Critical Thought: Back Yard

Literature should take us somewhere, give us a gut check, even if it's uncomfortable.

I find it fascinating that we’re all born with essentially the same innocence and goodness but then, for whatever reason, some gravitate toward their dark side.

In this piece, there is a sense of helplessness on the father’s part.  He’s seen his son grow into a bad seed and now, years later, a looming menace is suggested through the gestures and mannerisms of Will's wife. Yet there’s nothing overt enough as to be verifiable.

I prefer literature that is moody but subtle, that makes the reader work to get at the essence. Rather than being hit over the head with the obvious, the reader is left to wonder: does this mean what I think it does? What words support my inclination?

Len Kuntz lives on a lake in rural Washington State. His writing appears widely in print and online at such places as LITSNACK, Cricket Online Review, Clutching At Straws and also at lenkuntz.blogspot.com.

Back Yard

His preschool teacher, Mrs. Deaver, sends a note home with my son explaining about an incident, an outburst, and how William will no longer be allowed to handle sharp objects.

Years later in junior high, William develops an obsession with swords. He covers his walls with advertisements for swords, the pages neatly torn from magazines. There are so many it’s as if his room is raining blades. He plays video games where the characters slice each other’s limbs off, games more about bloodshed than rescue.

But in real life Will never gets in trouble.

He’s a taxman now, a good kid still, even though he’s grown. When he visits, my wife says she gets a feeling. “About what?” I ask, but she never says, or is never able to say.

Will’s wife likes to gaze out the window. She keeps a hand on her face, hiding something as she stares. She says our backyard is so big, so open. She whispers when she says it.

by Len Kuntz