L e n  K u n t z


        This was in another time, a different year, when the five of us had crossed the state line into Idaho, already drunk and smelling of danger.

        Oz pulled into the strip joint, his tires slugging the curb.  

        We stumbled out, the others laughing and me trying to look anything but the supplicant I knew myself to be.

        We stationed ourselves in the front row.  Oz and Barry took turns hooting and making sure everyone knew I was to be married in two days.

        The dancers had names like Sapphire, Raven, Anastasia.  It was difficult to look them in the eye.

        The last one out was Destiny.  Blonde.  Thin.  Leggy.  Her shoes had three inch wedges made of see-through plastic with goldfish swimming in them.

        She danced to Janet Jackson, “Rhythm Nation.”  The pole shimmered silver like summer rain or sweaty skin.  Not once did she look at anyone else in our troupe but me.  I held my breath, trying not to squirm.

        When Destiny was done, she took me by the collar and pulled me through the crowd.  

        In the back room she threw me against the door.  “What the hell are you doing in Idaho?”        

        I told her it wasn’t my idea.

        She punched the wood above my head, her upper lip snarled.

        “This is where I live,” she said, pulling out a cigarette and puffing on it with a manic flourish.  She blew a broom of smoke in my face, her eyes skating over mine so familiar.

        “This is my state.  You’ve got your own.”


        She slapped me.  The burn felt good, running under my skin like hot oil. 

        She clicked her nails that were painted tongues of red and blue.  She picked a tobacco fleck from her lip and blew it off the tip of a finger after closing her eyes for a moment, making a wish the way we had when we were kids.

        “So, do you love her?”

        “I think so.”

        “That doesn’t sound very convincing.”

        “It’s the truth.”

        When she laughed, her breasts jiggled and glitter shimmered in the air.  “You’re still such a goody two shoes, aren’t you?”

        I shrugged, and she responded by ramming a knee in my groin.

        “Listen, I don’t know you.  You’re dead to me.  All of you.”  She grabbed a fistful of hair and yanked my head so we’d be face-to-face.  “Got it?”

        I nodded.

        “And if you say a word to Mom, so help me, I’ll cross the border and rip your heart out.”

        “You don’t have to do this.”

        I watched her eyes ant race.

        “The last time I listened to your advice, you said Mom’s boyfriend was just being friendly.”

        “Hey, I didn’t kno—“

        “Give me two hundred bucks and get the hell out of here.”

        “Becky, you—“

        “It’s Destiny, damn it!  I’m Destiny.”

         On the ride back, the others peppered me with questions.  “Was she good?  What did she all do?”

I let them make up their own answers.