An Open Casket

The April Sherman Series follows a young girl growing up in a small town, fundamentalist Christian family.

A Short Story by Bekah Ferguson.


My cousin Kasey lived in a country home, originally a clergy house back in the late 19th century. The church was long gone though, had burned down, and only a few visible sections of the stone foundation remained. A barn was built after that and the home became a farmhouse for the next few decades. Now it was a regular home and the barn had a caved-in roof.

The top floor of the house had three bedrooms, and Kasey’s had a view of the field; the first half mowed and green, the far half flaxen with overgrown grass. Sometimes I stood at the window and stared at the distant barn, thinking of the pioneer girl who’d supposedly died inside it, even though I’d decided Kasey was only trying to scare me last summer; had probably made the whole thing up. She didn’t even believe in ghosts. Still, I felt uneasy recalling it, especially since a kid at our school had just died.

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Ghosts by Another Name

The April Sherman Series follows a young girl growing up in a small town, fundamentalist Christian family.

A Short Story by Bekah Ferguson.


My cousins lived in an old farmhouse out in the country. Sometimes when I’d visit for a sleepover, my cousin Kasey and I would explore the outer perimeter of the barn on the far edge of their overgrown field. The hayloft and floorboards were rotten, and half the roof caved in, so the inside was supposed to be off-limits.

“You could fall through the floor and break a leg at best, your neck at worst,” my uncle said many times. Usually we obeyed but tonight we’d gone outside to play after supper while auntie did the dishes, and we hadn’t yet been called back in, even though dusk was descending. It seemed the adults had forgotten about us for the time being.

“We’ll only go in a short way and look around, we won’t climb anything,” Kasey explained, a gleam in her eye. She took off for the garden shed and emerged again before I caught up, a flashlight in hand.

It was a cool August evening, crickets shrieking, a bull frog droning. I followed her through the woody plants and bramble, much of it nearly as tall as the two of us. At one point I didn’t see a blackberry bush in time and brushed right past it with my bare legs, the scratches burning; tiny beads of blood appearing on my shin. We soon reached the barn and Kasey flicked the flashlight beam up and down and around. It was nearly dark with an overcast sky, the moon a faint glow behind the clouds. I saw a swipe of fieldstone foundation, a rusted soup can full of decomposing cigarette butts, and a window with four broken panes.

“Here’s the way in,” she whispered, holding the beam over a peeling gray door with a rusted latch.

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What’s Hell?

The April Sherman Series follows a young girl growing up in a small town, fundamentalist Christian family.

A Short Story by Bekah Ferguson.


“Here’s a coloring sheet for you, April,” the Sunday School teacher said in a sing-song voice, handing me a piece of paper before moving on to the rest of the children at the table. “Next weekend is Easter, so today we’re going to learn all about why Jesus died.”

I reached for the basket of crayons in the center of the table, rooting through to find a handful that weren’t rubbed down flat or broken in half. I studied the picture. It was a simple cross with a spiky halo draped over top and some smiley-faced flowers in the grass below. (If I hadn’t been going to Sunday School since starting kindergarten last year, I might have mistaken the cross for the letter “t.”) In the top right corner was a beaming sun, smiling like the flowers, but something was missing from the scene. Feeling inspired, I did my best to draw a bunny rabbit next to the flowers, along with some eggs. I was very careful to draw zig-zag lines and polka dots on the eggs in even patterns, sticking my tongue out of the corner of my mouth a bit for added concentration.

“Are you having an Easter Egg Hunt next weekend?” I asked the girl beside me, glancing at her sidelong.

She blinked a few times, pausing with a purple crayon poised mid-air. “We don’t do that in my house,” she said. “My mom says Easter is for Jesus, and it’s not about eggs. She says the Easter bunny isn’t real.”

“Oh.” I thought about that for a moment, resuming my coloring; the subtle scent of crayon wax in the air. So she didn’t get to eat any jellybeans and chocolate eggs. I felt a twinge in my tummy. Did she at least get to have a chocolate bunny?

“Do you get any chocolate?” I stared at her side profile as she hunched over her paper.

“Uh-uh.” She shook her head, ponytail swishing.

The Sunday School room was warm, dust particles dancing in the sunbeams from the windows. But I felt a tad cold.

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