THE CAROLINES by Douglas Hill

The latest Slush Pile fiction at Dig Boston.

WHEN KAY WAS THIRTY-THREE, Ed performed lat pulldowns in front of her StairMaster at the gym for ten minutes. After a few months he decided to move in, and she let him. He was a finish carpenter, good with saws, so he should have been good with his hands, but he had no sense of modulation.

Now she was thirty-six and he had left for the coast. This could have been a Band-Aid falling off: he was too little fun for love, and too much gut for lust. Kay knew this, yet she missed him. She fell asleep watching cable in an armchair. The bed was too big. Her bathrobe was stained, mostly raspberry yogurt, her only refrigerator food. She stopped showering daily. Kay hoped that this was not evident at the store.

She owned The Pette Shoppe, but a “pet shop” is a definite thing, and this was not that. She sold only those things that a dog’s owners, up at their condo for a week, would imagine Prince or Snooky might hold in high regard. Embroidered cushions, oily four-legged sweaters knitted on Scottish islands, and her specialty: homemade dog treats. She baked them in the back room, so instead of the biting odors that soak a normal pet shop, there was a cozy kitchen smell.

The shop had started with a big batch of dog cookies, inexpensive Christmas presents well received. Then a card table at a craft fair. Then Ed put together a cart that she towed to festivals. And finally, because he argued her into it, the leap to the shop.

The shop was never full, and empty too often, as today. This was a poor living and a boring life, without Ed. Today was her birthday.

No card from Ed. (read more)