Category Archives: Matt DeVirgiliis

Before the Dance by Matt DeVirgiliis

Inspired by Raymond Carver’s Why Don’t You Dance

The house was all but empty. Just a pair of rocks glasses sat on the hardwood floor in the center of the living room.

A man walked through the house, examining each room, making sure nothing was left, a whiskey bottle in his hand. Most of the furniture had sold already; the leftovers were in the driveway. He made his way to the living room and sat down next to the glasses.

A woman walked in from the kitchen. She sat next to him as he poured what was left in the whiskey bottle into each glass. “They could’ve given us more time to make a payment,” he said.

“It’s been eight months,” she said. “Too long.”

They sipped their whiskey and held hands.

“There’s a three-car garage here; a pool; a basketball hoop,” he said.

“Memories that you’ll take with you. We can start fresh. Rent. Not be shackled to one spot.”

They finished their whiskey and the man shook the empty bottle. “We’re out,” he said.

“I’m going to a hotel,” said the woman.

“I think I’ll stay here one last night,” he said, “but I need more whiskey.”

They got up, walked to the door, and looked around the bare house. He put his hand on the small of her back as they walked outside into the crisp Spring dusk and he closed the door.


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Personal Trenches by Matt DeVirgiliis

He deployed for Iraq February 4th. A quick goodbye in Gmail. No mush; no bravery. Just see you in six. I marked each month’s anniversary with a countdown – 5 months left, 4 months, so on.

The headlines were my source of information and contact. Four Soldiers Killed in Baghdad read one. Seven Ambushed in Fallujah. I’d read them, look for his name, and maybe clip it out. It put me there; put me in touch with him.

After the first month, he emailed and gave me an update. He ran late-night patrols – left at about 1am – and got back around 2am Eastern Time. He said he’d be online more because Iraqis were taking the calls.  Poor bastards were losing legs, getting ripped in half; their parade now. So I’d stay awake until he logged onto Gchat, until I saw the little green light next to his name. Staring. Waiting. Sometimes he came on. Sometimes nothing. Worrying.

The months passed and the contact slowed. He was busy. I was busy. The articles became sparse. Other, better shit happened – Snooki punched a ho. 

It had been weeks and I sat in the back of the theater as the credits for The Hurt Locker rolled up the screen. Others filed out, talked about the acting and special effects. I stared for a while. Bitch of a warWhere’s the sacrifice? They ate their popcorn, were entertained. I stayed up until 2 every morning. I wiped my damp cheek with my sleeve and left.


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Marylou’s Baccalaureate by Matt DeVirgiliis

Marylou Fisk sat in the back of her Senior English class at Saint Thomas High School. She passed notes — Marylou to Betsy, Betsy to Beth, Beth to Jenn.

Two weeks until graduation and the gang was still together. Just yesterday, they were sharing zit remedies, then tampons, and then kissing advice. From Baptism to First Communion, to Confirmation, and then Baccalaureate Mass, they’d done and seen it all. Never judged and never torn apart. They were as close as friends could be.

In between ketchup-covered fries, a Quarter Pounder, and a vanilla shake, catty comments, and lots of laughs, Marylou slipped in her announcement, a grenade in a rose garden. “I’m pregnant,” she said.

Marylou stood at her Baccalaureate Mass, crammed in the back of Saint Thomas’s Church with the parents who had arrived late. You can attend mass, Father Cuthbert — the principal — told her. But you can’t sit with your class. Betsy, Beth, and Jenn each had planned graduation parties. Marylou still hadn’t received her invitations. The three girls sat in their pew that day, chatting with each other as if they were whole, missing no pieces. Even Marylou’s parents stayed home, ashamed to be seen in church with their sinner.

“At least we have each other,” she said as she patted her barely visible bump.


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Call Name Mary Magdalene by Matt DeVirgiliis

The bell rings, so the girls and I run to the front of the compound and line up. We’re dressed to impress and barely dressed. Tall, dark, and handsome (short, dark, and pudgy, but we make him feel otherwise) eyes us up and down.

He picks me, of course, and we stroll down the hallway, toward my office – complete with spinning bed and power tools. My call name is Mary Magdalene, I say, because who wouldn’t want to sleep with a saint. Plus, Jesus could ring that bell any day.

His hands fumble over my curves like he’s petting his golden retriever. He wears in inexperience on his face like I wear my mascara.

We make it to my door and I key it open. He’s not so bad. Not tall, dark, and handsome. Certainly not Jesus. But maybe he’s mister right, the one who’ll take me away from this.

I close the door behind us to find out.

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West Side of the Tracks by Matt DeVirgiliis

04 June 2010

“And I promise that your tax dollars will never get diverted to the West side of the tracks again!”

The crowd, holding signs that read Otto for Congress, hoots and hollers. Campaign music blares as Otto steps off the stage – handshakes and hugs. Then his manager escorts him to the tour bus, complete with a flat screen and wet bar.

The bus heads west on Route 36, toward the next stop – Howell, New Jersey. After driving ten minutes, and after crossing the tracks, the bus gets a flat.
Otto gets off the bus and sees a young kid sitting on a stoop. Tattered shirt and worn-kneed jeans, the kid hops off the stoop and walks up to Otto. “Hey, mister. Wanna play a game?

Otto looks at the stoop and at the house behind it: shutters falling off, boarded windows, and graffiti – a building, not a home.

“You have to throw a rock and land it in that box over there,” explains the kid. His small hand points to a warped cardboard box on the corner of the sidewalk.

Otto turns to his manager. “We have to get more money over here,” says Otto.

“This is the West side of the tracks,” he says.

“All politicians break promises.”

The kid hands Otto a jagged rock. “Visitors shoot first,” says the kid. Otto tosses the rock and it lands wide to the right by about one foot. The kid sinks his shot right away. They play until dark.

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