“Complicit” by Gay Degani

The front door slams. Walls shake. A vase of tasseled wheat slides through my hands onto the kitchen floor. Glass shards lie among stalks as late afternoon sun spills gold through gold and I hear his boots in the hall.

A shock of hot wind rattles the screen of the open back door. I glance out. The barn isn’t far, a haven if I would only move. But I don’t. I wait.

He bursts in, shirt flaked with grime, jeans mud-glazed. He stops when he sees me. Between us, a twist of pleasure, eyes locked, breath vanished. 

I step toward him in bare feet, feel the bite of glass, reach up to place a hand on his cheek. 

“You’re here,” he says.

“Where would I go?” 

“I didn’t want you here. Not for this.” He loops me with thick arms, pulls me close, my ear pressed hard against his farmer’s sweat. We stand like vine and tree till he leans down and puts his lips to mine. 

When the world comes back, he says, “Where is he?”

If I’d gone to the barn to hide or if I’d left in the wagon as we’d planned, I would not be here to say these words, but I am. “In the field by the creek.”

He sets me on a kitchen stool. “Stay.”

At the door he turns back, his mouth grim. 

Linoleum, my toe, the rod my feet rest on, smeared with blood. The quiet slap of the screen door. An owl’s hoot from the nearby copse. 

I wait in a warm shaft of light, hands in my lap, until I hear a quick loud crack from the north where my husband rides his tractor bare-headed through the wheat.


“Complicit” first appeared in Smokelong Quarterly, July, 2010.

FEATURED IMAGE: “Milky Way over Rural Barn” (2019) by Robert Turek. Photograph location: rural Adams County, Illinois USA
Turek Fine Art Photography https://1-robert-turek.pixels.com/

Gay Degani

Gay Degani’s work has received Pushcart, Best of the Net, and Best Small Fictions nominations and won, placed, or received honorable mentions in contests. The PhareMidway JournalGhost Parachute, Smokelong Quarterly, Atticus Review, and Bending Genres are among those who have published her work. She has a full-length collection, Rattle of Want (Pure Slush Books), a chapbook, Pomegranate, and a suspense novel, What Came Before (Truth Serum Press). She occasionally blogs for Words in Place.


Photo Credit: Emily Joy Degani

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Patience Mackarness

Love it! Such a clear picture of these people and this moment. I enjoyed the misdirection at the start too.

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