They were driving home at night from Philadelphia, where Dad had given a reading from his latest book. Mom was asleep in the front seat, and Dad was listening to the radio. Robert and Sam were in the back seat, and Sam was looking out the window at the shapes of trees in the headlights. Robert said:
“Did you know the sun is haunted?”
“What are you talking about?” said Sam, turning to his brother with a look that meant he was afraid Robert was going to start telling one of his long stories. The stories were very complicated, usually, and sometimes had parts in them that scared Sam a little. Robert was younger than Sam, and Sam felt embarrassed to be scared by the stories.
“There’s ghosts in the sun,” said Robert as though he was proud to know something Sam did not.
“The ghost of what?” said Sam skeptically.
“Iow know,” said Robert. “My teacher said the sunlight has specter lines.”
Sam smiled. He felt relieved, although he would not have admitted that to anyone.
“That’s not the same thing,” he told Robert. “Spectral lines are not like ghosts. Spectral means spectrum, like the electromagnetic spectrum.” It made Sam feel older to teach Robert things. He liked it.
“I know,” said Robert. “The spekt-rum has dark lines at diff’rint places. We did a ’speriment in science class with a prison.”
“You mean a prism?” said Sam, trying not to laugh.
“Uh-huh,” said Robert.
“Right,” said Sam. “So that’s not like specter like a ghost.”
“Yes, it is,” said Robert. “What you think makes the lines?”
“Well, it’s not ghosts,” he said. “It has something to do with chemicals and elements.”
Outside, trees flew past in the darkness.
“Yeah,” said Robert, “but ghosts is made of chem’cals and elemens.”
“Say ‘ghosts are,’ not ‘ghosts is,’” said Sam. “I thought ghosts were made of ectoplasm.”
“Only on TV,” said Robert. “Real ghosts is… real ghosts are made of real things...”