Settle by Len Kuntz

After the plane crash, Keith was forced to live with his uncle.

“It’ll be a good change,” the therapist said. “Country living can settle a person.”

On the way out, Keith kicked over a lampstand.

***

The farm backed into tree-stuffed woods. Sometimes, if it was windy, Keith thought he could hear his mother’s voice swirling through the clash of limbs and leaves. She had been a songbird, off pitch, but always happy.

He discovered a brook. The water tasted crisp, almost effervescent. It reminded him of the time his father let Keith have a sip of beer.

A fish leapt, slamming down between a pair of rocks. He watched it writhe, its gills meaty-pink.

Overhead, a hawk circled. Two squirrels skittered after an invisible foe. Sunlight streaked through branches in planks of bright radiance. Near the shore, two deer regarded him for a stiff moment, then carried on.

A cone of gnats swirled over the trapped fish.

Keith saw its big eye go even wider as it sucked air.

It flapped in his hands, slick and rough at the same time.

He thought about the fish, how it could represent his parents’ accidental death, or even his own anger.

He gave it a short toss. The fish floated, glinting silver scales in the sun. After some moments, the fish squirmed, leapt and swam again.

Keith watched it disappear. He felt the sun sting his face and, for the first time in weeks, he sighed, letting himself smile.

.

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20 Comments

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20 responses to “Settle by Len Kuntz

  1. I’m glad he let the fish go. Hopefully it lived longer and he was happier.

  2. Randal Houle

    slick and rough… I know the feeling. Nicely done.

  3. Catherine Davis

    I love this brook, alive with animals, and what it brings to this young man in grief. Rich.

  4. I love nature’s lessons, the simplicity of reality, and love how you’ve made this a lyrical movement of time. Nicely done, Len.

  5. Good descriptions here–very physical and symbolic.

  6. Another great story, Len. I know you could have gone lots darker with this one, and yet, am happy for the choices you made for Keith, especially after what he’s been through. Love the setting details, the various animals. Gorgeous.

  7. Len

    thanks everyone. i based this story on a friend who’s parents died in an Alaska plane crash ten years ago, and trying to put myself in his frame of mind, having to move beyond it or stay mired in the bitterness.

  8. A sad reflective story that really grabbed me.

  9. guy

    Kind of reminiscent of “Big Two Hearted River” where Hemingway has his character let the fish go. Different story, different motivations, but the letting the fish go works in both.

  10. “Cone of gnats.” I wish I’d written that.

    And I agree with all the comments above, especially Susan’s. Nature often provides the best groundwork for a lesson. Wonderfully done, Len.

  11. It made me think of “Big, Two-Hearted River” also. Great clarity of descriptions.

  12. I love when flash fiction doesn’t feel like flash fiction! So much in this story– well done!! I especially like this line: “She had been a songbird, off pitch, but always happy.”

  13. yes, so much in this story! the move to the other place, and then the move back towards life. one to remember. i just included the link in my blog note on ‘floating’. (http://virtual-notes.blogspot.com/2011/01/h2o_08.html).

  14. Kim Hutchinson

    Really well done, and packed with stunning details.

  15. Len

    thank you all so much. and dorothee, that’s really kind of you to put my story link on your blog. btw, how do i become a follower on your blog? i don’t see a button.

  16. Len, I loved this story, this young boy with all his hurt and anger, and how he went as the river went. Beautiful. Peace…

  17. completely entranced by the deft narrative voice…the “mother’s voice swirling through the clash of limbs” the setting out of natural details. You made the moment of epiphany come alive…sights, sounds and smells. The fish/spawning salmon a perfect vehicle….the story reads much bigger than 250 words.

  18. lovely story. the charaacter comes across as very humane, someone we could really relate t0 – i definitely felt that way from the start with ‘Keith kicked over the lambstand.’

  19. Love the snapshots – brighter still because of your introduction – the therapist and the lampshade. There is light at the end of the tunnel.

  20. Pingback: Week #34 – Floating away | 52|250 A Year of Flash

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