The Letter and the Bucket by Philip Kuan

March 17, 2018
She Wore Whip Cream On Her Chest by Sarah Bex Rice
March 16, 2018
Ten Buckets by Jennifer Benningfield
March 18, 2018


The Letter and the Bucket


This is a piece of wood. I’m standing in a bad place.

Please continue.

There’s a bucket filled with blood, next to my feet.

Yes, I see it. There it is.

But, it’s not my blood. And this is not my piece of wood.

Ok. So what?

Also, what’s with its shape? The letter M has no relevance to me.

Are you sure about that?

…why am I even holding it? And what am I doing here?

Well then, why don’t you leave?

I should. I should leave. But. Isn’t it odd?

What is odd?

That I should right now be standing in this alley, holding this M-shaped piece of wood. As if that should mean something.

Perhaps it does.

I suppose I could look for more clues. Maybe empty this bucket?

That’d take quite some time to mop up. I’d imagine.

Yeah. Yes, you’re probably right. I wonder what kind of blood this is? Animal, I hope.

…how do you know it’s blood?

Hey wait, there’s nothing else around me. That’s pretty strange too.


Don’t alleyways typically have backdoors into their buildings? Or shouldn’t I be seeing a few dumpsters nearby, at least?

I wouldn’t know. Sounds like you’ve been in your share of alleys though.

Who are you, anyways?

Is that relevant? Please continue.

I suppose this M could be a clue, or a key to some puzzle. Maybe it’s the missing letter to a movie marquee? Marriage? Money? Murder?

Are those guesses?

Well, you’re not exactly helping. Who are you again?

Do you see any signs around you? With the missing letter?

No, none but…huh. Did you know there’s no moon out tonight?

Nothing wrong with that.

Yes but…how am I able to see, without light from a moon, or stars? Or lampposts, or apartment windows, with lamps or candles? Or car, or traffic lights? My cornea is receiving nothing.

You think you’re so smart.

Also what’s with the lack of fire escapes on these buildings? That a hazard, right? What time is it? How did I get here? Where’s my mommy? Do those shadows belong to me or to someone else? If they’re someone else’s, is he watching me right now? And what’s he holding? Why is there even a shadow, with no light sourcing it? What if I dipped this stick into this bucket?

Smarty smart smart, I know your type. Smarty. Wait, what? Why would you do that?

Yes. I think I should dip it. Directly in.

But, what would be the point?

Well to be honest, I’m not sure. But it has to be done.

I disagree. You should explore the rest of this alley. Or better yet. Leave the alley before you do anything rash.

What’s rash about it? Besides, I shouldn’t be exploring. His shadow frightens me.

Your emotions are baseless. Your assumptions are baseless. Control over this irrational fear should be your priority. Yes. Yes, facing your anxiety is your singular option.

No. My fear will manifest and destroy me, but only if I allow myself to see it. Yes. Dipping this piece of wood is a prudent action.

I fail to understand. What do you hope to discover?

Guilt. There’s so much of it.

That’s…what, your guilt? Guilt over what?

Guilt is guilt. Dipping this piece of wood shall alleviate my piece of it.  

This manifestation of your guilt is highly irrational. You should not be so accommodating, to yourself.

It’s actually a manifestation of my absolution, but it doesn’t matter. I can’t leave until I –

–  do what you want

–  do what I want. Who are you again?

Doesn’t matter. Did you dip it yet?


…well? Do you feel different?

…well nothing yet. Wait. Maybe a little…no.

Where did you leave the stick? Inside the bucket?

Hey now. It’s not a stick, it’s a piece of wood. Please don’t call it a stick.

What’s the difference?

A “stick” has the connotation of something fallen from a tree. From what I can tell, my stick was machine-made, in a factory.

You just called it a stick.

No I didn’t. Did I? You’re lying. Only I can say it. It was a mistake.

Let’s just stop arguing over syntax, given the circumstances. How are you feeling?   


Come again?

You meant to say semantics, not syntax. Syntax is the meaning behind words and phrases as they’re arranged together. Semantics covers the meaning of the words and phrases themselves.

Oh look, smarty smart smart is back. So what’s it like to know everything?

If you think I’m smart, it’s because I am.

Can’t argue with that. Mind if I take the stick out now?

No. Please don’t take it out.

Too late. Mind if I wipe in on my shirt and then set it on the ground?

No. Are you out of your mind?

I think I’ll go take a peek behind that corner. I’ll probably be back.

No. Don’t. Wait.


About the Author

Philip Kuan is an aspiring Californian writer with a passion for befuddling readers. Some of his favorite authors include Charles Dickens, Tolkien, and Franz Kafka, among others. He has been published in several short story magazines, and is always looking for constructive feedback at