Fiction—The Tenants, The Piece of Red Hair—Peter Crowley
Peter F. Crowley is an author with a M.S. in Conflict Resolution, Global Studies from Northeastern University. He works as Senior Semantic Enrichment Specialist for a prominent library science company. His writings can be found in Boston Literary Magazine, Mint Press News, Wilderness House Literary Review, 34th Parallel Magazine, Counterpunch, Galway Review, Lothlorien Poetry Journal, Work Literary Magazine, Znet, Opiate Magazine, Truthout, Green Fuse Press, Antiwar.com, Peace Review, Visitant, Peace Studies Journal, Adelaide Magazine, Ethnic Studies Review, Middle East Monitor and Dissident Voice, among several other publications. His poetry book Those who hold up the earth was released by Kelsay Books in 2020.
The tenants were selected blindly. The windows were shattered, and dirt was their food.
How they warred for landlord, showing such fortitude. Sometimes, they’d bring back enemy heads and say, “Here, landlord, this is enemy.” The landlord glanced over and smiled before returning to playing cards with his friends.
One time, when landlord journeyed to Paris for a conference, a few tenants began playing cards, like the landlord. Word spread and the card players were hung by a tenant mob.
The landlord returned. Again, all was fine and good.
Somehow, a few books fell into the hands of a tenant. The tenant suggested to others that they change the landlord system, that it be based on merit and that no one suffer. The tenants would have none of this. They tortured and burned her at the stake. As she burned, the tenant mob shouted with flushed faces, “We like our broken windows! We love eating dirt!”
The landlord looked over from the card game with a broad smile. He stood, took off his black top hat, placed it over his chest and said, “I salute you all.”
The Piece of Red Hair
A long red hair stretched down from Michael’s shoulder to his chest.
As he was filling the coffee boiler with water, Gretchen eyed him.
“Curious to see how I make coffee?” he asked.
“No,” Gretchen said. She took the hair off his shoulder, held it up before him and asked, “What’s this?”
“Looks like a red hair to me.”
“Yeah, no kidding. Whose is it?”
“It’s from a dream I had…I was walking alone through a dense forest where it was hard to see in front of me and there wasn’t much sunlight coming through.”
“Sounds like in Connors Woods.”
“I think it was, actually…I was walking and spotted a deer eating grass. The deer heard me, looked up and our eyes met. Then it started running right at me. I darted away and before I knew it, I was out of the forest, on a narrow path leading up a hill. I outran the deer but kept turning around to see if it’d emerge from the woods.
In the distance, two women approached. One had long, flowing red hair that glistened under the sun and the other wore a baseball cap that hid her face. I thought to myself, ‘I’m going to talk to the one with red hair.’”
“Why are you telling me this?”
“You asked…Anyways, as the women got closer, the one with red hair was actually pretty old, probably in her 70s. The other woman took off her baseball hat and had the same long red hair going down her shoulders. They must’ve been mother-daughter. The daughter had pale skin, full red lips and forest-green eyes that matched the trees. I stopped walking just to look at her.”
“Right. And that’s exactly when you came running out from the woods! As the deer came closer, it turned into you, but it was the teenage you with a nose ring and that haircut you used to have, with two long thick strands of pink hair in the front and the rest of your head shaved.”
“I remember that. Guys in high school used to ask, ‘Why did you shave your head? Don’t you want to look like a girl?’”
“What did you say back?”
“Nothing. I just stared at them like I was going to bury them alive.”
“I know that stare! But that’s not what you were doing when you saw us. You started pulling at the young woman’s hair. She didn’t seem to mind, oddly enough. She just looked to her mother with an eyeroll, as if this were the kind of inconvenience she faced always faced. It was one of the risks, I guess, of being a knockout. By the time you were done with the younger woman, you had pulled out half of her hair. The mother tried to pull out her own hair so she could give some to her daughter. I felt really bad for the daughter, so I tried to kiss her, but you put your hand between our mouths. Then you pushed me back and spit at me. You yelled something that I couldn’t understand and threw a clump of her red hair at me, which landed right on my shoulder.”
Gretchen smiled, shook her head and held up the long piece of hair.
“So, that’s where this came from? You bastard!”