As the Taylor family gathered around the dinner table, Shauna knew that her mother was upset.
“I have an announcement to make,” Mother said quietly, halfway through dinner.
Shauna put her fork down and looked at her mother.
“I have come to the conclusion,” Mother declared, “that this house is haunted.”
“You mean with a ghost?” Peter asked, his eyes growing big.
Shauna thought that ghosts existed only 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—”
“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 had only two.”
Shauna watched Tim’s face turn red as he squirmed in his seat.
“Then, there are the dirty dishes,” Dad added. “We know that you children always wash your dishes 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,” Mother went on.
“Does anyone know who’s responsible for this?” Dad asked.
The room remained silent.
“In that case,” Dad 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 were a little better behaved, things would run more smoothly for Mom 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. When they returned, Tim and Kathy were just getting home from school.
“I hope Grandma isn’t too sick,” Kathy said after reading the note.
“Me, too,” Tim said.
“This place is really a mess, isn’t it?” Shauna asked as they walked through the house to the kitchen.
Tim laughed. “It looks like the Taylor ghost and its friends have been here. Speaking of friends, I think I’ll run over to Jeff’s and pick up a book I want to read. 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 paper. They made a name tag for it; then Shauna printed TAYLOR GHOST on a label, 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 Mother rushed into the kitchen. She stopped abruptly and looked around, astonished. Then she spied the muffins on the counter next to the ghost. “I see our ghost has been here,” she said. She walked over to the counter and picked up the paper ghost. “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.