by Gay Degani
SHE’D HELPED HER granddad paint an old-fashioned gate, him explaining the importance of working on a warm day, of stirring the paint thoroughly with a stick, of using a wide, clean brush. They worked together, Granddad brushing from the top down, the girl working from the ground up. Sometimes her brush dipped into the dirt along the bottom, tiny bits carried up the wood and sticking there.
Later when she was gone, the old man would slowly lower himself to the ground, run his fingers over the gritty paint, and remember the almost blue shine of her black hair in the sunlight, the tips of red paint on the ends, the drips on her t-shirt, a smudge on her cheek. It should’ve been him, not her. He’d lived his life, a good one for the most part, she just starting out, untouched by the weariness of the world. The pain in his chest sharpened, bent him over, tears dripping down cheeks, a few dropping onto earth. At first he was unsure, the soft voice close to his ear, warm, whispering to him, taking his hand, leading him through the red gate, telling him it was her turn to show him the way.
Gay Degani’s many nominations include Pushcart, Best of the Net, and Best Small Fictions. Her work has appeared online as well as in print journals and anthologies. Her story, “Scablands” was placed fourth runner-up in the 2023 Saturday Evening Post’s Great American Fiction Contest. She’s published a chapbook, Pomegranate, a full-length collection, Rattle of Want, (Pure Slush, 2015) and a suspense novel, What Came Before (Truth Serum, 2016).