Kaz floated nervously back and forth in front of the dusty classroom wall.
His whole family was watching him. Mom. Pops. Little John. Even Cosmo, the family dog. They were all watching . . . waiting . . . and wondering: Would he do it this time?
Kaz swam back away from the wall. “I don’t want to,” he said in a small voice.
“Come on, son,” said Pops. “There’s nothing to be afraid of. All you have to do is take a deep breath and slide on through. Like this.” Pops stuck his foot through the wall first. Then his whole leg . . . his arm . . . and finally the rest of his body.
Poof! Pops was gone.
“Woof! Woof!” barked Cosmo. The dog’s tail swished from side to side as he dashed through the wall after Pops.
“Passing through is easy, Kaz,” Little John said. “Watch!”
Kaz watched his little brother turn cartwheels through the wall. Little John was only six. He had already mastered most of the basic ghost skills. He could glow, wail, shrink, expand, and pass through walls.
Kaz was nine. He could shrink and he could expand. But he couldn’t glow, he couldn’t wail, and he didn’t like to pass through walls. He had tried it once. It made him feel skizzy.
Cosmo poked his head back through the wall. He barked twice at Kaz, then disappeared again.
“I think Cosmo is saying, ‘Follow me, Kaz. Follow me!’” Mom said in a pretend doggy voice.
Mom reached for Kaz’s hand and led him toward the wall. “Let’s try it together.”
A solid mouse skittered into a hole in the floorboard. A solid spider danced across her web in front of the window.
“Here we go,” Mom said. “One . . . two . . . three!” She passed through the wall.
Kaz yanked his hand out of Mom’s grasp. He couldn’t do it. He just couldn’t!
Instead, he swam over to the door, sucked his body in, and shrunk down, down, down . . . until he was no larger than that old book in the corner and no thicker than one of the pages inside. Then he dived down and slid under the door. Blowing dust mites out of his way, he swam along the hallway and into the next classroom, where his family waited.
Little John groaned as Kaz expanded to his normal size and shape.
Mom and Pops shook their heads sadly.
“You’ll never survive in the Outside if you don’t learn your basic ghost skills,” warned Pops.
“We worry about you, Kaz,” Mom said, putting her arm around him. “There are solids in the Outside. You need ghost skills to protect yourself from solids.”
There was also WIND in the Outside. Wind that could pick up a ghost and blow him away forever.
“I’m never going to leave this old schoolhouse,” Kaz told his family. “And the solids hardly ever come in here, so I don’t really need ghost skills.” Kaz had never been outside his haunt before, but he was way more afraid of wind than he was of solids.
“Sometimes things happen that we don’t expect,” Mom said. “Don’t you remember what happened to Finn?” Finn was Kaz’s big brother.
“And your grandparents?” Pops added.
How could Kaz forget?
Finn, Kaz, and Little John had been playing Keep Away one day last spring. Finn often pushed his arm or leg through the wall to the Outside because he liked to hear Kaz and Little John squeal. But that day he stuck his head a little too far through the wall . . . and the wind pulled him all the way into the Outside.