Anything By Len Kuntz

June 30, 2011 Comments Off on Anything By Len Kuntz

She was scarmelt and eyes, holes for a nose, rivers of skin-sludge mottled together, yet, he claimed to still love her.

She’d been working construction, high up on a boom that hit a power line and exploded. She saw space hurling, felt the flames engulf her, then passed out. The coma lasted five months. They’d thought she’d die but he wouldn’t let them take her off life support because he believed in miracles.

Now she wanted a new face, wanted to be able to smell again—cupcakes and roses and rain. She wanted him to stop saying she would always be beautiful in his eyes. If he truly believed it, she felt sorry for him. If he didn’t, she felt equally sad. She was nobody’s burden to shoulder.

She returned from the hospital to find he’d taken down all the photographs, any, that is, featuring her old face. When she demanded that he return them, he admitted to burning the entire batch. The irony of this deed struck her so hard that she cackled in hysterics.

Still, she left him one afternoon while he napped. She had no intention of coming back.

It was windy. She could see breezes weaving through weed grass, tousling tree tops. She wandered through hills and acreage stuffed with craggy boulders and evergreens. After a few hours, she came out of the woods into a land she did not know, walking down a long dirt driveway. Dust pebbles skittered against her ankles, filthy scraps of paper fluttering.

She stopped at an abandoned shed, its warped doors open. Inside was a mass of chaos and upheaval: a capsized toilet on its side, a hunk of old bureau, urns and an empty oil jug. The ramshackle sat on several pallets, spilling out into the yard.
She stared at the mess, as if hypnotized. To anyone else, it might have been an eyesore, but to her it contained a certain, sad beauty.

Transfixed, she didn’t hear the shuffling behind her until the old man asked, “Who’s there?”

His eyes were cloudy, blue and blind.

“Just a stranger,” she said.

He stomped his cane. “I thought you was my Lila.”

Wind gusted between them, covering a long silence.

“She left without a word,” he said. “It’s been one hundred fifty-three days.”

She watched his face twist.

“People used to ask what I’d give up if it meant I could see again, but, you know, I don’t care about that. For Lila, though, well, I’d give anything to have her back. Anything.”

Wind rattled the bureau handle and sent a scarf floating so that the man’s nose twitched, perhaps scenting Lila. Tears pooled around his vacant eyes.

“You want something to drink, eat?”

“Thanks,” she said, “but I have to be getting back.”

He started sobbing, choking, so she closed the space between them and hugged him hard. “Keep believing,” she whispered.

“Why?”

“Because miracles happen.”

“Really?”

“Yes,” she said, bringing his fingers to her face. “I’m one.”

© 2011 Len Kuntz

Len Kuntz lives on a lake in rural Washington State with his wife and son. His writing appears widely in print and online at such places as Blue Stem, The Wrong Tree Review, Clutching At Straws, and also at lenkuntz.blogspot.com

Happy Campers By Len Kuntz

June 20, 2011 Comments Off on Happy Campers By Len Kuntz

She says all this forestation is making her nauseous, giving her headaches and diarrhea. She says she’d rather be a stuffed animal than a deer or bear or chick squirrel.

“There’s no such thing as chick squirrels,” her husband says.

“Like you would know.”

This is how it’s been for a week. Camping was of course his idea. Her husband is the rare man that not only says he likes change, but actually does enjoy it, shamefully so.

“Why did you have to bring a gun along?”

“We’re in the woods, aren’t we?”

“But we have cell phones.”

His laughter lately has had to be coaxed, but now he nearly chokes to death chuckling, hacking and coughing like a smoker, pounding his chest so that his beard becomes dotted with white-tipped spittle pearls.

“Let’s make a deal,” she says, “this is the last time we go camping, and I won’t divorce you.”

His previous laughter had not subsided when this newt wave arrived: convulsive, angry-sounding like the ocean.

“You think I’m joking but I’m not.”

She remembered their early dating, how he would open her door, pick wild flowers and stick them in her hair, always wanting to know what was on her mind, laughing with her not at her.

Now he’s bent over, clutching himself, a red-faced curmudgeon. His eyes are boiled eyes. “Can’t breathe,” he says.

She thought she’d end up having to use the gun. She never considered she’d get this lucky.

“I’m choking to death,” he says.

She leans over to meet his astonished expression, pleased to see how ugly he’s become.

“You’re choking to death?”

He looks like a crippled grizzly, hunched over and nodding, his head huge with blood.

“Choking to death in the woods,” she says. “Now that’s some funny shit.”

© 2011 Len Kuntz

Len Kuntz lives on a lake in rural Washington State with his wife and son. His writing appears widely in print and online at such places as Blue Stem, The Wrong Tree Review, Clutching At Straws, and also at lenkuntz.blogspot.com

Losing Your Little Girl By Len Kuntz

June 2, 2011 Comments Off on Losing Your Little Girl By Len Kuntz

I catch them kissing. It feels perverse, but I watch for a while.

I’ve been doing yard work and I’m looking through the window and my t-shirt is soaked and I can’t believe how livid I’m becoming.

Jared is his name. He shares my daughter’s birthday. He’s a dope of a guy, dull and rashy. My wife keeps saying, “She could do a lot worse,” as if that’s supposed to settle it, her comment feeling incriminating, as if she really means, “Look who the hell I ended up with.”

I started sun-burning two hours ago and now my skin feels lit on fire. I can’t take it any more, not the heat or this kid all over my baby girl so I take the garden sheers and stab them through his car tires. They explode, make tiny canon pops. It feels better than anything I’ve experience in years, the relief the same as a prodigious orgasm.

The next week I take a baseball bat to his windshield, only I do it at his place, in the apartment lot.

He won’t stop coming by or touching her, so I break in. It’s easier than I thought, about as hard as pumping gas.

I bust up stuff real good. Smashing his wide screen feels best. My calling card is the urine I leave on his sheets.
Turns out, though, the insurance covers it all, plus stuff he makes up, adds in. In the end, Jared gets rich off the vandalism and, to celebrate, proposes.

They set a date, pick out invitations.

I buy a gun and ammo, decide on Friday, and leave the weapon in my bottom desk drawer, right where the police find it after my boss calls them.

On top of that, the security cameras caught me busting up the kid’s car and they have another homemade spy cam video of me breaking into Jared’s apartment, demolishing everything.

When he visits, Jared’s jaw looks preposterously long. He says, “I had hoped it wouldn’t come to this.”

In a low, controlled voice that won’t arouse the guard’s suspicion, I curse and call Jared a bastard into the phone receiver. The prison plate glass is thick, yet in my mind I’m cracking it open with Jared’s skull. “When I get out of here,” I say, “the first thing I’m going to do is kill you.” This makes him sprout a greasy grin. “Go ahead,” I say, “keep smiling, because I mean it. I’m going to kill you.”

Jared opens his jacket, pulls a running tape recorder out of his pocket and says, “Now we’re talking.”

© 2011 Len Kuntz

Len Kuntz lives on a lake in rural Washington State with his wife and son. His writing appears widely in print and online at such places as Blue Stem, The Wrong Tree Review, Clutching At Straws, and also at lenkuntz.blogspot.com

Boating Lessons By Len Kuntz

May 23, 2011 Comments Off on Boating Lessons By Len Kuntz

We row through the rain, a deluge, a monsoon so thick we might as well be blind, great gray walls of water slaking down like slanted guillotines. Your head is bowed, your neck exposed as the weather pelts your hair and skin and pings off our aluminum canoe like liquid ricochets. If we can get to the other side we’ll be safe, dry, but halfway there you toss your oar and say you can’t do it anymore, it’s not worth it. I point out how far we’ve come, what we’ve been through together, yet you shake your head, spraying me with your residual splash, and say, “To be perfectly frank, we shouldn’t have got in this boat to begin with.”

A wave crests over me, but when I open my eyes I see that you’re still there and you’re not kidding.

***
Later on land, back where we started, you take the car. “Go ahead,” I say, “You can have it, it’s yours.”

But before you leave, you offer to drop me somewhere. You say it’d be best if we not stay in the same house anymore. You’re soaked but your eyes are clear.

I shake my head. This feels like someone else’s movie.

Your lips quiver, pale lavender, frozen worms, and I realize it’s true: I will never kiss them again, never feel them buzz inside my ear.

When I say, “Isn’t this awfully easy?” you laugh so hard you choke, and snot slings out of one nostril, so I turn and leave you like that, cackling. Freed.

***
In the morning the sun comes up, bold and solo. I watch her puffed-up breast like someone new to pornography. I dare her to scald my corneas. I plead for pain but get ignored instead.

The woods are still wet, so I break into your uncle’s old cabin. I drag the canoe with me. It squeals as I pull the boat across the floor. I’m not stupid enough to think metal will burn, but I douse the place with gasoline just the same. I break chairs over the hull. I shatter a mahogany coffee table and cabinets and kitchen drawers and when there’s a heap I light a match and hear the rooosh! of the flame slinging hot and hungry.

Smoke clouds swell black and sooty. I wait. I watch. I want to see some scarring, some staining. I need to be sure no one else ever rides that boat without at least wondering what the hell happened to it.

© 2011 Len Kuntz

Len Kuntz lives on a lake in rural Washington State with his wife and son. His writing appears widely in print and online at such places as Blue Stem, The Wrong Tree Review, Clutching At Straws, and also at lenkuntz.blogspot.com

God Of Rose and Thorn by Len Kuntz

May 2, 2011 Comments Off on God Of Rose and Thorn by Len Kuntz

As our bus pulls away, they swarm, pounding on the rusted, mud-caked metal. One girl catches me with her jade eyes like jars. She makes a rolling-down-the-window motion.

She calls to me and, even though I can’t hear her, I know what she’s shouting, same as the others during our tour. “Please! Mistah, please!”

She is bones, drumsticks and skull with black hair lusterless. The bus belches and poisons her with its black cloud. Pulling away, she flails her arms at me, jumpy, her face wearing worry and want.

At the stop sign, she’s caught up, gasping. “Mistah! Mistah!”

Our tour guide said we shouldn’t feel guilty. “It lifestyle for them. Nothing personal!”

The window is stuck. Or locked. I try to show her. I hold up my palms as if I’m being robbed. Tears trickle over her cheekbones large as clam shells.

“They no artists. So don’t you be scammed!” the guide warned.

The swarm of mopeds impedes our push to get through the intersection. The remnants of the rainy season smells like cowhide and feces, the odor bathing us, baked into the heat the way the smell of smoke seams into one’s skin.

“They only look skinny, but most have plenty to eat!”

Back home, my own daughter will marry in three weeks. I remember her fondness for birthday cake, especially the gloppy frosting rose which was her favorite because that was her name. All high school and college, Rose battled weight issues, and only after meeting Adam has she become convinced there’s a man who loves her as she is.

“Keep your wallet in front pocket,” the guide said, patting his groin. “These kid are real pros!”

Moped exhaust wafts across the girl’s face now, like a black wraith. The honking is calamitous. I can’t hear her, but I can read her lips: “Mistah. Mistah, please!”

I bought a copper figurine at a temple in Angkor Wat. Lord Vishnu, with his effeminate eyes and extra set of arms, peaceful and content looking, a god in need of nothing.

The girl outside the glass, she looks like the scores of black and white photographs we saw at Tuol Sleng, all those captive children about to be tortured or turned against one another by the Khmer Rouge. When she saw the blades, the handcuffs coming out of the floor, the woman on the tour bus who had been flirting with me vomited into her handbag and hasn’t looked my way since. Back home my wife is about to launch her new studio, filling it with obscure canvases coated in with waves of excess paint.

“Mistah, Mistah,” the girl calls.

If I look close I can see down the girl’s throat into the vortex of her soul where blackness swirls unknown, doing damage like a party of parasites.

“Mistah!”

My wallet is damp from sweat, a thick ball of leather. In my other hand I aim Vishnu at the window. He’s heavy in my hand as I swing.

© 2011 Len Kuntz

Len Kuntz lives on a lake in rural Washington State with his wife and son. His writing appears widely in print and online at such places as Blue Stem, The Wrong Tree Review, Clutching At Straws, and also at lenkuntz.blogspot.com

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