By Len Kuntz
It felt good to stop trying. Necessary and eventual. Like a net breaking below weight, or a sun sinking fast.
Libby did not glance at Tate and, without speaking, told her twin, I hate her.
I do. I won’t pretend anymore.
The woman who was their new mother floated across the room. Libby knew this because she could feel the swell of a breeze against her back and could smell the woman’s vinegar and tobacco odor wafting their way.
The twins’ arms were raised toward the ceiling, their heads facing the living room wall. They’d been kneeling in this position for over twenty minutes.
A yard stick or spatula thwacked the back of Libby’s neck like a hot iron kissing skin. “Straighten up! Mind your posture.”
Libby tensed her bones. Stared at a whorl imbedded in the wood paneling. It resembled an ogre’s eye, molasses brown and full of malice.
“You’ll stay like that until one of you confesses.”
I’ll do it, Tate said, using his mind to speak instead of words.
No you won’t.
This is stupid. My arms are sore. My back hurts.
If we let her win again, this’ll never stop.
Behind them the woman lit a cigarette, the flick of the lighter sounding like a blade scratching stone. The air inside the trailer hung hazy with cigarette smoke like the lingering aftermath of a forest fire. A fly or bead of sweat trickled down Libby’s rib. The urge to itch that spot was unbearable.
“Your father’s gone only a day and I have to deal with this.”
My knees burn, Tate said, again without speaking.
Pretend you’re not six. Pretend you’re not real.
Your mind works better than mine.
Make yourself into a butterfly.
What? I can’t.
The air, crosshatched with smoke and dust, stirred around the twins, meaning another blow or assault was imminent.
Libby scrunched her eyes and pressed an envelope through a slot in her brain.
Take it, she told Tate. Open it quick.
Heat from a cigarette fumed an inch from Libby’s earlobe, a smoke tendril corkscrewing across Libby’s eyes before she closed them again.
Let’s go. Now. Hurry, Tate.
She watched Tate open the envelope and saw the flock of Monarch butterflies rushing forth, flooding his face until, swept away, he became one himself, and Libby, too.
Each found a seam of new light which they fluttered through. On the other side of the wind, they carved loops and glyphs into the air. They flew and flew, drunk with hope, dizzy with possibility.
Len Kuntz is a writer from Washington State and the author of four books, most recently the story collection “This is Why I Need You” is out now from Ravenna Press. You can find more of his work at lenkuntz.blogspot.com