were on a mission. Only we could save the souls of those animals and prevent them from haunting our new home. We reached the barbed wire fence that marked the edge of our property and I started digging the hole that would be their grave.
“Go get two sticks to make a cross for them Lulu,” I said.
“No. There are monsters in that grass that eat seven year olds. Those jars don’t need a cross.”
“Yes they do, Lulu. If they don’t have a cross, the angels won’t know they’re good and the devil will get them.”
“But if I go out there by myself, then the monsters’ll get me.”
“Not if you sing. Those kinds of monsters are scared of music. So if you sing they won’t get you.”
“Why would I lie to you? Anyways, if you get eaten Mom and Dad would kill me and I love me too much to let that happen.”
“You don’t love me?”
“Of course, you’re my little sister, but right now you’re being a pain in the butt. Go!”
With that, Lulu stomped off singing “The Wheels on the Bus”. The whole time I was digging that hole, I was subjected to Lulu’s renditions of “The Wheels on the Bus”, “Bingo”, and three repetitions of “Pop Goes the Weasel”. By the time she finally got back, I had finished digging the hole and had loaded in all the jars. Lulu handed me the two sticks and I used the red ribbon I had in my hair to lash the sticks together into a cross.
“Okay Lulu, now you sing “He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands” and I’ll cover them up.” I said.
When I finished, I turned to Lulu and said, “Okay, shut up. Now we have to pray for their souls so the angels know to come get them now.”
“What prayer are we going to say?”
“I’ll do it. Just bow your head and cry like you’re really sad.”
Lulu bowed her head and started shaking her shoulders up and down “Cry!” I said as I pinched her arm.
“Oowwww,” she howled as tears began to roll down her cheeks.
“Shhh. I’m going to pray now. God, now I lay these animals down to sleep, ‘because they’re dead. I pray the Lord their souls to keep. Guide them safely to heaven and don’t let them wake with the morning light. Because, we don’t want any zombies here. Amen. Say amen, Lulu.”
“Amen,” Lulu mumbled between sniffles.
After two long, hard weeks, we had a brand new toilet, bathtub, and the rooms were painted with a fresh coat of eggshell white paint. I had begged for a purple room, but Mom said we had to keep the walls a neutral color. The compromise she offered was a new purple bedspread for my bed that had fairies dancing all over it. I gave in and accepted the bedspread with a “fine, I guess.” Secretly, I loved it and couldn’t wait to put it on my bed, but I couldn’t let her know that so I stomped off with a big smile that I covered with the bedspread.
The house was now perfect. All of the clutter was hauled off to the dump except for the jars. My parents never noticed. The house looked completely different and, after all the work I had invested in it, I now considered it my home.
That night, my parents sat on the couch in the living room and opened a bottle of wine from Portugal that my dad had brought back from a business trip to Lisbon three years earlier. He had saved that bottle for when we moved into a “dream house”. Lulu sat with them and watched television. I went to my room to unpack. I put my New Kids on the Block tape in my boom box and got to work. As “Hangin’ Tough” played, I danced around the room hanging my clothes up in the biggest closet I had ever had, putting my books alphabetically on the shelves, and arranging my porcelain doll collection on top of my dresser. Next, I started to make up my bed putting my new bedspread on.
As I was smoothing out the wrinkles of my new bedspread, I heard the grandfather clock in the living room begin to sound. It struck nine times and as always Mom called out, “You heard the clock. Time for bed.”
“Come on, Mom. It’s summer. Thirty more minutes, please. I want to hang up my posters.” I yelled out.
“Tomorrow, Katie. Right now you need to go to sleep.”
I exhaled sharply and stomped off to the bathroom to brush my teeth. I made sure to stomp just loud enough to let Mom and Dad know that I was unhappy, but not so loud that I’d get in trouble. It was 9:15 pm when I crawled into bed. I must have been more exhausted than I thought because I think I fell asleep as soon as my head hit the pillow.
I awoke feeling wide awake, but it was still dark out. I rolled over to see what time it was. My clock radio blared 3:13 am in big red numbers. Well since I’m awake, I might as well go get a drink of water. I flung the covers aside and crawled out of bed. Luckily, my bedroom was right off the kitchen and the light switch to the kitchen was just outside my door. I opened my door, reached around the corner, and switched on the light. I walked to the other side of the kitchen where the sink was and rummaged through the cabinets next to it looking for where Mom put the cups. I found them in the first cabinet, grabbed my green Snoopy cup, and turn on the faucet to fill it. We had well water at this house and it was the best tasting water I had ever had. I drank eight cups of it that day alone. As I reached to turn the faucet off, I felt something slap me in the middle of my back. I jumped a little and turned around quickly. No one was there. I looked down and saw a box of my Dad’s Corn Pops lying on the floor in front of me. Lulu! I thought and turned left and walked out of the kitchen, turned right down a short hall, and straight into Lulu’s room. Lulu lay in her bed. I just knew she was faking sleep.
I whispered, “Lulu, I know it was you. If you don’t stop faking I’m going to dump this whole cup of water on you.” I paused a minute to let her confess. When she didn’t I continued, “Lulu, I’m not joking. I will do it.” When she still didn’t open her eyes, I stuck my finger in the cup and wiped the water on her forehead. Still no reaction. Then she grunted a little and rolled over. Lulu’s not that brave. She would have cracked by now. I squinted my eyes a little and stared at her. “Last chance Lulu. Confess or I’ll drown you in water.” Again, no reaction.
“Humph,” I exhaled as I left her room. Lulu just didn’t have the guts to pull this off. I must have imagined it. As I went back through the kitchen to my room, I passed the box of cereal on the floor. I opened my door to go back to bed and felt a familiar thump, but this time it was on the back of my head instead of my back. I spun around determined to catch Lulu. But again, no one was there. I ran to Lulu’s room to catch her climbing back in bed, but as I swung open the door I saw she was in the same position she was in earlier. Oh my God. There’s a ghost here! As soon as the words formed in my head, my legs were already running. I ran straight to my room, jumped in my bed, and hid under my covers. I didn’t sleep all night. No way was that ghost going to get me.
“Who left the kitchen light on last night and got into my Corn Pops without asking?” Dad said the next morning at breakfast.
“I didn’t go in the kitchen, Daddy. The sandman made me sleep all night,” Lulu chimed.
“Katie, do you know who did?” Dad asked looking at me over the top of his newspaper.
“I left the light on. But, it wasn’t my fault. A ghost was after me. It threw the Corn Pops at me.”
Dad put down the paper and said, “Katie you know we do not tolerate any lying. I appreciate you confessing to the light, but this story about a ghost is not acceptable.”
“I’m not lying, Dad. It really happened.”
“That’s enough. Finish your breakfast and, because you told a lie, you have to wash the morning dishes by hand, no dishwasher.”
“But,” I started.
“No buts, I mean it young lady,” with that Dad got up and went to watch the morning news.
I was seething as I washed the dishes. How could they not believe me? Just because I told them that my last teacher Ms. Raspberry made me eat brownies made out of dog poop because she hated me or that Uncle John strapped me to a chair for eight hour when he was babysitting me because I wouldn’t eat my lima beans didn’t mean that I was lying now. And of course, they couldn’t count the time I convinced Lulu that she was an adopted space alien against me. I was telling the truth this time. That is when I decided I would catch this ghost and prove I was right then they would apologize and deem me the bravest and smartest daughter that ever lived. But, how do you catch a ghost?
I decided to do a little research. That afternoon I watched the videotapes we had of Casper: the Friendly Ghost cartoons, “Ghostbusters”, and “Ghost Dad”. I sat in the floor with my Hello Kitty diary and took notes. I needed to know their weaknesses. That day I learned there are two kinds of ghosts: the bad ones that try to hurt you and the nice ones that only want a friend. Which was my ghost? I decided that I was dealing with a Slimer-like ghost, the kind that liked to play tricks and eat. I already knew that this ghost liked Corn Pops. By dinner, I had a plan. I would strike that night.
It happened while I was in the shower. I was shampooing my hair when I felt a tap on the top of my head. I rinsed my face quickly and looked up… nothing there. I pulled back the curtain… nothing. I shrugged and figured that I was jumpy from the ensuing battle. I closed the curtain, rinsed my hair, and began soaping up my right arm. I felt someone poke me in the ribs. I threw open the curtain… no one. I closed it and went back to soaping. Then there was a hail of poking through the curtain. I was attacked! I was hit in the arm, in the leg, the stomach, even my eye. I flailed about; fighting against my invisible foe. Then suddenly, it stopped. Carefully, I peeked out from behind the curtain, I didn’t want to get poked in the eye again it still burned. There was no one in sight. But, on the fogged up mirror the ghost had written “George is back”. I must have screamed during my attack because I heard a knock on the door.
“Are you okay, honey?” Mom said through the door.
“Yes, Mom. I’m fine. I just saw a spider, but I got it.”
“Okay. Why don’t you finish up and come watch TV with your dad and me?”
“No, thanks. I’m going to go read.”
I wiped George’s message from the mirror, toweled off, and put on my pajamas. I felt my resolve harden. I wasn’t going to let this George scare me. I had the knowledge and I knew what to do. The videos had taught me what I needed to know to destroy my enemy. I was going to get him. How dare he mess with me? Doesn’t he know I am one tough chick? I play soccer. He’s no match for me. He’s going down. As I walked out of the bathroom, I looked to the left and saw Lulu sitting in the floor of her room. She looked up and said, “You want to play Barbies?”
“No, I’m busy.”
“Pleeease. You can be the real Barbie. I’ll be Maxine.”
“No! I have something to do.”
“You want to know a secret?” Lulu said in a loud whisper.
“Come here and I’ll tell you.”
I rolled my eyes and walked into her room as though it took a lot of effort. “What?”
I plopped down next to her. “Spill it. I’ve got work to do.”
“Did you know that a boy died here?”
“No way. You’re lying.”
“Nah huh. I heard Mama and Daddy talking about it. It happened like 100 years ago in 1950.”
“Dummy, that wasn’t 100 years ago.”
“Anyways, he did.”
“Really? Then what was his name?”
“George Stone. He was murdered. Since I told you that secret, will you play with me now?”
“No, that wasn’t a real secret. It was a lie.”
I jumped up and rushed out of the room before Lulu could say anything else. My heart was beating so hard that I could feel it in my throat. He’s real! I went straight into my room to start preparing my traps.
Ghosts are a tricky breed. Now that I knew the type I was dealing with I was confident I’d win. I waited until everybody was asleep before I began to set up my traps. Since I knew that George liked Corn Pops, I tiptoed into the kitchen and stole a handful. I used them to make a trail from the cabinet into my bedroom. In my bedroom, I sat waiting with a flashlight because ghosts hate light. It hurts them. I also had a water gun to shoot water at it. I knew the water wouldn’t do anything to it, but I could scare it and get it over the ghost trap I made. Ghosts do not like electricity. Fortunately for me, Dad had taught me how to make an electrical circuit out of paper clips the year before for a science project. I took that and rigged the paper clips to touch all the time so the electricity would keep running. I put that in a box. I planned to trap George in there. He couldn’t get out because of the electricity.
By 10:00, I was ready. I sat on my bed with the flashlight in my right hand and the water gun in my left. Time seemed to slow down. After what I thought was an hour, I looked at the clock. It was 10:15. When I was sure that another hour had passed, I looked again. 10:33. My eyelids were getting heavy and my eyes had began to water from sleepiness. 11:02. You can’t go to sleep. You have to protect your family, especially Lulu. She’s helpless. 11:19. I’ll just rest my eyes for a minute, but I won’t lie down or put the gun down. I must stay armed.
I opened my eyes five minutes later. However, what looked like sunlight was coming in through my window. Confused I looked at my clock. 8:13 am. Then I realized I was slumped over in my bed, but my legs were still dangling over the edge, the flashlight had gone dead, and my water gun had leaked on my leg. It looked like I had peed my pants. I sat up and looked at my trap hoping that it had worked. It was turned over on its side. Good sign. I walked over to it dropping the flashlight and gun as I did. I got down on my hands and knees to look inside. I wondered what George would look like. I carefully pulled back one of the box’s flaps. Inside were the… Corn Pops. Confused, I shook my head a little like they do in the movies. I don’t know why, but it always seems to do something. I looked again and… the Corn Pops were still there. I sat up and punched the box. “I can’t believe it didn’t work,” I said through clenched teeth. I looked down again and noticed a piece of paper that had been hidden under the box. It was one of the scrap pieces of paper Mom kept next to the phone in the kitchen to write phone messages on. It said:
Nice try. Better luck next time.
I couldn’t believe my eyes. Since when could ghosts write notes? Even worse, my plan didn’t work. I was a loser. Defeated, I stood up, kicked the box, and walked out of my room to face the world as the loser I was.
“Why are your pajamas wet?” Mom asked.
“The ghost beat me,” I mumbled.
“What?” she said.
“I said the glass fell over. The one of water I had on my bedside table.”
I couldn’t bring myself to admit the truth. Some dead guy had outsmarted me. I wasn’t the bravest and smartest daughter that ever lived. I was a loser with wet pants. Lulu came skipping up to me.
“Katie, sit by me at breakfast.”
“Okay,” I mumbled.
“What happened to you?”
Lulu leaned over with a smile and whispered in my ear, “Oh, I thought maybe George got you. Maybe he messed up your trap. Maybe he left you a note. Maybe YOU’RE the dummy.”
I couldn’t believe my ears! It HAD been Lulu. Little, squeaky Lulu. All I could say, “Why?”
Lulu looked at me with the most serious and cold look on her face and said, “There was no George Stone murdered here. The George who got murdered was my best friend George Orangejuice and YOU DID IT! I had to make you pay.”
With that Lulu got up from the table, put her dish in the sink, and went outside. As she skipped past the glass door that the kitchen table faced, she had that huge gap tooth grin on her face again and waved at me.