Monster GardenBy: Sara Wolf
This is the 347th time I’ve told the assholes upstairs to turn down their shitty music. I’ve tried to leave nice notes, I’ve tried to lead by example and play my rare wine-and-bubblebath-night music softly, I’ve tried everything short of lighting a firecracker and shoving it under their Kappa Theta Pi door.
Tonight we get desperate. Tonight is the bang-my-broom-on-my-ceiling-slash-their-floor night. I despise conflict with every fiber of my being and I also don’t believe in pissing off the people I live near just as, you know, a good don’t-get-murdered rule of thumb. I grew up on an organic farm commune in Oregon surrounded by hippies who popped pot brownies like tic tacs - I’m the least aggressive person I know!
Which is saying something, because I don’t know many people. I’m about as good at making friends as I am at getting violent on plaster with a broom handle - disgustingly awful.
“You’ve been partying for three. Days. Straight,” I mutter through clenched teeth as I do my best to balance on the rickety chair. Being 5’3 doesn’t get me much lateral traction, but I make up for it in inventiveness. “Maybe spend your college education doing something other than ruining mine? Just a thought!”
My neighbors upstairs kindly smash something heavy on the floor, and my heart jumps up in my throat. I can hear them laughing faintly over the music.
“If I was buff, and also a man, and if I had, like, a taser on me, you’d all be toast. Electrically-burned toast.” I sweep my black bangs out of my eyes and slam the broom handle on the ceiling again, but the bad death metal just keeps blasting, vibrating my entire tiny studio apartment so hard I see the resident cockroaches crawl around the duct-tape I put over the cracks in the walls.
“Aw beans. On electrically-burned toast,” I grumble. My stomach grumbles with me, and I sigh and stand down from the chair, dragging it back to it’s place in the corner. Sorry, tum. We don’t get paid until next Wednesday.
I flop on my beat up paisley couch and stare at the ceiling as it thumps with the music and the cheers. The smell of cigarette smoke from one of their guests wafts straight into my window, and I gag and hurry over to close it.
Immediately, a half-drunk voice rings out; “Fuckin’ prude!”
Laughter follows it and I sink into the couch and pull the throw-blanket up over my head as my impending failure flashes before my eyes like I’m dying and these are my last moments. I won’t get to study in peace, I won’t remember anything for the final, and I’ll flunk out of Oregon State and that’ll be it - all of Mom and Dad’s money down the drain for nothing. I was smart in high school - straight A’s in AP classes, but college piled it on so hard and I fast and I was so anxious about not failing I ironically nearly failed my freshman year, and I sure as shit didn’t qualify for any scholarships after that.
Failure wouldn’t be such a bad thing if Mom and Dad didn’t scrape together everything they had to send me to college, if they didn’t call me with cheery voices trying to cover up the fact they were struggling to pay the mortgage and my tuition. Mom tried to hide it, but I know Dad got a second job at the county office doing their tax work because I see him check in there every day on Facebook because he’s a dad and never learned how to turn check-ins off. The second I realized how bad it was I got a job at a fast food place and moved out of the dorms and found this dinky apartment complex on the east side of town where the artisan cupcake shops haven’t taken over and everything’s still cheap. It’s not super sketchy, but at least once a month the police bust down someone’s door, and there’s always a guy sitting on the steps outside selling ecstasy and other club drugs. He always latches on to me, but what about forgot-to-shower brown hair in a messy bun and sweatpants makes me look like I do party drugs? The world will never know.
Or the world will know, when I end up pulling the earlobes off the boys upstairs and get arrested for battery and my face is plastered all over the news. Or is it assault? Shit, I have an American Law final in three days, I should know this!