Friday, January 27, 2012

Story of the Week: Snow Angel

Angel in the snow from St Mary's church yard.
Joanne Galbraith's "Snow Angel" is a ghost story about terror and revenge that comes not from the ghost but from a source that's very much alive. Emma has suffered several losses when the narrative begins. Her parents have died and most recently her husband has died in an automobile accident, wrapping his car around a tree after drinking at a bar with his father. Emma is now left to raise her daughter Marley alone. Dealing with the loss is bad enough, but every night at 1:02 in the morning, Marley wakes Emma to tell her that she has been talking to her father who makes snow angels outside his daughter's window and scratches hearts into the frost on the window pane. At first, Emma assumes her daughter is fantasizing, too young to comprehend the finality of death. But the physical evidence builds and Emma becomes convinced that someone from her past is stalking her, most likely a fellow student from her high school days who harbored an unhealthy obsession over her. Marley tells Emma that Daddy has a message for them.

“Daddy says be careful.” Marley snatched her favorite dolly from the floor beside her and cuddled it, sleep tugging at her eyelids. “He says somebody’s coming to visit.”

“Who’s coming, Marley?” [said Emma.]

“Somebody bad.”

Emma doesn't believe in heaven or the supernatural, nor do her sister or her parents, but when Emma learns that her husband died at 1:02 AM, her worldview begins to crumble and somebody bad does come to pay a visit.

Galbraith tells a suspenseful tale that immediately grabs your attention and holds it. Details, such as the smell of Emma's husband's cologne, create vivid word pictures and turn up again and again to add depth to the narrative.

A tiny voice drew Emma from a dark corner of sleep. She groaned and rubbed her eyes. “It’s your turn, David.” When he didn’t move, she rolled over and patted her hand along his pillow. She found nothing but cold cotton. Blinking in the darkness, she sat up and looked at the clock on his nightstand—1:02 a.m.

Pain tore through her heart.

David would never again crease his pillow or steal the covers as he turned in his sleep. Tears crested her lashes as Emma crawled to his side of the bed and crushed her face against his pillow. His scent lingered, a mixture of Clive Christian cologne and his unique masculine aroma.

The mystery over the identity of the "bad person" is also well done as Galbraith drops clues that fit together at the end. A longer story might have delved more into the antagonist's personality and motivation, but this is Emma's story. The ending masterfully brings together many of the narrative's threads in a powerful, heartwarming denouement without being sentimental.

Joanne Galbraith now writes as Jocelyn Adams. To learn more about her work, check out her blog at

Picture Attribution: Bill Nicholls. This image is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license.


  1. Congrats on your W1S1 success

  2. This one sounds good, too. And CONGRATS on reaching your January Write1Sub1 goals!