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

Shock-Headed Peter
Shelagh Power-Chopra

I once met a Peter and he kissed me against a yew tree, in the backyard at George Elke’s cocktail party. We fit well together just inside the hollow, soaked with night dew, a dozen guests swimming at our backs. And I didn’t have to fight for my honor, or my owner. Do you own her—own your honor? he asked. He was salty in voice, a true raconteur but, like the tree, his storytelling was inside. His branches grew slipshod; whiskers brushed my cheek. So quick to touch me, turn me, dine me, wine me.

It was a night in the country, a damp night; the sky heavy with whey and we rode back to the city together like royalty in his Citroen. Windows down, arms out, tongues wagging, down and round the dirty lanes. So fast it came, this love. It felt as if bandits were following on horseback. He reached his hand toward me as he drove, laid his palm flat on my lap. What do you say about slovenly creatures? he asked, the high pitch of the road rising before us. Dust is done and dirt is rumored, I answered, and he laughed, his face a night smile, its colors shifting into a dark fog.

I became involved. Yes, there were reasons. We shared a home, a hearth, shared our health and wealth, brew in the same stew. And yes, Peter was a messy man with tangled tufts of hair left everywhere and it reminded me of bales of damp hay, of the muddy petticoats of peasants. I should have carried a pitchfork with me at all times and I could have staked claim to his nest. He left his clothing on all floors, argyle socks and synthetic ties in the hamper. Pots and pans sat in the sink; empty wine bottles littered the lawn. Trails of nails and other droppings, drippings, and whatnot.

I’ve never met a messy man I didn’t like, especially if they pardoned their own messes. Peter’s were pardonable by any stretch. His aged yellow fingers from smoking and poking. The doping on the stairs and drinking in the den. Dust bunnies migrated across great distances to visit him and the mites played cribbage in his hair. We could have had a flea circus together; his wiry mop met mine and we ran a bridge across and settled our crew in. Trained and tricked the staff, a bundle of little props for them to dance upon, tiny chaise lounges and paper drums and miniature red fezzes for all creatures.

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