By Jeanine Skowronski
One day, when he was around, like, 36, he went to his old friend Tino’s Halloween party and he met a girl (not you, but, ehh, yeah, sure, I guess, if you squint a little) and he was dressed like a heroin addict (I KNOW) and she was dressed like a Boston Terrier, her Boston Terrier, a fat-faced dump of a dog named Flatrick Slobchunks (I KNOW), and they started talking, sort of on accident, sort of just because they were sitting next to each other on a couch, but he said something clever (I swear), something about Visine, maybe, and she said something tough, but disarming, something like “I’m sorry I’m drunk; I’m training for a jiu-jitsu tournament” and then her ride was leaving so she asked for his phone number (something you’d never do, something she never did, TBH) and a week later, they went to Hooters because that’s where they could watch the UFC fights and, at the end of the night, when he was thinking about maybe not calling her, about getting into his cherry-red car and finally driving all the way to, I don’t know, Temecula, California, she looked up at the fog-filled sky and started crying because, look, there was one really bright star; and he liked that she was crying, liked, later, that she cried so often and so easily, about polar bears and party favors, dentist appointments and dead fathers, his dead father specifically (this girl never cried about him, but sometimes, she cried for him, you know?), about half-birthdays and car trade-ins and that movie Firehouse Dog, which, yes, Jordan Catalano watched with her, and he cried too, because, well, he was waiting to—no, he was ready to, he needed to, he realized, so it finally would hurt less to look at things—and once they were both at least temporarily out of tears, he reached under his soft flannel shirt, his rough, white tank top, and took out his big, beating, bleeding heart (you know, you knew) and asked her to hold onto it as tightly as she wanted for the rest of his so-called life.
Jeanine Skowronski has published work in Lunate Fiction, Meet Cute Press, and Dwelling Literary, and was a finalist in NYC Midnight’s 2019 Short Story Challenge.
Art by Jay Baker, an artist from Colorado living in Oregon, by way of New Mexico; he records music as Tom Foe.