Archive for the Karl Koweski Category

Hunting Kuntz by Karl Koweski

Posted in FLASH FICTION, Karl Koweski with tags , , on December 23, 2009 by Scot

     Beneath the glass counter at Bleacher Bums card shop lies a modern day reliquary for the memento mori of the only saints who matter any more.  Rather than the knucklebone of Saint Andrew or Saint Felix the Eviscerated’s toenail, Bleacher Bums deals in the relics of sport’s saints, those enshrined in the Hall of Fame and those yet to be canonized.  There are bits of game worn jerseys and scraps of game-used bats pressed into cardboard.
     I hover over the artifacts from the patron saints of the north side.  A swath of Andre Dawson’s all star jersey and a section of elastic band from Ryne Sandberg’s jockstrap offered by Topps Triple Thread.  Only one of three in existence and a steal at the low price of two hundred and fifty dollars.
     “Can I help you, fella?”
     The guy running things looks old enough to have witnessed the last Cubbies World Series appearance.  His shirt pisses me off immediately, two disparate tees sewn together down the center like a Windy City Frankenstein. The blue side bears the Cubbies insignia, the black side… The bullshit White Sox.
     “You suppose to be some kinda Chi-Town Switzerland?”
     Swiss Miss cocks a bristled eyebrow and crosses his arms above his Old Style keg of a belly.  “You come in here to bust my balls?  Or is there something else you might be needing?  Cause Zambrano’s on the mound, buddy, and he’s carrying a no-hitter into the bottom of the second.”
     “I’m hunting Kuntz.  Rusty Kuntz.  The greatest .230 career hitter ever to swat a lazy fly ball to center field with the bases loaded.”
     “Hmph.”  He braces his hands on the counter, flexing the beer flab in a vaguely muscular way.  “Kuntz, you say?”
     “Rusty Kuntz.  I have the largest collection of Kuntz memorabilia in the country.”
     Granted, that only encompasses about five years of baseball cards from the late seventies to early eighties.  There are no game-used paraphernalia cards bearing Kuntz swag.  I procured a Twins jersey worn by Kuntz for ten dollars and a half case of Schlitz.
     “I seem to remember a Koontz coming up with the White Sox organization.  Retired from the Tigers after the ‘84 World Series.”
     “That’s him.  Except it’s Kuntz.  Like a vagina.”
     “It’s Koontz.  Like the writer of Phantoms.”
     “Kuntz, I say.  There ain’t no Os in his name.”
     “So, you’re a Koontz expect?”
     “I know a thing or two about Kuntz.”
     “What?  You a relative?”
     “More like a brother-in-arms.  They call me Philip Kuntz.”
     “Yeah, buddy, I can tell by the way you’re standing, you couldn’t fill up a shot glass.”
     We stand there on opposite sides of the counter, arms crossed over our chests.  He stares at my forehead.  I stare at a plaque of Nolan Ryan, blood dripping from his nose onto his jersey, as though the picture were saying “see, baseball’s not a sport for pussies.”
     “You can’t tell that by the way I’m standing.”
     “I can tell that by you being a thirty-something year-old man asking for the baseball cards of a man with a funny name.”
     “All right, I’ll concede your point, old man.  So you gonna get me all your Rusty Kuntz or not?”
     “No.  I don’t have any Rusty Koontz for you.  You bought all the Rusty Koontz cards I had in the inventory when you came sniffing around here for Rusty Koontz last year.”
     “You not remember having this same exact conversation with me last time?”
     “I actually have this conversation all the time.”
     “Yeah, I suspected as much.  You see that bat hanging up there?  The one autographed by Keith Moreland, Jody Davis and Leon Durham?”
     “Yeah.  Three hundred bucks is a little steep to be asking for it, ain’t it?”
     “Next time you walk in here asking for Rusty Koontz–”
     “Next time I catch you in here, I’m gonna take that bat off the wall and hit you in the face with it.  Understand?”
     “Good.  Now fuck off.”
     I walk out into the hazy sunlight and breathe in the refinery tinged air.  There’s time to kill and not a lot of murder implements at my disposal. 
     Somewhere, Rusty Kuntz possesses a World Series ring and Ryne Sandberg does not.  That’s the kind of world we live in.


factory pretty by Karl Koweski

Posted in Karl Koweski with tags on October 21, 2009 by Scot

Stephanie entered the factory
like a golden apple of Discordia
creating a tumultuous flurry
of combed hair and clean shirts

like the golden ring of Sauron
wedding bands were pocketed
facial hair sculpted, trimmed
or shaved off all together

at breaks, Stephanie, aloof
talked lovingly of her fiancee
engaged us in polite conversation
and ignored prolonged eye contact

outside the factory walls
we might not have noticed her
her quaint face and narrow hips
nose a bit crooked, eyes too big

inside the factory walls
we talked constantly about her
trading scraps of information
creating facts in lieu of truth

we thought about her at night
trapped in the Mordor of matrimony
fantasizing about freedoms
ten, twenty years behind us

later, talk turned to disappointments
she lined the cups of her
fiancée’s empty promises before us
we competed for the chance to pour

Stephanie radiated sex
began flaunting her tattoos
the cat’s eyes at her belt line
being my personal favorite

the strolls past her machine
progressed to an hourly procession
our eyes acclimated to
her factory beauty

her fiancee receded to punch line
our wives lost factory reality
when the dust settled, Jon,
the barrel welder, became her lover

news of his impending divorce spread
he discovered his swagger
we cursed his name and
wished testicular cancer upon him

Jon and Stephanie’s first night alone
Stephanie’s jilted fiancee
blew his brains out his ear
with a .38 to the temple

we treated Jon as though
he had pulled the trigger
punishing him for his one night
and the resulting factory swagger

Jon claimed innocence
looking as guilty as any man
who’s ever rode in a white Bronco
pistol pressed against cranium

a week after the funereal
Stephanie returned freshly tattooed
two ravens perched on a tombstone
bearing her fiancée’s numerical margins

we laughed and said if she’s
going to get a bird for every man
she buries in an early grave
she’ll end up a flesh aviary

I would like to be a
brightly colored macaw tattooed
on her left ass cheek
I think when she smiles at me

the UAW killed my daddy…by Karl Koweski

Posted in Karl Koweski with tags on May 13, 2009 by Scot

two days before the union vote
Hydra CEO, Dick Whitaker,
drove his BMW roadster
down from the corporate offices
in a last ditch effort to avert
a UAW victory

as the third shifters leaned back
in their folding chairs,
perpetually tired and
ready to just get it all over with,
Whitaker stepped in front of the assembly
and loosened his tie for a third time.
a calculated move
as though by easing the ligature
around his neck
was all it took to gain the confidence
of a roomful of machinists
who’d had their wages frozen
the last two years
and their benefits chipped away
to nothing

for the third time
at this third meeting
Whitaker allowed his eyes to mist
and his voice crack with emotion
when he announced
the union killed his father
with the cold certainty
of a bullet to the heart

to hear Whitaker tell it,
his daddy was the best damn paint mixer
DuPont Industries had ever seen.
he could match paint
with a precision
no computer could compete with.
when DuPont went union
it nearly broke his daddy’s heart.
with the union promises of
competitive wages, retirement program,
and employee rights,
his daddy knew his time at the
factory was numbered.

and he was right.
four years later, DuPont decided
they no longer needed his expertise.
however, considering his time invested,
they were willing to offer him
a position at a DuPont plant
located clear across the country.

clear across the country,
Whitaker repeated.
my daddy lived his entire life in Iowa,
except for his time serving
our country in the Air Force.
the decision to leave the only place
he’d ever really known
tormented my daddy.
it ate him up, made it so
he could hardly sleep at night.

here, Whitaker turned away from the assembly,
dabbing at his dusty, reptilian eyes.
after a reasonable amount of silence
and two shoulder hitches,
he faced the machinists.

the last time I saw my daddy,
at the Kinnick stadium
where I was a starting cornerback
for the Hawkeyes,
I barely recognized him,
so great the toll the union took on him.
his… his… heart… gave out on him
at the end of the third quarter
of that game.
now, I have no doubt in my mind
the union was responsible for his death.
after the union came into DuPont,
my daddy was never the same man.

now, I’m not going to tell you how to vote.
I only ask that you think of your children
and what kind of effect
a union shop will have on them.

the workers glanced at each other
with equally dazed what-the-fuck expressions.
finally Roger the raised his hand
and stood up, nervously addressing
his boss and co-workers.

I feel for your loss, Mr. Whitaker.
I, too, lost my father to the unions.

Whitaker tightened his lips in sympathy,
or maybe to kill the creeping smile.

my father, Roger continued, was at a bar
when a teamster mistook him for the guy
who pissed on his camaro and
punched him in the face.
two years later, my daddy died of
pancreatic cancer.