Len Kuntz


My wife sleeps, she’s always sleeping it seems, and she’s snoring now as I rise from the mattress and stand by the window to watch this new one drop my daughter off. The angle isn’t the best. I can see a hand on my daughter’s shoulder, fingers moving on fabric.

Most of them drive the same type of car, foreign jobs that ride so low it’s a wonder how they make it over speed bumps. Most of these guys are ROTC types, not really angry but bored enough to be dangerous.

I make my way down to the kitchen and pour some into a tumbler, let it splash as I pour, expecting it to burn when it hits my skin.

The door opens an hour later.

“You’re waiting up for me now?” she says.

“I was thinking about the time we went to that animal place. It wasn’t really a zoo, because they’d let you do more than watch, and you rode an elephant.”

“Why the hell were you thinking something like that?”

When she should have been, when she first walked inside and saw me, she wasn’t, but now that she’s hearing what’s on my mind, my daughter looks frightened. She lets go of the knob slowly, as if she might run back outside, but an engine bombs alive and the car drives off, so she punches the door closed with the back of her combat boot, staying put.

“You want a drink?” I ask.

“Are you kidding?”

I get her one and she takes it, now seated on the sofa. “What’s going on?” she asks.

“Do you ever wonder why things end up the way they do?”

She swallows, ice cubes bumping up against her nose, her eyes stuck on me. She doesn’t wince when she gulps. She says, “I gotta say, you’re freaking me out right now.”

“Tell me something about this one. Anything. Give me a reason why you like him.”

“We’re not getting married, if that’s what you’re hung up about.”

“Of course not. There are others, so many.”

“So? It’s my life.”

“Yeah, it is.” I get up and pour myself another and her, too. She holds the glass out and shimmies her body away from me. I recognize the odors, all of them but the brand of this new boy’s cologne.

“Go on, tell me something.”

“He has a tat of swastika that covers his entire back. His genitals are pierced.”

I know she’s expecting to shock me, and I can also tell from the way her eyes hold that she’s told me the truth.

“How come I don’t ever get to meet these guys?”

She reaches inside her boot and pulls out a flattened pack of cigarettes that makes a candy wrapper sound as she withdraws one. She holds it out, offering me a cig, and laughs when I don’t budge.

“So here’s the deal—” she says.

“What are you good at?” I interrupt. “What do you want to be?”

“I’m not good at anything.”

“Everyone is, at something.”

She rocks her boot, inhales, and then sends a smoke tornado straight at me. “Okay,” she says, “sex. I’m good at that. Happy?”

The alcohol slugs away inside me, a tugboat pulling glaciers through the fog. “You don’t have to do this,” I say.

“Thanks, Ms. P.”

Ms. P., Ms. Perkins, was my daughter’s therapist, the one we handpicked after her last suicide attempt. “It’s not your fault,” Ms. Perkins said that first meeting we were all together, and I remember how guilty I felt when I looked up from the carpet and saw that she’d meant me.

“You were so afraid of falling off that elephant.”

“I don’t remember any elephant.”

“You held on like we were going to drop down a waterfall.”

“You’re so weird.”

“You didn’t let go.”


Click here for Len Kuntz's bio