“Have you decided yet, Jeffrey?” asked Melissa McKane.
Jeffrey Becker shook his head. “I’m still thinking about it,” he said. He pulled his knit cap down over his straight dark hair.
“It’s already October tenth,” said Kenny Thompsen.
Benjamin Hyde looked at his calendar watch. It told the time in every part of the world. “In fact, it’s already October eleventh in New Caledonia,” he said.
“I can’t help it,” said Jeffrey. “I’m still deciding.”
Every day, Jeffrey Becker walked to school with three of his friends: Benjamin Hyde, Kenny Thompsen, and Melissa McKane. And every day they talked about different things.
During September they had talked about baseball, football, and their new teacher. But the moment the calendar page was turned to October, there was only one topic of conversation: Halloween. And Halloween meant costumes.
The problem was, Jeffrey couldn’t decide what to be for Halloween.
Ben, on the other hand, had decided long ago. He was going to be a high-tech robot. Of course, what else would you expect from a kid who wanted to be a mad scientist when he grew up?
Melissa still wasn’t sure. “I’m either going to be a quarterback, a ballerina, a brain surgeon, or a judge,” she said, tossing her long, red ponytail.
“I know how you can decide,” Ben said to Melissa. “What do you want to be when you grow up?”
“A quarterback, a ballerina, a brain surgeon, and a judge,” said Melissa proudly.
No one laughed because they knew Melissa wasn’t kidding. And they knew she could do it, too.
“Well, I’m going to be a ghost,” Kenny said. “No sweat. Just cut eyeholes in a sheet.”
“That’s not what ghosts look like,” Jeffrey said.
“How do you know?” asked Kenny.
“Oh, no, here we go again,” Ben said.
Everyone glared at Jeffrey.
“I told you guys, but you don’t believe me. I have a friend who’s a ghost. I found him in my desk at school,” Jeffrey said for the two-hundredth time.
“And his name is Max,” said Ben.
“And he’s from the 1950s,” added Kenny.
“And only you can see him,” finished Melissa.
“Right,” Jeffrey said. “Now, do you believe me this time?”
His three friends all shook their heads.
“Face it, Jeffrey,” said Melissa. “The story you made up about peanut butter replacing nuclear energy was better than this. At least it fooled us for a little while.”
“Yeah. That was one of my all-time favorites,” said Kenny. Kenny usually didn’t say anything unless he could say something nice.
“But we’re not going to fall for this one,” said Ben. “Ghosts are too illogical.”
“Besides, if we wanted to see a ghost, we could just go in there,” Kenny said, pointing.
Everyone stopped and looked in the direction of Kenny’s pointing finger. They were standing across the street from the McGyver house. It was a three-story Victorian house with peeling paint, torn window shades, and overgrown weeds. It was the gloomiest, ugliest, creepiest house in town. And those were the nicest things people said about it.
Mr. and Mrs. McGyver had lived there for years. Then, according to Jeffrey, the McGyvers finally got tired of being mean to children. So, six months ago, they left town. They didn’t say goodbye to anyone.
Since the McGyvers had moved out, a lot of people had heard strange noises in the house. A few people had even seen mysterious lights flickering in it late at night. Everyone said the McGyver house was haunted.
“I’m glad the McGyvers moved,” Kenny said as they continued their walk to school. “Now we don’t have to go trick-or-treating there.”
“We never went trick-or-treating there,” Jeffrey reminded him.
“Yes, but now I don’t have to feel bad about it,” said Kenny.
When they got to class, their teacher, Mrs. Merrin, was writing on the chalkboard. It was a fill-in-the-blank history quiz.
“What are we going to do today, Mrs. Merrin?” asked Jeffrey. Jeffrey always liked to start off the day by asking a stupid question. Sometimes that irritated a teacher so much she wouldn’t call on Jeffrey for the rest of the day—which is exactly what he wanted.
However, Mrs. Merrin wasn’t that kind of teacher. In fact, Jeffrey couldn’t figure out what kind of teacher she was. All he knew was that she was very pretty. And she was very unpredictable.
“I’ll give you three guesses to tell me what we’re doing today, Jeffrey,” the teacher said, brushing the chalk dust off her hands.
“I’ll save my guesses for the quiz,” answered Jeffrey.
“I was afraid of that,” Mrs. Merrin said. “Well, class—”
Suddenly, a window shade in the back of the classroom snapped up. Mrs. Merrin looked at the window and shrugged. “I wonder how that happened,” she said. She walked over and pulled the shade down again.
But Jeffrey knew what had happened. He knew that window shades don’t just roll themselves up—unless they’re helped by a ghost!
There, near the windowsill, two hands appeared in midair. And then two arms appeared and then the feet and the legs. Right before Jeffrey’s eyes, Max, the third-grade ghost, was checking in. He looked so real that Jeffrey still couldn’t believe that he was the only person who could see the ghost.
Max dressed the way third-grade kids dressed in the 1950s—because that’s when he had lived. He always wore a long-sleeved flannel plaid shirt that was buttoned up to the collar. And he had baggy blue jeans rolled at the cuffs.
“What’s shaking, Daddy-o,” Max said as he floated toward the front of the room. Max had a funny way of talking, but Jeffrey was used to it. Max picked up a piece of chalk and looked at the chalkboard. Then he started filling in the blanks in Mrs. Merrin’s quiz.
Jeffrey shook his head and waved his arms to try to stop Max. But Max just smiled and said, “Stay cool, Daddy-o. Your teacher will love this. Trust me.” Then he went on writing on the board.
“Okay, gang,” said Mrs. Merrin. “I’d like you to take out a piece of paper and a pencil and—” She stopped in mid-sentence. Her eyes were staring at her quiz on the chalkboard. Each question had been filled in with Jeffrey’s name!
Mrs. Merrin put her hands on her hips. Then she began to read some of the questions aloud.
“The second president of the United States was Jeffrey Becker Jeffrey Becker made the famous horseback ride, shouting ‘The British are coming.’ The first flag of the United States was sewn by Jeffrey Becker.” Mrs. Merrin walked over to Jeffrey’s desk. “So far, you’ve got all of the answers wrong,” she said, “but maybe you can answer my next question.”
Everyone in the class listened quietly.
“Why did you do that, Jeffrey?” Mrs. Merrin asked.
Max sat on the edge of the teacher’s desk and winked at Jeffrey. “This is getting good, man,” Max said. “She thinks it’s a regular riot.”
Jeffrey didn’t know what to do. He did know it wouldn’t do any good to tell the truth. He imagined himself saying, “There’s an invisible ghost sitting on your desk and he’s the one who wrote on the board. Not me.” But Jeffrey knew he couldn’t say that. So instead Jeffrey said, “Well, I’ve always wanted a place in history. I was just trying out a few of them.”
“Jeffrey,” said Mrs. Merrin, brushing a strand of his hair out of his eyes, “I’m afraid your true place in history is with me—after school.”
“You mean I have a detention?” Jeffrey asked.
“Hey, that’s great, man,” Max said to Jeffrey. “You know what this means, don’t you? She digs you so much she wants you to spend more time with her. Just like all my teachers used to do.”
Jeffrey sat with his elbows on his desk and his chin on his palms. “Great,” he said glumly.
Later that day, when detention was over, Jeffrey found Max waiting outside the school.
“Hey, Jeffrey, I’ve got a really cool idea,” Max said in a friendly voice.
“Max, I just stayed an hour after school because of your first cool idea,” Jeffrey said.
“Aw, you’re not bent out of shape about that,” Max said. “Like, I can tell you’re groovin’ to see me.”
Jeffrey smiled. He couldn’t help it. Max was right. Jeffrey was glad to see his friend. They started walking home together.
“What’s your ‘really cool’ idea?” asked Jeffrey.
“How about you and me going to a soda shop? We’ll buy a couple of skyrockets and play some platters on the jukebox.”
Jeffrey shook his head. “I’ve got bad news for you, Max. There are no soda shops. And they don’t make anything called a skyrocket anymore, either. Besides, I don’t have any dollars for the jukebox.”
“Dollars?” Max gasped. “What happened to nickels?”
“Collector’s items,” Jeffrey said. “I’m working on my dad to get him to raise my allowance, but nothing so far.”
By that time, they had walked as far as the McGyver house. Jeffrey had to pass it on his way home, unless he wanted to go ten blocks out of his way.
“Cool-looking house,” Max said.
“People say it’s haunted,” Jeffrey told him.
“Oh, yeah?” Max asked excitedly. “Maybe it’s someone I know. Come on, Jeffrey. Let’s make the scene.”
What? Go into the McGyver house for a ghost reunion? That was about the last thing Jeffrey wanted to do—especially so close to Halloween.
“Maybe you should go in first, Max, and check the place out,” Jeffrey said with a weak smile. “If there are ghosts in there, you know, they may not want too many guests just dropping by.”
“Okay, I’m gonesville,” Max said, flying off. “But, like, I’ll be right back.”
But Max wasn’t right back. He was gone for a long while, so long that Jeffrey finally walked home by himself. But all the way home Jeffrey wondered what Max had found in the McGyver house—and why he hadn’t come out!
Copyright © 2011 by Megan & H. William Stine. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.