Stay Here

It’s too late. He lies there unblinking, popsicle frozen, a half-whispered sweet nothing on the edge of his lips. She lies there too, annoyed. Both proving magical points on a bare mattress, no pillows, no A/C. Sweating, sweating. Their lungs and hearts beat, sync quicker than you’d think. Outside, midnight turns to morning. Time ages in a permanent way. Births and lost fingernails, screams and secret smiles, cakes and whispered wishes, snow storms too heavy to shovel and forgotten virginities, grandma telling the same story every July 4th and second opinions, lung cancer and talking with ghosts on television, spinning globes picking a vacation and electric bills, wheelchairs and grade school sweethearts and gray hairs and eating until your stomach hurts and broken dishwashers leaking to the basement, a flood. Maybe they had a chance, beckoning.

The frozen couple lose the studio apartment. Unpaid rent. Unpaid utilities. Men with beards and shoulder tattoos arrive in a truck to empty the room. The men carry them, still frozen on the sweaty mattress, to the sidewalk. The men padlock the door.

The sun escapes. It’s so hot the horizon quivers like a mirage might be coming. 

Humidity builds in the stratosphere to a point of eruption. Rain falls, soaking their underwear see-through. Lightning crackles in the summer clouds. If you didn’t know better, you’d think they were crying.

Leave Home

For Christmas, Cousin Danny sent me a scratch off map of America. Underneath Texas, it read, Places We’ve Been. The “We’ve” cut me open like a surgical saw. Maybe he forgot Jane died in September.

Before I finished my third bottle of red, I was scratching away at that map. Scratched off every state even though Jane and me never left Pennsylvania. I burned the map to dust; it seemed fitting.

I woke the next morning, lips and teeth purple, stomach bloody. I lifted up my stained shirt to find a map of the United States scratched out of my skin.


MJ McGinn received his MFA from Adelphi University and was a VCCA resident in 2019. His work has been included in the Wigleaf top 50 very short fictions and has been published in X-R-A-Y Magazine, the Guernica/PEN flash series, New Flash Fiction Review, Necessary Fiction, Drunk Monkeys, and elsewhere. He lives in Philadelphia.