On the Backroads

Jeanine Skowronski


We dig holes, because Wren insists there’s treasure buried in this dirt. We unearth silver slips of paper, two mossy nickels, a smooth shark’s tooth of glass; we marvel at Wren’s prescience, our good luck. 


We scoop tadpoles from shallow puddles that have pooled in abandoned circles of corrugated steel; carry them home in gold-lidded mason jars, which we clink together, before parting; a toast to spontaneous generation, a promise to not kiss any frogs.


We cast spells; four little goth girls, lips painted black, pointed north, south, east and west, standing suddenly in a rainstorm we undoubtedly conjured with our mothers’ Yankee candles and some St. John’s Wort.  


We harvest white clover and dandelions for a love potion because Quinn wants to date the prettiest boy at school. Wren goes back for milkweed; says don’t worry, she’ll be able to see its red leaves in the dark.


We write “GONE TOO SOON” on a thick cardboard cross; plant it as close as we can to the crash site; hang rainbow ribbons from its sides, fold the strands into little fans, like we learned in Sunday school, an unintentional prayer.


We hold a séance, three former goth girls, lips painted pink, pointing south, east and west, unable to close the circle and so, unable to conjure a ghost; we wallow in our inabilities, Wren’s bad luck. 


We kiss frogs, give it up to pretty boys who are unlikely to turn into princes, though we hope—please, please, please—they won’t break our hearts; a secret shared with, a wish whispered to a not-so-long-lost friend, unheard and so ungranted or ungranted and so unheard.


We chase swigs of rum or vodka with lemons and a shared can of coke; pass joints in a sad, straight line; take turns snuffing their little red embers with our toes.


We get busted; flashing red and blue lights interrupting our latest toast to spontaneous combustion, self-destruction, a shared reason to implode.


We drive past the new strip mall, wonder if Wren will haunt it, like she haunts us. Figuratively, of course, not literally. There is no magic here.

Jeanine Skowronski is a writer based in New Jersey. Her work has appeared in Reflex Press, Tiny Molecules, Complete Sentence, Crow & Cross Keys, Lunate Fiction, and Fewer than 500. She placed ninth in NYC Midnight’s 2019 Short Story Challenge. You can follow her on Twitter @JeanineSko.