A Ghost of a Trick, or Treat

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A Ghost of a Trick, or Treat

The doorbell chimed again, making Ernie shudder. Just a few more, then it would be over, he promised himself as he grabbed the bowl. One benefit of living at Guard Village - Senior Living was supposed to be that no one visited. No one had warned him Halloween was the exception.

Taking a deep breath, inhaling the lingering scent of burnt cookies that staff had made, he opened the door. Two small children stared up at him.

“Trick or treat,” the tiny ghost child squealed loudly, like the volume might make up for the lack of height. Covered by a white sheet that brushed the ground, it was impossible to determine the exact age or gender. It held a plastic pumpkin tub thrust in front.

Seeing an easy win, Ernie grabbed a handful of sweets ready for a quick toss and a faster retreat.

“No, that's not how you do it, Max,” the little girl next to him said. She was a chubby-cheeked angel, fake white wings hanging lopsided. Her halo fell off her too small head, but she caught it and put it back up. “You have to wait for them to answer..”

Ernie sagged, the bucket of sweets hanging loose in his hand. He had heard about as many jokes as he could take for this year's Halloween, but his turn manning the door was almost over. Why couldn’t they just take the sweets and leave?

“He ain’t dressed up. Mama said only those dressed up get the joke, Mazie,” Max said, but he didn’t raise the pumpkin for the sweets again.

Ernie looked down at his old man visage; with his beige trousers, striped cardigan, and white polo shirt underneath his costume were far more authentic than theirs. He was especially proud of his eighty-year-old hands where they held the sweets basket. It was a far better costume than either of them could imagine, and it suited him year round.

Mazie rolled her eyes, catching her halo as it toppled again. “I’ll show you how it’s done. Trick or treat?” Mazie said, pushing forward her pumpkin in a replica of what the boy had done.

Ernie wasn’t the only one to notice. “Hey, that’s the same as what I did!” Max said.

“Don’t be a baby, Max,” Mazie said, nudging herself slightly in front of her. “I’m in charge. Remember, mama said so.”

Little Max deflated, sniffling, and Ernie glimpsed blue eyes through two small holes in the ghost costume, tears brimming.

Ernie let the sweets in his hand fall back into the bucket. “I think I’d like to see a trick,” he said.

The girl opened her mouth, taking a deep breath, but Ernie raised his hand and pointed at Max, who was still slumped in the ghost costume. “From him,” Ernie added.

“He doesn’t know any jokes. He’s just a baby,” Mazie said, rolling his eyes, though Ernie doubted there was much difference in age between them.

“I’m sure he knows a trick,” Ernie said, crouching, so he was the same height as the boy.

Max shuffled his feet, head down. Ernie hated seeing him so sad, something that would be repeated at every house he visited, his sister taking the credit and putting him down. But it didn’t have to be that way.

Ernie let his magic rise and solidify into an idea. It was glamour, much like the magic he used to build his own form. It coalesced, and he released it with a snap of his fingers towards Max.

The sheet fell to the floor at Max's feet. The little girl squeaked as she stared at her now translucent brother.

“Oh, I like that trick,” Ernie said, smiling as he filled the two plastic pumpkins that hung limp in both of their hands. “Very good.”

“How did you do that?” Mazie asked, waving her hand through Max’s arm. “How did the sweets still go in the pumpkin?”

The boy looked at Ernie, eyes wide, hovering between fear and excitement. He smiled slowly as he saw how much his sister was getting frustrated. He raised his head high as he gave a small nod. “I’m a ghost,” Max said, struggling to lift his full bucket.

“Show me how you did it?” Mazie said, stomping her foot, now ignoring Ernie.

Max shrugged. “You're not a ghost,” he said, looking at the girl’s halo.

This time it was Mazie who deflated. As she looked at their full buckets, she tucked a wayward sweet back inside that was threatening to overflow. It didn’t take her long to do the maths as she looked between the buckets and Max.

“This is better than my joke,” Mazie said, voice hushed, a smile slowly rising on her face.

Ernie watched them leave with a satisfied feeling. It would only last a few hours, but with a trick like that, Mazie would have no choice but to include Max now. Ernie wasn’t even worried that someone might find a ghost child odd. Humans were very good at ignoring what they couldn’t understand. After all, it was Halloween.

As a bonus, he’d given away that last of the candy. Ernie headed back inside, handing the empty bowl to the next one in line to stand at the door.

Jerry looked at the empty bowl in his hands, a heavy brow rising. “That many?”

Ernie smiled, shrugging noncommittally. No one said he had to give the sweets out fairly.

Want to read more about Ernie and Pierce? Check out FINDING DEATHS SCYTHE. It's free with my newsletter and the first released in the Ernie Smith and the Seven Sins story.

Being retired was supposed to be easy. No drama, no family, no problems. Ernie should have known better than to piss off Death.

Death's Scythe is missing, and he's refusing to collect any more ghosts until Ernie gives it back.

​There's only one problem. Ernie didn't steal it.

​Unfortunately, Death's Pride stops him from seeing any other answers. As the ghosts become a problem, Ernie has to choose: find the Scythe, or spend the rest of his retirement with people he couldn't stand when they'd been alive.

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