Thrum by Len Kuntz

At first he saw clouds, pale blue blemishes, and then his sight left him completely.

He phoned his daughter. He thought he might die at any moment. He was an old man, had lived a rugged but fair life.

She drove out that night. He sat on the porch, listening to the crickets bleating. When his wife was alive, after a long day of hard work on the farm, they’d sit in the rocking swing, holding hands but staying quiet, surrounded by green silence.

His daughter said, “You’ll have to live with me now,” and the old man almost vomited because he knew she was right.


The condo overlooked Elliot Bay. “It smells like glass cleaner,” he said. “And pigeon crap!”

He wanted to go back, die on the farm. His daughter kept talking about new beginnings, second chances. He thought she might be nuts.

She preferred windows open for fresh air. The street noise below made his ears bleed.

One Saturday she took him to Pike Place Market. He smelled fish and lavender and berries. He heard the fish hawkers and squealing children, birds cooing, a guitar.

His heart thrummed. It felt like a bomb inside his chest, and he liked it. He felt different, alive.

His daughter put his hand on what she said was a statue of a giant pig. “For luck.”

He laughed at that, the irony, how he had traded a live sow for a fake, how small the world really was.


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13 responses to “Thrum by Len Kuntz

  1. Al McDermid

    Another great story, Len. Beautiful this time. I laughed more than once (almost vomited because he knew she was right; “And pigeon crap!”; He thought she might be nuts; The street noise below made his ears bleed.). And this line, ‘staying quiet, surrounded by green silence’ is exquisite. Really like that he was ‘converted’ by the marketplace.

  2. I liked this character, well done! He may have lost his sight, but not his sense of humour, or his ability to enjoy life. I liked how he found echoes of his previous life in the city market. The smells, the sounds, and then the pig! (Even if it is a copy of the real thing).
    It reminds me of Plato’s Cave: perhaps city dwellers, like his daughter, only see the shadows (fake pig) and mistake them for the real thing! He does not, but takes solace and energy from the resonance…

  3. What a beautiful conversion! Len, you’ve really put heart into the theme, made it human and real.

  4. an aching sadness here and great understatement. i’d like to know more about these two, strong piece

  5. Len, I love this piece! That piggy just pulls it all together for me. Nicely done.

  6. Len Kuntz

    al, stella, susan, michael and angryshark– thank you so much for reading and the kind comments. i really appreciate it.

  7. Great and thoughtful piece, how things change with age and time.

  8. Good to see another Seattle story here. I really appreciate your treatment of the Market: you’ve taken it on its own (and the character’s) terms.

    The condo overlooking Elliot Bay says a lot about the daughter to an audience with local knowledge.

  9. Oh, I did like this Len – it is insightful and sweet and has a happy ending, of sorts! How do you get your stories in earlier than me? I get up at the crack of dawn weeks before each story is due and hand-manipulate time so I can get first spot … and there you are, outshining me again!

  10. Also meant to say you took on the theme squarely and well

  11. This is exquisite. What everyone else said. Just lovely, lovely, lovely. Peace…

  12. Kelly Grotke

    very nice – i liked the way you drew out tension and mutual misunderstanding on the way to something else. And I never thought about the smell of pigeon crap, but yes, hehe

  13. Pingback: Week # 30 – Urban convert | 52|250 A Year of Flash

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