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by Len Kuntz

She wanted to be skin, to be empty, wise, satisfied and sanitized, purged. However, she took it too far and became bones instead.
    Looking completely at home, she walked through graveyards where jealous ghosts coaxed her into reading them nighttime stories, news clippings with current events. Around the headstones the needy, greedy crowds elbowed each other for position, stabbing the air with their invisible limbs, one demanding a certain voice inflection, another a military cadence. It became so pathetic and demoralizing that the girl excused herself to pee and ditched the short-sheeted specters with their reckless lust for life.
    Before dawn, she heard a garbage truck shudder and rumble. She saw it belch greasy black wigs of exhaust into the purple-bruised sky. The driver of the truck was a beady-eyed raccoon with foam in his beard and the other worker was a mangled possum, his head hanging loose by a jugular cord.
    They smelled of whiskey and grilled cheese sandwiches, barrooms and insecticide.
    She'd been taught not to take candy from strangers and not to hitchhike but here she was all the way across town and the pair of rodent men seemed dull enough. One called her "Soup Bones." The other called her, "Skinny Minnie."
    They tried to rape her anyway.
    Now that she was a skeleton wrapped in a baggy of epidermis, the girl struggled to resist, but she discovered a can opener among the empty beers on the truck's floorboard, and she made mince meat, made hay, made a merry mess of her attackers.
    The entire enterprise took two minutes.
    After her pulse returned, she collected the bloody remains in a giant garbage bag. She built a fire right there on the side of the road. She cooked the coon first, then the possum. They tasted pungently exotic, like homemade deliverance.
    She ate until she was full, her belly button taut as in yester years. Later she laid back and watched the sun come up, hand on stomach as if she was pregnant. She burped. She cleaned her teeth with a tooth pick and clicked her tongue, thinking: there's a difference between being skin and being alive, and now I know.

About the author:
Len Kuntz lives on a lake in rural northwest Washington where, with the blinds mostly drawn, he is at work on a second novel. His short fiction can be found in upcoming issues of MUD LUSCIOUS, ELIMAE, RIGHT HANDPOINTING and BURST.

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