Winner of the Omnidawn Fabulist Fiction Prize
Selected by Theodora Goss
For Minerva, seeing other people’s ghosts is not unusual, until her own mother appears. Navigating through a struggling relationship with her fiancé and finding someone with abilities similar to hers, Minerva sets out to unravel the mystery of her mother’s haunting.
Minerva sees things other people can’t . . . or won’t. She seems to have her life together: a job she likes, a wedding to plan. But recently, she’s started seeing her mother’s ghost. Why now? And what is her mother trying to say? Minerva must return to her childhood home to confront the past and decide her own future. In vivid, luminous prose, Thistle explores the importance of memory, the intricacy of human relationships, and the ways in which we deal with grief. If you’ve ever lost someone or tried to find yourself, this beautifully written, heartfelt story is for you.
Theodora Goss, judge of the 2013 Omnidawn Fabulist Fiction Contest
Emily Capettini holds a Ph.D. in English from the University of Louisiana at Lafayette and works as an Assistant Editor for Sundress Publications. Her fiction has previously appeared in The Battered Suitcase, The Louisiana Review, Stone Highway Review, Noctua Review, The Future Fire: Outlaw Bodies Anthology, Stirring: A Literary Collection, and Not Somewhere Else But Here: A Contemporary Anthology of Women and Place (Sundress Publications, 2013). Her critical work has appeared in Feminism in the Worlds of Neil Gaiman: Essays on the Comics, Poetry, and Prose (McFarland & Company, 2012) and Neil Gaiman in the 21st Century: Essays on the Novels, Children’s Stories, Online Writings, Comics and Other Works (McFarland & Company, 2015). She received her B.A. in English and French from Lake Forest College in 2009. In her free time, Emily runs, bakes, and blogs about women and Doctor Who. She lives in Maryland.
She’s in the kitchen, on her toes to reach the tea in the top cabinet, when Minerva sees her mother at the edge of her vision, hovering near a cracked, stained teacup on a cold March morning. She flickers like the old fluorescent bulb that had hung in her mother’s cellar.
Her mother’s lips stretch soundlessly. Minerva can see the bird at the feeder through her mother’s crooked left collarbone.
The kettle on the stove whistles.
A door near the bedrooms slams. The cracked teacup lolls on its side, mouth wide and gaping. Minerva’s mother wavers and vanishes.
The teacup lays still and just beyond it, the birds flutter around the feeder, frantic and hungry.
“Min, are you all right?”
A hand on her shoulder jolts her from her thoughts. She turns and smiles apologetically at Alex. “Sorry, just thinking.”
“Yeah? Concerned about the birds again?” he teases, rubbing one eye and yawning. “They’ll be all right.”
“The feeder’s run low again. I’ll have to go to the store.”
“They eat that thistle seed like it’s their last meal. Want some eggs?”
Minerva nods, glancing back to the place where her mother had twisted and reached. “Think our house is haunted?”
Alex huffs. “I wish. Maybe it’d make this place bearable.”
Minerva laughs, despite the uneasy feeling coiling in her gut. They had moved into the small house nearly a year ago and for Alex, who had always lived in the heart of their bustling city, the neighborhood to the north was uninspiring.
Alex hurries over to the sink. Minerva feels a chill quiver through her as he walks through the spot where her mother had appeared. She tries to shake off the unease. “I may have to go see my dad.”
Alex turns and frowns. “Is something wrong? Did your sister call?”
“Minerva,” he says very carefully, as carefully as he has been lately, ever since their time in couples counseling when Minerva was sure they were ending. “Think about it. You know how your family is. We can sort them out once this marriage chaos is all over. Or you can go now if it’s an emergency, and I’ll fill in the planning gaps while you’re gone.” But his supposed generosity ruptures with the twitch in the corner of his smile.
She lets out a long sigh, even as tension climbs her spine and smiles. “And leave you to order the wrong flowers and get a lemon cake, even though I’m allergic to lemon?” Minerva will regret it later; she can already feel the pressure building along the back of her skull. Still…she won’t be able to explain it. Not yet. “I’ll wait.”
“All I do for you, and you have so little faith in me.”
“You’re burning the eggs.”
She is outside, the sun heating her dark hair until it’s hot to her touch. Minerva strolls through the yard barefoot, humming along to the woodwind mmuzzz of the cicadas. She turns a corner and Chris looks up from where he kneels in a yellow tulip sea. Minerva stops and knows she is dreaming. Chris is young, his hair still mostly brown, the lines of his face shallower.
“Minerva! I had wondered where you had gotten to! Your ma will be looking for you soon, you know.”
Minerva looks down at herself, seeing scraped legs and muddy shorts. She is twelve. She remembers this moment. In twenty minutes, she will find her mother dead in the bathtub.