Thirst · Len Kuntz

We were too thirsty. We carried cedar caskets on our shoulders, three dead boys who didn’t know they were dead, bowling down the same wounded gravel we’d been born on, kicking cans of piss while our footfalls lit everything behind us on fire.

We hadn’t seen a bird in weeks, though sheets of feathers stuffed the shriveled gullies. Every tree looked like a felon, out on parole and agitated. We could hear those coyotes howling for a ransom, even at noon.

Manny had predicted it, the way the sun foresees its own mugging by the moon. He had a new dad with an O.J. knife, shrapnel knuckles and an itch in his crotch.

When I looked up, I saw the sky smirking. Where its mouth was supposed to be, someone had painted a crimson X.

Gordie played Russian Roulette with a cap gun, eyes rolled back like a stoned lemur. He claimed to be practicing eventuality.

The air tasted untrustworthy. My pulse needed second opinion and my bones had turned too dry, like cracked concrete, rattling around inside my boots, the hollow of my skull.

Manny was a dumb grenade, as thirsty as ever. He sucked on a mouthful of magnets and looked through the blistering sheen, even with all those needles in his eyes.

I took my time with the silence, then shattered it.

I told Manny first, Gordie second.

I told them what I would do because I loved them like that.

They didn’t believe me, but then they never understood I was thirsty in a way that was different from them.

I needed an ocean to set me free. A tsunami. I needed a real weapon and three hot bullets.

Len Kuntz is a writer from Washington State and the author of four books, most recently the story collection, This is Why I Need You, out now from Ravenna Press. You can find more of his writing at