Peter F. Crowley

Peter F. Crowley is an independent writer from the Boston area. His poetry book Those Who Hold Up the Earth was released by Kelsay Books in 2020. Other work of his can be found in Pif Magazine, Galway Review, Opiate Magazine and Counterpunch, among other publications.

The Broadcaster

Mickey, a 31-year old man with red curly hair, had the habit of broadcasting his pre-dream images and dreams to whoever was around. He would broadcast these in a dull, monotone voice as they were occurring.

     When he and his wife Danielle, who had raven hair, pale skin and dark brown eyes, started spending nights together about five years ago, she found this tendency of his odd, though a little amusing.

       But for the most part, she tuned him out, as his dreams seemed nonsensical. Danielle knew better than to attribute too much to dreams; it would just cause problems over nothing, she felt.

     One evening, Mickey was exhausted after having insomnia the previous night. After Mickey returned late from work at 7:30 and ate a quick dinner with Danielle, he went to bed. A few minutes later, Danielle brought her headphones to bed beside him.

     She looked over at him.

     Useless. Just useless. Every night he eats dinner and falls right to sleep. Weekends aren’t even much different. We go to a sports bar and watch a game. If I try to talk, he looks at me like he’s annoyed. Why did I marry him? One day goes into the next and they all seem the same. I tried Tawkify and got tons of messages. Maybe I should just go out and meet someone on that. Not to cheat on Mickey, but just to see where it leads. Maybe I’d meet new friends and have more things to do than just sit next to him at sports bars.

      Danielle could not help noticing signs distress on Mickey’s face. She paused New Girl, took out her earbuds and listened.

     “Egg eyes, no, egg shell eyes with perforation slits in the middle. Why is that guy running backwards? Where is he going? No, that’s stupid. Don’t hang from that water slide. The sun’s bright, too bright, but that’s not the sun, it’s a bright color spectrum that keeps changing and has a rip through it, as if it were paper, or maybe paper burning through the center. There’s a tension all around, those shoulders look so tense. Am I asleep yet? Just stop focusing on different things. Try a memory. Dinner at Pizzeria Due, Chicago-style pizza in Chicago, with tomato sauce on top and cheese underneath. Danielle’s sitting across from me, we’re not talking. Have been fighting all day. Eyes of the sun. Sun is blinking, or winking, I can’t tell. The sun starts rolling around like a kickball. No, that’s not the sun. It’s a human head rolling!”

     Should I wake him up? Danielle thought.

     “There’s a train station, but it looks more like a tourist center. It’s in Cologne, Germany. I’m traveling with Anthony Ramucci. His face looks like a 9-year old, but we’re all grown up and traveling across Europe. I tell him that I’ve traveled across Europe before – so I know how things are done. I go up to one of the tourist greeters, who sits behind a high desk, which are lined up along the edges of the circular room. They can’t help me. I try another greeter. She can’t help and recommends going directly to the train station. She asks, “Does this look like a train station?” I admit that it doesn’t. Then Danielle is there, and we trek up an unimaginably steep hill, at almost a 90-degree angle, to the train station. Anthony is gone. We’re holding on tight to the side railing. I’m glad that I’m stronger than I was when I visited Europe last time – otherwise, I wouldn’t be able to hold on. But what about Danielle? I glance back and see her freefalling in the air, like she’s falling out of a building.”

      Danielle gasped, shook Mickey and said, “Wake up! Wake up!”

      Mickey’s eyes remained shut.

      “The police are jostling me, asking in broken English why I let her fall. I shrug. All I can say is ‘I forgot she was behind me.’ Danielle’s father calls and is incredibly sad. I am sad too but only pretend to be. We talk for a while and then suddenly her father’s spirit is lifted when we talk about the Kansas City Chiefs.”

      Danielle held Mickey’s nose, put her lips close to Mickey’s left ear and said, “Wake up!”

     “The teacher is yelling in my ear. I’ve fallen asleep again in 11th grade English class. But how have I not graduated high school yet? I’m always so behind! People my age have real jobs, kids and their own family. But I have a college degree – how did I not graduate high school? I’m supposed to give an oral presentation in two days, but I need to avoid it – to call in sick or something. I can’t stand in front of the entire class. I have to get away somehow, but I have to graduate from high school…I’m in my thirties for Christ’s sake!”

     Mickey’s eyes flickered open, and he turned toward Danielle, a bit surprised.

     “Hey babe. Still awake?” he asked.

     “Yep. You ok? You were tossing and turning a lot. Seemed like you had a bad dream.”

     “Eh, not that bad. Just this recurring dream about not graduating from high school even though I’m 31.”

     Danielle peered over at him, I’ve been with you for five year and a half years. And you don’t even care if I die, you bastard.

     Mickey looked into the darkness and said, “I also dreamt about how someone I knew died, but it didn’t seem to matter. Almost like a weight was released. I know that’s wrong to say, but…”

     Danielle bit her lower lip, hesitated and said, “Yeah, dreams can be funny like that.”

     She leapt out of bed and walked out of the room. In the kitchen, she took a steak knife out from an aluminum tray holding utensils.

     In less than a minute, she stood over Mickey. Although darkness shrouded her, Mickey noticed both her hands were behind her back.

     “Did you get me some water?” Mickey asked.

     Water? I’m not your servant!

     A shimmering object moved through the dark room. Before Mickey could say anything, the sharp kitchen knife pierced deep into his chest. Danielle stabbed him repeatedly until his cries faded away.

      She turned on the light and pulled Mickey’s dead weight from the bed and onto the floor. She used all her strength to push his body underneath the bed.

     After turning out the lights, she lay on the bed and closed her eyes.

     For a while she tossed and turned. The room felt so quiet.

     Stretching out her hand across the queen bed, Danielle touched a wet spot. She put her hand to her nose, and a metallic smell overwhelmed her, causing her to gag.

     Maybe I shouldn’t have taken his dreams so seriously, she thought.

The Special Suite

The off-white marble ceiling looked down on the couple and their child as they entered the hotel lobby. Behind the concierge desk, a man with long brown hair, glasses, and sideburns that were disconnected from beard and moustache, smiled at them. A blonde-haired woman trainee with a child-like face stood next to him, watching as he typed onto a desktop computer.

       “Hi, we have a reservation,” said Rekha, who was tall and had black hair flowing out from underneath her wool hat.

      “Certainly, what’s name?” the male concierge asked.

      “Mukherjee-Reed.”

      “You’re staying for two nights?”

      “Yeah.”

      “Great, your room is 345. Breakfast will be served from 7-10 and coffee is available all day.”

     Rekha and her husband, Brad, their 8-month old, Hudson, started for the elevator.

     The male concierge said, “Oh, I forgot to mention one thing.”

     “What’s that?” Brad asked.

     “There’ve been some complaints about bird sounds coming from the vent around sunrise. But those people were on the other side of the hotel from where you’ll be staying.”

     Rekha yawned and said, “Well, I guess a natural alarm clock then.”

     “Yeah, exactly. But you won’t be affected by it. Have a good evening.”

     They took the elevator up to the third floor, where a thick, whitish dust pervaded the air. Once in the room, Rekha and Brad laid down on their king bed and closed their eyes. Hudson remained sleeping in the stroller.

      The drive from Charlotte to Richmond had been challenging. The trip was normally not more than four hours, but they got stuck in an hour’s worth of morning rush hour traffic leaving Charlotte. Near the state line, Hudson cried. They pulled over at a rest area to feed him and change his diaper. It was 2:30 when they go back onto the highway, and they hit afternoon rush hour traffic outside of Richmond. Hudson started screaming, not wanting to be confined to a car seat any longer.

     By 4:30, they had finally reached the hotel.

     They were asleep for less than 15 minutes when a banging noise came from the next room.

     Brad opened his right eye and thought, “They must be having sex.”

     Hudson and Rekha were still sleeping, and the sound went away. Brad shut his eyes and fell back into dreamland.

     Ten minutes later, the entire room shook, and the loud banging sound returned.

     “What is that?” asked Rekha, sitting up in bed.

     Hudson began crying. Brad carried him out of the carriage and walked over to the window. All that was visible in the darkness were the closed shades of other hotel rooms, with yellow light glowing out from the window’s edges. In the distance, a few skyscrapers overlooked the hotel.

     “Construction, I guess. But what a weird time for it.”

     Rekha left their room to investigate and, sure enough, the room next to theirs was gutted. Two men were drilling panels into the wall.

     She went down to the front desk and said to the woman concierge, “There’s construction in the room next to us.”

    “I’ll get my trainer.”

    In a few minutes, the male concierge emerged. He tilted his head to the side and asked, “How may I be of service?”

     Rekha repeated what she had told the woman.

     “It’s not quite five yet, still part of the work day. And, depending on who you are, some people work until six.”

     “But this is a hotel…I’d like a room change.”

     “Oh? Are the birds bothering you? Maybe they’re constructing a nest. In that case, it’s just nature, and I don’t think there’s much we can do.”

     “We’ll leave this hotel right now and demand a full refund unless you change our room. And we’ll give this place a horrible review.”

     The concierge muttered to the trainee, “Apparently, some people don’t appreciate nature…do you happen to see any other rooms available?”

     “Not that I can see.”

     The man leaned over, looked into her desktop computer and asked, “What about up there? They won’t hear birds building their nests in the vents there. Plus, it’s close to nature.”

     Rekha said, “We don’t want to be close to nature. We just want a quiet room where we can relax.”

     “Of course, you do,” said the man, “and we completely understand that. I think you’ll be happy in our new, special suite. It has the charm of the old with a flare of the new. It’s close to nature, while being extremely quiet. We think you’ll love it.”

     He handed Rekha an old-fashioned key.

     “Just go up to the fourth floor and it’s the last door in the hall. There are a few stairs to go up…I really can’t wait to hear what you think.”

    The family packed their luggage and took the elevator up to the next floor. Rekha and Brad exchanged glances as the lights at the end of the hallway dimmed.

     They unlocked a door that led to brightly-lit stairway, which had Max Ernst replicas decorating the walls. Rekha carried Hudson out of the carriage, Brad took the luggage, and they trudged up the stairs.

     At the top, Brad placed the luggage down and after some difficulty, jiggled the key into the lock. The knob turned but the door was stuck. They both pushed on the door, Rekha with her back and Brad with his shoulder, until it finally squeaked opened.

     They stepped out into a gust of bitter cold February wind as the door slammed shut behind them. The Richmond skyline was before them with snow flurries falling.

     An unknown number showed up on Rekha’s cellphone.

     When she answered, a familiar male voice asked, “How do you like our new special suite?”

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