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Friday Feature: Brianna Johnson

Brianna Johnson's stories have appeared in Cosmonauts Avenue, Gigantic Sequins, The Molotov Cocktail, Wigleaf, Kenyon Review, Obsidian: Literature & Arts in the African Diaspora, and elsewhere. An alumna of the Tin House Summer Workshop and Hurston/Wright Weekend Workshop, she is a two-time Pushcart Prize nominee with work longlisted for the Wigleaf Top 50. An MFA graduate from The University of Tampa, she teaches college English in Orlando, FL. Visit Brianna online at her website, on Twitter, and on Instagram.

We All Do Stupid Things

By Brianna Johnson

“Please don’t shoot me!” said the man I shot.

I don’t know why I laughed when I did it. Maybe it was the irony. Is that irony? I’ve never understood what that means.

I didn’t even know the man, just some guy by himself in the park. He was probably homeless. He must’ve been, his death didn’t even make the news - I checked.

I never told my son about the man I killed. It was before his time. I was young. We all do stupid things when we’re young. Besides, what kind of man would he turn out to be if he knew his mother was a murderer?

I met my son’s father shortly after; I never told him either. I wanted to be my best self for him. He looked at me in a way I’d never seen, like I was cast in gold. He looked at me like that until our boy was born.

We never married, so it was easy when he left. I almost shot him too, the gun grasped behind my back when he walked out the door. I only hesitated because he turned to wave. Even in leaving he was beautiful. We agreed the baby could visit him on weekends.

He used to look so much like his father, just a few of my traits sprinkled across his face. Sometimes growing up he’d look at me like he knew what I’d done, a low down look that would chill me. I smothered him with love, spoiled him silly just in case he did. I gave him everything he wanted; no was never an option – anything to stop those looks.

Now, looking at him I see my full self in his face, in his body, in his smile. My gun in his hand, that same one, now pointed at me.

“Please don’t shoot me,” I say.

He laughs and so do I. I think I get it now.


Torch Literary Arts is a nonprofit organization established to publish and promote creative writing by Black women. We publish contemporary writing by experienced and emerging writers alike. TORCH has featured work by Colleen J. McElroy, Tayari Jones, Sharon Bridgforth, Crystal Wilkinson, Patricia Smith, Natasha Trethewey, Elizabeth Alexander, and others. Programs include the Wildfire Reading Series, writing workshops, and retreats.


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