UNDERGROUND VOICES: FICTION

ROBERT VAUGHAN

The Basement

         I don’t like going into the basement. I’ve even gone so far as doing our laundry at the local Laundromat just to avoid it.

My daughter, Cherise thinks I’m nuts. But crazy or not, I’m spooked. So I decide I have to get someone over here to deal with it.

         When he arrives at my house, I’d expected the scary looks.

         I say, “You know what you’re doing right?” and he doesn’t answer. Just nods, heads down the basement stairs. To his back, I add, “Sorry, just don’t have the time today to be down there with you."

         Truthfully, the basement gives me the creeps. The heebie-jeebies. I won’t go down there ever since our cat, Chewy, fell into the sump-pump and drowned two weeks ago. I feel like there’s a scary presence down there. At the office, Tina tells me about this guy who deals with the dead, gets rid of them.

         “He dispels the spirit,” Tina says. Her grandfather died in her place.

         I ask, “What about cats?”

         She hands me his business card.

         I try to surf the internet while he is in my basement. Mr. Symonds. But I’m too distracted. I hear him coming up the rickety stairs.

         “Got anything your cat used to wear? One of its toys it had contact with?”

         I scan my memory for details, many already erased. “There might be a piece of catnip.”

         “And he’d already chewed it?”

         “She. Yes, I’ll get it for you.”

         I don’t know why I’d left this sack of catnip that looks like a turd. I hand it to him. Notice a pinkie finger is missing. Mr. Symonds holds the catnip delicately. “We’ll see if this works. Meanwhile, look for a collar, even if it’s a flea variety.”

         “Okay.” The things we do, I swear. My twelve year old, Cherise, wanted the collar.

         Chewy was hers, so there’s no argument. But Cherise is also at an age where going through her room would be a violation. No way I’d break her trust. So I look in every room but hers. Find crumbs, hair balls, safety clips, then when I’m about to give up, I hear Mr. Symonds coming up those creaky stairs again.

         “Everything okay?” I ask.

         “Have a seat, Mrs.-”

         “Bellinham.” For some reason, I give my married name, even though I’d changed it back to Sheldrake, after the divorce was final.

         “Can I get you anything? Coffee? Water?”

         He shakes his head no, sits at the table opposite me. “What I am going to tell you might come as a shock.”

         Shock? He can’t locate Chewy. Or the cat is so tormented its spirit won’t leave. “Go on,” I say, already fidgeting with my hands.

         “You have,” he pauses, looks away, “it’s possible there are dead bodies in your basement.”

         “Body?” I whisper. The hairs on the back of my neck stand on end. I might have gasped. “I…I what?”

         “Bodie-s,” he corrects me. He seems calm. Nods. “I’m pretty sure there is more than just your cat down there.” He turns toward the stairs behind him, indicates them with a subtle nod. “Got a shovel?”








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