As the Taylor family gathered around the dinner table, Shauna knew that her mother was upset.
“I have an announcement to make,” Mrs. Taylor said quietly, halfway through dinner.
Shauna put her fork down and looked at her mother.
“I have come to the conclusion,” Mrs. Taylor declared, “that this house is haunted.”
“You mean with a ghost?” Peter asked, his eyes growing big.
Shauna thought that ghosts only existed in books and movies.
“What makes you think there’s a ghost here?” Kathy asked. “I just read an article about a house people claim is haunted, but I don’t believe in them, do—”
“I haven’t seen a ghost,” Tim interrupted.
“It’s the only explanation left.” Mother continued. “Too many things are happening that none of us are responsible for.”
“What things?” Shauna asked for all of them.
“Oh, I found wet bath towels on the floor after you children hung them up. An entire package of cookies disappeared the other day when each of you only had two.”
Shauna watched Tim’s face turn red as he squirmed in his seat.
“Then, there are the dirty dishes,” Mr. Taylor added. “We know that you children always rinse off your dishes and put them in the dishwasher when you fix something to eat. But every time I come into the kitchen, I find dirty dishes all over. This ghost has been very hungry lately.”
“It’s also been sneaking into empty rooms and turning on the lights. The other day it even turned on the TV during study time,” Mrs. Taylor went on.
“Does anyone know who’s responsible for this?” Mr. Taylor asked.
The room remained silent.
“In that case,” Mr. Taylor concluded, “we must have a ghost.”
Shauna thought about the “ghost” several times that evening as she finished her homework and got ready for bed. Her mother had looked very tired tonight. Maybe if the Taylor ghost was a little better behaved, things would run more smoothly for her and for the whole family.
No one was home when Shauna returned from school the next afternoon. She removed her backpack, dug the house key out of its side pocket, and let herself in.
The house was a mess! Breakfast dishes were still on the counter. The living room hadn’t been touched since the night before. And towels were draped everywhere in the bathroom. Obviously, Mom had not been there all day as she usually was.
Shauna picked up a note on the kitchen table. “Dear children,” it read. “Grandma is not feeling well. I’m taking her to the doctor and then cleaning her house. Peter is going to Mrs. Pulsipher’s after school—please pick him up. I’ll be home in time for Tim’s award banquet.”
Shauna went to pick up Peter. At their return, Tim and Kathy were just getting home from school.
“I hope Grandma isn’t too sick,” Kathy said, after reading the note to Tim. “Me, too,” he said.
“This place is really a mess, isn’t it?” Shauna asked as they walked through the house to the kitchen.
“It looks like the Taylor ghost and its friends have been here.” Tim laughed. “Speaking of friends, I think I’ll run over to Jeff’s and pick up a tape I want to hear. I hope Mom didn’t forget about the muffins we have to take to the banquet tonight.”
“We can’t leave this mess for Mom,” Shauna protested.
“Get the ghost to clean it up,” Peter suggested.
“That’s a good idea,” Kathy agreed.
“I’m no ghost,” Tim argued. “I’m out of here.”
“I sure hope the ghost doesn’t tell Dad that you left without doing your homework,” Shauna said as Tim opened the front door.
“All right,” he groaned, returning to the kitchen. “But let’s get this over with. I don’t want to spend all afternoon playing ghost.”
Shauna and Peter went through the house putting things in their proper places. They especially made sure that all the towels were hung neatly. Tim did the dishes, while Kathy baked raisin muffins.
When all the tasks were done, Kathy helped Shauna cut out a ghost shape from a piece of white construction paper. They made a name tag for it with a red-bordered gummed label. Shauna printed Taylor Ghost on it, stuck it on the ghost, and placed it on the kitchen counter next to the muffins.
The children—even Tim—gathered around the kitchen table to do their homework while they waited for their mother. Peter brought a coloring book and crayons.
It wasn’t long before the front door opened and Mrs. Taylor rushed to the kitchen. She stopped abruptly and looked around, astonished. Then she spied the muffins on the counter and hurried over and picked up the ghost. “I see our ghost has been here. I like him. I hope he haunts this house forever!” She went around the table and gave everyone a big hug.
That evening as Shauna crawled into bed, she noticed something under her pillow. It was a candy bar wrapped in a note. She carefully removed the paper. It read:
Thank you for helping me today.
I love you,
Shauna placed the candy bar on top of her desk. She’d save it for after school tomorrow. It had been a long, busy day, and she was tired. It’s a happy kind of tired, though, she decided as she drifted off to sleep.