by Len Kuntz

THERE’S ANOTHER LEECH in my throat, large as the head of an overfed python, but I’m tired of running. Plus, the party’s already started.

It’s to be a backyard game of Pin the Tail on the Donkey, though it feels more like a bludgeoning. What Mother doesn’t see is: That kid has a pocket knife. That one a hatchet. That one a razor-wire thumbnail that’s been places it shouldn’t. The other kid, with the full moon grin, he has my virginity.  

Happy birthday, Peter Pan! my sister shouts, a jibe always, before driving off in a plume of fury.

Isn’t it nice? They’re all here for you, Mother says, no eye-contact, her phalanges busy smearing frosting or else looking for other dismembered phalanges.

The bright stooges from 4th grade, or held-behind 5th, stand around like sunburnt cornstalks. It’s charity, a Walk-of-Dimes, but no one or nothing is moving, just their lids and tongues. It’d be pornographic, if we knew what that meant.

We’re specter kids, all of us, some who know it, but most who don’t.

There are black candles and a black cake, a black cape floating like a headless crow falling from a branch.

Just like a magician, Mom says, as Jerry pulls a switchblade from his pants and guts me in the larynx.

The candles, with their quixotic family of flames, polka in the backyard breeze while the smell of a backed-up sewer swirls among the charred odor. That would be pornographic, too, if…

Behind me, our trailer shrinks then bloats like the throat of a giant bullfrog, and I know I’m seeing demons again, but I try not to shriek or sprint because, after all, it’s my party.

When the cake is lit, someone says, Stupid Dumb Fuck, under their breath.

Then someone says, You blow ‘em out now, idiot, Fag.

Then someone says, I can’t believe my parents made me come to this shithole.

Then someone else says, I got a dollar that says you’re going be dead before this is over.

I totter in a cyclone of shame and confusion or, you might say, adolescence, while beheaded crows drop on our dirt lawn. I wait until they pile up like unread newsprint, black and gray and bloody, until there are thousands of dead birds. That’s when I lean down, blow, blow, blow, because what other choice is there?  


Len Kuntz is a writer from Washington State and the author of five books, most recently the personal essay collection, THIS IS ME, BEING BRAVE, out now from Everytime  Press. You can find more of his writing at: