After reading Howl’s Moving Castle, Cecil enchanted our house. It walked in creaking, swaying steps, shifting barely two blocks in an afternoon, so when I woke to see a rocky coast outside my... [+]
Peekaboo tiptoed towards the stray cat preening itself in the abandoned house.
His older brother, Shriekaboo, rolled his eyes. “Why are you creeping?” he asked. “The cat can’t hear you.”
“He’s concentrating, Shriekaboo,” Father said. “Don’t you remember what it was like to be a ghost in training?”
“Of course,” Shriekaboo said. “I scared a snake right out of its skin with my very first boo.” He patted his left pocket. He’d kept the snakeskin as a souvenir.
“Yes, well, you have a natural talent,” Mother said. “Others need practice.”
Peekaboo tiptoed to a stop. “If the cat can’t hear me, how am I going to scare it?”
“An animal or person can only see or hear you when you want them to,” Mother said. “You can scare this one with a boo, or you can scare it just by letting it see you.”
“If it sees him it’ll die laughing,” Shriekaboo said.
Peekaboo had chosen to wear his favorite booperhero suit that day. He wanted to be just like Booperman, the scariest ghost ever. Like his hero, he wore a red, yellow and blue costume with a big B on the chest, red boots and a long, flowing cape.
“Don’t mind your brother,” Mother told Peekaboo. “I think what you’re wearing makes you look very scary. It might help if you wear a frown too though.”
“And remember to think of scary things,” Father said. “It will make your boo more intense.”
Peekaboo floated over to the cat. When he was right behind it, he filled his mind with scary thoughts. He thought about losing Mother in the boopermarket, making his heart thump wildly. He thought about losing his teddyboo at the park, which made him shiver all over. Losing his swimming costume in the surf? That was just too terrifying to think about.
“Take a deep breath,” Mother said. “Fill those lungs.”
“You can do it,” Father said.
Peekaboo sucked air into his lungs. “BOO!!!” he screamed.
The cat yawned and scratched an itch.
Shriekaboo put his hands in the air and wiggled his fingers. “Oooh, that was soooo scary. I’m trembling all over. I’m quaking in my boots. I’m shaking...”
Mother tweaked his ear.
“I’m hopeless at this,” Peekaboo said.
“You sure—” Shriekaboo began before Father tweaked his other ear.
“Go and wait outside, Shriekaboo,” Mother ordered. “You’re just making things worse.” She glided over to Peekaboo and put an arm around his shoulders. “Never mind. You’ll do better next time.”
“Perhaps you should try scaring something a little smaller,” Father suggested. He poked his head through a wall. “There’s a baby mouse in here.”
With hope in his heart, Peekaboo passed through the wall. He’d heard that mice were timid little things.
“Go for it, son,” Father said. “Scare the fur right off it.”
Mother poked her head through the wall too. “You just have to believe in yourself.”
Peekaboo floated over to the mouse. “BOO!!!” he screamed.
The mouse’s whiskers didn’t even twitch.
Peekaboo’s bottom lip wobbled. “How am I ever going to scare a person if I can’t even scare a mouse?”
Father cupped a hand against Mother’s ear and whispered, “There’s got to be something in this house he can frighten.”
Mother looked at cobwebs dangling from the ceiling. “There might be a nervous spider in one of those.”
Outside, Shriekaboo looked around the garden. After a bit of searching, he found what he needed on a tree trunk. He went and got Peekaboo and brought him outside.
“Shut your eyes and come with me,” he said.
“Why?” Peekaboo said.
“Because I’m your big brother, that’s why,” Shriekaboo said.
Peekaboo shut his eyes. Shriekaboo took his hand and led him over to the tree trunk and stood him right in front of it.
“Now boo,” Shriekaboo said.
“But I can’t see what I’m booing at,” Peekaboo said.
“Doesn’t matter,” Shriekaboo said. “Just do it.”
“Okay,” Peekaboo said. His big brother could be annoying sometimes, but he trusted him. He took a deep breath. “BOO!!! ”
“Now open your eyes,” Shriekaboo said.
Peekaboo’s smile was so big, his face split in two. He pushed it back together then zoomed into the house. “Mother! Father!” he cried. “I did it! I scared something right out of its skin!”
Shriekaboo pulled the crackly old cicada shell off the tree trunk and took it inside for Peekaboo to keep as a souvenir. He knew the animal that had been in the shell was long gone, just like the snake was long gone from the snakeskin he’d found in a field on his first day as a ghost in training.
Peekaboo put the cicada shell in a pocket of his cape. His little chest swelled with pride. It was going to be a bootiful day.