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Emily Capettini "Velma Says Goodbye to the Family Cabin"

Velma follows highways north until their names become letters, single-laned roads that are backed up only when a deer takes its time with crossing. She turns down a road named for a schoolhouse decades gone. There’s an overgrown path that tumbles to a frog pond, a field of Queen Anne’s Lace and milkweed. Once, there were clusters of pincherry trees, too. Velma stood on the roof of her parents’ van to pick the sour fruit, returning home with sunburns like latticework.

The closing agent won’t be here until the morning, so Velma kicks off her shoes and walks down the stairs worn smooth by four generations. The sun is low. It is still cool, the summer tourism season just begun, Jupiter on the horizon after dusk. It is quiet.

A voice ripples across the lake. She glimpses a loon, a ghost-call before it slips under water. A pontoon boat hums through the twilight, the wake rolling up to lick her calves. Her grandfather’s pontoon boat is somewhere on this lake, sold after he could no longer make the trip.

Velma picks up a flat stone, skips it across the water, the surface like old-house glass. All the women before her waterskied on this lake until they turned 60. There was always one last turn, around the jut of land with old-growth pines, skirting sandbar shallows, over the deepest hollow of the lake. They came back, windblown and laughing, to hand down their skis.

Velma never could get the hang of it, how to keep her skis beneath her, a grip on the handle. Her glasses were left behind in the boat, the world around her a watercolor left out in the rain. Instead, she collected seaglass and smoothed bits of pottery, rounded rose quartz, sandstone in layers of burgundy. When she was younger, Velma used to think there were stacks of plates, cups, and teapots, gleaming white underwater in the center of the lake, a treasure to be fished out, if only she could find it.

It is only here, ankle-deep in water from which her great-great grandfather used to borrow ice, that she understands the desire to spin a ghost story, guard a treasure.


Emily Capettini is a queer fiction writer from the Midwest who loves a good ghost story. Her work has most recently appeared in places like Lammergeier and The Spectacle, among others. Her chapbook, Girl Detectives (2020), is forthcoming from Porkbelly Press. Find out more about her at

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