Monday, October 26, 2009

Ghost Reader

The following is an excerpt from my manuscript The Cemetery Garden, my first brush with a ghost. One day, I plan on revising and sending it out on submission, because for some reason, the story won't let me go. Ghosts are like that.

I huddled between my mother and sister on a cold metal folding chair lining the grave’s edge. A billowy and familiar form drifted toward the mound of earth that would soon blanket my father's casket. Aunt Florence was draped in a flowery, tent-like shift she’d typically reserved for Friday night dinners. Certain I’d imagined her, I blinked, hoping the puffy shape was a circle of leaves blown up from the ground. But her red curls gave her away. She caught my eye and tapped two fingers to her heart, our private signal of affection.

My dead aunt.

I gulped and covered my shock with a cough. Then I inhaled cool air and slowly blinked again. Still there. Aunt Florence had been dead for over twenty years and, until that moment, had never appeared.

She showed up frequently after that. But why? Oh, I asked, but she never answered. Sometimes when I tossed questions at her, she’d fade away, as though my words were a strong wind and she, a pile of leaves.

Aunt Florence had a heart attack and died the summer I was at sleep-away camp. When I returned, tanned and over-s'mored, I stared at my father as he cautiously told me. I ignored his words, and ran to the cemetery near our house. They'd buried her at a cemetery across town, but I didn’t want to ask him to drive me there. So I pretended St. Patrick’s was her cemetery and zigzagged through the myriad tombstones searching for a lady named Florence. I found Florence Fitzgerald, picked up some dirt, and spread it across the last name. Now she was my Florence.

When I do revise, I'll likely use my new favorite self-editing tool, GhostReader. Read more about a ghost reader named Rachel on What Women Write.


Sarah Laurence said...
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Sarah Laurence said...

Oooh, spooky! Just the right reading for Halloween week. Good luck finishing!

I just checked the Ghost Reader link. I like to read my MSS out loud to myself to check the flow and rhythm. It's hard to believe that a computer would sound natural.

Joan Mora said...

Some voices are better than others, but if you check a few, you're bound to find the right one for your work.

Elizabeth Lynd said...

I think your Aunt Florence may have been a gambling buddy of my cousin Bibi. Vegas anyone?

For the record, it looks to me like this ghost has a future as well as a past.