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At first, nobody really believed in the ghosts. Least of all Harry or Books or me.
But by the time last summer was over, almost everybody in Bramton had seen Horace and Essie-heard lem talking and everything. Sure, those two sly Parnells would fade away and pop into view again like a TV picture on a stormy night; but enough of 'em showed so they could be recognized for what they were.
Since then, ghost hunters and so-called occult scientists have been coming around to visit the old house on Spring Street. If one or both of the Parnells feel like making an appearance, they'll put a real scare into whoever comes calling. Then a story about the Parnells will come out in a magazine or newspaper. But the story'll always talk about "collective hysteria" or "mass delusion," as if Horace and Essie weren't real and anybody who thinks different is soft in the head.
Oh, they're real, all right. The people of Bramton are kind of proud that Horace and Essie live in our village-although I guess the word "live" doesn't apply to ghosts. But where those two Parnells would be today if Harry the Blimp and Books and I hadn't overheard Fancy Shoes and Black Boots talking ... well, that's anybody's guess.
It all started that first week in August, with Harry, Books, and me playing one of our games at the Parnell place. The three of us have been best friends since second grade. That was five years ago, and five years is a long time to have the same best friends. The truth is, most of the other kids don't have a lot -to do with us. They say we're weird.
We're not, though. Different, maybe. But not weird.
Take Harry the Blimp, forexample. Harry Troy's his real name, but everybody calls him Harry the Blimp because of his size. He's almost six feet tall and must weigh close to two hundred pounds. He's got a big moon face and looks like he's hiding an inflated inner tube under his shirt. Harry will never get an A+ in the brains department, but he's really a good-natured guy, and I've never seen him get angry at anybody, no matter how much they laugh at him on account of his size. Maybe that's why Harry likes hanging around with Books and me. We don't laugh at him.
Books Scofield's the only girl I know who can't make up her mind whether she wants to be a college professor or the bantamweight boxing champion of the world. She usually wears old blue jeans and dirty white sneakers and tee shirts with things like SAVE THE WHALES on 'em. She's got freckles and short brown hair and a left hook that could knock the head off a gorilla. Her real name's Wendy, but everybody calls her Books because there doesn't seem to be anything she doesn't know. She doesn't study more than anybody else, but whenever test marks come out, there's Wendy Scofield's name at the top of the list. Books doesn't make a big thing of being the class brain, even though it bugs a lot of her classmates. She's a good friend, and I don't think she's weird at all.
Me? My name's Tommy Donahue. And I have a way of doing everything wrong. You know what I mean. Give me an arithmetic problem where two numbers just beg to be multiplied, and I'll start doing long division, quicker'n scat. On dress-up day at school, when all the boys wear jackets and ties and look their best, I'll forget and put on my shirt with a torn pocket and pants with a hole in the knee. Put me in a basketball game, and the first time I get the ball I'll stuff it in the wrong basket so the other team gets two points. Dad once said that if everybody in the world was starving and it started raining chicken soup, I'd be the only one who'd run outside holding a fork.
But the one thing I have got is a good imagination. I dream up most of the games that Harry the Blimp and Books and I enjoy so much. Things like King Arthur and his knights invade the Land of the Hobbits, or Robin Hood and his Merry Men climb Mount Olympus. Sometimes we have a little trouble with Books' who won't sit still for being Maid Marian or Queen Guinevere while Harry the Blimp and I have all the fun. Usually she figures out some way to put Marian or Guinevere asleep for a thousand years or have them held for ransom in a far-off land. Then she becomes an Amazon warrior or the bandit Belle Starr, and she's happy again.
For our games, you can't go to a park or playground. I mean, it's embarrassing to be at the Sheriff of Nottingham's archery contest, flexing an imaginary bow and getting set to shoot at a target a hundred paces away when somebody's screaming in your ear to get off the handball court and all the grown-ups are laughing their heads off at you.That's why we liked playing at Parnell House so much. Three whole acres, right in the middle of town, with no people around to bother us. The younger kids were scared of the place, and the older ones didn't want to get their clothes dirty. But we three thought the place was swell. There were old, twisted trees to climb, and high grass to hide in, and a swampy spot where you could catch frogs. There was even a graveyard out in back with a big stone monument