Rich by Len Kuntz

Riming the volcano of garbage are vultures—fifty or more, their black plumage inky in the smoldering sun. Big as toddlers, they cock their crocked necks as if they know my thoughts, but they do not, no one does.

Last week my son fought one of these evil birds. Marco had discovered an uneaten sandwich in the heap when the creature swooped down. Thank God Marco had the bent-up umbrella he always carries, sometimes using it as a bat (“Look, Papa, I’m A Rod!”), a dancing cane, (“I’m smooth like your favorite, Gene Kelly!”), a golf club (“Now I’m Chi Chi Rodriguez. How do you like those apples, Papa?”) I watched him beat the bird, heard their tangled screaming. We were in the middle of sorting recyclables from other’s people’s discarded waste. My wife implored me to intervene, but I knew that would only make Marco soft, and soft does not survive here.

We used to live inside the dump, among the maggots and rats, until the missionaries came. Now we have rows of tin boxes to make our homes. Still, a narrow, dirt road is all that separates our make-shift town from the dump.

Miles below sits Puerto Vallarta. At night, she shimmers, a bejeweled gown. A cruise ship glows with its windows white as America teeth.

When I was young like Marco, I often plotted an escape. Now that I am wiser, I watch my family sleeping and feel embarrassed to be this rich.


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Filed under Len Kuntz

12 responses to “Rich by Len Kuntz

  1. The action in the background, the soft acceptance in the forefront, just amazing storytelling skill, Len.

  2. thanks, susan. you’re so kind.

  3. Len,
    As always, I’m amazed at how much history/backstory/world building you can get in such a small space. We see more than just this one moment here; we see them as a family existing over time in a severe situation. For me, the whole story hinges on the image of a child fighting a vulture for trash juxtaposed with the opulence of the cruise ship in the “bejeweled” Puerto Vallarta. Only miles between them physically, yet light years away as well.

  4. Don’t know how you managed to pack a family saga into 250 words, but you did. And beautifully and with sensitivity. Gorgeous. Peace…

  5. Beautifully told, and I loved the ending. There’s nothing good nor bad but thinking makes it so? Still, I can’t help wishing better circumstances for them. Nicely done.

  6. Kelly

    riming – what a nice word to begin this with and carry through. tangled screaming, that gave a chill, even though I imagine the day was hot.

  7. Deborah A. Upton

    Oh, to be so rich. Such a mindset you have portrayed!

  8. It is all a matter of perspective. I like the wisdom here.

  9. So rich in complexity and haunting images, and rife internal conflict for your protagonist. And through the entire piece, your characteristic insight into the human family plight and those less fortunate than many. Ah, to be in this human form.

  10. Amazing. This could easily be the world well beyond that bridge I wrote of. And rather than report, you’re right there in the middle of it. A really stunning piece. “I often plotted an escape. Now that I am wiser . . .” I’ve met him (or her).

  11. Pingback: Week #37 – Border town | 52|250 A Year of Flash

  12. exquisite first paragraph and i love how the white american teeth make their appearance. great form & at the end i wanted this to go on.

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