portion of the artwork for Shelagh Power-Chopra's fiction

The Story of Cruel Peter
Shelagh Power-Chopra

When I was twenty my uncle gave me a book of love poems. “To Helen, love Uncle Peter,” he wrote in the opening leaves of the aged brown book. I didn’t like the poems, they were of the funerary sort and dragged down the best of us:

“I pray for a camel,” began one and ended at “love left the copse, scampered circular.” I could have killed him, leaving me this dripping book of bruised hearts.

Uncle Peter wasn’t really my uncle but liked to call himself an uncle; the title felt jolly and jesty to him but it only made me think of an aging convalescent in a sanatorium; beet red and ready to defend himself against the world. Like Hans wandering the mountain trails and halls of his gloomy sanatorium trying to engage his fellow patients.

Later on when we fell in love, or when we fell in the way of love, I should say, our bodies tumbling on armchairs, our hearts beating down dark halls, he was always angry at me for coming home late, for dropping things and drinking too much wine. I’m responsible for myself I would say, I’m in my own parade. But he disagreed, never believed the body really had that much control.

He was working on a book about a man who beats his wife and dog. He beats his dog more than the wife and the lines repeat themselves throughout the story. He beats his dog and then his wife, he wrote, then again, and I told him there should be more to the story but he didn’t agree. This is the true story, he tells me.

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FRiGG: A Magazine of Fiction and Poetry | Issue 34 | Fall 2011