Saturday, September 4, 2010

...I have a new poem, "Postage Stamps" up at and also here under "Words in Print."

...I read Yann Martel's new book, "Beatrice and Virgil." It was not very good, not even close to as good as "Life of Pi," his other wonderful novel. But I did get this quote which I like: "A story begins with three good words."

...Here's a story I originally wrote for a "Writer's Digest" contest with the prompt: "A character has the ability to go back in time and change one thing about their life." A magazine--Twisted Tongue--in the UK published it. It's sort of like a Twilight Zone episode. I think I like it, although I realized reading it back that I broke a couple POV rules. In any event, here's "Dime Toss."


Dime Toss
by Len Kuntz

The cab driver’s eyes were alert and alarmed, like a cat facing down
a python. He took her in through the rear-view conspicuously.
Her hair, her outfit, even her makeup was the wrong decade—
odd, futuristic somehow. Not only that, but she was weeping.
“You okay back there?”
She nodded, sighed, inhaled deep and said, “Take the next right.”
She knew where to find them, of course. She had the photograph in
her handbag and besides, she’d heard the story dozens of times, always
at her request: “Tell me again how you met. Please Mom, please?”
That was before the shattered bourbon bottles and busted bedroom
doors, the scalding incriminations and sunburst bruises.
But they had come for her graduation. To their credit they sat
together. To their credit, they waited a week before bringing her into the
kitchen to break the news.
“We still love each other, it’s just different now. Someday you’ll
understand. People change, Steffi.”
Steffi wasn’t a drinker. As proof, that night tequila raced through
her system unchecked, setting every cell afire. Her best friend suggested
the tarot reader and so she’d gone along, blurry-eyed and heavy-headed. The two girls had each been given a card. “Remember, it won’t
work unless you believe,” the old woman had warned.
“This is it,” the cabbie said, eyes wincing with concern. “You sure you’re okay?”
Steffi smiled and straightened.
Believe, she told herself.
She handed him three folded bills, and though she was at least ten years younger, she patted his hand. “You’re a good man,” Steffi said.
She walked into the carnival as if stepping into a Technicolor dream, a slow-motion hallucination. Warm, moist air caught her skirt and
hair. The night rose and fell in a maw of shrill laughter and screams, organ and rockabilly music, rumbling as this or that roller coaster rattled
across its rails.
Steffi checked her watch. In five minutes her mother would round that corner and set her purse on the wooden ledge and her father
would turn and be dumb-struck by her beauty and he’d pull up in mid-throw, arm hooking while the dime flew and twirled before it landed
in the furthest jar with the impossibly narrow mouth. The carny would call, “Winner!” his voice frail and startled because no one had ever
landed a coin in that particular jar, and thus none had ever won the giant panda worth a small fortune.
Good-love gone-bad, she’d seen it firsthand, felt the walls shudder, sat through steamy breakfast hatred and heard the deafening dinner
In a few moments Steffi could change it all if she could maintain her courage.
Believe, Steffi told herself.
“Hey there,” he said.
Turning, she staggered, unprepared for how young and handsome and dangerous he appeared. A wry smiled hitched his pulpy upper lip,
emphasizing a confident smirk. It was so easy to see why her mother had fell, and fell hard.
“You aren’t from around here, are you?” he asked, his blue-black hair glistening.
She knew what to do. She’d planned each detail down to the sigh and back arch. Also she understood her time was limited, that her
mother was three minutes away from making an appearance with her friend, Marcia, in tow.
“No,” Steffi purred.
“I didn’t think so. Your outfit, it’s strange.”
“Funny,” he said, “But I like it. It’s nice. Different.”
Steffi bit her lip. She was nineteen, a year older than this man, her father. Despite tremulous knees and sweat drops spider-crawling
down her ribs, she held his gaze.
“Say,” she asked, twirling a curl of her hair ridiculously, “will you do me a favour?”
“Oh, you betcha.”
“My friend is waiting in line at the Ferris Wheel. She’s easy to spot, poodle skirt, purple bow in her blonde hair. Will you tell her I won’t
be needing a ride home?”
Her father stared, blinked, and then grinned. “Of course. I’m your ride.”
“Sure thing.”
“But you can’t come back until you find her.”
“No problem.”
The daughter opened her handbag and pulled out the photograph of her parents arm-in-arm but for the six foot tall panda between
them. They looked happy, stunned by their good fortune at having found each other.
The daughter closed her eyes. Steffi wasn’t sure how long it would take, how long until she no longer existed, but she hoped it would be
Just then she heard her mother’s young-girl voice. “Say,” she
asked, “do I know you?”

© Len Kuntz
Len Kuntz lives on a lake in rural Washington State with his family and
other pesky lake creatures. His writing appears widely in print and on the
web, as well as at

No comments:

Post a Comment