A Haunted House But by Jeanine Skowronski

Put your toothbrush in the toothbrush holder, your underwear in this left-side drawer. Slip your mud-soaked boots next to my blue Birkenstocks, right here, on the welcome mat.

Ignore my bloody mother Mary in the mirrors, her old demons, swept under Aunt Christa’s ikat rug. These ghosts — they’re scary, but they’re not trying to scare you, Bubbie. They’re mostly trying to clear their throats.

You get used to it — you are used to it, maybe: cupboards opening at midnight, TVs switching to Channel 13. It’s not so bad; waking up to infomercials, crushed margarita cans arranged around the garbage bin in a loose pentagram. Late nights, rough mornings, hungover ghosts.

I talk to them sometimes. The ghosts, I mean. I told you that already. On our first date, remember? At that tiny corner table in the bar on 9th and Elm. You smiled, drew pictures of your old bruises on a cocktail napkin, jellyfish stretched across stick-straight arms and legs. A secret, you said, slipping that paper into my jacket pocket, let’s trade.

Let’s, you know? Come here. You can keep your crossword puzzle books in my father’s study. Hang that picture of your Tata, that old strzygoń, over this fat crack in the wall. You can talk to him, too, maybe? It’s good, I think, for us to each have something skinless to scratch at, to make a home with things that are already stained.

So, what do you think, Bubbie? Want to hide with me in the master bedroom? We can climb under the weighted blanket, braid our limbs together, whisper “don’t be afraid, don’t be afraid” into each other’s hair. You could warm your fingers with my fingers, fog my skin with your breath. We can starve our phantoms, like a fever. You could stay here, never leave.

Jeanine Skowronski is a writer based in N.J. Her work has appeared in X-R-A-Y Lit, Lost Balloon, Five on the Fifth, (mac)ro(mic), Complete Sentence, Crow & Cross Keys, Tiny Molecules, and more. She placed 2nd in Reflex Fiction’s 2021 Winter Flash Fiction competition. You can follow her on Twitter @JeanineSko.