It's the last days of summer in Greentown, IL, and a young boy, Charlie, is bored and waiting for excitement. He runs to the house of Colonel Stonesteel, an elderly neighbor. Stonesteel notes that the Labor Day parade occurs the next day, but admits that things tend to run down when a boy is 13. Charlie looks to Stonesteel for an idea and the colonel bets him six cans of pop against mowing the lawn that something miraculous will happen in town in the next 24 hours during the slow time of the year, the desperate empties. Charlie agrees and Stonesteel goes inside. They finally go upstairs to the attic and Stonesteel offers to create a mystery.
Stonesteel starts taking scraps of cloth and paper and then describes how the paper is papyrus and the cloth is wrappings from Egypt. He then asks Charlie what to do now that he's bored. Charlie considers, and then realizes that what they're putting together is a mummy.
Once they're done, Stonesteel says that now it's time to take their new mummy, Ramses the Third, out into the town to spread excitement through the town. Now they need to plant it and watch it grow. Stonesteel drives out to a field belonging to Tom Tucker and they consider it and smile.
The next day, the Labor Day parade marches through town while Charlie and Stonesteel watch from the latter's porch. Tom Tucker drives into town and tells them that he turned up a genuine Egyptian mummy while plowing in his field. Stonesteel helps on the ruse, and the town sheriff arrives with the mayor. The mayor calls the news crews from Chicago and promises they'll be there the next day. The parade continues with the mummy as the new guest. Meanwhile, Stonesteel prompts Charlie to suggest that next they have to make the mummy disappear.
That night, the sheriff stands guard over the mummy at Town Hall while everyone else attends the fireworks celebration in the park. Stonesteel and Charlie drive to Town Hall and the colonel explains that the news crews will discover the mummy is a fake. Stonesteel goes in and offers the sheriff a drink, while Charlie sneaks in and prepares to steal the mummy. The colonel talks about how if the hieroglyphics are read, the mummy comes to life. Stonesteel continues to ply the sheriff with drink and then goes over and reads the hieroglyphics. Charlie puts the mummy on his skateboard and makes it "move" while the drunken sheriff stares on in shock. Stonesteel runs after it to go get it.
The next day, the mayor explains to the news crews that the mummy was kidnapped and is offering a reward for information. As the police search the town, Stonesteel and Charlie watch from the colonel's attic and laugh in satisfaction. Charlie wonders who the mummy truly was and what it means, and Stonesteel explains that their mummy was everyone and no one, and Charlie set everything off. The colonel turns the mummy over to Charlie and explains that he can hide it in his attic. Then, in 30 or 40 years during a boring summer, Charlie will bring it to life once more and toss it into a cornfield and watch the chaos afterward. Charlie wonders what happens if he has a life where he's never bored, and says he'll be the world's greatest writer. Stonesteel tells the boy to listen to the mummy and let it start him on his future.
As an adult, Charlie writes his story of the "Desperate Empties." A young boy, Johnny, comes to his house and Charlie realizes it's time to bring his old friend Ramses out again.
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