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Little Jackie Pete

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Janette was a head and half taller than her sister Susan who stood just in front of her under an arching entrance to an alleyway off the side of a cobbled street. The two girls were on the hunt for Jackie Pete, the ghost of Aubery Orphanage.
According to their great uncle Charles, Jackie Pete had grown up in the orphanage, his parents having died of one of the plagues that swept through Europe in the Middle Ages. Like many children in his situation, he was never adopted and received only a rudimentary education from the local clergy in his numbers and letters. When he was not studying, he was looking for ways to avoid his chores. He was a mischievous young lad, the terror of Old Granny Hearthestone and the secret delight of the other orphans.

Every day after lunch he would sneak out for an adventure, returning in the evening with treasures and tales that kept the other children transfixed. One day, however, he failed to return in the evening. The children waited in expectation for his triumphant arrival, but it never came. Old Granny Hearthestone asked the local constables to look for the boy, but all that was found was a muddy shoe behind a butcher's shop in the center of the Bamptonshire, the nearest town. It was assumed the shoe had belonged to Jackie Pete because of a thick piece of cloth that had been stuffed inside the shoe to cover a hole in the sole. The cloth had the crest of Aubery Orphanage embroidered into it, a small stone circle with a tiny figure of the Lord and Savior standing in the center. Old Granny Hearthestone told the children the news that night after dinner, and they all cried and worried over their adventuring friend, little Jackie Pete.

As fate would have it, the next night one of the girls found a frog in her bed, just behind the pillow. This had been a favorite trick of Jackie Pete. She showed it to Old Granny Hearthestone and the children, who were so happy that soon Jackie Pete would return. But, again that evening he did not arrive. The children never received another gift or tale from their tiny swashbuckling pal. However, rumors soon began to spread of a troublesome young boy playing tricks on the shop owners and citizens of the Bamptonshire. Chicken pens would be left open in the night, sticky mud was found in keyholes, straw stuffed in chimneys, and many other bothersome tricks. No one had ever seen the boy, but they were sure it was him, up to his old tricks.

Years passed and the tricks continued just as before. When it was clear that little Jackie Pete would be all grown up and would have no more time for these games, it was assumed that it was all pranks from other children who wanted to carry on the legend from the Aubery Orphanage that the ghost of Jackie Pete haunted the town of Bamptonshire. Then one day, near dinner time, a young girl was passing by an old butcher's shop and she saw a young boy in dirty clothes trying to steal a sausage from the meat cutter's counter. When the boy looked over his shoulder and saw her, he ran away, leaving a shoe behind. The girl ran over to look at the shoe and it had a cloth folded up inside to cover a hole in the sole. It must have belonged to the ghost of Jackie Pete.

Occasionally the story would be repeated of a hungry boy trying to steal some meat from the butcher's shop, along with stories of other mischief around town. This was also the story their great uncle Charles had told them about little Jackie Pete, the mischievous adventurer who never returned to his home at Aubery Orphanage. After hearing such a mystery the two sisters were so excited they made a plan to search the town of Bamptonshire for any sign of that old butcher's shop or of the tricks of Jackie Pete. On the very next sunny day, they went out together, running through the shadows between buildings, giggling, and scaring each other with ghostly antics. They did their best to avoid the watchful gaze of the adults, not wanting any trouble. They searched everywhere in the town, and they didn't find a single clue until Susan said she smelled sausages being cooked somewhere deeper into the older part of town.

Janette urged her sister on, staying close behind her, holding her nose to the wind and sniffing for signs of the plump meaty treats being cooked just around the corner. Susan pulled her older sister along, their small hands clasped in excitement as they ran through the cobbled streets. Susan turned left, then right, then right again, then back to the left, making stops and turning around as she became lost in the unfamiliar streets that smelled of earth and stone and old age. Janette still could not smell the sausages cooking, but her younger partner in adventure insisted she could find them with just a little more time.

Suddenly Susan came to a stop under an archway that connected a small alley to a small steep street paved in large grey stones. Now Janette could smell the sausages cooking. She could see the butcher's shop window open with several plates of meat on the counter. The sisters looked on in surprise as Susan covered her mouth to stifle a gasp. There, by the window, was a dirty young boy, maybe aged 10, reaching up to the window to steal a piece of meat. One of the plates made a noise as the boy stole a link of sausages. They were brown from the cookfire and glistening with oily fat in the afternoon light. From inside the shop, the two sisters could hear the sound of someone running toward the window. The boy tucked the meat into his coat and turned to run away. As he did, his shoe got stuck in a small muddy hole outside the window and came off. He turned and looked over his shoulder at the two girls peeking from behind the arch, a knowing smirk on his face. They looked at each other and softly squealed in terrified glee. They had found the ghost of Jackie Pete.


Author

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Joshua Roberts


"Live in Georgia and study whatever comes to mind."


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