The darkness holds secrets. Emily and her brother know that, for sure. The floor is treacherous and the walls whisper. Probably, a ghost lives in the hall. Probably, a troll lives under the floor.
Mom says there is no ghost and no troll. Dad says he has two silly-monkey children who watch too much T.V. Of course, Emily and her brother realize that Mom and Dad are too old to know the truth. You forget what is real when you get married. Mary Hingle, who lives next door, says “Parents don’t know what’s real because sex boggles their brains too much.” Emily and her brother aren’t quite sure what that means, but it sounds just about right.
Mary Hingle says she is very brave. Mary Hingle won’t walk down the dark hall. Mary Hingle isn’t very brave at all. She isn’t like Emily and her brother. Not only are they the bravest, smartest children in the neighborhood, they are “aloof and calmly aware.” Emily read a book once about a secret agent who was “aloof and calmly aware.” Emily told her brother all about it. He agreed that it was very important to discipline themselves in the art of aloofness and calm awareness. They spent the next week devoted to becoming “aloof and calmly aware.” They felt they had pretty well mastered it.
It is summer vacation. The days are long and hot. Emily and her brother are getting bored. They have finished the puzzle books they got last Christmas from their kissy-faced aunt Anna. They have beaten every level of “Ghost Buddies II: The Haunted School” and even the bad guy at the end. They have watched every single episode of “M.A.R.K. 2.0”.
It’s a Tuesday afternoon. Emily is sitting upside-down on the overstuffed couch with her head hanging down and her hair on the floor. Her brother sitting on the step stool he still needs in order to reach the bathroom sink. He is playing “Jep’s Lettuce Factory” on his game console and sucking because he won’t listen to her and buy a tractor with two towing things. He is not as aloof as her.
As Emily sits there, being aloof and annoyed, she realizes the terrible mistake. Quickly, she rolls off the couch and hurries to the colorful bookshelf in the corner of the room. Her eyes scan the titles until she finds the book she is looking for. She carries the book to her small white desk and flips it open. Her mind spins as she sees the magnitude of the terrible mistake.
Emily calls to her brother to pause the game. He does and she brings the book over and flops it open in front of him on the floor. He looks at her expectantly and she whispers into his ear. His eyes grow wide as he realizes she is right. There is a terrible mistake.
It is inconceivable that such brilliant and calmly aware children have not realized it before. Emily feels dumb. Her brother feels irresponsible. Both children are painfully awarw that they musst take action. The sit together for several minutes and convers in hushed tones. Together, they come up with a plan. Emily makes a list of all the supplies they will need to fix the terrible mistake. Her brother goes to find duct tape, a magic staff and fresh spring water, while Emily searches for find a rough bit of canvas, bedrolls and some vittles.
After gathering the supplies, the two wonderful children stand poised in the kitchen. Emily aloofly looks at her brother. Her brother calmly and awaredly takes her hand. Together the two children take a brave, purposeful step into the dark hall. This time they do not hurry. Hurrying is the mistake they have made all along. The two siblings are shaky, not because they are afraid, of course, but because of the fierce wind that is blowing about them. The two stalwart heroes move slowly to the middle of the hall.
This is about where the ghost must live. Very bravely, they use the canvas and the tape to build a shelter and crawl inside. Emily puts out the bedrolls and the children sit close together for warmth. After sitting in silence for a long, long time, the two children, who are starving and freezing to death crawl inside the bedrolls and eat the provisions they have gathered.
Just as they are finishing up it happens. The ghost begins to moan. Then the shelter collapses and the frightened children scream as something huge and heavy drops on them from above. Emily, thinking quickly, grabs the magic staff and waves it at the ferocious thing. The ferocious thing growls and sits up looking right at Emily .
“Emily Elizabeth Nelson, what on earth are you doing?” Emily’s mother grabs the broom that Emily has aimed at her. She struggles to free herself from the bed sheet she is tangled up in. “Why did you tape a bed sheet to the wall?”
Emily knows her mother will not understand about the terrible mistake. She tries to explain the brave plan in simple terms, “We had to lure the troll out so the ghost would eat him.” Emily’s mother stops frowning. She begins to laugh instead.
“Did it work?” She asks. Emily nods her head. “Good. Take your sheets and blankets back to your bed, and I will make you a lunch that consists of more than dinner rolls and bottled water.”
Emily and her brother exchange confused looks. Then, quietly they take the bedrolls and canvas to the storage facility and trudge back to the kitchen for lunch with the craziest mom ever.