A Living Ghost by Megan Colgan

Yellow jackets swarm out of an old tire. Stinging me and my brother on every exposed part of our small bodies. My mother hits them with some Raid. She is not immune and they sting her too. She falls head first onto the deck. I am convinced she is dead.

Bees are good. Bees pollinate and keep us alive. Yellow jackets are bad. Yellow jackets can kill us.

I run down the street screaming. Fast as I can go. Somebody help. She’s dead. Somebody help.

She has no swelling. The police think it’s drugs and search our house. They find nothing.

Bring her back to life. Bring her back to life.

My brother and I huddle in the front yard. Center ourselves on a small rock. She can’t die. We have nothing if she dies. Two kids without a mother doesn’t make sense.

The bring her back. They start her heart.

Home from the hospital, she tells us she floated through the house. A living ghost. She floated to the front yard and saw us shaking together like lost baby otters. It was then she decided to live and pull us back to her.


The NFFR and Megan Colgan Micro Life Interview

What inspired this piece?

My mother getting stung by yellow jackets, and nearly dying, was a pivotal moment in my childhood. I was nine and my brother was ten when it happened. Our mother was unconscious in the back of the house but told us she saw us sitting on a rock in the middle of our front lawn. There is no way she could have known we were there. I’ve thought about it so many times and I can’t come up with a rational explanation, so I’ve stopped trying.

Short pieces depend a great deal on what’s left out. What was in an early draft of this piece that you removed?

It contained a lot more expository about the police searching for drugs and my mother floating through the house but I realized it works better as a micro piece.

What have you read lately that’s been a revelation?

The prose poem “OBIT” by Victoria Chang. It’s about her own mother’s death. “When my mother died, I saw myself in the mirror, her words in a ring around my mouth, like powder from a donut.”


Megan Colgan is a stay-at-home mother from New Hampshire. She has various things published in various journals.

Photography by Donovan Reeves