The Oaks at Northgate
Rental Treaty

Fiction, special to the Clarion Content every other Monday.

By Kate Van Dis, read more at The Palmetto Blog here.

photo by Kate Van Dis

photo by Kate Van Dis

The Oaks at Northgate, Rental Treaty


Your rental responsibilities will start on [fill in today’s date] and end on [fill in your estimated date of departure (from our apartment complex, not the world)].


Article I: Rent, and such.

 Your rent is due on the first of the month, as is a handwritten note explaining what you have done to make our community better. Maybe you planted flowers. Maybe you cleaned the playground. Maybe you threw a birthday party for Ms. Mable who lives on the ground floor of Building One (more on Ms. Mabel in Article III). If you have done nothing to make the Oaks at Northgate a better place for anyone but yourself, please add a $50 fee to your agreed upon monthly rent. Please, do not lie. Your neighbors are watching. And, if we’re honest, so is Management.


Utilities are included in your rent. As manager of these resources and as general stewards of the earth, Management reminds you: Hot water is your right, and your neighbor’s, too! Unless you work at a fish factory like Joey Diaz in Building Three, there is no reason to take a fifteen minute shower. Also, our hot water heaters are fritzy. Always test the water before bathing your children and non-biting pets (more on pets and other living things in Article II).


If you feel the need to watch the television, arrange that on your own time and with your own money. Management declines to share our opinion on devices with screens and the amount of hours you and your children spend sitting in front of them. We would like to share, however, that we put tremendous effort into maintaining grounds that are inviting! Also, please note local destinations you can reach by foot: your friendly neighborhood Kroger, the American Tobacco Trail, several city parks, and a museum featuring live butterflies and statues of extinct dinosaurs!


The heat will be set at 78 degrees in the summer and 68 degrees in the winter. There really are no exceptions, sorry in advance. If you need a blanket (winter) or a fan (summer), ask a neighbor. Ice is always available, free of charge, to day-time porch sitters. Just holler.


Article II: Other details.

 You may paint any interior wall to your liking, including the inside of your door, but not its outside, which is painted April Blue. When your door matches the color of the sky, you’ll know it’s spring. You’re welcome!


Management knows that it is always awe-inspiring to witness an electric storm from your front porch, especially in the summertime when the sky turns from silver to blue and promises a rainbow. For this reason, we ask that you do not purchase metal porch furniture for your outdoor sitting area or lean against the porch railing when you are witnessing this particular miracle. Safety first!


The two palm trees in the courtyard are not to be touched or tampered with any way. Please do not discuss their shabby appearance or suggest cutting them down within twenty feet of the courtyard, should they overhear – as they are, like the spirit of Management’s late mother and also Jesus, dormant and not dead. (We sense your disbelief from across the desk here, but really, who are we to say what trees of any kind are or are not capable of?).


Speaking of living things, we encourage them. We welcome plants of all kind, tropical most especially; children of all ages; and pets who do not bite or otherwise intimidate children. Before you let your canine pet out the door, ask yourself, if I didn’t know my dog, might I be afraid of him? If the answer is yes, please use a leash. If you actually are afraid of your own dog, we suggest that you re-home him before acquiring residence at the Oaks at Northgate. Birds are not allowed. It is the opinion of Management and also, likely, God, that birds do not belong in cages or even apartments, for that matter. For special circumstances (i.e. broken wing, hatchlings left by mother), please make appointment for Management to view said specimen.


Article III: Promises, prohibitions, et cetera.

Ms. Mabel in Building One has been paying the same rent since 1971. Though Management cannot share the exact amount of her rent or her exact age out of respect for her privacy, you can tell just by looking at her that she’s nearly a centenarian and she’ll tell anyone who asks what she pays each month. NO, WHEN SHE DIES YOU CANNOT MOVE INTO HER APARTMENT AND LIVE THERE FOR THE SAME AMOUNT. Asking this question is grounds for eviction, as is: the abuse of pets or animals, the use of drugs or alcohol beyond the point of healthy recreation, and damaging property that is not your own.


There will be no picking of magnolia blossoms. Please, free to pick Black-Eyed Susans, chicory, and other wild perennials at will, should you find them growing on the grounds.


On weekdays, children will be boarding and unboarding the schoolbus between the hours of 6 AM and 7:30 AM (YES, IT IS TOO EARLY) and again between the hours of 2:30 PM and 5 PM. If at all possible, refrain from exiting the apartment in your vehicles at these hours. If this is not possible, DRIVE SLOWLY and remind yourself that these children are standing in the near-dark waiting for buses to take them to nearly windowless buildings for eight hours at a time with only the promise of room temperature milk and line-waiting and mediocre educations ahead of them. Be kind. Smile. Management suggests but does not require that you wave.


Management does not plan to increase your rent. Nor do we plan to sell our land to any old person who comes knocking. We have been here long enough to know that ways of living and types of buildings and who is valued and why are things that change like the wind. Change is continuous, but progress is just another word for fucking the people (pardon our language), and we do not care to participate.


Please sign here, don’t forget the date, forever and ever, amen.





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Kate Van Dis

Though Katherine Van Dis is a long time Durhamite, her roots are in Michigan, where much of her fiction takes place. After seventeen years in the Bull City, she thought she would try her hand at fiction set in the south. Palmetto Blog Durham is a project dedicated to the people and places of Durham. Each tiny fiction is paired with and inspired by an original photo taken in the city. Katherine’s work has appeared in The Los Angeles Review and The Carolina Quarterly. She is currently finishing up a short story manuscript.

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