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Who You Gonna Call by Sharon Frayne

Curled on his side, hidden beneath the homemade tent he’d constructed on his mother’s back patio, Arlo studied his arsenal. His Ghostbuster equipment: proton pack and laser, PKE meter to measure psychokinetic energy, and slime-splatter canister was lined up beside his sleeping bag. He lifted two Ghostbuster figurines.

“Men…we’re armed and ready for duty.”

Three weeks before, Arlo covered a picnic table with a blue poly-tarpaulin, then secured it with concrete blocks. Since then, it was his home. The air was hot, and smelled of moldy plastic.

He hoisted his Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man Bank. The coins inside shifted and jingled. “Good, but not enough.”

As summer thunder rumbled, he checked the time. Eight PM. According to his calculations, it would soon be dark. Arlo lifted glossy ribbons and medals from a black velvet pouch, and pinned them above the breast pocket of his beige pajamas.

A thump. Something rattled the rotting fence that barricaded his family’s backyard. The gate’s latch clanked. There was a prolonged creeeeak… then silence. He held his breath and raised his PKE meter.

The needle wavered, indicating a presence was close by.

BANG! The gate slammed shut. A glass bottle clunked on the sidewalk and shattered, the garden tools leaned against the house’s rear wall crashed onto the sidewalk.  

Then…heavy breathing.

Footsteps dragged on the ground outside his tent.

Arlo grabbed his canister of slime-splatter ghost-repellant.

            A disembodied hand opened a tent section, and a head with spiky black hair floated inside.

He raised his can—aimed—and squeezed the trigger. The pressurized hydrocarbon inside hissed, and propelled a stream of white foam. 


A direct hit.

“What the hell!”

The hairy bare legs below the tarp looked familiar. Arlo’s brother wiped the shaving cream off his face.

            “You freaking brat. I’m gonna rip you to pieces.”

            “Harley! … it was an accident! I thought you were a ghost! I’m protecting our house from weird psychokinetic influences.”

            “Idiot! You’re the weird thing. How come you’re still inside this stupid contraption?” Harley hoisted a concrete block off the hideout, then peeled back the crinkled tarp.

“Get. Outta. There. NOW!”

Arlo scrambled to his feet, chin up, face rigid. “We’re facing molecular termination of unparalleled proportions. Unless someone stands up to the elements of darkness, by morning it’ll  be too late. We’ll all be destroyed.”

            “Look you dope… I cancelled a date to stay with you, because Mom’s working the night shift. And this morning, three punks stole my bike. I’m totally pissed—and sick of you living here.”

Then Harley picked up a cardboard box he’d dropped. “I brought home Zappi’s pizza. Double cheese and pepperoni. Your favourite.”

While Arlo chewed on a dripping slice, Harley wiped off shaving cream. “Jeez… that stuff’s burning my eyes! I gotta wash it off. Get inside—NOW!”


           Harley swept up the glass fragments, leaned a garden rake, shovel and gas-powered leaf blower against the house, then returned.

“You can’t stay here. Mom said when the streetlights turn on, you gotta go inside.”

Arlo didn’t answer.

Harley sighed. “Okay, it’s been tough. You’re messed up. But you gotta come in the house. Listen—the doc said if you let out your emotions, it’d help you get over stuff. You know—maybe cry…”

Arlo glanced away, and Harley continued. “Mom tries hard, and so do I. It hurts. But, at least, we do our best. All you gotta do is be a good kid and go to therapy.” Harley leaned in close. “You gotta forget this obsession.”

            “No. I have a plan.”

            Harley rubbed his eyes. “Man, this stuff burns like hell. If Dad was here, he’d tan your hide.” He cuffed Arlo on the shoulder. “A plan. Why the hell are you wearing Dad’s medals? Think you’re like him? Surprise! You’re not.”

            Arlo’s shoulders slumped. “You’re mean. You never used to say stuff like that. We used to be Ray Stantz and Peter Venkman. Heroes! Remember?”

            Harley looked down. “I’m not a kid anymore,” he muttered. “Mom won’t be home ’til morning, and I’m not gonna beg. As long as she doesn’t know…” He squeezed Arlo’s shoulder. “Listen, let’s split up the walkie-talkies and if anything happens… call me. And never, ever spray anyone again. Promise?”

            Arlo nodded.

            “Last chance… wanna change your mind?”

            Arlo shook his head.

Harley kicked aside the garden hose, set the shaving-cream canister on the window ledge, went in and slammed the door.

            Arlo re-adjusted the tarp, crept in and lay on his air mattress. Taking a shaky breath, he held the Ghostbuster figurines on his chest.

“What’s going on, Ray?” The toy perfectly imitated Egon Spengler’s monotone voice.   

            “Men, strange things have happened in our neighbourhood.” The toys nodded. Arlo continued. “Listen up. Old Lady Zappi, who owns the pizza parlour, lost her prize Doberman pincer. There’s a two-thousand-dollar reward.”

            “Must be some badass dog,” said the Zeddemore figurine. “Does it have red eyes or breathe fire?”

            Arlo reached under his pillow, slid out a flyer with the dog’s photo, then read, “BIG REWARD for return of my beloved dog, Demon. He’s gentle and safe… unless he’s hungry.” Arlo’s eyes narrowed.

“If we find Demon, we’ll claim the money and pay Mom’s bills. As long as that gang of punks haven’t got him first. They’re evil mobsters. I think they stole Harley’s bike.”

            Spengler stalked stiff-legged across Arlo’s chest. “Stuff the tools into your pack. Get everything ready—”

            Arlo’s yawn interrupted.

He set the toys down, then took a piece of clear plastic from the pouch. He studied a photograph transferred to the plastic, then slid it into the laser-blaster cartridge. Blinking tears away, he lay on the air-mattress, and listened to the night sounds. A truck’s gears shifted. Muffled voices. Distant laughter. Thump of Rap music. A car alarm shrieked, then went silent. A dog howled. He yawned, and his eyelids fluttered.


Someone stepped on broken glass outside the tent. It was dark. The air smelled like marijuana. He froze.

            Somewhere nearby, a low male voice muttered, “The dude with the bike lives in this dump. His old man was a cop. Let’s rip this shit apart!”

            Jaw tightened, arms tensed, Arlo slid on his backpack, lifted the laser projector canister, and worm-like, crawled outside. It was dark, but a flash of heat lightning illuminated three punks leaned against his house. 

            It’s the gang! Arlo closed his eyes. “Daddy, please… help me!” 

            He whispered, “One… two… three…” and switched on his proton pack and laser-projector. A light beam spewed from the projector, and a hologram of a uniformed police officer flitted along the fence.

            “What the fuck?!” The startled punks jabbed at the cavorting ghost. It landed on the tallest one’s chest and flicked the chubby one’s nose. When it skipped down his arm, the greasy-haired punk slapped like it was a mosquito.

The tallest punk pointed at Arlo. “It’s a toy! Grab him!”

The other two charged the tent.

            Arlo ran. A tarp tangled his foot, he dropped his equipment and sprawled on the pavement. A concrete block slipped off the picnic table and onto his leg. Trapped!

Greasy snatched the laser-projector and snapped it in half. He hauled Arlo to his feet, grabbed him by the throat and squeezed. When he tried to wiggle free, Arlo gagged.

Chubby yanked the tarp off the picnic table. “Well… look what the little bastard was hidin’!”

The punks dragged out Arlo’s Ghostbuster equipment and dolls. One dropped a concrete block on the collection.

“Kid—time to grow up. Say bye-bye baby toys.”

           Greasy’s grip tightened on Arlo’s neck, and he gasped for breath.

            Coins clinked. Chubby hoisted the Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man high. “Going, going… gone!” He dropped the bank, and it smashed, scattering pottery shards and money. 

“Grab a broom and sweep up this crap. Looks like he had a hundred bucks.” The boss found the hidden walkie-talkie under the pillow.

            “Look… high tech communication devices!” He laughed and dropped a concrete block.


Arlo felt a hot release in his groin and his pajama pants were wet.

            “He’s pissed himself! Jeez… I’m wet too…” Greasy released his hold on Arlo’s neck.

Gulping for air, Arlo ran and grabbed the shaving-cream from the window ledge. Heart pounding, he swiveled and held his arm out.

            “Don’t come any nearer!”

  While the gang laughed, the leader stepped forward, knife in hand. Arlo gulped and pressed the can’s trigger. A blast of white foam shot into the leader’s eyes. Screaming, he released the knife, and dropped to the ground. Moving in from the side, Chubby tripped over the hose.

Greasy snapped out a blade. The others got up, their knives held out.


There was a sputtering spray as the canister emptied.

Arlo put his hands up. The boss put a knife to Arlo’s neck and backed him against the house.

            “What’s this?” With his knife tip tickling Arlo’s chin, the boss poked the medals on his pajamas. Then he spat. “Cop rewards. They’re trash. Little boy, your old man’s dead. But they might be worth something. Time to cut off the family jewels.”

            Arlo’s legs wobbled. He closed his eyes and sank to his knees.

            Lighting flashed, followed by a boom of thunder.


Like a speeding train, a red-eyed black beast charged through the gate and into the backyard. Sniffing the air, it advanced, hackles raised, growling.

  The punks slowly backed away.

  Sneering, the boss pointed his knife at the dog.

“This one’s going right between his eyes.”


A house window slid open. They turned. The boss swore, and dropped his knife as a toaster flew out and hit him in the chest.

“Move!” Harley leapt out the window. He flung the hose to Arlo, and turned the water tap on full blast. Then he grabbed the leaf blower and yanked the power cord.

  Harley aimed the air-jet at Chubby and bellowed, “Hit ‘em, Ray!”

Arlo yelled, “Cross the streams, Venkman!” and raised the hose.  

They synchronized blasts from the leaf blower and the water at the punks’ bodies. The punks staggered and fell back. Demon whirled around, barking, and sank his teeth into their pant legs.

Nearby, a siren screamed. The punks tried to escape through the gate but tripped on the broken glass and garden tools.

            Four police officers, illuminated by a spotlight, swarmed into the yard. The punks were handcuffed and pushed into the back seat of a cruiser.


            Later, the senior officer remarked, “One of your neighbours reported a weird sighting.” His eyes rolled. “Swore she’d seen a ghost. A tiny cop flying around your house.”

Another officer lifted Arlo’s broken projector, and pulled the photo from the cartridge. “This your dad’s picture? We worked together. Good man.” He tapped the medals on Arlo’s chest. “He’d be proud of you.”

Arlo stood tall and saluted.

Harley shook the officer’s hand. “We’ll return Demon in the morning, sir.”


Cold rain drizzled as Harley helped Arlo dump his broken equipment into the trash and re-covered the picnic table. They crawled underneath, lying on their bellies to eat cold pizza slices. Harley nudged his brother.

“You okay?”

Arlo didn’t respond. Harley tried again.

“Let’s tell Mom we found Demon. Not the rest of it… What do you wanna do with the reward?”

“Maybe buy a computer…”

“We could watch the entire Ghostbuster series.”

Arlo took a bite of the pizza, and gave Demon the end crust. His tail thumped.

            “We saved the world from a potential disaster of biblical proportions,” Arlo said.

            “Yeah. Dad’d be proud. Still wanna camp out?”

            With trembling hands, Arlo slipped his father’s photo and medals into the pouch. “I order you to cease any and all supernatural activity, and return forthwith to your place of origin.” Tears trickled down his cheeks.

“Can we go inside?”

 Blinking, Harley squeezed Arlo’s shoulder. “I love you, bro.”

Arlo caught his breath. “That’s not what we practiced…”

 Harley pointed at the house. “See you on the inside, Ray.”

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