“On my first day of summer vacation” was always our first writing assignment when we got back to school. This year I had a doozy of a story, and no one will believe it.
I started my essay by saying we moved to a new house in a better neighborhood. It was an old house but nicer than anything we’d ever lived in. My brother and sister and I each had our own rooms, with a bathroom upstairs. Mom and Dad had their bedroom downstairs. It was the first time we hadn’t all slept on the same floor, or I didn’t share a room with my older brother, Roger.
I got to decorate my bedroom as I wanted. I was drawn to a cowboy theme and had a Conestoga wagon lamp beside my bed with wild horses on my bedspread. I even got a lariat at a garage sale and hung it on the wall. I had the coolest room in the house until a ghost appeared.
Yes, I said, ghost. Melvin used to have the room years before I moved there. He told me to get out one evening. He woke me up, rolled me out of my bed, and said, “Get out!”
I screamed and ran to Roger’s room. He had bunk beds, so without him knowing, I climbed into the bottom bunk and fell asleep.
“What are you doing in my room?” Roger hollered at me the following day.
“There’s a ghost named Melvin living in my room, and he wants me gone.” Roger laughed at me and said he didn’t believe my story.
I told him to sleep in my room that night and prove me wrong. He agreed to do that. When mom and dad told us to go to bed, I looked at Roger. Would he back out? But he didn’t. We brushed our teeth, shook hands, and I went into his room, sleeping on the bottom bunk again, and waited for him to confirm my fears.
Early in the morning, Roger returned to his room and climbed the ladder to the top bunk before the sun came up.
“Well, did you meet Melvin?”
“Yes, and he told me to leave.” I didn’t ask any questions. “Ricky, your room is haunted. Now go back to sleep.” I don’t know how my brother could go to sleep after a scare like that, but we figured Melvin was stuck in my room and couldn’t get out, so as long as we avoided it at night, we were safe.
During the day, I wasn’t afraid to sit in my room. Only after the sun went down did I feel the need to close the door and leave. I was lucky that Roger let me share the bunk bed in his room. He took pity on me after he spent the night with Melvin.
My parents didn’t know we were back to sharing a room because they were downstairs. And I was grateful that my older brother let me stay in his room, but it bothered me that Melvin was calling all the shots, and it was my room.
I went to the library and looked for a book on how to get rid of ghosts. It said you could banish them to the netherworld with interaction with their urn or grave. I had to find out who Melvin was and banish him. I rode my bike down to the historical society and met Mr. Sandler, who didn’t laugh when I told him there was a ghost in my house and I had to find out where his grave was. He asked me my address and looked it up.
A couple by the name of Burns built my house in 1926. They had a son named Melvin, who died of tuberculosis in my house. He was buried at the Smithville Cemetery.
I rode home and got Roger to go with me. We would perform an exorcism and banish Melvin to the great beyond.
“Where do you think it is?” Roger asked. We had walked the cemetery for the third time, not finding Melvin’s grave.
“Maybe they got it wrong,” I said back.
“Ricky, he isn’t here. Let’s go home,” but I wouldn’t budge. It was my room Melvin was haunting. I stepped off the path and walked toward the iron fence that surrounded the cemetery, there was tall grass, so I assumed no one was buried there. I was surprised when I tripped on something. Pulling the grass away, we found a broken stone.
Melvin Burns 1928-1938 “Our little Cowboy.” Chills when down my spine. Hadn’t I thought of the cowboy theme on my own?
Roger said we had to fix the stone. We pulled the grass out by the handful and propped the stone up on some piled rocks. Then we found out who mowed the cemetery and told Mr. Manchin about the grave that shouldn’t be neglected. He followed us out there and took the lawn mower from the little shed in the back and mowed around Melvin’s grave. We rode home, broke into our piggy banks, and bought some flowers to plant on Melvin’s newly uncovered grave.
“There, Melvin, your home looks great. No one will forget you. I stuck a little pinwheel that spun in the wind into the ground. We both said some nice things, telling him to stay put, and we left.
I was nervous that night. Had Roger and I been successful? My brother wished me good luck as I closed the door and climbed into bed. I left the wagon light on, it made the light play off the ceiling, and I said a little prayer.
“Please, Melvin, find your way to the other side. I will make sure your grave looks good.” I couldn’t keep my eyes open any longer, amazed when the sun came up the following day and I had a good night’s sleep in my room. Melvin had moved on.
So, when you ask me what I did on my summer vacation? I helped a lost spirit move on and reclaimed my bedroom. I did ask my mom for a spaceship blanket and changed the Conestoga wagon lamp for something less cowboyish, but I kept the lariat under my bed, just in case something else moves into my room.
Dawn DeBraal lives in rural Wisconsin with her husband, Red, two rescue dogs, and a stray cat. She has been published in over 500 short stories, poems, and drabbles and co-wrote a novel under the pen name of Garrison McKnight.