Peter arrived home after a long grueling day of foraging up applications to places he would like to apply. Having just recently been let go by his former employer of the last ten years. He dreaded having to leave the little corner shop he’d worked at and spent most of his days. He’d grown very fond of the owner and his wife Ted and Molly Baer. Which they also just happened to be one of his neighbors. It had been a bitter, sad moment to watch a teary-eyed Ted close the doors of his shop. One that had been in his family for a hundred years.

Things hadn’t been going well for Peter’s neighborhood over the last few years. Unfortunately, their already dwindling population had been struck hard by the recent rough economic downturn. This, in correlation to their rival city’s overpopulated, inhabits encroaching upon their sleepy town of Woodvale, made the residents uneasy to start with.

However, with limited background and experience, Peter had discovered that finding a new place to work had been an uphill climb. Exhausted, he pulled a banana from his bag and started to peel it. But looking up and seeing the setting sun, he quickly realized that his wife Judy would have supper already cooking, shoveling the banana away hastily. He didn’t want to ruin his appetite as Judy made the best meals, even on the rapidly scarce resources they had.

“Phew, finally home, good ole Woodland Terrace,” Peter sighed, tapping the sign to their building as he would customarily do each day. “Good evening Mr. Odor.” He said, passing the building manager holding his breath.

Mr. Rico Odor was a nice enough person and had been the buildings’ maintenance man for as long as Peter could remember. Which could help explain the various peculiar odors that would emanate from him. Mr. Odor smiled, nodded, and returned to what he was doing. He didn’t speak very much, but Peter still liked to say hi, being neighborly.

Arriving at his door, he paused for a brief moment. For now, all his worries and concerns would need to be pushed aside and hidden away. He never wanted his wife and two beautiful children to ever see that deep down, he was concerned over his families’ future. Then, taking a deep breath, he entered.

“Judy, I am home,” he called out with a smile on his face.

“Daddy,” came a shout from one of the bedrooms. His two children burst into the living room, hopping and bounding all the way, quickly embracing their father. “We missed you,” said Ruby, his nine-year-old daughter.

“Yeah, daddy, what did you bring us.” His 6-year son Buster asked, immediately drawing a punch from Ruby.

“Shh, you know-.” She paused, looking at her father’s face. As hard as Peter tried to hide that things were tough, Ruby was a very perceptive child and could always tell when something was bothering him.

Peter smiled, “it’s ok, Ruby.” He said, reaching into his bag, pulling out a slightly worn toy car handing it to Buster. He’d found it lying in the grass on his travels, hopping from place to place, submitting his applications.

Buster snatched it from his father’s hands and took off, running back to his bedroom. “Thanks, Dad,” he shouted back, making vroom noises as he ran.

“And for you,” Peter said, turning to his daughter with a smile digging back into his bag, pulling out a small chair carved out of a block of wood. Something he’d been working on the last few days during his journeys. “This is for your dollhouse,” he said, handing it over, tapping her nose. “It’s so your Kimmy can invite more friends over to her parties.”

“Oh, thank you, daddy,” she said, gushing wrapping her tiny arms around Peter’s neck, pecking him on his cheek racing away.

“You spoil those two.” Peter rounded to find his beautiful wife standing in the archway of the kitchen. She was wearing a smile, but Peter knew there was something off.

“What’s wrong.” He asked, worried.

“You’ve got anything in that bag for your wife.” She said, brushing off his question, tapping her foot, arms folded across her chest.

“Well,” Peter said, playfully approaching her, fiddling into the depths of his nearly empty bag. “Just this.” He leaned in, kissing his wife pulling his empty hand out.

“Oh, is that all.” She responded, with a wry smile, turning away.

Peter’s worry rushed back when he saw the red lines in her iris’. “What’s wrong.” He asked, following into the kitchen.

“I am hungry.” Buster hollered from the room. Car noises still audible.

“Two minutes, kids,” Judy answered. “Nothing,” she said to Peter placing a plate on the table.

After twelve years of marriage, Peter knew she wasn’t telling him the truth. “Judy, what’s the matter,” he asked again.

“Not right now,” she snapped. “Let’s just eat, ok. I’ll tell you after dinner. After the kids go to bed.” Peter sighed and nodded. “Kids dinner.”

The happy family of four sat for dinner, just as they had done every night. Ruby and Buster talked about their days at school as Peter listened intently. Judy enthusiastically talked about her day out shopping and how she found all the best bargains. Thankfully Peter thought to himself.

Just one more thing he was grateful for that his wife did, recognizing that times were difficult and they needed to scale back. No more name-brand stores or anything like that. Having learned a lesson from one of his friends years ago. He, too, had been let go from his job, and instead of cutting back, his wife kept spending like crazy, essentially bankrupting them. They moved out of Woodland Terrace a few years back, and he never saw him again. No, Judy would never do anything like that. They were a true partnership through and through.

After dinner, while Judy cleaned up, Peter helped the kids with their homework for a while until bedtime. “Daddy, could you read us a story,” Ruby asked.

“Of course, dear,” Peter turned, grabbing the first book off the shelf he saw. “How about ‘I am a Bunny.’”

“Yeah, I love that one,” Buster roared.

Peter finished reading the story to his children, tucking them in for the night. He returned to the living room to find Judy sitting at the dining room table with a single sheet of paper in front of her, faced racked with worry. Peter approached cautiously, sitting across from his wife.

“What’s that?” He asked, almost petrified to hear the answer. He’d never seen her so concerned before.

“We’re…we’re being evicted,” she finally said, choking back a stream of tears.

Peter’s heart fell into his shoes. He couldn’t believe what Judy had just dropped on him. “How’s that possible?” He blurted. “We’ve always paid rent; we’re not behind, are we?” He asked quizzically, looking at Judy. She had always managed the money; he trusted that she paid the bills on time.

“No, we’re not late. I always pay on time.”

“Then why are we being evicted?”

“The buildings been sold,” she answered, sliding the eviction notice across the table. “The new owner is kicking everyone out,” Judy said, drawing a shocked expression from Peter. “I looked into it. This big investment company from the city bought the building. Someplace called Crawly Investments. They plan to bulldoze our home and turn it into a new housing track. Oh god, Peter, what are we going to do?” She said, on the verge of hysterics, burying her head into her hands.

Peter got up and hugged his wife. “It’ll be ok, sweety, we’ll figure it out. We always do.”

“How, how, we could barely afford this place, and it’s rent-controlled, and that was when you were working. But now. Oh god, what about everyone else in the building.”

“Shh, it’ll be fine. I told you we’ll work it out. Let’s just go to bed. We can brainstorm tomorrow.”

Peter led his wife to their room, but his brain was already storming. She was right. They could barely afford their lives now, but if they get kicked out of what has been their home for the last fourteen years, what will they do. He had to do something, but what that was would have to wait till morning. He needed to comfort his wife now.

*****

Over the next several days, Peter did nothing but scour the internet and law books at the library. Desperately looking for any way that he could stop the new owner of Woodland Terrace from tearing down the building. Abandoning his former job hunt that had so far been fruitless because nothing else mattered. If they didn’t have a home anymore, he figured, what was the use in having a job to pay rent when there was nothing to rent.

Judy would help him occasionally, but she was barely holding it together. He’d catch her walking through the apartment somberly as if she was saying goodbye to every inch of their home—so many memories contained inside it. There was no way he wasn’t going to let it go without a fight.

One morning, by a sheer stroke of luck, he discovered a potential solution to the problem while combing over one of the library’s old law books. He was so excited he raced home to tell his wife.

“Honey bunny,” he shouted, bursting through the door, startling Judy causing her to drop the plate she was washing, causing it to shatter all over the floor.

“Peter, oh my god, you practically startled me to death.” She whined, hand clutching her chest. Blowing out an exasperated breath, disappointment stretching across her face, looking at the mess she’d have to clean up, reaching for the broom.

“Honey, that can wait. I found it.” He said gleefully, waving the book like a mad man. “Come here.” Taking the broom from her hands. “I’ll clean it up in a bit. Come sit.” He led her to the dining room table.

Calming herself, Judy sat across from her ecstatic husband. “Ok, now what are you going on about,” she insisted.

“I might’ve found a way to stop them from demolishing the building. How do you feel about becoming an owner?” Peter queried with a smile.

“What, owner of what?” Judy questioned, having no idea what her husband was talking about. They already could barely afford food and rent, let alone buying something as significant as a company.

“Of a share of our property, the building itself,” Peter exclaimed, flipping open the book to a page he’d marked. “There is something called a co-op building.” His wife stared blankly, clearly having no idea what he meant. “A co-op building,” Peter went on to explain. “Is where the tenants, us, buy a share of the building, or so I think.” He paused, skimming the page again. He didn’t know much about the law or investing for that matter, but to him, at first read, it looked like a possible solution to their problems. “From what I understand, all we would need to do is convince the new owner that it would be more profitable to sell everyone here a share of the building. And then we get to keep our home.”

“That sounds great,” Judy said, though her tone of voice suggested otherwise. She’d been doing some research herself into the person who bought their building. A Mr. Adder Crawly, and from everything she’d discovered, he didn’t sound like a nice person on paper. But, decided to keep that to herself because of how enthusiastic Peter sounded. “I hope it works,” she added, feigning a smile.

“Me too,” Peter said, closing the book getting up from the table heading for the door.

“Where are you going?”

“First, I am going to call to schedule an appointment at Crawly Investments to speak to Mr. Crawly himself. Then I am going to go visit Mr. Owly.”

“Now, why are you going to go bother Virgil,” she inquired.

“He used to be a law professor, remember before he retired. I want to ask for his help on this, you know, so when I have the meeting, I’ll be fully prepared.” Judy nodded as Peter exploded out the door almost as fast as he’d come in it.

****

The day came for Peter’s meeting with Mr. Crawly. He sat nervously in the reception area, waiting. He always felt uncomfortable dressed up; the collars of button-up shirts always seemed to dig into his neck, rubbing it raw. He glanced at the clock over the receptionist’s head as she clacked away at her keyboard. It was already well past their meeting time. It’d been scheduled for 4 pm, but it was now 4:30. The receptionist glanced up at Peter as he tapped his foot in a nervous twitch. She smiled but didn’t say anything. Instead, the look they shared between them said all the words needed. This was a typical strategy employed by her boss. A type of power move, he guessed.

“Send him in, Jill.” A voice crackled over the intercom phone on her desk.

“Mr. Crawly will see you now.” She said, standing to lead Peter to the door. “Don’t stare; he has a skin disease; it’s like he’s shedding.” She whispered into Peter’s ear as he entered to office.

“Goods afternoons, Mr. Cottonmouths,” Mr. Crawly said, standing, holding out his hand to shake Peter’s. The investor tycoon’s hand was flaky, skin dry, but surprisingly warm to the touch when he shook it, like his sweltering office. Peter also noticed that Mr. Crawly spoke with a very noticeable lisp placing a long ‘S’ at the end of nearly every word he said.

“Um, it’s Mr. Peter Cottonworth, sir,” Peter hesitantly corrected, taking a seat.

“Oh, so sorry about that; my assistant must’ve misspelled it when she put it on my calendar. So anyways, what can I do for you, Mr. Cottonworth?”

“Well, um, I am here to talk about Woodland Terrace apartments,” Peter said, drawing no reaction from Mr. Crawly like he didn’t recognize the name. “The apartment complex your company just recently purchased in Woodvale.”

“Oh, yes, yes, I remember. What about it?”

“Well, sir, the word is that you plan to demolish it and build a new housing track.”

“Yes, that’s the plan, we just need to wait to get all the current tenants out, and then we can begin construction. Are you looking to invest or be the first buyer?” A smile drew across his face.

“Well, sort of, sir. See, I am a tenant of Woodland Terrace, where my family and I have lived for the last fourteen years, and others in the building have called it home for much longer than that.” The smile quickly evaporated from Mr. Crawly’s face as he leaned back in his chair.

“Mr. Cottonmouths, I see what’s happening here, and I get it.” Then, putting on his business pitch voice. “Relocating is never easy, and I know times have been tough in Woodvale for a little bit now. So, I don’t usually do this, but I am a reasonable man, and I don’t enjoy putting people out. So, tell you what, how about I help with the relocating? I’ll give every tenant a thousand dollars to help cover those costs. How does that sound? Is that what you wanted to speak about today?

Peter sat back, exposing a slight frown. From the research he and Mr. Owly had done, that was actually part of the law when forcing tenants of a building out. The property owner must offer compensation. Peter was starting to understand who he was dealing with now. “Well, sir, I actually came here with a proposal.”

“Ok, I’ll hear you out; like I said, I am reasonable. What have you got for me?” He leaned forward, forearms up on the edge of his desk.

“I propose we enter into a housing cooperative,” Peter said, putting on his best sales pitch voice.

“A co-op situation then.”

“Yes exactly, essentially us just buying shares of the property, thus giving you continued investment. Instead of building the housing track where the banks make money on the purchases of the houses.”

“Yes, I am familiar with how the process works. How many tenants live there at Woodland Terrace?”

“About a hundred, sir,” Peter answered quickly, wanting to show the businessman he was prepared.

Mr. Crawly sat quietly in thought, rubbing his hand on his chin, skin flakes floating away. “Ok, tell you what, the demolish crews have been scheduled for three weeks from now. So, I’ll give you two weeks to get everyone in the building to agree to enter the co-op. If you can do that, I’ll cancel the demolish, and you can stay. But, that’s it two weeks.”

Peter couldn’t believe his ears. Did he just convince a corporate big wig not to demolish a building, putting a hundred families out with no place to live? Peter leaped to his feet. “Two weeks, yeah, I can do this in two weeks.” He jubilantly exclaimed.

“Great, you get me those signed agreements back in the next two weeks, you have yourself a deal, Mr. Cotton-” He paused, “Mr. Cottonwoth.” He said, almost proud that he managed to call Peter by the correct name this time.

“Consider it already done, sir,” Peter said, shaking Mr. Crawly’s hand before practically floating out of his office.

Peter spent the rest of the day on top of cloud nine. After his meeting with Mr. Crawly, he raced home and began immediately working on his plan. How was he going to convince Woodland Terrace’s occupants that his idea of turning their once beloved home into a shared joint ownership with a corporate 500 company? When the simplest of ideas befell him. Talk to them like they were family. To him, everyone in the building practically did feel like an extension of his own family.

The next day Peter began to put his plan into action. Instead of spending it looking for a job. He went and had a bunch of flyers printed and distributed them all over the building. Sliding them under doors, posting them in hallways, common areas, and all about. They simply read, ‘if you want to save our community and have some great home-cooked sweets in the process, then please attend the meeting Monday evening on the back lawn at 6pm.”

Once he was done with that. Came the second part of his plan. Which technically should’ve been his first part. For obvious reasons. It was Judy who would have to be the one doing the cooking. He now needed to convince her to make her world-class cookies.

“Hunny, what is this,” Judy asked, walking in with a handful of groceries.

Uh-oh, she’d found a flyer before he had a chance to discuss it. “Um, yeah, I was going to talk to you about that,” Peter said hesitantly. “Well, you know how I told you about what happened during the meeting, yeah.”

“Yeah… how Mr. Crawly agreed if you got everyone to sign off on entering the co-op, we’d save the building. I remember.” She was waiting for him to spit out whatever he had planned or committed her to.

“Exactly, so I figured instead of going door to door and talking to everyone. I’d just do it in one fell swoop and make a community meeting.”

“That’s brilliant, Hunny. But now we must buy these ‘world-class sweets,’ though, right.” She said accusatorily.

“Well,” Peter’s mouth suddenly ran dry as he scratched the back of his ear.

“Peter, what are you not telling me?”

“I was…um, I was hoping….”

“You want me to make these world-class sweets don’t you,” Judy replied, arms folded across her chest, tapping her foot on the floor.

“Yes,” Peter responded timidly, making his best ‘Hunny, I’m sorry, but please’ face.

Judy hated having her services volunteered without Peter first consulting her. He invited his old boss and his wife over for dinner once. Without checking with her, and she didn’t let him hear the end of it for a week.

“Think about, hun, you’ve always wanted to be a pastry cook; now you can try it out on the neighbors.” Peter waited for the blowback to start.

His wife stood silently, still tapping her foot. The corner of her mouth eventually curled into a smirk first, followed by a smile. “Great idea, babe,” she pronounced, to Peter’s surprise. “I love it, your brilliant. I guess I have to get started right away; we have over a hundred neighbors. Oh jeez, I have to go back to the store.” She said, putting the last of the groceries away, turning to Peter. “And you’re coming with me, also you’re going to help.” She said with a slightly more sinister smile. Peter shrugged. Small price to pay, he guessed.

****

Monday came. Peter had spent the whole afternoon preparing the back lawn for his big community meeting, enlisting the help of his two children. While jumping back and forth, checking on his wife to make sure they had everything set and ready to go. Helping her bring down the trays of not only the cookies but cupcakes, cannoli’s, and platters of pigs in a blanket. She even went out and purchased several gallons of juices for the event. Judy loved to party plan, even entertaining the idea of opening her own party planning business.

The stage was set; all they needed now was the residents to show. Peter stood just outside the building’s door, waiting for the first neighbor to show nervously, watching the time tick by. 6:01, 6:02, 6:05, no one had shown up. Peter turned to look at his family with disappointment in his eyes. What went wrong, he wondered? Everyone he’d previously spoken to all expressed desire to stay.

Peter’s shoulders slouched as he stared at Judy and the kids. “Daddy,” Ruby shouted, hopping up and down frantically, pointing at the door.

Peter turned to see Mr. Owly leading a group of residents outside. “Peter, you’ve done a wonderful job organizing this.” He said, shaking his hand, offering a pat on the shoulder as he walked by, going straight for the chocolate chip cookies. He was then followed by a procession of residents pouring out with smiles on their faces greeting him as they walked by.

Even Mr. Odor, who Peter could instantly smell from several yards away, reeking of his usual odd odors as he passed by.

Another familiar site from one of the occupants of the building-Reed blitzed by in a blur. Headed straight towards the platter of pigs in a blanket. No one quite knew what apartment he came from, and no one ever saw his parents to any of their recollections. The boy just appeared one day roaming the hallways of the building several years prior.

He even saw the reclusive Mr. J.R. Ruddiger timidly appear. Peter didn’t know too much about the man other than he seemed to be in his early thirties. Kept odd late-night hours and was routinely seen hanging around some less than reputable company. Some residents noticed things missing from their homes shortly after he arrived, but no one could really believe that one of their own would steal from them.

The twins Sally and Sandy, Peter’s downstairs neighbors, also made an appearance. They were identical twins; you could never tell the difference between the two girls. They were precisely the same down to the clothes they wore and even the white streak that ran down the middle of their hair. The only thing known for certain about them is they seemed to enjoy squabbling between themselves, constantly bickering and chasing each other around. It was as if one couldn’t have anything the other didn’t.

Peter waited for everyone to gather as the residents poured out of the building and onto the lawn. Judy floated over, embracing her husband. “Look at what you did,” she said, indicating the packed house he’d managed to conjure up. “I am so proud of you.” Pecking him on the cheek.

“Thanks,” returning the kiss. “But this was the easy part. Now to convince them all that a co-op will be a good thing.

Peter took front and center and readied himself. “Welcome neighbors, friends. Thank you all for coming.” He started. “As you all know by now, our beloved Woodland Terrace has been bought. The plan is to demolish the building-our home-to build another great big housing track to modernize Woodvale. Which leaves all of us looking for a new place to live. But this is our home; we’ve all built lives here that I, for one, am not ready to give up. For most of us, this is our last refuge.” He paused, fighting back a solemn tear, thinking about the memories. “For most of us, we can’t afford any of these newer places to live. I mean, Mr. Baer, how long did it take you, Mrs. Baer, and your kids to find just the right place to live? You once told me that all the other places you looked at were either too big or too small, but Woodland Terrace is just the right amount of size you needed, right.” Mr. Baer smirked and hugged his wife tightly. “And Mrs. Charlotte, what about you. All the memories you must have, raising all your kids in that apartment of yours, watching them all fly out the door and do great big things in this great big world. Are you really willing to just let that go?”

“But what can we do about it.” A voice chirped from the crowd.

“Mr. Woody, so glad to have you join us.” Peter tried to hide his disdain for the man. Mr. Hugh Woody was pleasant enough in person. Still, he always had an affinity for making loud noises throughout the day, like he was banging or pecking away at a project in his apartment, which annoyed Peter.

“So, what can we do about it.” He repeated. “I mean, we only have a few weeks left.”

“Well, that’s why I gathered everyone here today. To talk about that. I went and spoke with the man who bought the building. I pleaded our case, and he agreed.”

“Agreed to what.” Shouted Sally, fighting off Sandy, who was trying to snatch the cannoli from her, despite having a fist full of sugar cookies of her own.

“He agreed that forcing people out of their homes isn’t the best thing or something he really wanted to do. So I proposed another option to him.” Peter paused, hoping that his sales pitch would work for a second time. “I proposed to him that he could keep the building standing, let all of us live it still, and make money in the process.” He could see the skepticism set on their faces. “We can achieve this through what’s called a co-op.” Mr. Owly smiled as that was an idea they explored when Peter came to see him.

“What is…a co-op?” Mr. Odor asked.

“Well,” Peter thought about how best to sum it up without going into great detail. “It’s a form of joint ownership. Where we, as the residents, will be part owners of the building. Essentially securing our rights to continue to live here. And we would all share in the expenses of building maintenance, but again it would allow us to keep our homes.” Peter knew that he’d just boiled the whole thing down to its minimum explanation. “If you want to know more about it in detail when you leave, please take a contract and a pamphlet that explains it all in further detail. My kids will be handing them out.” He pointed behind everyone to where Buster and Ruby were standing by the doors. “It’ll explain everything.”

“What’s the catch.” Mr. Ruddinger hissed, “There’s always a catch.”

“It’s not necessarily a catch, Mr. Ruddinger. More of a stipulation. The only way I could get Mr. Crawly to entertain and accept this offer is if everyone, the entire building, signs the agreements. So, if you all feel like I do. Judging by the looks on all your faces right now, I think you do. Then this will work.” Peter could see it in all their faces right away; everyone in attendance was on board.

“I can’t speak for everyone here,” Mr. Owly said. “But I, for one, am with you, Peter. I’ll sign the contract.”

“Me too,” Mr. Odor shouted, shoving another cupcake in his mouth.”

This was followed by a chorus of residents expressing they were in on the idea. Peter felt a wave of relief swell inside. “Thank you, all of you, thank you. I know we’ll make this work. Now we have until the beginning of next week to submit the contacts. As I stated, please take one on your way home. I’ll be by this weekend to collect them and personally take them to Mr. Crawly first thing next Monday morning. I’ve already got an appointment scheduled. So again, thank you all for coming, and I’ll be seeing you later this week.” And with that, everyone started to depart.

Judy floated over to her husband. “That was fantastic, Hunny; great job. I really believe we’ll be able to keep our home now.”

“Very well done, Peter.” Mr. Owly said, approaching. “Good job.” Giving him another pat on the back.

“All that’s left now is to collect them and give them to Mr. Crawly,” Peter said with a smile.

****

Much to Peter’s liking and surprise, the Woodland Terrace residents were all but too willing to go along with the proposed co-op plan. They began hand-delivering the contracts to him well before the imposed deadline. One by one, they knocked on his door to drop them off and offer their biggest heartfelt thanks. He’d saved their building, their homes, and their lives.

Monday morning rolled around quickly. Peter woke up early. He wanted to count the stack of documents and compare them with the list of the building’s 105 occupants. He needed every one of them to have returned their contracts, as his meeting with Mr. Crawly was set at 11 am, and he wanted to be prepared and on time.

“101, 102, 103-,” Peter paused. He reached the end of the pile. “Oh, dear.” He said aloud, clutching his chest as he felt a flutter.

“What is it, hun,” Judy called from the kitchen.

“There are only 103 contacts here. I am missing two.” Peter got up and began searching the apartment. “We need all 105.” He said, voice growing in concern as he frantically searched.

“Hun, calm down,” Judy said, watching her husband pace around the room, turning seat cushions and opening cabinet doors. “Maybe they just haven’t turned them in yet. You did say that you’d go and collect them. You just got lucky that everyone seemed to bring them to you. Who are missing?”

Peter stopped and slid back to the kitchen table to check his list. “Um…it looks like Mr. Ruddinger and the Grayson sisters,” he replied, checking the last names off.

“See, no worries, at least you know who. And calm down, hun, you know the Grayson sisters are absent-minded, and Mr. Ruddinger keeps those odd midnight hours. Now, go and get ready and just stop by on the way over to the meeting. I am sure it’ll be no problem.” Judy was right; it wasn’t that big of a deal. He had plenty of time.

The first stop was to the Grayson sisters. Peter knocked on the door, and Sandy, or maybe it was Sally, who knew, answered. “Oh, hi Peter, what brings you by this morning.

Peter tried to hide his frustration. “Well, you know it’s Monday, and I’ve got to get our contacts to Mr. Crawly. Did you and your sister sign it?”

“Oh, duh, we totally forgot that was today. Sorry Mr. Cottonworth, just one minute.” The girl retreated into the apartment. Shortly after, he could overhear an argument coming from the back bedroom. Which wasn’t anything new, as they always argued about everything. Peter stood in the hallway waiting. He could only hear snippets of what they were saying, but it seemed to be over money. Which Peter didn’t think too much of, as almost everyone in the building and money issues. Finally, one of the twins reappeared with the contract. Which looked a little worse for wear. “Here you go, Peter.” She said, handing it to him. “I think what you did for us, the building was fantastic. I don’t really care what Sally thinks about it.” Turning her nose up at her sister, who appeared with a snarl on her face.

Peter smiled and took the papers. “Um, thanks.” He said hesitantly, not knowing what that was all about.

“Good luck today.”

The interaction seemed strange, but he had no time to waste. He still needed one more contract to pick up. Knocking on Mr. Ruddinger’s door. The reclusive J.R. cracked it open. Only enough to stick his face out. Blocking Peter’s view of the inside. Like he was trying to hide stolen merchandise or something.

“Good morning, Mr. Ruddinger,” Peter said with a smile.

“What. What do you want?” Came an unexpected terse response.

“It’s Monday, Mr. Rudddinger. I stopped by to see if you have that contact ready for me. Then, I am off to Mr. Crawly’s.” Checking his watch. He had an hour left before the meeting.

“Um, yeah, about that. I am not signing.” He said, slamming the door in Peter’s face before he could even react. A second later, the words were like a gut punch to Peter. He needed all 105 signatures.

“Mr. Ruddinger, Mr. Ruddinger,” Peter shouted, frantically rapping on the door. He must’ve heard him wrong. “Mr. Ruddinger, what did you say. Did you say you weren’t signing?” Peter was stirring such a commotion that some of the neighbors had begun to poke their heads out into the hallway to see what was going on. “Mr. Ruddinger, can we talk about this.”

The door swung open again, this time allowing a full view of the living room. There was a great deal of brand-new purchased items. “I said I am not signing. It’s a foolish idea; I don’t want to own any part of this building.”

“But…but,” Peter stammered. “Why.”

“I’ve got five thousand reasons why.” He said. “Someone showed up at my door two days ago offering me five thousand dollars not to sign your cockamamie plan. So I took it. I’ve got to think about number one man, you know, myself. So goodbye.” He slammed the door again and cranked up his music.

Peter was stunned, shellshocked. This had to be Mr. Crawly’s doing. But why. He needed answers.

Peter stormed into Mr. Crawly’s office. “Why.” He demanded, shouting at the businessman. Mr. Crawly calmly finished his phone call. “Why would you do this? Why would you make me go through all this when you were going to snake in and buy people off like that.”

“Simple, Mr. Cottonworth,” the businessman with peeling skin responded with a smirk. “I knew you wouldn’t just go away, so I needed to pre-occupy you, so I can complete my deals. And I knew one of you low rent, low-class vagrants would eventually sell out. It’s just called business, my friend. The property that Woodland Terrace sits on is much, much more valuable as a housing track than a coop apartment complex.” He said with a snort and a hiss. “And now everything’s in place, and you have until the end of the week to get out.” He said, slamming his flaky hand on his desk. “As for now, you have one minute to voluntarily leave my office before I have security escort you out, Mr. Cottonworth.”

Peter felt the presence of two security guards lurking behind him. He wanted to fight back but knew he couldn’t. He couldn’t do anything. “I am not your friend, and you…you’re a horrible, horrible creature,” Peter shouted.

“Why don’t you just hop along and run home and tell your wife and kids that you’re a failure and I do so sincerely hope you find a new place to live.” He said, laughing the entire time as Peter was escorted out of the office and thrown out of the building.

Peter slinked back home as suggested, where almost the entire building was waiting for him. He had to break the terrible news to everyone. Some cried, some just solemnly retreated back to their apartments to start packing. Mr. Owly approached a heartbroken and defeated Peter after all the others dispersed.

“You gave it your best shot, kid. Unfortunately, that’s all you could’ve done.”

“Thanks, Virgil,” Peter said, hanging his head as he disappeared into his apartment to help his wife and kid’s pack.

****

The dreaded moving day was upon the residents of Woodland Terrace rather quickly. Some had already departed a few days prior as they said their goodbyes to friends and neighbors. But for the most part, everyone wanted to leave together.

Peter walked about his apartment one last time, flashing back to memories as he passed each section. Remembering fondly the day he and Judy first crossed the threshold as a married couple. The two days that she said they were having a baby. The locations of Buster and Ruby’s first steps. Memories that will soon be bulldozed.

“Peter, it’s time. Everyone’s waiting.” Judy said, poking her head in.

“Ok, hun. Right behind you.”

Peter followed his wife outside, where everyone awaited his arrival. They were all packed and ready to go. They didn’t want to leave but had been forced out by a big corporation like so many hundreds and thousands before them.

Peter faced the gathered mass, all set to make the trek into a new unknown. “I am sorry, everyone. I really am. I thought it would-.”

“Nothing to be sorry about, Peter. You tried.” Mr. Owly assured him. “It’s time to be going now. Will you lead us out?”

Peter managed half a smirk. “Yeah, I can do that.”

Keeping a brave face, he turned and set out to cross the streets into the unknown and beyond with his family in tow.

A car screeched a to a holt, nearly hitting Peter. Standing frozen, shock enveloping his body for a few seconds. Peter stared down the vehicle, ensuring it had come to a complete stop and wouldn’t move again anytime soon. Satisfied, he nodded for the rest of his family and everyone else to continue.

They sadly marched across the road one by one. First, the Grayson sisters, Mr. Woody, Mr. Odor, Mrs. Charlotte, Reed, Mr. and Mrs. Baer, Mr. Owly, followed by the Cottonworth’s Buster, Ruby, Judy, and lastly Peter.

From inside the car came an equally loud squeal as the brakes before.

“Daddy, daddy, look.” Susie pointed out the window of the vehicle. “There’s a whole bunny family.” The child squealed once more. Her father cringing, knuckles gripped tightly around the steering wheel of the car, huffing and puffing.

“John, you almost hit them.” His wife chastised him from the passenger seat.

“I know, Hunny.” He let out a frustrated sigh.

“Oh, daddy, look, there are more animals. I see squirrels, a bear family, a deer, oh looky, a spider on the windshield.” John tensed; he was afraid of spiders, especially the poisonous ones like the black widow. Currently skittering across his windshield. “Whoa, look, an owl flying by and woodpecker, and Ewww a skunk. Where are they all going? Why are they leaving the woods? Isn’t that their home?” Susie asked, watching the procession of animals fleeing Woodland Terrace.

“Well, actually, Suz,” John said, relaxing as the animals made their way across the street. “That’ll soon be our home. See, they’re going to be tearing it all down so they can start building our house to live in.”

“But, but, where are they going to live?” Pointing at the animals crossing the road.

“Oh, don’t worry, they’ll all find a new place to live.”

“But, but that doesn’t seem fair,” Susie questioned, feeling sorrow for all the animals that just lost their homes.

“Well, life’s not fair, and this is called progress.”

“John, really, really, I can’t believe you just said that to our little girl.” Shaking her head as her husband drove forward. “Have some compassion or something, jeez. Don’t worry, hon, they’ll all be ok.” As the car drove by, little Susie turned in the back seat and peered out the rear window catching a glimpse of Peter, who’d backtracked to make sure everyone had made it safely across. “I am sorry little bunny.” She said, waving before sitting back down.

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