Short stories · Writing

The Search for Rhubarb: a short story

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “A Dog Named Bob.”

“Could you please go fetch–,” Mrs. Bautista coughed and paused her stirring. “–barb for me, please.”

“Uh, sure po,” I replied, returning her smile with a shaky one of my own. As I made a show of swiveling around, I stole a glance over her shoulder and spied a plate of chopped potatoes and carrots next to the stove. Ah, rhubarb! That was a vegetable, I reasoned as I made my way to the vegetable garden at the back of their house. But what did it look like?

It was late Saturday morning and the fifth time in the last hour that Mrs. Bautista had asked me to fetch something for her dish. The responsibility had been handed to me because Joseph, my best friend and her son, had left to pick up some shallots (whatever those were) from the convenience store. Heaven knew that only made me wish harder for his speedy return.

Rhubarb sounded unconventional, so I skipped the green vegetables and headed to a row of round, purple ones. As I wandered around trying to identify something that looked like a “rhubarb”, I heard a delicate squish. Looking down, I groaned to see my right shoe in a pool of blue liquid that reminded me of blueberry syrup and ink at the same time. Brand-new JDs and they get ruined on a vegetable hunt. Great. I scraped my shoe against the grass, narrowly missing a pile of dog poo. I frowned accusingly at the ground.

Twenty minutes and three inspections of the garden later, I was more stumped than ever. What the hell was rhubarb anyway? Exasperated, I picked up a rock and threw it at the mailbox at the edge of the garden, where a shrieking bluejay had been driving me crazy. As it fled, a dog nearby barked in protest.

I sighed and leaned against the wall, ready to admit the truth to the world: I was not a vegetable man. But no sooner had the thought entered my mind than I heard a door bang close. The front door.

Joseph! Finally, I thought, making a mad grab for the nearest vegetable. It was long, thin and white, but I didn’t care as I ran back inside the house. I’d just ask for Joseph’s help, I decided, and smiled triumphantly at the idea.

As I met them in the kitchen, I gave my best friend and his mom a sheepish grin.

“Rhubarb?” I asked, holding up the vegetable.

They gawked at me and Joseph’s expression made me wonder if I’d spoken Elvish. But slowly, Mrs. Bautista began to chuckle, stopping only every now and then to cough.

“I said Bob,” she corrected with an understanding smile once she’d caught her breath.

“Bob?” Who?

Now it was Joseph’s turn to start guffawing.

“Bob,” he confirmed.

I stared at him, dumbfounded, as he approached and firmly grasped my shoulder. Smirking for all he was worth, he explained. “He’s our dog.”


Admittedly, this took me longer than 20 minutes to write.

Nevertheless, many thanks to the Daily Post (and Kim) for the prompt, which helped me break through my writer’s block! I’ve been low on inspiration since summer started and this is the first decent piece of creative writing I’ve been able to churn out in months. That being said, I’d love to hear what you think about it, whether good or bad!

On a more interesting note, a little lesson on Philippine culture: the “po” the narrator utters at the end of his first sentence is a Filipino gesture (can you say that about language?). It’s affixed to the end of a sentence when talking to elders as a sign of respect.

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