She says she once shot a thief, right in the hand, on the beach in Florida.

Where the thief came from, how she caught him, why she had a gun on the beach? Where he stored his stolen treasures, tied to the drawstrings of his shorts or tucked beneath one arm? Where the police were in this scenario, a man spurting blood as he rushed the white-tipped waves? At a certain point, maybe too late, you realize that asking questions only closes the story, and you return to this photo: striped bikini, hand on hip, sand sprawling into the water, smile wide enough it cracks her cheeks, everything gray gray gray—except her lips, painted red, and her eyes, painted blue though brown in truth. Spinning like she’s in a cowboy movie just after the shutter clicks, eyes narrowed against the sun, gun raised in right hand. Pow, pow, pow, clouds of smoke and sand erupting, screams flush with joy—and there’s the story, yes: the one true story, the only one you need her to tell, the one you will tell for her, laughing, when she’s no longer there to tell it herself.

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Ellen Rhudy’s fiction has appeared in journals including Story, Split Lip, Cream City Review, Okay Donkey, and Pithead Chapel. Her story “A Writer’s Guide to Fairy Tales,” first published by Milk Candy Review, is a Spotlighted Story in Best Small Fictions 2020. She lives in Columbus, where she recently began working toward her MFA at The Ohio State University. You can find her at ellenrhudy.com, or on twitter @EllenRhudy.