Gunter Says

By B.P. Greenbaum

unter says I look good as a blonde. At first, I kind of liked it—you know? Something different? But I miss my brown hair. I don’t tell him I don’t like it. There are some things we don’t talk about. It is hard enough as it is with just what we have to say.

We’ve been on the road now for eighteen months, living mostly in trucks and on buses. We never thought we’d travel this much, but I guess you never know. The first policeman said that we would have a new place. Place. As in one. He even gave us a brochure called “Changing Your Identity: the things you need to know.” At first, you do want to know. But after a while, when you find out that it’s really not that great a system, and people have a way of finding you, then you just wonder why you read the brochure in the first place. Gunter says it’s like time-shares. They always look better on paper too.

Gunter says we had no choice. We had to leave after the third attempt. That’s when the policeman got shot in front of our second house. Never in a thousand years would I have thought ofNew Jerseyas a place to hide. I’m still mad I didn’t get to eat the tomatoes. They were only about a week away from being ripe, so big, like softballs. I used to love to put my hands in the dirt. The only dirt I can think about now is the kind Gunter says we don’t want to find ourselves under. We had to leave so fast, I only had time to grab my rings, a travel pouch of jewelry, and my snow globe. I didn’t even get to take my clothes.

I often wonder if the cop came back and picked the tomatoes. I wrote him a little note telling him to. I hope the trucker mailed it. I’m so relieved the cop didn’t die. I mean none of this was his fault. But Gunter says none of this was our fault either. He says “we,” even though it was me. Another thing I try not to think about.

Green contact lenses do change the way the world looks, but you lose track of that after a while. You forget until you take them out, of course. That’s what I hope to do someday, forget that any of this ever happened. Gunter says it will take time for things to calm down, but I’m beginning to wonder if they ever will. These people evidently have very long memories. I honestly can’t understand why I’m that important.

He was above six feet. I knew that because Gunter is 6’5” and he looked to be almost the same size. He surprised me. I’d just stepped out of my car and had gone around to the passenger side to get quarters for the meter when he brushed past me. At first, all I saw was the gun. Long barrel, a dead metal color. His hand looked tan against it. White cuff, black suit, and I didn’t see his face until he looked back at me. Heavy brows, dark chocolate hair, kind of a hawkish nose, and this odd little tattoo under his left ear. Of all things, a little bunny. It looked like Peter Rabbit, you know, the old-fashioned one? Except this one held a cigar instead of a carrot.

I heard the people behind me shouting, and I turned to see what had happened. A man pointed at him and screamed. There, there he goes, get him, someone get an ambulance, call the police. But as soon as he said that, the police came. The sirens howled down between the buildings; the steps of the old library teamed with people as if they’d all just been let out for vacation at the same time. The courthouse too. People swarmed over the steps. People tell me that I’m really pretty. Maybe that’s why he looked back. But I’ll never get to ask him. I’ll never know if it was me seeing him or him seeing me that made the difference.

Did you see? the cop asked me. And I had to say yes because I’d seen the man’s face and the bunny. I hadn’t seen what he’d done. I wouldn’t know about that until later, but I’d seen that face. The ironic part was I didn’t even need a copy of our marriage license to apply for the mortgage so I didn’t need to be at the court house at all that day. I’m still a little surprised he didn’t kill me right then and there. He’d just killed a judge, her secretary, and a policeman. Why not me too? If I was small potatoes then, why are they after me now? The cop said, You just don’t understand how these people operate. Great, I thought. Another thing I just don’t want to know.

So now I’m sitting on the third bus in two days, running. Always running.Frederick, as Gunter makes me call him now, says this way we’ll see the country, but I’m tired. Of course, I don’t tell him because I think he’s tired too, and if we both thought of this together, we’d be exhausted. I’m a bit nervous that someday he’ll figure out that he can walk away any time he wants to. I’m the one who can’t.

Sometimes I just feel like walking out into the middle of a busy road somewhere and yelling at the top of my lungs, I’m here. Come get me! Take your best shot! I don’t of course. I’m afraid they’ll shoot Gunter. Now that would be just my luck. And sometimes I wonder if we’ll know it’s safe. To just stop, you know. We’ve been running for so long that it seems normal now. I’m not sure how we’d just stop moving. Gunter says that’s what most people try to do with their lives metaphorically, whatever that means.

He also says we can’t trust the police anymore. He says third time’s the charm. He’s always so convincing when he says these things. Sometimes I think his job as an actuary must have been so boring that even this is better than that little corner office and sixteen-inch screen. But he says he just loves me, and that didn’t change even when people started shooting at me. My girlfriends were so wrong about him. Why do you want to go out with that old guy, they’d say. Okay, he’s a lot older, but there was just something about him that felt comfortable. I never cared about the money.

The bus out of Vegas is crowded today, and tomorrow, or maybe the next day, we’ll head toMexico. I have the jewelry to sell inPasadenaand then we can buy the fare down toCozumel. Gunter says it’s too risky to try to get to the bank account from the States, and it will be easier when we get there. The instant I dye my hair black, I’ll feel much better. Blondes stand out too much inMexico. Gunter says he’ll talk to the truckers. One will surely take us.

The snow globe is about the only thing he ever gets mad about. He says of all the things I could have taken, that should have been the last. But I’ve had it since I was little. My grandmother gave it to me. I carry it in my purse wrapped in a washcloth I lifted from a Super 8 hotel. Gunter doesn’t sleep much, but when he does, I take it out and hold it up to the window. Sometimes there’s just enough light that I can see the snow swirl around this little chalet inside. Right outside the house is a little Christmas tree and a horse and a sleigh with people in it dressed like old-fashioned carolers. One is fat like my mother. I think about being in that house, imagine myself cooking dumplings and making egg bread the way my grandmother did. No doubt I’d burn my fingers on the eggshells. I love the sound of a whistling kettle. I would like some tea.

I wonder sometimes if that’s as close as I’ll get to having a home again. And I know this is weird, but there are times when I think this is the most perfect home I’ve ever had. I can just take it out and it never changes. I never have to vacuum either. That’s something, isn’t it? If nothing else, it reminds me there is something other than here. I think that’s why Gunter gets mad when I look at it. He says it’s a little girl thing and I’m not a little girl. But that is something else we never talk about.

Gunter is sleeping now. There’s something about how his head falls back on the bus seat, making a little cave at the back of his neck. His mouth is usually open, but tonight it’s not and he looks so peaceful. His hair has gone quite white, though it was so blonde before, only I would notice. It’s not like we see anyone we knew, so I have to notice these things.

For now, it has to be enough. I will never think of Gunter asFrederickthough. I can only give up so much. And no matter what Gunter says, I will never look right as a blonde.

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I have a B.A. in English from the University of Hartford, an M.A. in secondary education from St. Joseph College, and an M.F.A. from the University of Southern Maine. In 2006, I was awarded second place for fiction in the Connecticut Authors and Publishers Association (CAPA) annual writing contest.

Presently, I am a creative writing instructor. In addition to teaching fiction writing, advanced script writing, beginning acting, mythology, and flash fiction, I am also involved in land conservation and was appointed to the Connecticut Greenways Council. I have studied with Michael White, Suzanne Strempek Shea, Brad Barkley, and Jack Driscoll. My poetry and short stories have been published in Eclectica, Hog River Review, Inscape, Verdad, and Underwood Review. I write using the pen name B.P. Greenbaum.


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