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by Jane Hertenstein

“It has come to our attention that certain residents are not curbing their dog.”

I don’t have a dog, but I do have a parakeet. So I wondered if this message was for me. After affixing my galoshes and screwing on my thermal gloves, I pushed out through the revolving doors. What does it mean to curb?

At the web design startup where I work, Carrie had a fit because someone (again) ate something out of her plastic tub in the lunchroom fridge. Not that her rant referred to me.

I was curious, so I asked her what she was missing. She glared at me. More like a scowl. Not sure the difference — only that I brushed crumbs out of my mustache and scurried back to my cubicle.

When I returned home after a long day at the office — okay, not that long, only about ten hours, but it had been arduous — I found another note in the lobby of my building. I set down my bags and pushed my glasses further up on my nose until it nudged into that snug place.

“Please clean up after your pet.”

The elevator doors closed before I got there. I watched the floors cancel out digitally as the car rose higher and higher. There was a ding behind me and I turned to another bank of elevators just as the doors yawned open. I pressed my floor and at the last minute a waifish girl slipped in. She shyly smiled at me. We rode together for about fifteen floors until I stepped out. But not before I said have a good night.

The next day there was a longer note posted in the lobby.

“If your pet is found defecating on sidewalks, management will have to take things into their own hands.”

I waited to see if anyone else thought it was humorous. I also wondered if I might again see the slim girl with pale skin.

At work that day I had to go back over some embedded programming code that a fellow worker had screwed up, leaving a trail of broken links. It wasn’t hard, just tedious. So I looked forward to lunch, except Carrie was (again) having a bad day and decided to throw out all the out-of-date food, even if it was labeled and not all that old. For instance I found my sandwich that I’d brought that morning in the garbage. My carrot sticks from the week before were miraculously still there, though not all that crisp, and I ate those and some applesauce snitched from Carrie’s tub. I thought about the elevator girl and her self-conscious smile.

The commute home was damp; the windows inside the crowded bus fogged over. Low pressure always makes my teeth ache.

In the building lobby, shaking off my umbrella, was another note.

“I’m not going to take your shit anymore.”

I whistled getting into the elevator, punching every floor. Just in case I saw the pretty girl.

Jane Hertenstein is the author of numerous short stories and flash. Her work has been included in Hunger Mountain, Word Riot, Flashquake, and Rosebud as well as earning an Honorable Mention in Glimmer Train. Jane lives in Chicago where she blogs at Memoirous.