map Character and Author

by Peter Crowley

Published in Issue No. 277 ~ June, 2020

“Whyyyyyy?” a young man bellows, gazing imploringly up a mountaintop.

Thunder cracks and lightning temporally alights the overcast afternoon.

“Why am I a white male character?”

The author, looking coldly into his half-written manuscript, responds, “Because. I am.”

“I am who I am because of your dull, unimaginative mind?”

“No, certainly not. This story has a bunch of interesting stuff going on. Just look around you!”

The young man looks around. The forest behind him is rather bare, bereft of birds and other animals. The mountain is treeless, with scattered large boulders. Thunder and lightning continue.

“But why isn’t there rain coming down? Thunder and lightning and no rain? It seems kind of weird.”

“I’ll write that in later. I’m on a roll now.”

The young man shakes his head, glancing despondently to the ground.

The author, rubbing his chin, looks worriedly into the computer.

“If you’re really unhappy, I can change your sex?”

The young man glares toward the mountaintop.

“Don’t look so surprised,” the author says, calmingly, “I’m open to changing things up.”

“You mean I’d get an operation on my you-know-what?”

“Well, I wasn’t thinking that, but clearly, that’s an option. I was thinking more of going back through the manuscript and adding an ‘s’ in front of all the ‘he’s.’”

The young man folds his arms, and emphatically shakes his head, “Are you really that lazy? Why am I stuck in the world of such a boorish writer?”

“Hey! That’s not fair! Besides, you aren’t doing too much yourself. You always seem to get distracted, then look out and complain.”

The young man takes a deep breath, glancing back to the empty forest, “Sorry…I guess.”

“It’s ok, it’s fine,” the author reassures him. “So, do you want that sex change, either operationally or by me going back and tweaking the manuscript?”

The young man’s eyes defiantly twinkle as he looks up towards the mountaintop.

“No! It’s too late for that. Thanks for offering, though. In the words of Leonard Cohen’s “The Butcher,” ‘I am what I am.’”

The author lets out a chuckle, “I didn’t know that you knew that song!”

“Yup. I sang it to Jessica at the Adirondacks ski lodge in Chapter Four.”

Pensively, the author places his index finger to lips, “That was the Stones “Sweet Virginia” because the woman’s name was Virginia.”

The young man squints, “In my recollection, it was “The Butcher.”

“Hang on,” the author says, scrolling back through the Word document to Chapter Four. Brusquely, he returns to the young man peering up the mountaintop. “Nope, it was definitely “Sweet Virginia.” And Jessica was a skier you befriended on the slopes, but wasn’t interested in.”

“Well, whatever,” the young man scoffs, “It’s a great song. And Jessica was way more my type than Virginia. Virginia always eats with her mouth open and never seems to listen when I talk.”

“It is a good song. But I still don’t get how you even know it.” The author replies, glancing at an Eiffel Tower poster on his wall and muses aloud, “Maybe Microsoft Word hears what I play on Spotify.”

“Huh?” The young man asks. “What is Microsoft Word and Spotify?”

“Oh, nothing…By the way, I can’t recall you and Virginia talking during a meal, or even having much dialogue at all.”

“It happened on my own time,” the young man replies, annoyedly, “Never mind.”

“You’re an odd duck. Your own time? There’s no such thing!”

The young man bites his lower lip, “Right.”

The two become silent. The author blankly stares into his laptop, and the young man looks beseechingly at the barren, leafless forest.

“So, do you want a sex change?”

“No. I told you, I am what…”

“Ok, ok. I get it. Then maybe you should stop griping about being a white male?”

“I never said that I didn’t want to be nonwhite…” the young man mutters.

“Yeah? What were you thinking?”

“Colombian, maybe. Or better yet, Filipino.”

“Ok. That’s not going to be as easy as changing you into a woman, but I can manage.”

“Actually, hang on. Wait for a second,” the young man blurts out, raising his hand like a traffic cop. “I think I’m fine as I am.”

“Yeah? Ok, then stop looking out to me with these empty gestures, and this plot can move forward…we need rain, right?”

“Rain would make sense,” the young man responds in a resigned tone.

“Ok, then I’ll give you rain.”



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Peter F. Crowley is an independent writer and scholar with a M.S. in Conflict Resolution, Global Studies from Northeastern University. His writings can be found in Boston Literary Magazine, 34th Parallel Magazine, Counterpunch, Foreign Policy Journal, Work Literary Magazine, Znet, Opiate Magazine, Truthout,, Peace Review (forthcoming) and several others. His poetry book 'Those who hold up the earth' is scheduled for publication by Kelsay Books in the first half of 2020.