by Len Kuntz

WE WERE A soldered band then, copper taste in the mouth, fitted with teeth still unbroken.

Things that were supposed to matter slid away slippery. Out of focus. Wind in the ears. A tightrope in someone else’s throat.

Manny claimed we’d been short-changed. Short-sheeted. But man, the days were taffy-long. A stretch of sugar and chew.

We stood on the riverbank. Three naked boys sucking down the cauterized sun. Our parents were as good as buried, along with our consciences, sizzling like ash in the bottom of a rusted beer can.

The only thing watching was a one-eyed eagle and a crooked cedar nodding off in the breeze.

Manny skipped a stone hard. As if it was his final throw. His last sentence.

Gordie was a different cat. He took up with Brown Eyed Girl. Started doing the twist. Shaking his ass at us. Bare, it gleamed like a silver hubcap.

Manny wouldn’t laugh. But I did. There was already too much to hold in.

We had years on our side. Rows and rows of corn. We didn’t owe the world anything yet. And the water, man, it looked like a wrinkled prom dress, forever long.

Manny said, We should go. This whole thing. It’s lazy ass. Stupid.

Gordie snapped his fingers. Still twisting. Sang slow and loopy. Down in the hollow, playin’ a new game.

The eagle swooped by. Took another look. Then flew to Nova Scotia on a shallow dime. 

The crooked cedar bobbed some more while the wind massaged its shoulders.

Manny said something else. Gordie sang his guts. The wind clutched its throat.

Me? I saw the sun for the first time. It looked familiar. Like someone with a purpose.

So, I counted breaths. Turned them inside out, like meal. Braided them into knots.

I was the first to dive. The last one under.


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