"Ashputtle: Or, The Mother's Ghost" was written by Angela Carter in 1987. It opens:
"A burned child lived in the ashes. No, not really burned - more charred, a little bit charred, like a stick half-burned and picked off the fire; she looked like charcoal and ashes because she lived in the ashes since her mother died and the hot ashes burned her, so she was scabbed and scarred. The burned child lived on the hearth, covered in ashes, as if she was still in mourning."
One paragraph in, and I was wondering if this story was really for me! But since it's very short and an author I'd been wanting to read for quite some time, I persevered...and I'm so glad I did! The story is simply magical and reads like a fairy tale.
"Her mother was dead and buried but still felt perfect, exquisite pain of love when she looked up through the earth and saw the burned child covered with ashes."
The story tells how the mother's ghost won't rest until her child is safe and cared for. I loved it!
"Redundant", written by Scottish horror/supernatural writer Dorothy K. Haynes (1918-1987), is the final story in the collection. It tells of Hamish, a hapless man who goes through life taking the jobs that nobody else wants.
'Taken' was perhaps the wrong word. It implied choice, and Hamish never chose anything. He simply accepted what was left.... Sooner or later every job he took would end. He was never fired, or angrily dismissed; he was too well-meaning for that. Simply, he was made redundant, but not nobly redundant, with a handsome settlement as a reward for years of service; merely unwanted after a period so short that there was no time for benefits to accrue.
When Hamish becomes ill and dies, his ghost assumes the job as driver for "the death coach". The ghost really likes the job but, in death as in life, Hamish becomes redundant once again. While this story was pleasant enough to read, it was not particularly memorable .
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