I came across a flash fiction contest I could resist 🙂
The Case of the Haunted Gravestone
My partner and I were swinging on the monkey bars as Lynnie-J came up with her pink frilly dress, perfect white runners, braided blonde hair, and bright red face. I let go, hanging by my legs and looked up at her.
“No one believes me.” She stomped a small foot in the gravel below me. “They think it’s a fake.” She swung the photo, hitting my glasses several times.
It didn’t stay still long enough for me to get a good look, but I’d heard all ready. People tell me things. I don’t know why. Smiling, I winked at Bobbie as she untangled her legs from the bars.
She dropped on to the gravel, her blonde hair tangled. A barrette hanging on for its life. Bobbie dragged the back of her hand across her nose, and snatched the picture. After a moment, she turned it upside down, handing it to me.
“It’s her,” Lynnie-J said.
A graveyard with a puff of smoke beside a gravestone. The puff could have been anything, including fog. But I heard that Lynnie-J thought it was her mother’s ghost.
“You trying to get beat up?” I asked, jumping down to stand beside the first grader. “Who’d believe that’s a ghost?”
“But it’s true.” She blinked her big blue eyes at me. “I know it.”
I sighed. “You pay, I play.”
Bobbie nodded too, putting the hand she had out into her back pocket. “Put it away. Prison guard coming over.”
Lynnie-J spun on her heel, leaving the picture with us, and ran toward the playground supervisor. “Hi, Miss Watson.”
Smart kid, I thought as I joined Bobbie on our bench.
“What to do you think?” Bobbie asked.
“If she’s got the cash,” I said, eyeing the girl ten feet away. “Why not?”
“Why not?” Bobbie raised her face to the sunshine. “Because if you prove it’s true, we’ll be a called suckers. And if you prove it’s a trick, she’ll be a laughing stock.”
“She’s all ready being laughed at.” I pulled my foot up and retied my shoelace. “She reminds me of my little sister.”
Bobbie stared at the Lynnie-J walking back to us.
“Okay, but only if she has the cash.” Bobbie left me to deal with our client.
Lynnie-J came up with the twenty and told me a little story about how on a dare she snuck out and took the picture. No one knew she’d done it, except her brother Nelson. And he swore to keep her secret.
Once I had the twenty, I told her, “Secrets are nothing but trouble.”
Later that night, Bobbie and I met with the usual supplies. We set up camp in the deep shadows near the graveyard fence. Bobbie timed the camera so it took pictures every thirty seconds, and aimed it at the gravestone. I spread out a blanket to keep our butts warm while we waited. I thought I was in for a long night—not expecting anyone to show up.
It was a full moon, shadows moving with the passing cars. Animals pitter-pattering; owls calling out. The wind picked up. I pulled my jacket round me, and zipped it up. The darn wind caught in the branches, whining, whistling and creeping me out.
No wonder a first grader saw a ghost. She had guts to come to place like this alone at night on a stupid dare.
Every noise had me jumping, gasping and getting punched in the arm by Bobbie. She clamped a hand over her mouth when a twig snapped.
The sharp sound brought our heads up like synchronized swimmers. A kid a little older than me, dragged some kind of tank along the pathway. Not impressed, I started to get up, but Bobbie stopped me. She raised a forefinger to her lips.
“No,” she said, and pointed beyond the dragger’s silhouette.
Some other kids, older kids, were watching too. One face caught the light of a flashlight. I knew him as well as I knew our client.
“That’s Nelson, Lynnie-J’s brother.” I said under my breath. “What’s he up to?”
Bobbie only frowned and pointed back at the kid. The dragger had stopped, and was fiddling with a loose rock, rolling it away from the headstone. A moment later he lifted an empty tank to his shoulder, and walked away.
Why would a kid pull a hoax like this on his own sister?
It’s just wrong.
We watched in wonder as a fog gathered around the mysterious headstone. The mist kept growing until it was the size of an adult. We watched for a bit, knowing full well it was a hoax. Somehow it still gave me the heebee jeebees. I felt things crawling all over me for hours.
The next morning I rode my bike up to the elementary school, jumping off at the last moment and running alongside. I slipped it into my spot and locked it up tight. As I turned around, Nelson was standing over me. I tightened by grip on my backpack where Lynnie-J proof waited to be delivered.
“I saw you last night,” he said. “You were early.”
Right away, I was angry. “Tried to fool me like you fooled her,” I said.
“You can’t tell her.” His ears went red as he looked around.
“She paid me for the truth,” I said, standing up taller. “She’ll get the truth.”
“Come here.” He grabbed my hoodie and dragged me off the school grounds.
Not impressed I raised a fists. “Get off!” I was swinging at empty air.
He let go, but was ready to grab me again. “Lynnie’s screwed up.” Nelson glanced around and lowered his voice. “I’m doing this for her.”
“How does tricking her into thinking she saw a ghost going to help her?” I raised my fist again, poking him with my forefinger. “That’s sick. You’ve scared the crap out of her.”
“She needed to know Mom wasn’t gone.” He looked away for a moment. “Not for good.”
That took me back. “Oh,” I said rather lamely. “Is it working?”
“You can’t tell her the truth.” Nelson pulled some cash from his pocket and offered me forty dollars. “It’s all I’ve got.”
I stared a good long time at the easy money. Eventually I shook my head.
“Keep it.” I knew I’d do what it took for my brat of a sis too.
He looked angry, so I explained. “I get it. They’re pains, but they’re our pains.”
Nelson nodded and walked across the street to the middle school. I walked towards mine. I’d have to find a shredder and have a talk with Bobbie.
At recess we gave Lynnie-J our evidence, timed photos of the ghostly image rising from the grave. I’m still not sure I did the right thing and had to talk Bobbie into doing what we did. Going to a first-grader’s class for show and tell embarrassed us as we explained how we witnessed the event.
We got phone calls from their parents.
We got grounded.
But we lived.