A faint buzz sends little vibrations through the cheap wood of Luigi’s old kitchen table. He looks up from his breakfast, eyeing the phone with a silent plea that it was only a text message—something that could wait until after his meal for a response. When it only continues to buzz, he reaches for the device with a sigh and answers.
“Luigi’s Spectral Services, how may I help you?”
For a moment all the plumber hears is heavy breathing, like someone was desperately trying to catch their breath.
“Uh, yeah,” the trembling voice begins, “there are ghosts in my new house.”
Luigi hums, reaching into his overall pockets to retrieve a small notepad and pen.
“I see. Are you sure they are ghosts?”
He hears a slightly unhinged laugh on the other end.
“They’re transparent and can go through walls. I’m pretty sure they’re ghosts.”
“No,” Luigi interjects patiently, “Are you sure they’re ghosts and not spirits?”
“…is there a difference?”
“Yes, actually. Ghosts are the souls of living things that didn’t move on after they died. They’re typically mischievous and very territorial. Spirits are a different species entirely—‘born dead’, like Boos.”
It was an oversimplification, but Luigi felt he’d rambled too much as it was. The gawking sounds on the other end of the line attested to that.
“I—I don’t know! ” they cry, exasperated, “They’re scary and I want them out of my house!”
Luigi exhales heavily away from the receiver; he didn’t know why he bothered. It looked like he’d have to take the van again to make sure he had what he needed.
“I’ll be there as soon as I can.”
He jots down the address and quickly eats the rest of his meal. Within minutes, he was on the road.
When Luigi arrives at the scene, he is mildly surprised by the moving van parked in the driveway. A bright red sign declaring the property to be sold was still planted in the slightly over-grown lawn. Furniture and boxes lay abandoned in a line up to the front door, movers nowhere to be seen. The only sign of life is a green spotted Toad pacing nervously in the grass.
Strange. Paranormal activity didn’t usually start until after the move-in was complete. Maybe the ghosts decided to save the poor Toad some trouble and scare them off before they got too settled.
Luigi parks his van at the curb and hops out. As he draws near, the Toad finally takes notice of his presence and ceases their nervous pacing. Their eyes widen at the sight of the plumber.
“Luigi?! ” they stammer. “You’re the ghost exterminator?!”
The plumber attempts to cover his mild offense with an awkward smile.
“I mean, my name is in the company title,” he chuckles, “And I’m not an exterminator. I’m more of a…mediator.”
The Toad parrots his chuckle, though sheepishly.
“Sorry, I just thought the name was a coincidence. I didn’t think Mario’s brother of all people would be a ghost hunter. You get why I’m surprised, right?”
He did get it—really, he did—but that didn’t stop Luigi from feeling a tad indignant. He decides to ignore the question.
“So, these ghosts. How many did you see?”
The Toad blinks owlishly at the sudden shift in topic.
“Oh! Right!” they start, remembering the situation. “There are at least four of them.”
Luigi nods, taking out his note pad and writing the information down.
“What do they look like?”
The little mushroom citizen pauses, bringing a hand to their chin as they worry their lip in thought.
“Two of them looked like humanoid adults—women, I think. The other two were short like children.” They shrug helplessly. “I didn’t really get a good look. The second I saw them I ran outta there like Bowser was on my heels.”
The plumber absently tilts his head as he finishes recording the details.
“Where did you last see them?”
“The kitchen. They were eating bagels.”
Luigi barely keeps from laughing at the severity in their tone. He closes the notepad and pockets it.
“Alright, I’ll go check it out,” he says, making his way toward the old Victorian home.
“Wait, aren’t you gonna bring anything with you? A weapon? Something?! ”
Luigi turns slightly on the porch, waving dismissively back at the bewildered Toad.
“Not yet. I may not even need to.”
And with that, he enters the house.
“And how long were you out of town?”
Luigi was seated in a lovely breakfast nook, a warm cup of tea clasped snugly in his hands. Across from him sat (floated?) two spectral women with their own respective beverages. Somewhere down the hall, the sound of laughter and children playing reverberate off the walls.
The plumber places his drink aside after taking a sip, continuing to take notes on the larger notebook he’d retrieved from the briefcase in his van (much to the confusion of the Toad still waiting outside).
“Did you have anyone watching your home while you were away?”
The woman with the long, faintly blonde hair gently shakes her head.
“No. We’ve never had problems in the past, so we didn’t think it was necessary.”
Luigi hums thoughtfully, taking another swig of his tea.
“When did you get back from your vacation? And did you notice anything unusual when you arrived home?”
“Last night.” This time, the woman with darker hair answers. “We saw the sign in the yard but we thought it was the neighborhood kids pulling a prank.” She rolls her eyes; it must have been a common occurrence. “But then we found this business card on the counter in the kitchen, along with some pamphlets that looked like they were left over from an open house.”
The brunette’s spouse nods in agreement.
“We were going to call the number on the card after breakfast and find out what was going on, but then that little Toad walked in here. Before we could say anything, he ran out screaming his head off.”
Luigi allows himself a small, wistful smile. That had been him once upon a time.
“May I see that business card?”
The blonde spirit rises from her seat and drifts to the kitchen island. She swiftly returns, card in hand. Luigi accepts the paper with a quiet “thank you” and silently examines it. He frowns.
“Ah, it’s them again.”
Both women mirror his frown, regarding the plumber with varying levels of confusion.
“Them? You are familiar with this Realtor?”
“Unfortunately. They’re notorious for illegally selling the homes of spirits.”
The women gasp.
“Goodness!” the brunette exclaims, “And these people are still in business? ”
“I’m afraid so. Laws regarding spirits are…complicated, and a lot of places still argue against their rights.” Luigi offers a helpless shrug, looking sincerely frustrated. “Even so, I can help you get this sorted out.”
“What do we need to do?”
The plumber slides his briefcase in front of him and pops it open, rifling through the papers and documents inside.
“Do you have the deed to the house? Anything to prove ownership of the property?”
“We do. We keep a copy in the safe upstairs.”
“Can you provide the original if needed?”
Luigi passes the spirits a thin stack of blank forms and a couple business cards.
“Good. That will make things go more smoothly. Just fill out these forms and call the number on this card,” he gestures to the off-white card, “My friend will set up an appointment with you. Once he gets these papers, he can get your case submitted right away. In the meantime, he’ll see to it that you remain in your home undisturbed. If you have any questions or problems call the number on this card,” he points at the green paper, “That’s my number.”
The couple briefly glances over the spread before exchanging weary but determined looks. They peer back at Luigi gratefully.
“Thank you,” they say in near-unison.
Luigi and the two spirits chat amicably for a time as the former finishes his tea. The children (a little boy and girl) wander into the room at some point in their play and excitedly regale the plumber with the details of their vacation. He listens patiently, laughing and awing at the appropriate times.
A buzz in his pocket alerts Luigi to a received text. He politely excuses himself and reads the message in case it was something urgent. Apparently, a Boo was causing trouble in a café downtown. He sighs, responding that he would address the issue post haste.
“I’m afraid I have another job to get to, ladies,” he extends a hand, “Thank you for your hospitality.”
The children groan in disappointment and flee the room to find something else to entertain themselves. The women titter their amusement and take turns shaking the plumber’s hand.
“No,” they had said, “Thank you Luigi.”
The spirits see Luigi to the door and wave their goodbyes as he passes the threshold. The green Toad watches this, completely stupefied. He flinches when the women suddenly turn their eyes on him. They waggle their fingers in his direction with mischievous giggles, disappearing back into the old house.
“What—! Why—?!” The Toad gestures between Luigi and the front door. “Why are they still here? Why didn’t you get rid of them?!” They abruptly point to the plumber’s briefcase. “And why do you look like you moonlight as an attorney?”
“This is their house. I’m afraid it was sold to you illegally, my friend.” He reaches into his pocket and pulls out another card, handing it to the flabbergasted Toad. “The top number will get you set up at a nice hotel free of charge. The second will submit your case to get your money back, with interest—for the inconvenience.”
The green Toad blankly stares down at the card before looking back up at the plumber.
Luigi shrugs lazily in reply. He glances around the yard, brows pinched.
“Do you have anyone to help you get your stuff back in the van? The McKerras said they’d be alright with you leaving the truck in the driveway for a while if you need to.”
The Toad slowly points at the open back of the moving van. Luigi cranes his neck, finally seeing the cowering movers hiding among the boxes.
“You can come out, you know,” he deadpans. “It’s safe.”
Slowly, they emerge—looking diffident. Luigi rolls his eyes and walks back to his van. The Toad scrambles to his side as the plumber opens the passenger-side door and places his briefcase on the seat.
“I don’t get it; I thought your business was getting rid of ghosts. Not…whatever it is you just did.”
Luigi hops into the driver’s seat of his van and peers at the Toad through his rolled down window.
“Getting ‘rid’ of ghosts is only a small part of what I do,” he replies. “I told you before; I’m more of a mediator.”
Luigi starts the van and puts it in gear, leaving a baffled Toad in his wake as he drives off to his next job.