VENICE WOMAN TOSSING TERRA COTTA PLANTER, HITS GUNMAN

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Venice Couple Lives Happily Ever After
–Thanks to Fawn Walenski

VENICE WOMAN TOSSING TERRA COTTA PLANTER, HITS GUNMAN

By Philomene Long

Fawn Walenski’s aim is as true as her love.
–Evening Outlook

“Mind my bullet wound.”
I’ve just finished hugging Fawn Walenski because I love her
It is the first time I have ever heard those words—
“Mind my bullet wound.”
Before she would explain she needed one more word
To complete her acrostic puzzle
“What is a four-letter word for Zen paradox?” she asked
“Koan,” I answered
Now, this is her story as I understand it:
At the door of their basement apartment in Thornton Tower
The gunman hollers
“GIMME ALL YOU GOT! I AX YOU GIMME ALL YOU GOT!”
Jonathon Thayes replies
“I’ve got a dollar.”
In the narrow basement hall
Gray white walls, one bald light bulb
Fawn watches from the door—
Jonathon, his cold cheek against the cold cement floor
His eyes become blank as the beginning of time
The only color, the blue of Fawn’s t-shirt
With REO SPEED WAGON written in bold print
“Go inside,” Jonathon tells Fawn, thinking only of her
The barrel of the gun now at his head, execution style
Fawn goes inside. She closes the door
The image of his face is before her
“Like a lamb led to the slaughter,” she thinks
“Gentle innocence.”

Then she sees a planter of terra cotta
The one she had been trying to give away to everyone
Even to me, the last time I saw her

She picks up the terra cotta planter
Feels the silky smooth cast of the pot
Knowing it could cut like a knife
She has never felt such peace
Not even when she cleaned the church until it crackled
“I can do this,” she says. “I can do this.”

She opens the door
She sees the gunman’s foot against the small of Jonathon’s back
The finger tense around the trigger
Her fingers loose around the terra cotta
She has never felt a cast so smooth
Her balance is perfect
She has no fear
‘I’m not going to let you hurt him,” she says

The gunman turns, aims at Fawn’s heart
Again, she says, “I’m not going to let you hurt him.”
Her hair is the color of terra cotta
Through her throat a tawny river of lions flows.
The gunman’s eyes are like startled mice
The terra cotta released becomes a stampede of red hot horses
Becomes a thousand lilies on fire
A long thin wind of flame
Which follows her gaze, its blade, a ruby red
On her fingertips the light is solid
In her right eye she sees the graceful terra cotta
Hit the gunman’s shoulder
In her left eye she sees the flash of his gun

The bullet which pierces her chest
Moves like a skipping stone through her flesh
As if unwilling to harm her
Avoids even the smallest of her bones
Darts past her heart, her lungs
Vaults out of her back to shatter
Only the plaster behind her

Later she will suspend an empty picture frame
Around the bullet hole in the wall
Receive the Carnegie Medal for Heroism
(That year only eight would receive it in America),
And with the award money buy exercise equipment
And she will give me a fragment (this time I will take it)
Of that clay planter which now happily sits
On my altar upon the Buddha’s lap

But what happened to the gunman?
And what did he do with his dollar?
He picked the wrong immortal couple
The wrong terra cotta

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