It was a typical Saturday night. The kids had all gone out and Henry and I were sitting in front of the telly watching the late show. These days we didn't worry about going to bed early, Henry didn't have to get up for work and I, well, I enjoyed the nights.
It was one of those horror flicks, you know, the ones where the kiddies play with the tv and ghosts come out of it. We had Marg and Greg over and the four of us sat there, eating popcorn and drinking cola. Greg and Henry never said a word at these nights, Marg and I have been known to snigger a few times, but these shows, they just weren't as good as the old ones.
We were getting up to the good part, the exciting part, the scary part. This was the bit the others came over for, 'cause this was the part that Grandad came out. Before this, he was always asleep while we watched tv, but, as though he could time it, when this bit of the movie was on, he always joined us. He'd come up behind one of us, throw his arms around us from the back (not easy to do, he's ninety-six if he's a day) or he'd come and stand in front of the telly with his arms raised making this moaning sound. As if he thought we'd fall for it.
On this night, though, we'd picked a good one. I can't remember the name of it, but I picked it up at the video shop. We were actually looking forward to the scary part and even the men were paying attention. Grandad came out, doing his usual stuff, but this time, this night, I stood suddenly and spoke to him like I'd never spoken to him before in my life. "Grandad, please, you're not fooling anyone. You're no more a ghost than I am. Now, go away and let us enjoy this movie." I sat back down and Grandad walked away, crestfallen. We got back into the movie and before long I had forgotten all about the incident. The kids came back and joined us after Robbie made a phone call. Ordering some kind of food to be delivered, I think.
The doorbell rang and Jackie called out from the kitchen: "I'll get it!" We paid not the slightest attention after that, but became deeper and deeper engrossed in the movie. From the periphery of my senses, I seemed to sense that there was some movement going on in the background, there were voices screaming, people running to and fro, but it didn't really register. Not until Jackie yelled at me to come. Sighing heavily and knowing I would not hear the end of it if I didn't go, I took note of where I was and left the others to watch it while I went to see what the problem was.
As I approached the front door, I noticed that there were footprints all over the carpet and I began to get annoyed. God knows, I spend long enough cleaning that the kids should know better than to bring mud into the house. I looked up and Grandad was standing there with a sheepish expression on his face. "What have you done, now?" I asked him and followed him out to the back yard. There, in the middle of the lawn were the kids standing around a lump of light-coloured material. Frowning, I approached them, wondering what they were studying. Arriving, I realised that the lump of material was actually a person curled up in a feotal position, shivering. Shivering not with the cold, but with fright. I looked at Robbie and Jackie. "What did you do?"
Robbie looked up. "It wasn't us, it was Grandad. He did it."
I was annoyed now. "What do you mean? He couldn't harm a flea."
"Mum." I looked across as Jackie spoke. "Robbie ordered pizza. When it arrived, he went to the door. The man was there," she indicated the person on the ground, "But before he had a chance to do anything, Grandad arrived and made a big fuss. The man panicked, then Grandad panicked, then, before we knew what was happening, they were chasing each other through the house."
Robbie looked down at his shoes. "Well, Grandad did most of the chasing. The poor pizza man was running for his life." He looked up, smiling ruefully at me as he did so. "Well, at least we know this man could've run the minute mile if he'd been timed." His boyish grin broke through. "It was great! Grandad has never looked meaner." He turned to his Grandad and winked, holding his thumb in an upright position. Grandad returned the grin. If he could have made sound, I knew he would have been giggling. I looked at the two of them, shook my head, then gestured to the pizza man.
"Well, what are we going to do about him?"
Robbie and Grandad turned to where I was pointing and became sober. "I don't know." Robbie replied. I hadn't heard Grandad speak for fifteen years. I sighed heavily. I looked back at the house, working through the possibilities. Turning back to the group again, I spoke.
"Okay. We've gotta put this man somewhere where he'll wake up safely. We can't keep him in the house, 'cause he'll just wake up and probably see Grandad again."
Jackie looked at me eagerly. "What if we drive his car back to the pizza bar?"
I looked at her. "Good thought, but what time do they close? I mean, remember, we don't want to be caught doing this."
"I know." Robbie spoke after thinking at great lengths. "What about if we drive him to the police station? It's dark around one side of it, so we can park him there and no one will see us."
I cupped my hand on my chin whilst I thought. "Yeah, that should work. I mean, it's within walking distance." I came to a decision. "Okay, that's what we'll do. Get your father to help you carry him to his car. And, Robbie," I called out as he hurried to the house, "Make sure you put your money in the man's pouch. I don't want to be seen as being a thief."
"Okay, Mum." He replied and continued on his way. I shook my head at the whole tragedy and turned to Grandad.
"Congratulations, old man. I think this qualifies you as a ghost. You can now go and look for a suitable house to haunt."
For the first time in fifteen years, he spoke to me. "I don't want to. I'm happy here." I looked at him in dismay.
"Well, in that case, there are rules to follow. Grandma followed them for years before you died, so, now, you can follow them. First, you don't just scare the first person who comes to the door. You stake them out, make sure we don't want them around. Second, you ........"