by Margo Rabb
Issue #23 • October 18, 2014•Sold Out!
The winter I turned twelve, a massive blizzard hit New York City. The snow began on Sunday evening and continued through the next morning, when my sister Alex and I sat beside the radio and prayed for the divine announcement: All New York City public schools are closed. When it finally came, we yelped and ventured out to hunt for fresh snow. This was our winter challenge, to find snow that hadn’t been stepped in, damaged, or destroyed. We were trailblazers, explorers, charting new territory, mapping new ground, searching for a perfect patch, smooth and glittering in the alley outside our house in Queens. Snow changed the city like magic, stifling the noise and smothering the dirt. Kids sledded down Skillman Avenue, snowmen sprung up on fire escapes, buses stalled and groaned like dying mammoths. The newspaper deliverymen had already made their rounds, ruining a fair amount of our alley’s purity, but I found an untouched patch in front of the Kaminskys’ stoop. “Over here!” I shouted to Alex, and we plopped into the snow, made angels, tramped around, wrecking all of it, relishing the satisfaction of being the first to walk in that spot.
We were so absorbed in our labors that we didn’t even notice when a girl came out of the Kaminskys’ house, stood on the stoop, and stared at us.
Margo Rabb is the author of the novel Cures for Heartbreak, which was published in 2007, and Kissing in America, which will be published by HarperCollins in May 2015. Her essays and short stories have been published in The New York Times, The Atlantic, The Rumpus, Zoetrope: All Story, Seventeen, Best New American Voices, New Stories from the South, New England Review, Glimmer Train Stories, and One Story, and have been broadcast on NPR. She received the grand prize in the Zoetrope short story contest, first prize in The Atlantic fiction contest, first prize in the American Fiction contest, and a PEN Syndicated Fiction Project Award. She grew up in Queens, New York, and now lives in Austin, Texas with her husband and two children. You can visit her online at www.margorabb.com.
Patrick Ryan on Ghost Story
How I used to wish, back when I was in school, that we’d gone on a field trip to a place as exotic as a haunted house. Even a place that purported to be a haunted house. (The fieldtrips I took to Pizza Hut and to a sugar cane field just didn’t count as exotic for me.) In Margo Rabb’s “Ghost Story,” Maxine and her edgy new friend Perry—along with the rest of their class—take a fieldtrip to a place called The Wales House, and it’s rumored to be haunted by a woman who died there long ago.
It’s Perry’s idea that the two of them stay behind, hide in a closet until everyone else is gone, and spend the night in the Wales House. They stock up on junk food and curl up in an antique bed together, half-hoping they encounter the ghost of the dead woman and fully hoping they don’t get caught. Either outcome will most likely produce a few bumps in the night, right?
At the heart of this story, Margo Rabb does an amazing thing. She projects forward into Maxine’s future. Like a spirit in the night, she takes our hand and leads us through events that, for Maxine on the night in question, have yet to happen. Then she brings us back again and shows us how a friendship can shed light—or cast shadows—on the walls of our lives.
And then things go bump in the night.
“Ghost Story” is just that: a story about ghosts. But the ghosts aren’t necessarily spirits, and they aren’t necessarily residents of the Wales House. This wonderful story by Margo Rabb will stick with you, and it may even haunt the way you think about the walls of your own life. Happy Halloween!
Q&A by Patrick Ryan