Cousins by Len Kuntz

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


David Barber said...

Families eh? You've got to love 'em. As the old saying goes, 'you can pick your friends but you can't pick your family.'

Nice debut, Len. Tight writing and some sharp dialogue. Well done.

Author said...

Nice job!

Paul D Brazill said...

Tightly done!

Denise Covey said...

Friends are the family you choose for yourself eh David? Great dialogue.

Thanks for reading/commenting on my story in the Lost on the Rock comp.


Thomas Pluck said...

Oh, the best revenge is living well, ain't it? Damn fine story.

Chris Gordon said...

Great dialogue. Enjoyed it.

Mike Wilkerson said...

Len, you're my kind of writer. Nothing wasted. No overly fancy and un-needed descriptions. You cut straight through the BS and delivered the goods.

Bill Baber said...

nicely done-the story and the beat down!!

Sean Patrick Reardon said...

Hard hitting and straight to the point. Nice job.

Ron Scheer said...

These wonderful folks are primed for a new bottom-feeder reality show. I love the ambiguity from beginning to end as every word these people utter makes them more repellent. Nice job.

Trey R. Barker said...

Well done. Tightly written, as everyone said. Makes me want to have been at the reception, just to see the grin on the cousin's face. Revenge, indeed.

Steven Chapman said...

Terrific story, Len. I love a good revenge story and this one doesn't disappoint. I'm always amazed when 1k can pack such a big punch and this is definitely of those times!

You can't pick your family, David but you can pick them off one by one...if you dispose of the evidence.

Amy Wood said...

You should have hit him from the front. :)