Pure fiction with a real-life counterpart that began with my landlord imperiously shutting off my apartment building’s ’60s-era elevator, “Necessity” went through a few rounds of revisions – and then a few more – before taking the shape it now has in #144 of TNQ.
Here’s a bit from the first page. The rest, of course, is yours to track down.
“Bad is a relative term, I suppose. Or site-specific. I mean, my current nemesis—a white-haired retiree with a stoop who shares a last name with a kind of pasta—seems incapable of making a turtle retract into the safety of its shell. When nearby, he sits in a hulking SUV that does his Napoleonic physique no favours. To my knowledge he hasn’t kidnapped a soul or schooled a rival with the boxed delivery of a spouse’s ring ﬁnger. He’s my landlord. So far as I’ve learned, his empire begins and ends with the one nondescript apartment building, a stucco shoebox.
When he replies to emails (spottily, of course, and never promptly: he’s consoli-dated his power and aims to keep it) he signs off with Nicolas Landlord. No comma, no indication that one is a name and the other is a job. He’s fused himself to his status, and, yes, he does lord that over the tenants of his ﬁefdom.
Building tenants swap news scraps and rumours warily in the basement laundry room, in stairwells, and as they pass by the leather sofa chained to foyer tiles. In low tones, too, as though Nicolas Landlord has installed spying devices or else promised to dis-count the rent at one colluding unit in exchange for reliable intel about troublemakers. Like he might swing open a ﬁre door at an opportune moment. The two gossips caught in ﬂagrante delicto, treasonous words still hot on their tongues.
Sheepishness: that’s the case, I’d wager, when an elite holds power over the rabble. Ask any shepherd…”