Social life at Autumnway Middle had been tough for Roger. Academics were about the same level of difficulty, but social status is what makes or breaks you in middle school. Bernard Berenson Middle had jocks who bullied, and cool people who mocked and jeered, but Autumnway had rich snobs.
These kids were from the rich elite, often old name, high society families, destined to run for political office or at least purchase the mega-huge houses on the outskirts of town. Some Autumnway students were nice, some were total jerks, but none of them had a problem with tuition going up for the third time in one school year.
Roger’s rich grandparents had insisted he go to Autumnway and paid for him to go. Consequently, everyone knew that his parents weren’t rich, but greatly respected his grandparents. They reminded him every day. Roger hated that. Yet leaving Autumnway, snobbery and all, felt more like an exile to Roger.
He still had found a circle of friends who didn’t care whether or not he was rich. He had teachers who were impressed at his high grades. And his crush was just barely starting to warm up to him, blossoming into something more—Then his grandparents’ death caused the fall from Autumnway, and threw his social world into chaos.
However, life at Bernard Berenson Middle was beginning to get interesting. Fourth grader Eric was forced to pay Roger ten dollars for following through with the ghost challenge. The recording was too dark to see anything, but the sounds recorded provided strong evidence that the cafeteria was haunted at night.
The whole event made Roger a hero, boosted his popularity, and got him into trouble. News of the event reached the principal’s office, which eventually lead to Roger getting detention after school for one week.
“That video you posted to Youtube? It sealed your fate. You let the whole world know you sneaked into the cafeteria after hours at the dance!” exclaimed Principal Gordon Luthar, “Who would have thought. Hunting GHOSTS. Who knows what you stirred up just by SNEAKING IN THERE. You’re not supposed to be in the cafeteria after hours.”
“But it was unlocked,” said Roger.
“Where you went was off limits. What you did was dangerous. Off limits and danger spell detention.”
“Then why is there a book in the school library on the ghosts around the school grounds?”
“It’s a work of fiction,” said the principal, “After this week, return the book to the library. And don’t let me catch you ghost hunting again.” He paused for effect. “Now. Was this a bet you were doing?”
“Um, Yes,” said Roger.
“Uh-huh. I thought so. We caught a certain fourth grade student running his mouth about it. He’s in detention too. I figure we might as well make you guys an example. There are consequences to disrespecting the rules.”
The first afternoon of detention was harsh. Roger’s parents certainly didn’t like it when they learned he had to stay after. But once the initial shaming and disapproval was over, detention wasn’t so bad as it was made out to be. It was just yard work.
On Friday afternoon Roger counted the hours before he was able to stop hauling brush to the dumpster. In passing, he met Eric the fourth grader. He was the one caught as the instigator for the whole-trespassing-for-a-bet scandal.
“Hey, Roger,” said Eric.
“What do you want?” said Roger.
“I’m sorry I got you into trouble.”
“Me too,” said Roger.
“But it also won you approval with the cool crowd, didn’t it?” asked Eric.
“Where are you going?” asked Roger.
Eric had an impish grin on his face.
“Do you still have that book on ghosts that haunt the school?”
“No, I returned it Monday,” said Roger.
“Well I checked it out.”
Eric showed him the book: Berenson Haunted: A List of the 24 Scariest Ghosts that Haunt Bernard Berenson Middle School.
“Look here,” said Eric as he quickly flipped through the book.
“Page five: #21: ‘Coach Steadman: The Flying Headsman,’ who is seen near this very spot.”
“At the dumpster?”
Eric pointed to the double doors that lead to the gym.
“The new gym was built right after his death. He’s why basketball games are never held on Friday night. He’s seen in the rafters of the gym ceiling, circling the banners. He’s supposed to flap around like a bat in the bleachers and screech his whistle at the people in the very top stands. Especially in the areas where no one ever sits. But it’s only while under a half moon and at 10 p.m. on a Friday. Complicated conditions, but I bet it’s worth it. Guess what today is?”
Roger looked at the sky. It was after 5 p.m. A large half moon reflection was visible.
“I can’t get in trouble again,” said Roger.
“That’s fine too,” said Eric, “Because I got us a cover to stay out later.”
Eric gave Roger a flyer.
“Reporters needed for Berenson Times?” said Roger.
“Sure. This way we can investigate all 24 ghosts on campus,” said Eric. ” We get evidence, and write a story proving whether or not it’s all real. And it’s school related.”
“Trust me, they exist,” said Roger.
“But it isn’t believable,” said Eric. “If it’s published in a paper, then it’ll be believed. Whatcha think?”
From “Fall from Autumnway” from the curiously long book of short stories, I am lettuce, who are you?
Go to Next Page
Go to Previous Page