“Pumpkin! Pumpkin! Come here, kitty, kitty, kitty. Pumpkin!”
As twilight approached, Karen zipped up her jacket against the chilly wind and searched for her cat. He had managed to slip past her as she gave a candy bar to an early trick-or-treater.
Karen pulled the flashlight from her jacket pocket and used it to search the places where evening’s shadow had already fallen. When she reached the end of the block, she aimed the light at the porch of the long-empty house just in time to see Pumpkin enter through a broken window. She huffed and trotted up the sidewalk.
It was an early ranch-style house and wouldn’t have required much work to make it look nice again. But silly rumors about odd noises and spooky sights combined with the horrible economy to keep the “For Sale” sign permanently at curbside.
Karen was surprised that the real estate company hadn’t put a lock box on the door. The doorknob turned easily and she went inside.
“Pumpkin?” She walked in, shining the light around the floor. “Kitty, kitty, kitty?”
She turned to look down a hallway. There was Pumpkin, placidly considering the ghost at the far end.
Karen’s startled cry caught in her throat. The shimmering green vision of a young woman, perhaps in her late teens, floated slightly above the floor. The ghost appeared to be wearing an early 1950s style party dress. She was looking intently at Pumpkin.
“A kitty,” the ghost said in a sing-song voice. “I haven’t had a kitty for so very long.” The ghost looked down and to her left. In a flash, she snatched up a mouse and held it by the tail. Karen saw the mouse go limp, and a ghost mouse fled the body. “Look what I have for you, Kitty.”
Pumpkin looked and liked what he saw. He took a step toward the ghost.
“Pumpkin!” Karen cried. “Pumpkin! Come here, kitty!”
Pumpkin gave Karen a “just a minute” look and took another step toward the ghost.
Knowing what would happen to her cat if the ghost touched him, Karen peered around wildly and saw an old lamp sitting in a nook. She ran to it, yanking the plug from the dead socket. She took quick aim and threw the lamp.
It crashed right in front of Pumpkin. The cat forgot about the mouse and raced back around the corner and out the door.
That left Karen alone with an angry ghost.
“You scared my kitty away.”
Karen started toward the door, but it shut in front of her and would not open again.
The ghost floated around the corner and came closer to Karen.
“You scared my kitty away,” she accused once more.
Karen gave up on the door and whirled to face the ghost. “Pumpkin is my cat, not yours. You were going to kill him.”
The ghost put a finger to her cheek, thinking.
“I suppose that instead of a kitty, you can be my new friend. You can live here with me forever.”
Despite the dread that filled her, Karen made herself take a step toward the ghost. “I sure can – if you want me to make your afterlife a living hell. Bring it, bitch. But you’ll never know another minute’s peace with me around.”
The ghost’s eyes went wide and she floated back a pace. “You’re not very nice! I’ve never used that word. What a horrible thing to call someone!”
Karen realized that the girl ghost had, in life, been raised to be more genteel than Karen herself had been. She took another step forward and poured on the attitude.
“I don’t have to be nice to someone who wants to kill my cat and then me. And I’m just getting started not being nice. Lay your hand on me, and I’ll ramp it up until the roof falls in. I’ll be screaming at you every minute until eternity runs out. ‘Bitch’ is just the beginning.”
The door flew open behind Karen, and the knob dented the wall slightly.
“You’re horrible! I don’t know how someone like you can have such a nice kitty. Get out of my house!” the ghost demanded. “I don’t want you here ever again!”
“Deal.” Karen spun around and sprinted for safety. She was at the sidewalk before the ghost could slam the door. She stopped and looked back. The affronted ghost glowered at her through the broken window and then vanished. Karen picked up the pace again and headed quickly for home.
Pumpkin sat on the window ledge by Karen’s front door, grooming himself.
“Meow?” he inquired.
“Meow yourself,” Karen said softly. She picked Pumpkin up and cuddled him. “You damn near got us both killed tonight, Furbrain. We’re lucky I never got sent to charm school.”
She took Pumpkin inside and downstairs and placed him in his bed. “You can just stay down here for a while. I don’t need you escaping again.” Pumpkin gave her an imperious look as she went back up the stairs and closed the door.
The doorbell rang, Karen sighed as she went to open it. Her older sister stood behind a little girl who wore white face paint and a white sheet.
“Trick or treat!”
“Hello, Emily. Hi, Sis.”
“I’m a scary ghost, Aunt Karen!”
Karen leaned down and kissed the girl on the top of her head. “No, sweetie. You’re really not.”