The Infection by Len Kuntz

The blade was rusted, but it was sharp and drew a jagged line of blood.

When I jerked my palm away, wincing, Mickey grinned.

He sliced his own next, slowly, smirking, his eyes a pair of red hornets.

When he was done, Mickey held his hand up, as if ready to be sworn in. I did the same. Then we mashed our bloody wounds together. “It’s official,” he said. “We’re brothers for life.”

At the airport the next day, Mom said to shake hands goodbye, but when I did, Mickey squeezed so hard that the gash ripped free of its scab, my palm screaming murder.

“Blood Brothers for life,” Mickey whispered. “You’d better not forget.”

I hardly slept that night. My hand throbbed. Past events kept flashing in front of me—Mickey stealing my Dad’s meds, his liquor, Mickey rifling through my sister’s underwear drawer and stuffing pairs in his pocket. The worst, though, was the fire he’d set. The old Lederman place was abandoned, sure, but Mickey knew about the kittens inside. We’d both heard them mewling before he struck the match.

When I woke, my palm was swollen and discolored, with wide pockets of pus.

In the garage I saw the vise, tightened it around my wrist. I said a quick prayer, hoping this would rid me of any allegiance to Mickey.

I used my shoe for balance, and pulled the ripcord. The chainsaw rattled, angry and eager. I brought it down fast. I pictured fire.

.

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20 Comments

Filed under Len Kuntz

20 responses to “The Infection by Len Kuntz

  1. His desire to be rid of a connection to someone so disturbed is understandable, though I can’t help thinking a little alcohol on the wound might have worked better. I think his own psychosis probably runs as deep or deeper.

  2. Len

    Thanks for reading. I appreciate it.
    What name do you write under?

  3. Jesus! Such a violent end. You read this and remember the suicide stats for men (ie their methods of choice, usually involving greater violence and self-harm) versus women . The pus was horrid enough. I agree with Catherine – bring on the alcohol!

  4. I’m seriously envious. I doubt I could write something this violent, this shocking, a truly evil character. Very impressive.

  5. An interesting and very strong story, it follows the logic… if it hurts/is infected …cut it out! It reminds me of the use of the guillotine and also Sharia law punishments; of the horrendous guilt and terror involved. Bravely done.

  6. Wow. It happens so fast that the end hits like a 2×4. Great story, great writing.

  7. A third vote for alcohol. I guess it’s the narrator’s underlying instability that attracted him to Mickey in the first place?

  8. It usually takes a lot to shock me but this one did. Extremely powerful.

  9. Len

    Matt, Al, Stella, Susan, EKS, Claire,
    Thank you all so much. I worry sometimes that I might frighten away people when I write about dark subjects. I don’t know why, but I just can’t write happy things. I wish I could, because I’m a happy guy.
    I appreciate all of your kind words very much.
    Len

    • It’s good to read such things, to be reminded the monsters do exist. If you want to write happier things, I hope you can achieve it; in the mean time, I hope you’ll continue with what you obviously do so well.

  10. Hey, you have to write what you have to write … even if it’s as mundane as a shopping list. But seriously, go with what works for you …

  11. *wince*
    Very vivid and a nice thread of red throughout, from blood to red hornets to fire at the end.

  12. Randal Houle

    vivd imagery and noirish atmosphere. the chainsaw *eek* The whole thing holds together really well even as it steps on the accelerator at the end. (like going over a cliff) where’s the like button?

  13. Amazing short. Dark, yes, but that’s the undercurrent of humanity. You’ve intrigued me with both of these characters. Peace…

  14. Al McDermid

    Hi Len. Thought this story might interest you (you’ll see why come the end).
    http://pseudopod.org/2010/07/02/pseudopod-201-shadow-chaser/

  15. Bernie

    Mickey wins, doesn’t he?

  16. Len,

    This is why you’ve published over 230 pieces in the last year. I’m officially a fan. I would love to be able to write a piece this self-contained, evocative, and powerful. I printed this one up to use as a model for my own stuff. Thanks for the great read!

    Dan Tricarico
    LITSNACK

  17. Jane Banning

    Your protag is young. We do dumb and fatal stuff when we’re young and needy. Nicely done and yes, disturbing. Vivid.
    jb

  18. Len

    Katherine, Randal, Linda and Jane–thanks so much! Dan, you’re too kind. I really appreciate your note. Al, Psuedo-Pod is great and thanks for sharing that. You’re all very thoughtful.
    Len

  19. Pingback: Week #29 – The palm of your hand | 52|250 A Year of Flash

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