This Is Some Of The Most Wonderful Ghost-Story Writing I've Ever Seen

"Something Amazing" by Elizabeth McCracken may or may not actually be a ghost story — she seems to be dwelling in ambiguous territory, and veers away from the supernatural by the end — but it has some of the best ghostly imagery I've ever seen on the page.

Top image: V.H. Hammer.

In "Something Amazing," published in Zoetrope back in 2008, six-year-old Missy Goodby dies and becomes a really obnoxious ghost. And meanwhile, Missy's mother Pamela falls apart completely, to the point where she turns from a normal woman into someone the neighborhood kids believe is a witch. It's some of the most lush writing I've seen in ages, and well worth reading just for the descriptions. Here's how it begins:

Just west of Boston, just north of the turnpike, the ghost of Missy Goodby sleeps curled up against the cyclone fence at the dead end of Winter Terrace, dressed in a pair of ectoplasmic dungarees. That thumping noise is Missy bopping a plastic Halloween pumpkin on one knee; that flash of light in the corner of a dark porch is the moon off the glasses she wore to correct her lazy eye. Late at night when you walk your dog and feel suddenly cold, and then unsure of yourself, and then loathed by the world, that's Missy Goodby, too, hissing as she did when she was alive and six years old: I hate you, you stink, you smell, you baby.

The neighborhood kids remember Missy. She bit when she was angry and pinched no matter what. They don't feel sorry for her ghost self. They remember the funeral they were forced to attend, how her mother threw herself on the coffin, wailing, how they thought she'd been kidding and so laughed out loud and got shushed. The way the neighborhood kids tell the story, the coffin was lowered into the ground and Missy Goodby's grieving mother leapt down and then had to be yanked from the hole like a weed. Everyone always believes the better story eventually. Really, Pamela Goodby just thumped the coffin at the graveside service. Spanked it: two spanks. She knew that pleading would never budge her daughter, not because she was dead but because she was stubborn. All her life, the more you pleaded with Missy, the more likely she was to do something to terrify you. Pamela Goodby spanked the coffin and walked away and listened for footsteps behind her. She walked all the way home, where she took off her shoes, black pumps with worn stones of gray along the toes. "Done with you," she told them.

Read the rest over at Zoetrope.