Fiction
Issue #4

The Runner

Len Kuntz


 

The waitress isn’t blonde and she’s not American but she looks like you, you ten years ago when we met and you said you had “high energy, crazy octane energy” and asked if I could keep up.

 

The waitress wears a pink bikini with matching heels. A metal chip pinned at her bottom hip says she is Lupe. Her skin is tan and looks like lacquered wood. I have to fight myself from touching it.

 

She bounces up, twirling the tray with her center finger the way a kid will spin a basketball, and asks if I’ll have another. “These childs,” she says, giggling and pointing toward the shallow end of the pool where water bombs are going off. “They’re so rowdy! Don’t you just love it?”

 

Her accent is so thick it seems concocted, but, I remind myself, I am in Mexico. I have to stop being suspicious. You always accused me of paranoia.

 

Fifteen minutes pass before Lupe is back. When I order triples, she breaks into a puppet’s grin. “Having good times, huh?” Her teeth are effervescent. I can’t take my eyes off them. “You like?”

 

“Very much.” She means, do I like it here? Or maybe she’s playing me. Maybe she really is that much like you, but I don’t think so.

 

I watch her take a quick glance at my left hand.

 

“No woman?”

 

“No woman, no pride.” She doesn’t get the quip. “Bob Marley,” I say.

 

“I am Lupe,” she says, sticking out her hand and squeezing it like a tube. “Is so great to meeting you, Bob.”

 

* * *

 

The next morning Lupe leaves by dawn. I thought I was doing her a favor offering cab fare back, but she said, “Don’t be ridiculous. I need four hundred dollars or there will be big trouble.”

 

The sun looks like an egg gone bad. 

 

My skull has broken things in it when I stand, staggering. My breath reeks of rust and iodine. I get heavy head spins opening up the closet to find my shoes. 

 

The first few miles always pain me, but after that the going gets easier. That’s what I tell myself. 


 

Read next: "The Box" by Robert Coover

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Len Kuntz

Len Kuntz lives on a lake in rural Washington State. His writing appears widely in print and online at places such as PANK, Camroc Press Review, Xenith and also at lenkuntz.blogspot.com.

 

This story was originally published in Issue 4 of The Literarian.