Dusty Cooper

Dusty recently received his Master’s of Creative Writing from Southeastern Louisiana University, and was awarded the Spring 2011 D. Vickers Award for Creative Writing. His work has appeared in Fogged Clarity, Berkeley Fiction Review, Paper Nautilus, and in an upcoming issue of Weave Magazine. Dusty is currently teaching freshman composition at SLU.

Dusty recently received his Master’s of Creative Writing from Southeastern Louisiana University, and was awarded the Spring 2011 D. Vickers Award for Creative Writing. His work has appeared in Fogged Clarity, Berkeley Fiction Review, Paper Nautilus, and in an upcoming issue of Weave Magazine. Dusty is currently teaching freshman composition at SLU.

Drained

Phil surveyed the hazard area left by the previous tenants.

They’d made the place a rat’s nest of freshly used women’s hygiene products, kitty litter, and dirty dishes. The house was no more than a spider hole: one room for living and cooking, one for showering and sleeping. Phil tried renting to single occupants, but the kind of trash that answered his ads weren’t the kind to follow rules. They’d move their families in, or their friends’ visits would turn into extended stays. The last tenant let a woman and her two kids live with him. How they fit without sleeping on top of each other, Phil couldn’t imagine. The guy hadn’t paid rent for the last two months. Phil used everything but a crowbar to get them out of there.

“They suck you dry,” he said to his friend, Gus. “Drain you until you’ve got no option but kick’em out.”

“Yep,” Gus said, studying a section of the wall where someone’s fist had broken through. Frayed fibers fringed the dark hole. A piece of sheetrock dangled from a strip of wallpaper. He tried folding it back in place, but it didn’t fit. “Told you this landlord business was no fun.”

“It ain’t so bad,” Phil said. “Every year or two I got to do some renovations, but it’s a monthly supplement to my Social check.” Phil amended, “When the trash pays.”

Gus let the chunk of sheetrock drop, and it crumbled at his feet. “You ever have one leave without having to kick’em out for not paying?”

“Not in awhile,” Phil said. Carolyn, his late wife, used to handle the interviewing. She read people. Tenants weren’t as much trouble when she was making the calls.

He turned in the doorway, scanned the yard, all mud holes and tire trenches, and beyond that acres of woods. That’s why he’d bought the place as a young man. Cheap land, and he just needed enough room to rest when he got off work. The square-footage provided plenty of space until he met Carolyn.

“I’ll just raise the rent this time. Get somebody that’ll take care of the place,” Phil said.

“Yeah, we’ll see,” Gus said and began tearing down the battered wall. “You’re going to have to replace at least two panels.”