I hate to admit it, but I’m afraid of our basement.
When I was growing up in the heart of Manchester, I practically lived in the basement of our apartment building. My father even built a small stage down there where I could practice my ballet and tap dancing.
It was a creepy-looking basement – dark, with dirt floors, natural rock walls and low ceilings, yet I loved the place. In fact, my friends and I spent a lot of time down there during the summer months because it was always about 15 degrees cooler than outside. We thought of it as our own private cave.
My family sold the house in 1965 and I never lived in another place that had a basement…until now.
The basement in our current house is large, about 1,700 square feet, and it’s all concrete. I’ve managed to fill most of the space down there with about 250 big boxes of stuff I refer to as “valuable collectibles that will feather my nest egg and allow me to live comfortably when I’m 85.” My husband just calls it junk.
Even though the basement is brightly lit, thanks to six 100-watt bulbs, the place still gives me the creeps. For one thing, it has what I refer to as the black hole. No one has been able to figure out the purpose of the black hole or why the contractor put it there, but it’s a large, square hole about the size of a picture window in the basement wall. It’s about four feet up from the floor and leads to an area underneath the breezeway that connects the garage to the house. Why anyone would want to crawl underneath the breezeway through a hole in the basement wall is beyond me. All I know is I’d feel a lot less jittery if the hole didn’t exist.
And then there are the spiders. The minute the basement was built, the spiders arrived by the busloads, as if they’d seen a real-estate advertisement offering new family housing for anything with eight legs. Believe me, I have seen some spiders in the basement that make me wonder if they are from somewhere other than this planet.
There are big brownish-tan ones that like to make webs in the all of the basement windows. Then there are smaller tan ones that look as if they have a mothball glued onto their butts. I don’t know if the mothball things are egg sacs or if the spiders are just some big-butted species. And the prize spider I once saw down there was a huge black and bright yellow creature with a zebra pattern on it. When I described that one to my husband, he told me I needed to get more sleep.
It didn’t help that I also watched a horror movie one night about a bunch of mutants living underneath the staircase in someone’s basement, and whenever a resident of the house descended the stairs, they’d grab him by the ankles, yank him underneath the stairs and then, with a lot of slurping and growling noises, turn him into mutant chow.
So now, every time I walk down the basement stairs, I’m waiting for scaly hands to reach up and grab my foot. I’d prefer to run down the stairs, but they’re so steep, I’m terrified to set foot on them unless I have a death grip on the railing.
The other day, my husband happened to mention he’d noticed that the water was starting to leave brownish stains in the sinks and toilets. I’d also noticed the staining, but pretended I hadn’t. Why? Because it meant I’d have to go down to the basement to check the level of Pot Perm (some kind of potassium-based black sand) in our water filtering system. The system just happens to be located in the darkest corner of the basement…right next to the black hole.
Gathering my courage, I went downstairs to check. As I removed the cover on the part of the system where the Pot Perm goes, I couldn’t help but feel as if eyes were peering at me from the black hole. And in the corner right behind the filtering system, I happened to spot a web that looked as if it had been built by a spider the size of a Volkswagen.
That did it. I grabbed the container of Pot Perm and dumped enough into the filtering system to cause it to smother and die. Then I bolted back up the steps two at a time, slammed the door and locked it.
“Was the Pot Perm level low?” my husband asked.
“I don’t know,” I said, trying to catch my breath. “But I can assure you it’s not low any more. In fact, we may not have to worry about it again for the next 15 years or so.”
Last night, I once again had to venture down into the basement – this time, to find a shipping box. There, lying in the middle of the floor, was a live earthworm, a big night crawler. Where, I wondered, in a concrete basement without even a floor drain in it, had an earthworm come from?
At that very moment, I heard a scraping noise coming from the black hole. I’m pretty sure the speed in which I made it back upstairs would have qualified me for a spot on the Olympic track team.
Starting today, I think I’m going to set aside some money every week so I can hire someone to fill in the black hole.
Or I suppose I could just wait and let the spiders build a web big enough to seal it.