Johannah Racz Knudson


In one scene, I sit at a café while a man strokes my knee under the table. His touch is tender despite his brute strength. In a later scene, I fire a bullet through a man’s heart. Powder residue sticks to my hands. Think of my bare legs under the table. Think of the hot sunlight on my skin. Think of the way I pulled my hair to one side, exposing my neck. Think of the sideways glances of café patrons, the old man looking up from a crossword. He doesn’t know. He has no understanding of atoms ejecting electrons and igniting a luminous chaos of incompletion. He is not thinking of the way the sun hit me, decisively and indecisively both particle and wave. He sees laughter. He imagines darkness and candlelight, whispers and kisses. I’m a woman of 35. He climbs on top, hand on my throat. Did I have the gun, or did he? I’m here and not here. I see ceiling. I think of ions, always wanting, always giving or taking, always coming together or coming apart.



The first time I shot a gun was the last time I saw him. At the shooting range, I signed a paper swearing I was not mentally ill, which I wasn’t officially, and that was it. The gun was in my hand. The first shot electrocuted my nerves and the next wasn’t any better. The first time he had me, he drove into the canyon. He pulled over and we walked down to the river. I’m watching the water and the sky capsizes. My hair is in the dirt. He’s on me. A hawk circles beyond his shoulder. It’s not unusual to see one make off with a rabbit or snake or fledgling bird. My mouth can’t catch up. I’m not sure how to kiss after fifteen years with a man I didn’t love. This must be how it is. He puts his hand between my legs. I breathe fast. My nose goes numb. I think, adrenaline is better than suicide. I must want this. There’s nothing else. He drives me home. AC wheezes from the vents. He keeps it on low. Otherwise, it’s pure luxury: leather seats, quiet ride. Mercedes. My minivan’s got 100,000 miles. My kids get out of school at three fifteen. Six months later, the last time I ever see him, I have a gun in my hand and he tells me he has this friend and they’ll take me into the woods and shoot beer bottles, the three of us alone in the woods. I don’t know why I still think about it, the shooting range, the gut-shot kickback, unlike the movies, where the violence is graceful and obvious.