My good girl and me was happy as goldfish till she got pregnant. She would handle it. We agreed. This was where the smart money was. She was in two-year college, and we was both busted. Who could pay for a car seat? I caught the bus to work

But she switched up outside the clinic. I tried to talk reason, but she wasn’t having it. Her cheeks was red as welts, but she didn’t cry.

“I thought you were better than this.” She left me outside.

I tried to get us back to the way things were supposed to be. We always made out on her mama’s couch. We did that one more time—I brought beer and nacho chips over—but the next time I stopped by her mama said she was gone and that I shouldn’t come round again.

I saw my girl years later. I worked a gas station register by the highway. She still had those baby-fat cheeks. I bet she changed her hair a million times since last I touched her, but her hair was the same again as it was before.

She had a boy hanging round. He wore cleats and knee socks. There was a grass stain on his jersey.

I kept eying her, but she wouldn’t look at me. She circled the racks and went to the automatic doors. They whooshed open, then closed, then open. She pulled that boy by the arm.

“Don’t stare at that man,” she said. “We don’t know him.”

Outside, a man pumped gas into their car, and they all rode off together. I went to the window. They crossed the intersection and rolled onto the on-ramp. Their car disappeared into traffic, floating away.

Maurice Carlos Ruffin

MAURICE CARLOS RUFFIN is a graduate of the University of New Orleans Creative Writing Workshop and a member of the Peauxdunque Writers Alliance and the Melanated Writers Collective. His work has appeared in Redivider, the Apalachee Review, and Unfathomable City: a New Orleans atlas edited by Rebecca Solnit and Rebecca Snedecker. He is the winner of the 2014 Iowa Review Fiction Award, the 2014 So to Speak Journal Short Story Award and the 2014 William Faulkner Competition for Novel in Progress. He loves peanut butter and jelly; loud, but pretty music; and everything that Oscar Wilde ever said. Recent publications include Kenyon Review, Callaloo, Massachusetts Review, Cicada, the New Delta Review and forthcoming in The Pinch.
Maurice Carlos Ruffin

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