I was supposed to like him but I didn’t. He came with Randy and me into the woods babbling on and on about the Civil War as if it was an event that had just happened or something that was interesting.
He was afraid of heights so I climbed the tree, then Randy, and we fed the rope down. “Tie it around your waist.” He was shaking and mewling like a kitten the whole time. “That’s it,” Randy said. He let go. I could have held him up myself, but I felt the same way.
He fell so fast it was as if gravity was in a hurry. His body thumped the ground and then something cracked, a branch or a berry bush, where he landed.
He screamed so loud a gaggle of birds shook free of the highest branches. He kept shouting, “Broke! Broke!”
“Toss him a dollar,” Randy said, snickering.
So I did.
He comes to my wedding. He arrives in his black CLK convertible. He’s got new hair now, a lot of it, too, and his skin is so smooth and dark he’s practically gone and changed races on us, that’s what Randy says when we watch from the anteroom in our tuxes.
He parks and gets out, limping, his hip stuttering staccato with the forward motion.
“Rich jackass,” Randy says, his jealousy bare. Randy’s been hammered since dawn, drunk every hour since that first keggar in high school.
At the reception my cousin keeps eyeing me from across the room. At least I think he is. I ask Jill and she giggles because she’s already tipsy.
“No, he is,” I say.
“It’s me,” she says, slurring even these cheap words.
“We dated for awhile,” she says.
“You dated my cousin?”
She makes a flipping motion—c’est la vie—with her hand.
“Did you sleep with him?”
“Come on, Honey, not now.”
“I have to know.”
“Well, what do you think? We didn’t hold hands the whole time.”
“I can’t believe it. He did it on purpose.”
“You’re so parthanoid,” she says, butchering the word.
I leave her and walk across the uneven parquet floor. I clock him from behind. It’s a cheap shot but if I’d caught him face-first he’d need surgery.
Even then, I’m on him like an animal in heat and I’m swinging at random. A cluster of arms grab me and lift me off.
Blood has washed down the bottom half of his jaw and stained his shirt collar crimson.
Someone helps him up and someone else tells me to apologize and I do but he shakes it off, grinning, calls me “Cuz” and says he doesn’t believe in holding grudges.
Len Kuntz is a writer from Washington State. His work appears widely in print and online at such places as Storyglossia, Monkey Bicycle, decomP and also at lenkuntz.blogspot.com