He thought he could be a part of the conspiracy.
A radical little grave robber cheating death,
transcending fear and faith alike.
At least for a night.
After all, it was Friday The 13th, his sister’s “Haunted Birthday Party”.
How often would her birthday fall on a Friday?!
It was going to be magical.
He snuck into the party room
and headed directly to Frankenstein’s table
laid out with pealed grape eyeballs and oiled spaghetti veins,
sand-filled latex glove hands and squishy sweetbread brains.
But when he tried to pick up the slipper wet heart (god, it felt so real!)
lightening shot right through him. Frankenstein lightning right out of the movie.
It was like a crime scene, blood everywhere:
He’d dropped the pulsating heart on the floor, spilled the pan, the whole ball of wax.
It was chaos.
He barely noticed being thrown out of the room,
banned... placed under the basement stairs…
to sit there in a ridiculous red woolen hand-me-down body suit,
sentenced to frighten unsuspecting invitees as they descended down to the party.
Problem was: The only person unhinged was the Boy himself.
The memory of that beating heart, naked, slimy,
seared into the nerves of the Boy’s hands.
More frightening than the time he’d held a baby bird and watched its tiny chest
rise and fall faster than he thought possible.
Was life really this fragile?
He knew he was shirking his duty,
crouched under the stairs,
peaking through the slats of the lower steps, trembling... silently.
But there was something about that echo-less dead basement...
something that started to calm him, that felt like… sanctuary.
If he was dressed like a devil, he figured the bad guy demons might not bother him.
Maybe he could be part of the conspiracy after all.
His brain was racing so fast, it felt like he’d stepped into eternity.
Just like one of the guys
on the dark side.
He thought for a long time
what it must be like to live in the shadows:
A monster under the bed.
A spider nesting in the corner.
A clumsy kid, alone, under the stairs.
There was peace to it.
He’d felt like a spider once
anchored to the middle of a hospital room
by tubes spiraling out in every direction.
His pneumonia so bad he couldn’t even cough, too exhausted,
lips dried to the breaking point.
A spider in the center of a web,
weaving imaginary sounds in with the hum of machines and random voices passing by
out of reach.
His eyes searched the corners of the basement
for more spiders,
other follow spiders,
hoping to commune.
The air down here was better. It was close and cool and comforting. Calming.
He started singing in a tiny spider voice, spinning out a song
that could transcend fear and faith alike.
While he sang, thinking no one else could hear,
he saw a dim reflection in the storm windows leaning against the cement wall.
Maybe he was too preoccupied,
he seemed not to notice.
But I was there, looking back. Observing
with a critical eye,
yet encouraging. Pleased.
Listening very carefully.
Everyone’s life begins somewhere.
"Under the Basement Stairs" ©2016 Tobin Mueller
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