The Iron Writer Challenge #185
2017 Spring Equinox Challenge #6
500 Words, 5 Days, 4 Elements
Elaine Johnson, Enoch Kingsley Quaye, Vance Rowe, Steven L. Bergeron, Tina Biscuit
Group of boys reading (photo)
A pile of dung
Three shots heard in the distance
Bang! Another one! That made, what? Three! Three shots, off in the distance.
Tommy stared at his mother.
She swallowed and turned toward the wall, “Stop dawdling and finish your breakfast if you know what’s good for you!” Her back was to him, rigid; her knuckles white as she gripped the counter, the bun that all mothers wore coming undone.
He stuffed the toast in his jacket and slipped past his mother, still staring at the crack going down the wall.
It was a beautiful day in the Bronx. The sun was shining off the decaying wooden buildings, laundry was dripping from lines slung across the streets, and even the street cleaners seemed cheerful as they collected yesterday’s dung to be sold as fertilizer.
He made his way past a rent collector shaking his finger, “Are you calling me a slumlord?”
Another eviction. Two burly men were piling some family’s furniture on the streets, as the father argued with them and the children huddled around the mother who wept shamed tears into her apron. His best friend was in earnest conversation with the oldest boy, standing a few feet away, kicking his feet, “Whatcha gonna do?”
The boy, Hank, that was his name, crossed his arms, “America stinks. We’re going home, back to the old country. We’re not going to stay in a place like this anymore.”
Tommy balled up his fists, “Don’t you dare say that! This is the greatest country on earth! There’s no king to oppress us!”
A man dumped a pile of hand-stitched linens on the filthy sidewalk and the mother burst into renewed sobs. Hank glanced at his family and swung as hard as he could at Tommy.
They were on the ground punching when their friend shoved his way between the two, hissing that his father was right there. Both boys froze when they saw the man eyeing them, his hands meaningfully gripping his thick leather belt.
They scrambled up. Tommy was not really crying; obviously, he couldn’t do that in front of people, but he swiped his face. Hank burst out, “How would you know if this place is so great? You were born here.”
Tommy clenched his fists. Whipping or not, nobody was going to talk like that.
Their friend interjected, “We couldn’t leave if we wanted. We don’t have money for passage home. Anyway, the tsar took our land, so there’s no home to go home to, not if we went back.” His eyes were wistful, “I miss home.”
Tommy’s mouth dropped open. His eyes narrowed, “Go back then. What are you doing here anyway? I don’t miss the old country. My parents came here for the children. It’s the greatest place on earth. Anyone can make it here if they work hard. If they study.”
Hank’s mother burst into renewed tears.
Tommy and his friend scrambled away from the chaos. They didn’t have much to say and only glanced back once.
“The library will open pretty soon. Let’s go!”
Enoch Kingsley Quaye
It was an old house and THE ROOM served multiple purposes.From 6:00 PM to 6 AM everyday, it was the large sleeping area for the street boys. At 6 AM the boys got ready for the overpopulated public school. Between 7:00 AM and 7:45 AM, temporal workers brought in the tables and chairs and created a makeshift library. The same children who less than three hours before were drooling on the floor, sat in a studious manner reading books from Astrology to Zoology from 8. The library closed at 3:00 PM and readjusted The Room to a place of residence.
Today, the slumlord stood behind the doors that led to the old library. His face grim and searching. He looked at the school boys gathered in front of the library. It was almost 8 a.m and the library was to open soon. Everything was in place and moving according to plan. The deception was so good it was easy to slip into character. His eyes scrutinised the boys from the left to the right. Their innocence and sheer dedication to their books amused him. Ten minutes more and the library would open so they could explore dozens of boxes that held books. He let himself smile although something irritated him.
The police had been tipped off about his drug trade. Although the information had been scanty, and the Police only knew the slumlord as a humanitarian who allowed his room to be used by the community, the police planned to investigate the claim nonetheless. Fortunately, his contacts in the police- a boy who had grown up in The Room and found himself in the force informed their benefactor of a search and helped him prepare for it. The stock had been hidden in a pile of dung behind The Room. Somewhere it was never going to be found.
The police had however been late to arrive.He grunted his irritation and walked back into the room to take his seat as the librarian. No sooner had his buttocks touched the hard wooden chair than he hear the police sirens. “About time” he spat. He looked outside, saw the kids stayed sprawled in front of the library and smiled a cold smile.
The smile on his face melted off when he heard three gunshots in a distance. The search was supposed to be with minimum force because of the children. The librarian looked outside and saw the kids run helter-skelter. Moments later, the task force in full body armour broke the library open. He shot his hands straight into the and sobbed. He was not a hardened criminal, only a greedy con man who had managed to sell his hard drugs for years using the deception of The Room.
Minutes later, the team pulled a box hidden in a pile of dung behind the house. It was over and he knew it. His face buried in his palms, he saw one more policeman stride in. It was his boy. “Sorry Pops” he said, “they offered me a deal”. Ironically, it was 8:00 AM, the time the library was supposed to open.
Scenes From a Window
New York City, 1929
Young Vito Antonelli was lying on the couch in his sparse living room. He is running a slight fever and has a sore throat. It was the middle of the summer and he would rather be outside with his friends but his mother told him he has to remain indoors today. She is out to the market to buy a few things for tonight’s dinner and to get Vito some medicine. His father is down at the docks, hoping to get work today so Vito is left alone. He lies on the couch and looks across the room at the dingy wallpaper. It’s a cream color, or was at one time, with tiny red flowers dotting it. Most of it was brown now from the years of smoking cigarettes that must have went on in this living room. The hardwood floors were old and dusty. He sighed. He wants to be outside today.
Suddenly, he heard what sounded like gun shots in the distance. Vito leapt up off of the couch and rushed to his window. He threw the window open and leaned out to see what he can see. Being eight stories up in a building, he can see quite a bit. The shots again, this time closer. Much to his dismay, it was only the back-firing of an automobile. He continued to lean on the window sill and look out and see what was going on, like a king overlooking his kingdom from a castle tower. Vito loved sitting up here looking out of the window because there was never usually a dull moment out on the streets. Then he saw the landlord of his building standing outside down on the sidewalk. This man is just mean through and through and is a well-known slumlord throughout the city but he charges the cheapest rent so people go to him.
Vito looked down at him just standing there with a smug look on his face, wearing an expensive suit and smoking an expensive cigar. Then a man from another apartment in Vito’s building, walked outside and is very angry. He began yelling at the slumlord about the rats in his apartment. They argued back and forth, gesturing with their hands and each one trying to talk louder than the other one. They were arguing in English and Italian. It was quite the sight to see. Then Vito saw some of his friends across the street and they were carrying books. They were going to the library.
The boys walked up to the library and found it wasn’t opened yet so they sat on the steps and began thumbing through their books one last time.
Vito then heard people laughing and he looked down and saw that the man arguing with the slumlord had punched the slumlord and he fell back into the street and right into a fresh pile of dung that was just left by the horse pulling the vegetable and fruit cart. Vito chuckled and remained there to continue to watch the entertainment of the city streets. Not a bad thing for a kid who is sick today.
Pine Ridge Manor
Steven L Bergeron
Monday morning rolled around, and I had the uncanny task of making my way to Pine Ridge Manor. A low rental housing complex which George Johnson renovated after his Dude Ranch was no longer profitable. In accordance to the resident complaints, a gas mask and rubber gloves would be required for this one. It didn’t take me long to determine their complaints had merit, of all the years as a health inspector this one took the cake.
“Damn him, Damn them all. Gloria where on earth did your boy go off to this time?”
“His name is Jeremiah. I presume it didn’t go well with the health inspector?”
“They gave me thirty day to make this place humanly habitable. If that is not the worse Jeremiah’s mutt left a little present in front of 13B. When you guys moved in he promised me he’d take care of him. Just say the word, in two weeks I would be able to mold Jeremiah into a pleasant pillar of the community.”
“You just worry about straighten up this place. I will raise Jeremiah as I see fit.”
“Fine sis. Now I got to find the funds required for the repairs they are talking about.”
“Well if money is the object dad did agree to help out.”
“Right never on this bloody earth will I be indebted to the old man. As soon as Jeremiah gets back tell him to do something with that mutt or I will?”
Pine ridge library was the only place for Jeremiah and his friends to do their studies. There was five of them, they got dress in their Sunday best in hoping the security guard would be a little more lenient on the time they spent there. Unfortunately, due to the funds available the library had limited access. The guard walked by every ten minutes taping on his watch eyeing them. The daily funds had run out. To finish there studies the outside steps was their new home.
They all said our goodbye they were on our way back home. Suddenly there was an irritating sound that startled them all. Not one, or two, but three shot were heard from the distance of Pine Ridge Manor. Jeremiah’s first impression was that of relief. She has finally done it he had thought to himself. Mom had finally gotten rid of his Uncle George their life was about to change.
Once he arrived at the sight of the shooting it was umbearable. They against a far tree he saw his mother trembling. Over to his right they were zippering me up in a body in a bag. Looking over he spotted his uncle in handcuffed in the back of the police cruiser, it was finally over.
Pine ridge Manor had now become Jeremiah and his mother’s lucrative business. The resident can now live in a place they should be proud to call there home.
King of the Hill
You can’t smell the dung any more: the dung heap, which breaks the wind from your squalid shacks; the dung you packed into the cracks in the corrugated roofs, to shelter from the monsoon; the dung which insinuates itself into the fabric of your ragged clothes, its stench filling your nostrils, and its filth clogging every pore of your childhood skin.
The pile was precious, the slumlord had said.
‘Where there’s muck there’s brass’, he said with pride, but he never used it, you knew he wouldn’t. The rent would be doubled, and so would the mire. The fields he would fertilise never appeared. He put up more shacks, bleeding you dry. He collected scrap metal, still coveting brass.
You climb up higher, keeping up with your friends; grubby hands pulling skinny bodies to the top of the heap. You stop at the peak, and survey the treasures: metal of all kinds, engorged in a dump. You know all the values, the weights, and the measures, but you also know the penalties, if you ever get caught. You pick out a book, discarded amongst the scrap. As you open the cover, your friends draw in near. They lean over your shoulders; they huddle in tight. You enjoy being the leader, and pause for a breath. As you turn over the pages, you stop at a photograph.
‘Library’, you read out loud. You don’t know the word, none of you does. Your friends point, admiring the leather shoes which other boys wear. They have a book each, and cases of secrets, which you will never know. Their flat caps are ridiculous, when you live in such heat, but you think you all want one, while you stroke through their world – not reading a word.
You duck your heads, just out of sight. The slumlord is prowling, looking for thieves. You look down to see your father confronting him, and you watch as they wave their arms and shout. The two keep on walking, between the rows of shacks. This is your chance, and you pull out copper pipes, lead, and anything shiny. The gold metal is brass, your father had told you, but you still think it’s gold.
‘Take as much as you can carry’, he had said with a wink, ‘the slumlord won’t catch you – not today’.
You pull, and you pry, and pile up the pieces. The noise is quite deafening as you heave and drop the pipes, but not as loud as the first shot.
‘That’s just a warning’, your friend says with a nod. ‘The second will hurt him’, he continues, undaunted, ‘I want to hear him scream’. You look at your friends; your mouth opens wide.
The second shot is in colour, in pictures you paint.
Your father had told you, without any words. Your friends all know, and cover their ears. Pick up the pieces, and carry your gold.
The third shot is silent.
You don’t hear him scream.