Excerpt: A Figure from the Common Lot (Peas in a Pod second)
Peas in a Pod
“Fish! I have other jobs to do. I don’t mind helping you, but you got to get your worthless shit stowed!” He looked fiercely at Lawrence. “Mrs. Purfoy done rent Tinker’s room. I don’t wanna see you in there, brother…not today, not tomorrow, not one time, not never no more!”
Richard heard the name uttered tentatively, the voice coming from the hall outside Hopper’s room. He had the door and windows open. He had almost emptied his jug of water. And the water had come out again through his pores. If any air moved, it moved at the pace of a glacier and breathed the heat of an inferno.
“What, sir? I can’t tell you anything about Schumacher.”
The light was not strong in this alley-facing room. The man stepped inside, mopping over his neck with a bandanna, dabbing at a thin patch of scalp exposed between tufts of russet hair. A stranger to Richard, he might be around thirty, older by a few years than the man he sought.
“Schumacher…I was going to say, told me I might find you here. I’ve been away from town. You are Everard? Oh, and I apologize…I am Manners.”
He had come to pay his rent. Richard, at the moment, wished not to look Manners in the eye, but his brush could hold only so much. The day before, he had smashed apart Hopper’s box with a mallet, his rage at sons of bitches, disloyal kin, and ditchweeds burnt down to a simmer by sundown, when finally he’d laid aside his tools, having pulled a can of nails. These, he would carry home to Thomas. The devil, Richard thought, could take the boards…but likely enough, no one would take them, and Thomas in the morning could deal as he chose.
Richard’s imagination had forsaken him. Fish’s boon companion would go further wrong each day; and these days, although Mama would not believe it, Richard had no sway with his brother. He was not loved by Lawrence…he would not be listened to.
Yet she asked this of him, that he protect (“look after,” she said), his younger brother. He found it unjust. He was a year older than Lawrence. What had he ever learned in life, that his brother ought not to know as well as Richard knew it? Mama seemed to rank them sentimentally: Micah near mythical, Richard held responsible…and Lawrence, incapable. Richard could not do what his mother asked, though it was her faith that crushed him, not the asking of itself. But he had no time to chase after Lawrence, and also be head of the house, and earn a living.
He and his brother were no longer friends.
The way was dark, and no comforting picture had come to Richard’s mind, as he slapped whitewash on Hopper’s wall. He had always, in the past, been able to daydream. He’d felt the tears well, and let them fall, their course drowned in the sweat that dripped from his hair. He was alone. But…apparently, not.
Peas in a Pod
(2017, Stephanie Foster)