The old poet would say hello to everyone.

So everyone is shocked when he seems to have simply vanished, disappeared. After a lifetime of living in the city, no one can find him.  

“Warning: Distressing Content” is a vivid short story about the rise of gentrification and the fall of humanity.

What do we gain when we edge out the poor and the working class?

And what do we lose?

1,000 words / 4 minutes of stark reading pleasure

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‘I am constantly amazed by man’s inhumanity to man.’ Primo Levi 



Copyright 2024 Stefano Boscutti
All Rights Reserved

It’s an unseasonably warm night in the city.

As usual, the old poet rests on his chair on his small open balcony on the top floor of the apartment tower, gathering his thoughts. The wind is barely a whisper.

He puffs on his twisted hand-rolled cigarette. Blows out the smoke and winces, clutching his chest in pain. Crushes the cigarette in the tiny brass ashtray with the dancing monkey that always makes him smile.

But tonight he doesn’t smile. He lifts the ashtray as a ghost of thin blue smoke frays away. Slips out a folded notice under the ashtray, unfolds it and reads it one last time.

The old poet smiles as he drops the notice over the balcony railing, watching as it flutters away. Then stands and climbs over the railing and throws himself onto the excavated construction site below.

His life doesn’t flash before his eyes but rather the events of the past few weeks. It feels like an unwritten suicide note. From the moment he received the eviction notice to the realisation that he was to become homeless.

The affordable housing complex he called home for twenty- three years had been sold off to a luxury property developer. He and his neighbours had all received eviction notices. All had moved out, moved on except him.

Despite initial plans to find a new place to live, the old poet had become increasingly despondent over his inability to find an apartment he could afford in the rapidly gentrifying area.

What incensed him the most was that the apartment tower with thirty-five cheap rented studios was to be torn down and redeveloped into just twelve high-priced luxury three-bedroom apartments.

Everyone he knew and everything he did was here. He was to be displaced by wealthy downsizers who imagine they want a place in the city. Exceptional spaces and exquisite style, nothing lacking through high-quality architecture defined by soaring glass and natural light. Vast entertaining zones that open onto travertine terraces.

Wealthy downsizers who will sell their large suburban homes for millions of dollars, who will move into the city believing themselves to be urbane, metropolitan. But they will never see a play or visit an art gallery like the real estate brochure promises. Never feel the life of the city behind the triple-glazing and ducted heating and cooling.

Thirty-five lives upended for nothing. That’s what really riled him.

Thirty-five lives kicked to the gutter so a few old people with money can live out some urbanite fantasy without realising that it’s the very mix of demographics and incomes that make the city the place to be, the place to live.

When the city becomes filled with only the wealthy it will become just like the dull suburbs they’re leaving. Nothing interesting, nothing dynamic. Just the same old, same old stacked on top of itself rather than separated by pristine lawns. Unaware they’re negating their own dreams.

The old poet attended a community meeting aimed at halting the demolition of low-income housing in the city. He felt a glimmer of hope.

He joined activists organising a day of action, protestors demanding affordable housing, occupiers in empty state-owned properties.

At one protest, city officials called in private security. A scuffle broke out. Everyone fled but the old poet was caught and beaten, his ribs badly broken.

He was too scared to go to a hospital in case he faced charges. He couldn’t go to prison. All he could do was go home and suffer in silence.

The old poet’s heart breaks before his body smashes into the ground. No one sees him fall, no one sees him die.

No one sees his crumpled body when the roaring concrete mixers arrive at dawn, churning and pouring.

Setting the foundations for another sleek new luxury highrise that will tower over the city.

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Copyright 2024 Stefano Boscutti

All Rights Reserved

The moral rights of the author are asserted.

No part of this work may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, digital, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying or copying and pasting, recording or any information storage or retrieval system, without permission in writing.

Stefano Boscutti acknowledges the trademark owners of various products referenced in this work. The publication or use of these trademarks is not authorised or sponsored by the trademark owner.

This is a work of fiction. While many of the characters portrayed here have counterparts in the life and times of poets and others, the characterisations and incidents presented are totally the products of the author’s agitated imagination. This work is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. It should not be resold or given away. Thank you for your support. (Couldn’t do it without you.)

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