A Landlord Is an Act

By Jaclyn Watterson

My sister had taken up with a landlord who owned our building, most of the others on the block, and a toilet factory. My sister had taken to putting toilets in the most outlandish places, and could not be reasoned with. Peg called it a phase, but my sister said, Flushing is both ancient and contemporary, in every sense.

My sister had taken up with a landlord whose hands were machines. The landlord was arrogant and sloppy in his uniform, and his hands resembled electric can openers from the 1970s. The landlord was only thirty years old, and often groped my sister in public. His hands could not open cans.

Peg was ruffled, and swallowed a pill without water. We must, she said, take action. But the pill made Peg sleepy, and I followed suit, and soon we were evicted for non-payment of rent.

What I mean is, my sister is arrogant and sloppy, and when she was with the landlord, these qualities were enhanced. We can call her dress a uniform, because it resembled one. Lace, polka dots, zippers. They took on a metallic sheen, my sister’s hands, and burned in the sun. Though she has never been employed, my sister is a resourceful woman.

The landlord raised rent and bought a small canning factory, where peaches were stuffed into tin with uncanny regularity. My sister began placing bowls of once canned peaches on top of all the toilets she had put in outlandish places.

But really what I’m trying to say is that the landlord was neither benevolent nor a movie star. He didn’t have the looks, and he didn’t have the stomach.

I have seen a lot of things, and those syrupy peaches in bowls on top of those toilets — !

My sister said, You ought to leave Peg behind.

Instead, Peg and I stayed on the sidewalk and peddled pills until we had enough to buy a cannery of our own — peas. My sister could not understand the psychology behind this, and she said, Peas are such a melancholy vegetable, the color of inaction. My sister, around this time, was always departing with her landlord, who preferred peaches, finally, to groping.

How the peas changed us is they made us competitive with the landlord, whom my sister began insisting we call Art.

The landlord kept his buildings locked, but we hired an actor to deliver cans of peas. To what end? Melancholia is not necessarily inactive.

My sister said, You’ve got to stop!

It matters little to me whether you can console your landlord. For my part, I prefer privacy to tact.

Jaclyn Watterson’s recent work appears in places like Birkensnake, The Collagist, Western Humanities Review, and elsewhere. She currently lives with one cat in Salt Lake City.