In Greentown, IL, a young boy, Charlie finds himself with nothing to do in the last days of summer. He goes to see his elderly neighbor, Colonel Stonesteel, who admits that things can be boring for a boy of 13. When Charlie challenges him, Stonesteel offers to create something exciting in town to relieve the monotony of the "desperate empties," the last days of summer.
Man and boy go to Stonesteel's attic where he takes scraps of clothing and paper and claims that they're from Egypt. He asks Charlie what they should do with them, and Charlie suggests that they create a mummy. They go to work and once they're done, Stonesteel christens the fake mummy Ramses the Third. Next, he takes the mummy out to a field belonging to farmer Tom Tucker.
The next day, Stonesteel and Charlie watch as the Labor Day parade goes by the colonel's house. Tucker drives into town and tells everyone that he found what appears to be an authentic Egyptian mummy while plowing his field. With some prodding from Stonesteel, people soon believe that the mummy is real. The Mayor seizes on the occasion to call in news crews from Chicago to arrive the next day. Ramses becomes the guest of honor in the parade and Stonesteel and Charlie watch, satisfied. Next, the colonel suggests that they have to seal the mummy's legendary status by making it disappear.
That night, everyone in town celebrates except the sheriff, who watches over Ramses at the jail. Stonesteel and Charlie drive to the jail and the colonel goes in and offers a drink to the sheriff. The law officer is soon somewhat drunk, and Stonesteel reads the hieroglyphics on the mummy and claims that if they are read, the mummy will come to life. He reads them while Charlie sneaks up and puts the mummy on his skateboard. As he wheels it out, the sheriff sees it moving and figures that it's come to life, and Stonesteel tells him to stay put while he chases it down. Charlie and the colonel make good their escape with the mummy.
The next day, the mayor tells the news crews what happened, and the police search the town for the missing mummy. Stonesteel and Charlie watch from the colonel's attic satisfied. When Charlie wonders what it all means, Stonesteel explains that mummy that represents everyone... and no one. Charlie is the one who created it, and now it's Charlie's to do with what he wishes. He tells the boy to hide it in his attic for 30 or 40 years, and use it the next time the desperate empties come around. Charlie says that he'll never be bored because he plans to become a writer, and Stonesteel tells him to start his career by listening to the mummy's stories.
Decades later, a now-adult Charlie writes his newest novel, the "Desperate Empties." A young boy comes to the house to complain about being bored, and Charlie goes to get the mummy once more.