"If a Bird Can Be a Ghost" by Allison Mills
This story came from Apex Magazine, Issue 99, August 2017. You can read it online for free at: https://www.apex-magazine.com/if-a-bird-can-be-a-ghost/ . You can also find an interview with the author, Allison Mills, about this story here: https://www.apex-magazine.com/interview-with-author-allison-mills/ .
This was a charming little ghost story with a slightly dark and different twist. Then again, what ghost story doesn't have a dark side? To a certain extent I would classify this story as not having a true dark side. It deals with some dark situations and emotions, but in a different approach than traditional ghost stories.
The story is about a little girl named Shelly and her "Grandma." Shelly's mother also played a role in this story. Shelly's mother seemed to have a slight role in the story, but actually played quite a big role in the whole scope of the story.
Grandma was what Shelly coined as a ghost-buster. People came to Grandma with their ghost problems and Grandma helped get rid of the ghosts. Grandma would catch the ghosts in her hair and then help them get to where they needed to go.
Grandma kept Shelly close and taught her all about ghosts. Grandma would show Shelly how to let her hair down and catch the ghosts. Then after the ghosts were caught Grandma would show her how to release them. Grandma was always kind with the ghosts and taught Shelly there was nothing be afraid of when it came to ghosts.
Shelly's mother didn't agree with Grandma. She didn't like Shelly learning about ghosts and how to catch and get rid of them. She didn't like anything about what Grandma was teaching Shelly and often voiced her opinion. Especially when it came to how little Grandma would charge people who came to her to help rid themselves of ghosts. Mother thought Grandma could charge much more for her services.
Then Shelly's mother died. Now Shelly was in Grandma's care. Shelly loved her Grandma, but she was devastated about her mother. Shelly greatly missed her mother.
Mother's death sent Shelly on a spiral downward. She desperately wanted to see her mother's ghost. Shelly would let her hair down and go walking through town where she hoped that she would catch her mother's ghost. She found many ghosts and she would question them to see if they had seen her mother anywhere. More than anything Shelly wanted to see her mother again. Shelly would try anything to accomplish the goal of possibly finding her mother.
This story was multi-faceted and was a deeply touching story. It dealt with relationships between family members and how they interact with one another. The family bond and how deep family bonds could be. It also explored the emotions of people and how they cope with different aspects of life and death.
Shelly had a tight-knit relationship with her Grandma. The relationship was expressed through the passing down of Grandma's tradition of dealing with ghosts. Grandma helped Shelly understand that death shouldn't be something feared and life should be celebrated. There are important lessons to learn from dealing with the dead and Grandma was trying to pass that information on to Shelly, the younger generation.
When Shelly's mother passed away she didn't quite know what to do. She wanted desperately to see her one last time. She had learned that death wasn't necessarily the end of the line and went seeking her mother. She used ghost seeking as a coping mechanism for expressing her love for her mother. If Shelly never gave up looking for her mother then that would mean she was still out there somewhere. She just had to find out where. In her heart she was keeping her mother alive by never giving up.
The story follows Shelly on her adventure of exploring her life without her mother and searching for her soul. The interactions she has with ghosts and learning the limitations of death.
As Shelly gathered up ghosts hoping to find her mother she started a collection. This collection helped fill the void her mother left in her life. There is subtle dichotomy when Shelly tried to fill the loneliness of life with the only thing she really knew well, death. She had to learn that death could not fill the void of life.
This was a fantastic ghost story. There were so many different aspects to this story it was hard to cover everything I extracted from the reading. I love the different way this story took on being a "ghost" story while not being scary, or horror-like.
The story was beautifully written and well thought out. So much emotion was fit into this short story I thought I had read much more than I actually had. Definitely worth checking out if you want to read a heart-felt story that deals with you guessed it, ghosts.