Excerpts, Short Stories

Ghosts in a Small Town

I am very happy to say that Ghosts in a Small Town has been published by The Rose Magazine.

Below is an excerpt which follows Walt, a grieving father, as he deals with his daughter’s untimely death. If you’d like to read the story in its entirety, click here.

***

Our only daughter, Annette, died on prom night. After the dance, after she broke curfew and got drunk with Jeremy out at Gudgeon Bridge. Trains don’t come around there too often anymore, but sometimes they do. Late at night.

Annette and Jeremy were standing too close to the tracks as the train approached from the dark tunnel. She tripped. Jeremy was too wasted to react quickly. Her classmates, her friends, were sitting on the hoods of their cars getting high and laughing. Laughing even as the train came rushing down the tracks like a bat from a cave.

Some of the kids said they saw her head spin all the way around before popping off like a cap on a bottle of soda after you shake it. They didn’t say this to us, but we heard the whispers, overheard the low, secretive conversations when we walked by. Fairvale is like that, so small everyone knows everything as soon as it happens. The stories of her final moments varied depending on who was talking, but there was one unwavering detail: she didn’t scream. Before it happened, when the train’s whistle was shrieking in the dark, the wheels scraping on the rail, the smoke billowing out of the stack, she stayed quiet. Even right before impact. She just lifted her head and watched it charge toward her. Everyone said the same thing.

And then the crunch of bones, the enamel pounded to dust. Her thoughts, her ideas, her soul, dashed and obliterated as her skin tore and blood smeared and her brain popped on the greasy metal. The coroner said it must have been a nasty fall – that it might have knocked her out for a moment or two, leaving her with no time to move out of the way. Later, when we looked at what was left of her, I noticed there was a rip in the fluffy, tulle fabric of her yellow dress. I imagined she snagged it on a rusty nail.

She got a page in the back of the senior class yearbook. A big, blown up picture of her smiling in her cheerleading uniform with Jeremy’s Letterman Jacket draped over her shoulders. She sat beneath the football scoreboard, frozen in time, with wild, red hair blowing all over the place. It was windy that day, and cold. R.I.P Annette Hughes, the text beneath the photo said. Only the good die young. And then some quote from a song Kate and I didn’t know. Her eyes stared out at us from the page and I told Kate if I looked really hard, I could tell what Annette would have looked like when she got older. She just had one of those faces. Kate started crying and left the room and I ripped the goddamn page out of the book and threw it into the fireplace.

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