Gold Dust Woman

The gunshot is brighter and louder than she expected. It doesn’t hit him, but he falls and cuts his hand open on the knife he was waving at her. Her ears ring and the flash dances in her eyes as everything comes back into focus slowly like the chemicals of a Polaroid burning into place. Wrist throbbing from the kick of the shot and stomach turning inside out, the last six months weave together like a braid snaking around her neck: A handsome Elvis impersonator lighting her cigarette; a midnight drive across the border for peach pie; hands around his bare torso on the back of a motorcycle; eloping on the island; living in a broken down school bus for a month; covered in glitter and passed out at the edge of a pool; a threesome at a cabin and not with him; cocaine on the cover of a Tolkien novel; getting arrested for walking naked through a grocery store on a Sunday; the playful slaps transforming into punches —

Finally, further back, leaving her house at eighteen, her mother smoking in her church dress on the porch, talking to her not looking at her fine, go ashing into a planter shaped like a frog’s mouth, blowing smoke like fire stay away from men who think they’re the boss tapping her nails on the rocking chair arm do what you will. I’ll pray for you.

He tries to stand and she hits him in the face with the barrel. She calls 911. Anonymous. Lights a cigarette. Blows the smoke into the cut on his hand. Drives away. A cloud covers the sun. A red hourglass is tattooed on her wrist. She can’t remember that part.