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30th May
posted by amber

Dog Piss Rhubarb

For five months, Patricia has lived in the basement suite on 3rd Avenue. It’s dark and dank, but costs only $400 a month. She has two rooms, a bedroom with no window and a kitchen/living room with a tiny dusty window encased in metal bars. She shares a bathroom with a man who works at the abattoir, a man who was furious when he found out that her rent is significantly lower than his. She should never have told him, but she knew nothing of the unwritten rules of renting; she’d lived in her own home for the previous 24 years. Actually, it was her husband’s home, a no-doubt written rule of married life of which she’d also been ignorant.

Her rent is lower because she does all the gardening, and that’s not an onerous duty but a joy, not that she’d admit this to her envious basement-mate. She doesn’t know what his rent is, nor what the couple who rent the entire upstairs pay; she just knows that $400 is all she can afford. Her part-time job is a favour from a friend who knew she was not well enough – emotionally or physically – to enter the workforce, she can’t ask for a higher wage even though it’s nearly impossible to make ends meet. Thank goodness she’s finally able to harvest vegetables from the garden. And the raspberry bushes are looking good. Too bad the rhubarb patch is the one part of the garden claimed by the upstairs people’s dog. He pees on it every time he goes outside.

Brett gives her an allowance, a paltry $350/month, and he claims he’s being overly generous, since he still has to support Carla until she’s finished getting her Master’s degree. He complains about Carla’s expenses, yet Patricia’s opposition to the extravagant and endless spoiling of Carla is one of many issues leading to their impending divorce. For the $350/month, Brett expects many things – he expects Patricia to attend a weekly family dinner at his mother’s house where she is to pretend that everything is still fine between them, he expects her to mend his clothes, brings them along when he drops off the cheque, asking in a wheedling way, “You wouldn’t mind, would you? I asked at the laundry, but they say it takes up to a week.” She doesn’t mind, it’s something to do in the long dark evenings, trying to drown out the sound of her slaughterhouse housemate clashing his barbells to the floor and the incessant barking of the upstairs dog.

But when Brett asks her to bake him a pie to take to an office function, she nearly says no. She can’t afford chocolate but he wants her to make him a pie. Then she remembers the dog piss rhubarb.


The Story 365 project is a year-long marathon of short story writing, with a new story posted every day on this website from May 1, 2011 – April 30, 2012.  Stories must be a minimum of 200 words.  Please help me by adding first line suggestions in the Comment section.

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