Ancient Memory

Gay Degani

It was about getting through the day without her father’s lip curling, his pig-nose flaring, his arm jerking up. But when he stood above her in the space abandoned by air and dust motes, she wondered which rule she’d broken. One of his or one of hers.
…..She believed in change, that she could—by constant vigilance, silent acquiescence—make things better. But even so, she still paused at the front door, trying to read the smells of the house, listening for the sound of her mother in the kitchen, hoping to pick up on the crackle of tension that dictated she slip into her bedroom and quietly, oh so quietly, shut the door.
…..Later she told people it was the rug, how every time she moved through her day with any kind of certainty, especially when she felt an inkling of self, that damned rug was pulled out from under her, leaving her on the hardwood, gaping at the maze of her red and black argyle knee socks.
…..Whenever her father’s fingers scrunched together in the emptied space above her, his lips twitched, his eyes widened. She couldn’t know that he was wrenched back to a small clapboard house in Indiana with its cabbage smell and rose-patterned linoleum. Where he was the creature on the floor waiting for his father’s hard mason’s hand, his fist, his boot.
…..She held her breath as the wordstorm assaulted her, “shit,” “cunt,” “asshole.” But his fist hovered, clenching and unclenching, held in check. Turning her head away, she brought up her arms, covered her ears.
…..Only now with a daughter of her own does she understand.

Gay Degani has published in journals and anthologies including The Best of Every Day Fiction 2008 and TWO (2009). Her stories online can be read at Smokelong QuarterlyThe Battered Suitcase, Night Train, 10 Flash, Emprise Review, as well as other publications. Pomegranate Stories is a collection of eight stories by Gay. She is the editor of EDF’s Flash Fiction Chronicles and blogs at Words in Place.


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