"Well, that wasn't so hard," sighed Maggie, striding out of the classroom.
"Are you kidding?" Jasper grumbled as he and Henry joined her in the hallway. "That was his most difficult quiz ever, and he only gave us a day to study."
"Maybe it would have been easier if you'd used that day to study instead of surfing iTunes," she retorted. Jasper ignored her.
"I blame Henry," he shrugged, earning an indignant look from his cousin. "Professor Darkness hates him so he takes it out on the rest of the class."
"His name is Professor Morneau, and it has nothing to do with Henry," replied Maggie irritably, adjusting the strap of her book bag. "Honestly, Jasper, if you concentrated, you'd be doing a lot better in that class."
"I guess," he said. "Seriously, though, when am I ever going to need to know the difference between a turkey vulture and a black vulture?" Henry opened his mouth to say something, but Maggie stopped him.
"He's speaking in rhetorical questions again," she explained. He frowned.
"Well, tell him to stop."
"Jasper, Henry says-"
"I heard him," said Jasper as they passed a flyer for the upcoming auditions for the school musical. Henry, upon seeing it, turned to Maggie.
"You should try out for that," he suggested. She laughed.
"But you love Phantom of the Opera," he persisted.
"Well, yeah, I love watching it, but I can't act or sing."
"You're a great singer!" he insisted as they walked into the cafeteria. It was packed- their ornithology quiz had made them late. Jasper stood on his toes and craned his neck over the crowd, seeking an empty table.
"When have you ever heard me sing?" Maggie asked, needing to raise her voice in the heavy din of the lunchroom.
"In the car," said Henry matter-of-factly. "You always sing along to the radio."
"Yeah… under my breath. How can you even hear that?"
"You're forgetting that Henry can hear a pin drop in… well, here," said Jasper, referencing the cacophony of the cafeteria. "Over there!" As they jogged to the table to reach it before anyone else, Maggie considered Henry's idea. She did love the play, and she knew that if Henry gave a compliment, he truly meant it and wasn't just trying to make her feel good. (False praise out of politeness was a trait he hadn't picked up in the jungle.)
"It still doesn't change the fact that I have no dramatic ability," she said as they sat down.
"Oh, anybody can act," said Jasper. "It's just living, but through someone else. And in front of a lot of other people."
"I guess," she said vaguely, pulling out a wrinkled paper bag.
"You know, it's ironic that this year's performance is Phantom of the Opera," pondered Jasper. Maggie groaned.
"Not this again," she said exasperatedly, pulling a Tupperware container full of salad out of her lunch bag.
"What?" said Henry.
"Your cousin believes the insane rumor that the Smithson auditorium is haunted."
"It's not a rumor!" he rebuked. "He lives under the stage and wreaks some kind of havoc whenever the school puts on a show."
"Havoc?" wondered Henry, glancing hungrily at the winding lunch line and deciding he'd wait until the line had shortened.
"Oh, you know, stealing the prop skull so Hamlet had to give his 'Yorick' speech to a volley ball, dyeing all the von Trapp's costumes orange, mixing the fake snow with glue so Scrooge and Bob Cratchit get stuck."
"Student theft, vandalism, dumb pranks," replied Maggie. "It's probably just a group of kids who hate theatre."
"Then why has nobody caught them after three years?" challenged Jasper. "And explain why the incidents only started after that fire in the museum."
"What fire?" asked Henry, his brow furrowing in confusion.
"Before you got here," said Maggie, "there was a pretty bad fire when somebody dropped a cigarette in the planetarium. A few people died, and they almost closed the museum."
"See?" said Jasper. She rolled her eyes.
"Even if there were ghosts, which there aren't, why would somebody who died in the museum from a cigarette fire haunt a school auditorium?"
"Maybe he had something against acting," suggested Jasper. Maggie rolled her eyes again and stabbed a chunk of lettuce with her fork.
"By the way, if you guys don't get lunch soon they're going to run out."
"Right," said Jasper, standing up. He walked toward the slightly smaller line, accompanied by a dazed-looking Henry.
"So, the ghost-"
"It's not a ghost," said Maggie, glaring at Henry. They'd finished lunch and were on their way to Ms. Bronson's sixth period, which they all shared.
"The entity," he continued, "behind all the problems is basically like the Phantom in Phantom of the Opera?"
"Sort of," said Jasper. "He calls himself the Smithson Specter. You know, why do people always use alliteration to scare people? It just makes their names more fun to say. Like Donald Duck."
"Or Bloody Baron," said Maggie. He stared at her.
"You're right," he conceded. "That is pretty scary."
"Anyway," said Henry, "are you going to audition?" She cocked her head to the side thoughtfully.
"You know, I think I might," she decided. Henry grinned.
"You'll make a great Christine," he said.
"Oh, I'm sure I won't get the lead," she corrected. "If I get in at all, I'll probably just be understudying for someone."
"You need to be more confident," he chastised.
"Actually, I need to be faster," she said. "The bell's about to ring and we're only halfway to class."
"Auditions are on Tuesday," Henry hinted.
"Okay, I'll try," she gave in.
"You better watch out for the Specter," warned Jasper, waggling his fingers at her in a menacing way.
"I've already survived one chandelier fall," she said, smiling. "I'm sure I can get through another."