A little boy pedaled his rusted red tricycle down the sidewalk toward Venice Beach. The street was deserted. Surfers, vendors, and street performers weren’t awake, much less at the boardwalk at sunrise.
Brakes screeching to a stop beside a No Parking sign, he slipped off his backpack and retrieved a bike lock. A chill ran down his spine. His mother always cautioned him about his overactive imagination. It was impossible to hear an irritated, whispered conversation when he was the only person on the boardwalk.
“This is bullshit.”
“It’s part of initiation –”
“Hazing. It’s part of a hazing ritual.”
“If you can’t handle a simple task, then –”
“– I’m not daring or scary enough to haunt with you. I know the rhetoric.”
“How can I be your mentor if you won’t let me ment?”
“That’s not a verb.”
“Quit stalling, ghoul.”
“What is it with ghosts and puns?”
“You’re also a fool.”
“Whoomp, there is it!”
“The compatibility test was inaccurate. The Head Haunter appointed you as my mentor because we both had the misfortune of being named after terrible American presidents.”
“Can you be serious for one minute?”
“Who assigned our Fright Crew to haunt Venice Beach? These assholes just think their hallucinogens are extremely potent — they never get scared.”
“It’s a weird gig, but someone’s gotta do it.”
Nixon motioned for the younger ghost to follow him. Nixon and Ford hovered behind the suspicious little boy. He locked the back of his tricycle to the No Parking sign. Beaming, he sat on the curb and rummaged through his backpack for his iPad.
“The kid’s got an attention span of a flea.”
“You’re not gonna be able to spook him by rattling the sign or something. Get creative.”
Ford sighed and circled the little boy closely. The boy shuddered, but remained focused on his Candy Crush game. Ford dove and snatched the front wheel from the boy’s tricycle.
The boy gasped. “Hey!” He grabbed fistfuls of air, but Ford evaded him and dangled the wheel above his head.
Nixon smiled at his protégé. He cocked his head toward the hills, where the Haunting Headquarters cave was hidden. Ford flew past, tricycle wheel held above his head triumphantly.
“Kids these days –” Nixon snickered.
“– they should know better than to improperly lock their bikes, lest some ghosts steal their wheels.”
*Note: this story was inspired by this photo I took while in California last week.