𝗦𝗸𝗲𝗹𝗲𝘁𝗼𝗻 𝗕𝗼𝘆 & 𝘁𝗵𝗲 𝗗𝗮𝘀𝘁𝗮𝗿𝗱𝗹𝘆 𝗠𝗿. 𝗚𝗿𝗲𝗲𝗻

𝘣𝘺 𝘛𝘪𝘮 𝘑𝘦𝘧𝘧𝘳𝘦𝘺𝘴

Mister Green wasn’t old. Not old old. He couldn’t have been much older than Evan’s mum, who had recently had a big party for her fortieth birthday. It was only in his eyes that Mister Green looked old. In his eyes he looked older than anyone had any right to be. Older than one hundred. Older than two hundred. In his eyes, Evan thought, Mister Green looked ancient.

That Friday evening when Mister Green turned up at the front door carrying flowers for Evan’s mum—arriving minutes after Sandra from next door who’d agreed to babysit—that wasn’t Evan’s first encounter with the man. Oh no, he’d seen him once before. Mister Green had stood outside the school gates three weeks earlier. Again, a Friday. Evan remembered because it was the same day he’d been given the special award in assembly for excellent English and had felt cheated almost to the point of tears because it was only a useless, laminated A4 sheet whereas Asher Cole got an actual trophy for being good at football. Mister Green had stood leaning on the railings in the midst of all the home-time bustle, watching as people flooded out of the school gates. Evan could remember the keen but casual way Mister Green had scrutinised each passing child’s face, as if he were musing on the possibilities that particular boy or girl offered. Mister Green had seemed particularly interested in the boys. Then, as Evan emerged, Mister Green had blinked twice and fixed his eyes on him. A smile had crept up one side of his face. Mister Green had been wearing a dark grey suit and a blue dicky bow with white spots on it, and this plus the way he’d slicked his dark hair back had made him look like he belonged to another era. To Evan, Mister Green looked like he’d stepped out of one of those black and white movies his gran loved. He was someone who didn’t belong, and even then, on that first encounter, Evan had been able to look into Mister Green’s eyes and see that the man had too much knowledge.

“See you later, sweetie,” Evan’s mum said, bending and planting a kiss on his forehead. “Don’t stay up too late.”

She moved towards the door, where Mister Green smiled and waited with one arm cocked for her to link with, though Mister Green’s eyes were not for her. Mister Green only had eyes for Evan.

“Wow,” Sandra said when the adults were gone. “Your new dad’s really handsome, and he drives a cool car, but there’s something creepy about him, don’t you think? He’s like a vampire or something.”

“Shut up,” Evan said. “He’s not my new dad. And he never will be.”


Evan hadn’t seen his mother so happy since long before Dad left. One day he overheard her talking on the phone to one of her friends.

“He’s like that kind of man I thought didn’t exist anymore, you know, a real gentleman. And the best thing is—he’s absolutely loaded. Doesn’t even have to work. You should see what kind of car he drives. And his house—oh my God! And he’s interesting, really interesting. He can talk about any subject under the sun. He seems to know everything about everything.”


Evan asked the Rabbit Princess what she thought about Mister Green. The Rabbit Princess was Sandra-from-next-door’s little sister and her real name was Lexi. She was only the Rabbit Princess when Evan was Skeleton Boy. They’d been fighting crime together all morning, superhero style. Thwack! Pow! Now they sat on the lawn in the June sunshine eating grapes and slices of watermelon Evan’s mum had set out for them on a little plate.

“He probably wants your body.” Lexi pushed her glasses up on her nose. One of her bunny ears was bent. “He wants to inhabit it.”

“What do you mean?” Evan said, horrified.

“I’ll bet he’s found a way to move his consciousness from body to body. I bet he’s been doing that for hundreds and hundreds of years. It makes sense. How do you think he got so rich? And didn’t your mum say he knows everything about everything. Right? It’s perfectly clear. You’re his next victim.”

“Oh my gosh,” Evan said. “You really think so?”

“There’s only one way to find out.”

“What’s that?”

“You should test him,” Lexi said.

“Test him? How?”

“Ask him if he remembers the First World War. Or the day Titanic sank. Ask him if he remembers caveman times. We don’t know how long he’s been doing this.”

“It’s not fair! Why me? Why’s he chosen me? I’m a good boy.”

“Mister Green doesn’t give a flying duck how good you are Evan. He just wants a body to take over.”

“But what’ll happen to my consciousness when he does take me over? What’ll happen to me?”

Lexi shrugged and bit into a slice of watermelon. Juice ran down her chin. She wiped her free hand on the front of her Rapunzel dress. “I suppose you’ll just be…” She fluttered one hand in the air. “Gone.”


A further week passed before Evan’s mum informed him that the following Saturday she and Mister Green would be taking Evan bowling. Except she didn’t call him Mister Green anymore. Now she called him ‘Laird.’

“Laird wants to get to know you, because you’re probably going to be seeing a lot more of each other,” she said. “It’ll be fun, right?”

“What the heck kind of name is Laird?” Evan asked.

“It’s Scottish,” Evan’s mother said. Then with a little laugh, she added, “It means lord of the land.”

“Is that who he thinks he is?” Evan said. “Does he think he’s lord of the land?”

Evan’s mother laughed. “It’s just a name, honey.”

“How old is he anyway?”

“What do you mean? He’s forty-one.”

“No, I mean how old is he really?”

Evan’s mother shook her head. “I think he looks quite youthful.”

Evan screwed up his face. “Haven’t you looked in his eyes? Huh? Huh?”

His mother, though, was no longer listening. She hummed along with a song on the radio.


On the one hand, Evan was dreading Saturday; but another part of him realised it would be an opportunity to interrogate Mister Green just as Lexi had suggested. When the day came, despite his mother’s pleas, he decided it was safer to dress as Skeleton Boy, even going so far as to wear the skull mask.

When they arrived at The Lanes, they found Mister Green waiting for them. He leant against the wall by the entrance, raffishly puffing on one of the gold-tipped cigarettes he smoked, which Evan’s mum said were called ‘Treasurers’ and cost £50 a packet. Mister Green paled when he saw Evan dressed as Skeleton Boy, and Evan thought that was because the costume reminded him of the very thing he’d been running from for who-knew-how-many years: death. How many times had Mister Green escaped death by transferring his consciousness into another body? Maybe for a moment Mister Green had thought Evan was The Grim Reaper come to claim his soul at last. But then Evan’s mum yanked the mask off Evan’s head, and Evan shrank against her side under the glare of Mister Green’s smile.

“Are we ready to have some fun, Evan?” Mister Green said.

“I’m not Evan. I’m Skeleton Boy.”

Mister Green frowned, and glanced at Evan’s mum. Evan’s mum made a hopeless gesture.

Once the game began, Evan noted that Mister Green scored a strike every time he bowled.

Evan narrowed his eyes at him. “You’re good. You must have had a lot of practice.”

“I’ve played a few rounds,” Mister Green said.

“What year were you born?” Evan said. Then as Mister Green hesitated, he quickly added, “Do you remember the moon landing?”

Mister Green laughed. “How old do you think I am, Evan? Sorry—Skeleton Boy.”

“Did you watch it on TV? The moon landing, that is?”

“We all did,” Mister Green said. He winked at Evan’s mum. “I remember it well. It was very exciting.”

“Ha!” Evan leapt up from the bench. “But you were only one year old. How could you remember that?”

“Well, I…” Mister Green looked at Evan’s mum, in concern this time.

“You just bowled your first gutterball, my friend,” Evan said. He launched a couple of uppercuts in Mister Green’s direction. “Sock! Whammo!”

Evan’s mother ran a hand through his hair then crouched to look concernedly into his face. “Evan, sweetie, what’s got into you?” Evan looked beyond her at Mister Green. Mister Green glared back at Evan through narrowed eyes. His lips were pressed together to make a thin, white line.


The following Sunday, Evan’s mum threw a garden party. She invited some of the neighbours, a couple of her colleagues from work, and of course Mister Green. Skeleton Boy and the Rabbit Princess crouched behind the rose bushes at the end of the lawn and took in proceedings. It had not gone unnoticed how, when Mister Green arrived, the first thing he’d done was look around and then say to Evan’s mum, “Where’s the kid?”

“So he’s looking for you,” Lexi said. “Maybe today’s the day.”

“Now that we know who he is, and what he’s up to,” Evan said. “What’re we going to do about it?”

“He’s choosing his moment,” Lexi said. “He wants to get you alone so he can swap his consciousness into your body. You must never be alone with him, Evan.”

“He’ll get me eventually,” Evan said. “Mum’s totally smitten with him. They might even get married. We need a plan.”

Lexi was silent for a time. Then she said, “I know!”

“What?” Evan said. “What? What?”

“Come with me.”

Getting to her feet, she began moving along the width of the back fence, careful to stay out of sight of the adults. Behind the fatsia bush in the far corner, Evan and Lexi had removed a few of the slats in the fence that separated each of their gardens so that they were able to crawl through and play together whenever they liked. Lexi’s garden was not as well-kept as Evan’s, and it was full of junk from her dad’s car workshop. But near the house there was a hutch where she kept her two guinea pigs, Sparky and Princess Buttercup. Lexi stared through the wire at the two rodents. They were huddled together at the back of the hutch as if they knew something was being decided about their futures. Then, appearing to come to a conclusion, Lexi opened the hutch door and reached inside.

“Take Sparky,” she said, holding out a brown, black and white fluffball to Evan. “Then you go and tell Mister Green you want to talk to him in private for a moment.”

“What? Alone?”

“No, listen to me, this is good. When you’re alone with him, he’ll try to switch his consciousness into your body. But at the last moment, you do this.” Holding Sparky in her two hands, Lexi thrust the guinea pig into Evan’s face making Evan rear back. “Instead of going into you, Mister Green’s consciousness will go into Sparky. He’ll be trapped inside Sparky forever! Well, until Sparky dies of course.”

Evan bit his lip. “I don’t know. I’m not sure that’s going to work. And I feel bad for poor old Sparky!”

“It’s like Mrs. Shields at school says, Evan—it’s always better in any situation to take the initiative. What’re you going to do, wait around until Mister Green corners you and suddenly you’re just a consciousness floating around and he’s using your body? Is that really what you want to happen? Is it?”


Crawling back through the hole in the fence, the two children returned to Evan’s garden. Evan’s heart beat fast, and the air seemed to catch in his chest every time he took a breath. He’d thought he might cry, but then Lexi slapped him on the shoulder and said, “Come on, Skeleton Boy. You can do this.” In the fold of one arm, he carried Sparky. So as not to arouse suspicion, Lexi carried Princess Buttercup. “He might realise what you’re up to if he sees you with Sparky,” she’d said before they left her garden. “This way it’ll look like we’re just playing with the guinea pigs. Showing them off.”

The party was still going strong. Mister Green presided over the barbecue.

“Cute guineas,” he said when he saw the children approaching from the end of the yard. He looked closer at the bundles they carried in their arms. “Shelties, aren’t they?”

“Wow, Mister Green,” Lexi said, “is there anything you don’t know about?” Before Mister Green could answer, she added: “It’s amazing that one person could accumulate so much knowledge about everything.”

Mister Green looked confused, and perhaps a little hurt. Lexi nudged Evan in the back with her elbow, then drifted away to show Princess Buttercup off to an old lady from the hospital where Evan’s mum worked.

“Um… Mister Green,” Evan said. “May I speak with you please? Alone.”

Mister Green sharpened his gaze. Did he suspect a trap? “What about, son?”

“Ah… there’s just something I’d like to talk to you about. In private.”

“Isn’t it better if you talk to your mother, Evan?” Mister Green said. “If I leave now these sausages are going to burn.”

“It’s important,” Evan said.

Mister Green let out his breath. “All right.” He waved to Evan’s mum who came over and took the barbecue tongs from him.

“What’s going on?”

“Evan and I are going inside for a minute, to have a little chit-chat.”

“What about?”

“Something important. That right, Evan?”


“Oh. All righty,” Evan’s mum said, looking bewildered.

“You know I understand you might have some concerns,” Mister Green said as he followed Evan inside through the conservatory doors. “Seeing your mother and I getting closer. But, I promise you, I’m not trying to replace your father. I just hope we can get along, that’s all.”

They entered the living room. It seemed gloomy in there, compared to outside. Evan glanced towards the window. He could hear laughter and voices from outside, but the party seemed a long way away. He wondered where Lexi was.

Mister Green perched on the arm of the sofa. “Well?”

Evan placed himself before Mister Green. He forced himself to look into Mister Green’s ice-blue, old man’s eyes. He felt as if he could see it in there, all that knowledge, all the things Mister Green had learned in his multiple lifetimes, all the faces Mister Green had known.

“And all those Tuesdays,” Evan said.

Mister Green shifted on the arm of the sofa. “I’m sorry?”

Evan came to his senses. “I don’t like Tuesdays.”

Mister Green smiled. “That’s what you brought me here to tell me? You don’t like Tuesdays?”

“No, I…” Evan forced himself to gaze into Mister Green’s eyes again. It made him feel giddy. It was the same feeling he’d had that one time his father had taken him on a Ferris wheel and he’d looked down from the top, past his dangling feet, at all that empty space. He saw Mister Green’s expression change then. His eyes had at first narrowed before opening wide. It was as if his whole face opened up, and Evan realised suddenly that it was happening. Right then, it was happening! Panic flooded his body, and he tried to get his two hands around Sparky but Sparky wriggled away and burrowed deep into the crook of his arm. Mister Green had leant forward over Evan, his face all dreamy-like, and Evan found he couldn’t turn away. His eyes were locked with Mister Green’s! Desperately, he sought to get a grip on Sparky, but it was as if Sparky somehow realised what was going on and he wriggled and pushed his nose deeper into the space between Evan’s arm and ribcage and Evan couldn’t get a firm hold on him. His head began to feel light, and there they were—Mister Green’s thoughts and memories beginning to invade his mind!

Then he felt something crash against his side, knocking him sideways so that he fell to the carpet. He saw two small, pale, dirt-streaked arms cross his vision and at the end of them was an almond-coloured ball of fur. It was Princess Buttercup! And the arms holding her belonged to Lexi. Lexi must have been hiding somewhere, watching. At the last moment, Lexi must have run into the room and thrust Princess Buttercup into Mister Green’s face. Mister Green made a loud anguished sound, but it was too late! He was now looking into the eyes of Princess Buttercup instead of Evan’s! As Evan watched, horrified, Mister Green made a drawn-out rattling sound, his arms flailed as if he were trying to grab hold of something, then his body folded in on itself and, as Lexi leapt backwards, he tumbled forward to the floor.

Lexi stood wide-eyed, holding Princess Buttercup at arm’s length. Evan switched his eyes between her and the curled form at her feet.

“You did it!” he said. “You saved me!”


Evan and Lexi gazed in through the wire on the front of the hutch. Inside, the Guinea pig stood frozen, glaring back at them.

“You really think he’s in there?” Evan said. “You really think Mister Green’s inside Princess Buttercup?”

“She’s mean now,” Lexi said. “She wasn’t mean before. She bites. And Sparky keeps trying to make babies with her.”

“Oh my gosh,” Evan said.

Lexi turned to look at him. “Is your mum still sad?”

“She’ll get over it.”

“What did the doctors think happened to Mister Green?”

“Brain aneurysm.”

“What’s an annie-ur-issim?”

“Not sure.”

“Well, at least we know the truth. That he was trying to take over your body.”

“I wonder what he’s thinking about.” Evan made to move his face closer to the cage, but Lexi pulled him back.

“Don’t,” she said. “Holy crap-monkeys, you’re lucky to have me watching out for you, Skeleton Boy.”

Evan laughed. “It’s true. Every superhero needs a sidekick.”

“What?” Lexi gazed into his face for a long moment. Her face darkened. “I just saved the mother-puffin day, and I’m the sidekick?” ✦

Tim Jeffreys' short fiction has appeared in Supernatural Tales, Not One of Us, The Alchemy Press Book of Horrors 2 & 3, and Nightscript, among various other publications. His novella, Holburn, a ghost story set in an exclusive girl school, will be published by Manta Press in August, 2022. Follow his progress at www.timjeffreys.blogspot.co.uk.

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