It was a happy marriage, she reflected as she pushed her hands into the fescue grass. A good marriage. A content marriage. One she’d been lucky to find herself within. She shifted her butt and felt moisture from the creek dampen her jeans. She was surprised how much mud there was this time of year. And she was surprised how sharp and scratchy the grass was. He was so quietly good at everything. In fact, that was a perfect way of describing him; he was so quietly good. And if he didn’t know how to do something, he’d check out the books and learn. She was always finding the strangest books on the strangest things lying around the house. How to Dissect a Carcass. How to Tame a Wolf. How to Make Your Own Compost. How to Survive in the Woods. Sometimes she’d stumble across handwritten notes and think how brilliant, how smart, how charming, how unexpected. All words she could use to describe him, too.

It simply had to another one of their brilliant misunderstandings. Another one of those times when her fears, her phobias, overtook her. Her imagination running amuck like the rising water in this creek. She wishes she had read more herself, especially on survival—-for example, which part of the body was the best place to take a bullet? Crouched down by the highway earlier she couldn’t decide, and fear, then, had made her thinking jumpy and indecisive. First she presented her arm, then her leg, then finally she decided in what she thought was a flash of intelligence, on her buttock—-it was fleshy, it was large, it contained no vital organs. She pushed her butt high up in the air, and tensed waiting for the shot, the bullet that might be coming from her husband’s gun, which might be in his hands, which might be holding the gun in the window of the bathroom on the second floor of his old house.

There was, of course, no bullet, no wound. There might be no husband shooting at her. Somehow this all seemed more plausible as she finally realized she’d be safer in a ditch, and had quickly crawled her way here. If she waited long enough, he or someone would come and get her, clean her up, take her home. She wished she had behaved better. She wishes she weren’t so alone. She wishes she knew whether to run or yell help as she suddenly hears the weeds rustling near her. She wishes she didn’t have to make a choice. She wishes there were some sign about what choice to make. She wishes she’d grabbed a gun. She wishes her best ideas didn’t always arrive, with alarming force, just a bit too late.

8 Comments

  1. Trent

    Hi Lucy,
    lots of aspects that are teaser/trailer like, as far
    as layers that hint at something unseen.
    The “handwritten” notes and all these how-to
    books: are they part of a ritual, or a kind of log of that process. Does the wife go through a transformation, etc.

    Seems like the husband is drawing her into
    a false sense of complacency, though I might be
    reading that wrong.

    Hope you’ll keep this going!

    • Lucy Logsdon

      Thanks so much–I appreciate your feedback. Think I’ll try to develop that notion of the husband developing the wife’s sense of complacency, when there’s actually something very very wrong!

  2. Aimee Parkison

    Lucy,

    This piece works so well with your other piece, “The Arrival,” that I sense a book. Are they part of a developing collection about domestic violence in a marriage? Your writing really captures the wife’s psychology and her terror, as well as the complex and mysterious menace of the husband’s character. I think these would make an amazing collection. Also, when you send your work to journals (especially print journals that ask for multiple flash fictions) you showcase their power when you send them out together. The pieces work individually, of course, but when read together they build on each other by developing a theme that is psychological and feminist.

    I love the mystery of these, not knowing how real the threat of the husband is because the narrator keeps questioning her own fear and her sanity by labeling it as some sort o delusion or paranoia. However, the fear convinces me the threat real is at the heart of her terror.
    In particular, the following paragraph haunts me and also speaks to a very real issue of gun violence by questioning how does one feel safe in an abusive home when an abuser owns a gun for “protection”—

    “It simply had to another one of their brilliant misunderstandings. Another one of those times when her fears, her phobias, overtook her. Her imagination running amuck like the rising water in this creek. She wishes she had read more herself, especially on survival—-for example, which part of the body was the best place to take a bullet? Crouched down by the highway earlier she couldn’t decide, and fear, then, had made her thinking jumpy and indecisive. First she presented her arm, then her leg, then finally she decided in what she thought was a flash of intelligence, on her buttock—-it was fleshy, it was large, it contained no vital organs. She pushed her butt high up in the air, and tensed waiting for the shot, the bullet that might be coming from her husband’s gun, which might be in his hands, which might be holding the gun in the window of the bathroom on the second floor of his old house.”

    I could (and did) read that paragraph again and again. It’s that good! I love the mention of the “brilliant misunderstandings,” the narrator once again doubting herself and undercutting the warning of her own terror, which makes me fear for her even more because she gives him the benefit of the doubt. Her imagining the bullet going into her body at any moment, the bullet from her husband’s gun! This is amazingly powerful and so contemporary in its horror.

    Here are some journals you might consider sending your work to: Passages North, New Delta Review, The Pinch, and Zyzzyva.
    Thank you for sharing your incredible writing with me!

    Xoxo, Aimee

  3. Sara Comito

    Hey Lucy, from this writing I get a sense of how desperately alone the main character feels in this moment of crisis. The perspective feels very informed by experience that many readers will relate to (this reader included). I think you do something really interesting toward the top of the piece in listing some behaviors on the part of the husband that an outsider might identify as red flags, but the narrator has contextualized as part of everyday surroundings – the survivalist guides, etc. We learn a lot about the dynamic from that, and it helps us understand that despite the self-doubt expressed here, those red flags couldn’t be any redder. Very smart writing. Thanks for this.

  4. Emily Bertholf

    This piece is fabulous on its own, but also seems like it could exist in tandem with the characters in your other piece. Great details and pacing and everything already said by everyone here and in the other piece. I particularly like and felt the power of the repeated might, might, mights in the third paragraph. It’s nerve-wracking how passive in her desperation she is, how she hopes for rescue, and always doubts herself and experience. I feel a little more power in this one though, she at least got herself hiding in a ditch, and I wonder how and if she’ll finally come to save herself or wake up from this nightmare.

  5. David O'Connor

    Lucy, love the rhythm and flow, close to music. The book titles are a great way to build character (can I steal that technique?) So much to admire here. Also, the manner in which the violence creeps in is sublime. Powerful writing, thank you for sharing! Well-done!

  6. Gloria Garfunkel

    Lucy:

    This is an excruciatingly fine depiction of this creepogenic relationship of clearly groomed and escalating abuse by the husband and denial in the wife that is so profound it is almost psychotic, completely detached from the serious dangers posed by her marriage that literally keep her paralyzed in the ditch of it. One is left with a sense of great tension, wondering when or if she will ever come to her senses or just end up murdered in a ditch. Wonderful, haunting piece.

    Gloria

  7. AJ Miller

    Lucy, I really feel for this woman. The husband doesn’t even have to make a physical appearance in the story but his presence is felt. You write these gaslit characters so well. Her self-doubt and excuses are so spot on. She’s trying to convince herself she’s in a happy marriage but yet here she is in the ditch waiting to be shot in the butt by her husband. I did want to know if there was a particular incident that sent her running for the ditch, if he was indeed chasing her. I also loved the detail about the handwritten notes and wondered what was written on them. Does the husband try to undermine her worth with those? Being in her mind as she tries to justify everything is really terrifying. Great job with this.

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