The Ghost Who Came To Dinner: A Thanksgiving Mystery Short Story

Nov 23, 2015 | 2015 Articles, Mysteryrat's Maze, Terrific Tales

by Gail Farrelly

The Ghost Who Came to Dinner was first published in the Yonkers Tribune last November.

Yesterday was the best Thanksgiving Day ever. But it didn’t start out that way.

In the morning I figured I’d have nothing to be thankful for. Not when my mom announced at breakfast that she was appointing me “MAN in charge” of the kids’ room for Thanksgiving dinner. Uh-oh. I didn’t like the sound of that, not at all. “If I’m a man, why are you sticking me in the kids’ room?” I asked. “I’m twelve years old, almost a teenager. Why should I be stuck with a bunch of little kids?”

My mom sighed and said, “Because you’re the oldest of the cousins.” She stopped stirring her coffee and smiled at me. “And, Andrew, I know you’ll do a great job. I invited a lot of people this year and everyone doesn’t fit in the dining room, so I’m setting up dinner in the den for you kids.”coffee

“I thought we were never supposed to bring food into the den,” I said.

“Today is an exception,” Mom said. “It’ll work out okay, especially with the TV and your video games right there. But I’ll need you to supervise things for me.”

Dad was giving me that ‘keep your mouth shut’ look from across the table, and I took his silent advice, munched on my cornflakes and thought about my dinner companions. A bunch of losers –my nerdy eight-year-old brother Kevin, my pesky six-year-old twin cousins, Freddy and Tony and my four-year-old cousin Charlotte, who is a cute little thing with chubby cheeks, short blond curls and a winning smile. Her table manners stink, though. She often eats with her hands, no knife, fork or spoon needed. Yuck!

Later that day I was at my post in the kids’ room. Dinner was in progress. I made up my mind to make the best of things – the day couldn’t last THAT long, I told myself. Freddy was picking his nose. So what’s new? Not good, but at least that made it easy for me to know it was Freddy (you see, he picked his nose in public quite often), rather than Tony, his twin. They looked alike and dressed alike, so it was the only way I could tell them apart. food

I noticed that Charlotte’s table manners had improved, but only slightly. I had fixed her a plate of turkey with all the trimmings and cut everything up into small pieces. She was using a spoon. Yay! But I noticed that she’d just picked up some sweet potatoes with the spoon, then reached over with her other hand, grabbed with her fingers the potatoes on the spoon and popped them into her mouth. She saw me looking at her and gave me a big smile. A sweet potato smile, since she hadn’t yet finished the fistful of sweet potatoes she had stuck in her mouth. I couldn’t help but smile back. As I said, she IS a cute little thing.

My nerdy brother Kevin, as usual, had one eye on his food and one eye on his iPad. If anything of note happened in the outside world, he’d be the first to know, but he didn’t seem to care much about the goings on in the kids’ room. Can you blame him?

A few minutes later I had my mouth full of turkey and almost choked when I looked across the table and spied something out of this world – really out of this world. Believe it or not, a little ghost was sitting on Kevin’s shoulder! It was a kid ghost and looked to be about my age, totally white and you could see right through him. Yikes! I blinked a few times, just to make sure I wasn’t seeing things. But when I stopped blinking and looked across the table at my brother, the ghost was still on his shoulder. ghost

Was I the only one who saw our uninvited guest? The answer was “No.” Soon I realized that the others could see him too. Good thing we were all almost finished our main course because the ghost was a lot more interesting than the food. Charlotte said nothing, but her eyes grew very wide. Freddy shouted, “Eek, it’s a ghost!” and went back to picking his nose. Tony, his twin, asked, “So, who cares?”

I have to say I admired how calm my brother was. He merely looked at the ghost on his shoulder and said, “Do you want some turkey?”

The ghost answered Kevin. “No, ghosts like me don’t eat, even on Thanksgiving. Thanks for offering though.”

Freddy was blunt. “Why did you come here then?” he asked the ghost.

“I didn’t want to be alone on Thanksgiving,” the ghost said. “So I came to dinner, even though I don’t eat.” He continued, “And I might be able to help you guys with a project. But Freddy, first you have to stop picking your nose.”

“Okay,” Freddy said, wiping his finger on a tissue he pulled from his pocket. This amazed me, since when Freddy’s mom and dad tell him that nose-picking is a no-no he just goes on picking anyway. Go figure.

“What kind of a project are you talking about?” I asked the ghost.

“I hear your dad coming. He’ll explain,” said the ghost. “Oh and just so you know, I’ll be disappearing for a while. See ya later.” A whoosh – it felt like a little breeze – and he was gone, or seemed to be!

A minute later Dad came into the den. “Aunt Mae has a problem,” he said. “She lost an earring. It must be somewhere in the house, because she knows she was wearing both earrings when she came here, but now she has only one.” He rubbed his chin. “We’ve looked around for it but can’t find it. Where it went is a real mystery. Maybe you guys can find it?”

Kevin raised his eyes from his iPad. “I don’t know why Aunt Mae wants to find it. It’s a big orange clunky thing.”

Charlotte nodded agreement. “Ugly, very ugly.”

Dad gave the stink eye to both Kevin and Charlotte. “You might think those earrings are ugly,” he said, “but to Aunt Mae and Uncle Gus they are very, very special. You see, Gus gave those earrings to Mae on their very first Thanksgiving together more than forty years ago.”

I took a spoon and ran it through the sweet potatoes left in the bowl on the table and said, “Hope the earring didn’t land here.” There were a few snickers. I pointed out, “Listen, we have to consider every possibility. The earring is orange too, y’know, and Aunt Mae always helps Mom out in the kitchen.”

I noticed that Dad was grinning. “I have a feeling you guys are going to solve the mystery of the missing earring. Oh, and Uncle Gus is offering a reward of a hundred bucks.”money

Before he left the den, Dad turned and wished us luck. We’d need that good luck I was thinking as I looked at the group of kids around the table and reminded myself that I was in charge here. I took a deep breath and tried to sound confident as I said to the group. “I’m sure we can do it. We have to all pull together and get organized. If the Hardy Boys can solve mysteries, so can we.”

Kevin was unimpressed. “Big whoop, Andrew,” my snarky little brother said. I pretended not to hear him. Why waste time on the little nerd? Besides, the ghost was back, and I wanted to get his advice. “Did you hear about the lost earring?” I asked him.

“Yep! That was the project I was talking about. You see, I make myself invisible when grownups are around and I never talk to them. But I do listen to what they say.” He looked around the table, and then added, “and so should you guys. Listen to grownups, that is.”

I told him that we kids hoped to find the earring and collect the reward. He said he’d help us if he could. I went over to the desk near the wall and found a writing pad and pen. Returning to my chair, I said to the group. “Let’s first make a list of all the things that could have happened to the earring.”paper

“Maybe Aunt Mae took the earring off and then forgot about it,” said one of the twins. “My mom does that sometimes. Like if the earring is pinching her ear or something.”

His brother agreed. Then he said, “Somebody could have stolen it when they saw her take it off. Old stuff is sometimes worth a lot of dough. I saw that on TV.”

Nerdy Kevin had a suspect in mind. He looked at me and said, “Mom says that Aunt Rosie’s boyfriend Harry has sticky fingers. He’s here today.” He stopped to think for a moment and then said, “Maybe he’s been in jail. I bet I could find out on Google,” he added, eyeing his iPad.

I put up my hand like a cop. “Let’s first look around the house.” I pointed out the door towards the living room.

“How’re we gonna do that?” asked Kevin. “Mom told us not to leave this room, remember? It’s like a jail sentence or something.”

I thought about that for a minute. “But this would be for a special reason, different than just going out and pestering the grownups. And Dad did ask us to help.”

The ghost spoke up. “I can float around out there and take a look around. Check out the floors and stuff. No one will even know I’m there…except you guys of course.”

Charlotte looked like she wanted to say something, then changed her mind. Maybe, I figured, when the others had left the room and only she and I were left she’d speak up. I looked down at my pad and made the assignments. “Kevin, check all the tables and desks in the house.” I turned to the twins. Not sure who was who (since Freddy was no longer picking his nose), I gave them a joint assignment. “You guys can check the bathrooms in the house. And also the kitchen counters. The food too!” I winked at Charlotte. “This is the command post. We’ll stay here and see if we have to add any other places to our list.”

As soon as the others had left, she turned to me and said, “I saw earring.” Her face was red.

“You did?” I asked. “Tell me where and we can go find it.”

No answer.

“Come on, Charlotte, spill the beans. Maybe we can solve the mystery and earn the reward money.”

“I whisper,” she said. She did just that as she leaned closer. She refused to look at me when she talked. “Aunt Mae was drinking and earring fell off. Went down her dress.” Charlotte tugged at the top of her dress, pulled it out, and pointed downward. “I think earring is in her boobies.”

I whistled. “Aren’t you the smart one. Glad you told me.”

Her face, a little less red now, lit up and she looked straight at me. “But how can we get it out?” she asked.

Good question. I had to have a little fun. It was, after all, a holiday. I said, “Someone could grab Aunt Mae’s feet, turn her upside down, shake her, and see if an earring drops out.”turkey

Charlotte looked shocked and nodded her head from side to side. “Uncle Gus no likey,” she said.

I grinned and told her I was only joking.

In a few minutes the rest of the gang, including the ghost, came back. They reported no luck in the search. I filled them in on what Charlotte had told me. They were excited to hear it. But the ghost had a good question. “Wouldn’t Aunt Mae feel that big bulky earring pressing into her boobs?”

Kevin snorted. “No! She’s been drinking all day and can’t feel a thing.”

The ghost said, “If I concentrate really, really hard, I can sometimes see through clothes. Just a little bit. I can’t see everything.” He shivered. “I wouldn’t want to see everything, but I can see sort of like shadows. I’ll check out Aunt Mae. If the earring is there, I’ll spot it.”

He headed for the dining room and we sat and waited for his return. When he came back in a few minutes the ghost was wearing an extra-big smile. He gave a little bow in Charlotte’s direction and said, “The little lady was right on the money. A big fat earring has found a home in Aunt Mae’s bra.”

“Awesome,” Kevin said, reaching across the table to high-five a beaming Charlotte. Then he looked at me and giggled. “How’re we gonna get the earring, big brother Andrew?” he asked.

“Gotta talk to Dad,” I said, jumping up from the table. Tricky, because of course I couldn’t mention the ghost and how we knew for sure where Aunt Mae’s earring had gone. Guess I made a good case, since Dad agreed to persuade Uncle Gus to bring Aunt Mae upstairs to a bedroom for a special Search Mission. A private one!

As we sat around the table waiting for the Search Mission results, the twins provided some entertainment. And It wasn’t nose picking, thank goodness. One chanted to the other: “Where oh where is Aunt Mae’s ear-ring? And then a return chant from the other twin: “Hid-den in her underwear, wear!” Giggles came next, followed by several repeat performances of the chant. So much for six-year-olds.

Luckily Dad was soon back with good news. He said, “You kids were right. They found the earring where you said it would be. I’m proud of you. Aunt Mae was so excited to find it she had to, um, take a little nap. But Uncle Gus will be here soon to give you the reward.”

As promised, Gus appeared a few minutes later. With his chubby body and white beard, he looks a little like Santa Claus, especially when he’s giving out twenty dollar bills! The missing earring might have been found later that night, he said, when Aunt Mae got undressed. But it could have been stepped on or crushed or lost or whatever. Now they both knew it was safe, and they could relax for the rest of the day. We saved their Thanksgiving, he said.

We loved getting the money, but doing a good deed felt really great too. After Uncle Gus left, our ghost friend came back to say good-bye.

“Will we see you again?” Charlotte asked. There was a tear running down her cheek. “Yep,” he said, “if Freddy promises to never pick his nose in public again.” Freddy was vigorously nodding his agreement. “And,” the ghost added, “if you kids have another mystery to solve. Then I’ll be back.” We all waved good-bye as our new friend floated out the door.

browniesAfter dessert (brownies and ice cream – yum!), Mom came in and told us we were free to go outside with the grownups if we wanted to. Funny, but we didn’t. We actually preferred to sit around and chat about our earring adventure. Here we were, sprung from the kids’ room, but we wanted to stay right there. So you see, yesterday’s Thanksgiving dinner turned out okay. More than okay, it was terrific. I helped to solve a mystery and earned twenty bucks. Even more important, I got some brownie points from mom and dad for doing what they said was a good job in the kids’ room. Hooray for me! Okay, I admit it. Hanging out with my nerdy brother and my pesky cousins yesterday turned out to be fun.

But the best thing of all about my Thanksgiving? Meeting a ghost. A real live one! I felt sad about only one thing. We never even asked him his name. Yesterday changed me. I used to wish I’d grow up faster. No more. I want a few more years of talking to the ghost who only talks to kids. We’ll see him again, I’m sure of it. Life is full of mysteries, and the ghost did say he’d come back when we have another mystery to solve.

Hey, take it from me. The kids’ room at Thanksgiving isn’t such a bad place after all!

More of Gail’s short stories, and many others including 2 more Thanksgiving mystery short stories, can be found in our Terrific Tales section.

Gail Farrelly (Twitter: @gailfarrelly) lives in Bronxville, NY. She writes mystery books, short stories, spoofs, and lots of other stuff. She’s putting the finishing touches on a book of her spoofs, LOL: 100 Comic Cameos of Current Events. She shares a website with her sister, Rita Farrelly, author of the local best seller, Not in the Bronxville: A Suburban Mystery Novel.


  1. Great story, thanks for sharing it with us.

  2. Thank you, Doward and Earl. So glad you enjoyed it. I based it on a true story about what happened once at a family party many years ago. Of course I added the ghost part.

  3. As always, Gail, your stories are delightful to read.

  4. Thank you, Jan and Guy. Glad you liked the story. Have a wonderful Thanksgiving.


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