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Stories by Laura Lagana
Malissa & Joshua And The Ghost Who Came To Dinner

“I’m bored.” Malissa sipped her hot tea.

“Me too.” Joshua ate a bite of gooseberry scone, smothered with clotted cream. When he finished the pastry, he wiped his mouth and set the napkin on his plate.

The nanny removed the plates and teacups from the table, placing the china on the tray. “Why don’t the two of you go and play.” She grabbed the tray and headed for the door. “Now off with the both of you. Make yourselves scarce until dinner time.”

Malissa shrugged her shoulders. “Sounds good to me.”

“Don’t have to tell me twice.” Joshua raced his sister toward the door and down the hallway.

Gasping for breath, Malissa called out. “Where are we going?”

“You heard the nanny. She said to make ourselves scarce.” He turned. An unholy grin spread across his face. “We’re going to the family crypt.”

Malissa stopped in her tracks, whispering in dismay. “No…not the family crypt. Dead people are there, resting in final peace.”

“Then we’ve nothing to worry about. They’ll all be asleep.” Joshua tugged on her hand. “Please come with me. I’ve always wanted to go, especially when I found out about the place, but I don’t want to go alone.”

“Father is going to be very angry.” Malissa followed her brother into the library. She raised her brow. “How did you find out where it was? Father never told us where the secret entrance was hidden.”

He flashed a white smile. “I hid behind his desk one day and watched him go inside.”

Malissa smirked. “You are so bad.” Chewing on her bottom lip and pondering the decision, she finally made up her mind. “Okay, I’ll go with you.” She tapped her foot, waiting for him to reveal the secret doorway.

Joshua reached behind a family portrait hanging on the wall and pushed on a knot of wood. The door slid open, revealing a darkened hallway. He stood in the entryway and waived her over. “You coming?”

The stone stairway wound through the castle, ending at a dark cavern.

Malissa grabbed Joshua’s arm. “Where are we? I can’t see.”

“Just a moment.” Joshua felt along the side of the wall for a sconce. He pulled out a packet of matches, using one to light the candle. Golden warm light filled the room, casting mysterious shadows along the cavern walls. Skeletal corpses rested in carved out nooks. Malissa gasped. “I didn’t know there were so many.”

“We had a lot of ancestors.” He led them further into the crypt, stopping at a skeleton that was draped in the family plaid.

“Who is he?” Malissa kept a healthy distance.

He wiped at the centuries of dust covering the name plate. “It says his name is Fergus MacPherson.”

“Yes, but who is he?”

Joshua shrugged his shoulders. “I have no idea.”

A gust of wind swirled through the crypt stirring up the dust and cobwebs.

Malissa sneezed. “Let’s get out of here. This place gives me the creeps.”

He shivered. “Good idea.”

They dashed through the crypt, up the stairs, and into the library.

“Wow, that was creepy.” Joshua shut the door behind them and leaned against the closed door.

“You know what was weird? As soon as you said Fergus McPherson’s name, the room grew cold.”

Joshua scratched his head, dwelling on Malissa’s comment. The clock chimed. “It time for dinner. I didn’t think we were down there that long.”

Malissa shook off the feeling of unease, ready to leave the dusty memory behind. As they turned to leave, a ghostly apparition blocked their way. She screamed. Joshua drew back in fright.

The ghost covered his ears. “Stop it…please. Your infernal wailing is hurting my ear drums.”

Melissa stopped and stared for a second. “But you’re dead. You don’t have eardrums.”

“Still hurts when you scream though.”

Joshua approached and waived his hand through the middle of the ghost.

“That’s a bit rude, don’t you think?” Malissa called out to her brother.

“Who are you?” Joshua met the gaze of the ghost.

Malissa cut in and said, “It’s the ghost of MacPherson.”

“Why are you here?” Joshua continued with his questioning.

“I had been fast asleep for the last couple of centuries until the two of you woke me up. Now I’m famished. What do you have to eat?”

Malissa punched her brother in the arm. “Told you we shouldn’t have gone down there. How are we going to explain him at the dinner table?”

Joshua stepped away from Malissa’s onslaught, excited by the fact that a ghost stood before him. How often did this happen to children? “We’re having dinner shortly. Care to join us?”

Fergus MacPherson rubbed his belly. “Oh yes. It’s been ages since I’ve had a decent meal.” He waved them toward the doorway. “Lead the way.”

As Malissa and Joshua walked down the hallway, followed by the ghost of their ancestor, Malissa whispered to her brother. “I am not taking the blame for this one. You get to explain his presence to mother and father.”

He rolled his eyes. “Okay, now quit bugging me about it.”

Malissa pushed open the door to the dinning room. Her parents sat at the table, impatiently waiting for the children’s arrival. Once Fergus walked in, her mother shrieked and passed out. Her father grabbed his napkin and fanned the flush creeping over his face.

Fergus pulled out a chair and sat at the table, waiting to be served.

Joshua called out to the servant. “Bring us some haggis.”

The servant scurried to the kitchen to do as asked.

Mother coughed and lifted her head from the dead faint, gawking at the uninvited guest. “Why don’t you just leave?”

“He won’t leave until he eats a decent meal,” said Joshua.

Father spoke up. “Then by all means, bring on the food.”

Plates of haggis, roasted lamb with mint jelly and brown bread were brought in by shaking servants. One by one, they set the plates in front of Fergus and watched him devour the meal.

Malissa took a tentative bite of the lamb, hesitant to eat in front of a ghost. What sort of manners did one display to the undead?

When the meal was finished, Fergus loosened his belt and sighed. “My compliments to the cook. I thank you for the dinner. What time is breakfast served?”

Mother’s hand fluttered to her throat. “We eat at eight in the morning."

“See you then.” Fergus winked at Joshua and Malissa and then disappeared in a cloud of silvery smoke.

Father looked at the two children. With his elbows resting on the dinner table he waved at each of them with the end of his fork. “From now on, you two need to stay away from the crypt.

Malissa and Joshua hung their heads in a guilty fashion, but glanced at each other with knowing looks. Tomorrow they would be back for another adventure.

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