I’ve never been a big fan of basements. For one thing, they give me the creeps because they usually are dark, damp, cold and they breed colonies of spiders. And worst of all, 90 percent of the scariest horror movies I’ve ever seen contain murders that take place in basements or in secret torture chambers…also in basements.
My basement is no exception when it comes to being creepy. Every time I go down there I expect to be attacked by everything from a giant mutant spider to an escaped serial killer.
And then there’s my dog, Willow. I once saw a horror movie called something like, “Devil Dog From Hell,” where a rottweiler was waiting at the top of the basement stairs, and when its owner climbed up them, the dog, snarling and its eyes glowing yellow, rammed its head into her pelvis and sent her tumbling backwards to a skull-crushing death on the concrete below.
Well, no kidding, every time I go down into the basement, Willow stands on the top step and waits for me. I keep thinking that one of these days, she’s going to do her impersonation of a bull and head-butt me when I climb back up. I swear, if her eyes ever start to glow yellow, I’m crawling out and escaping through a basement window…providing it doesn’t have a big spider web on it.
Anyway, because my basement usually is damp even during periods of drought, I have learned the hard way that setting cardboard boxes filled with stuff directly on the floor isn’t such a wise idea. Too many times I’ve lifted one of the boxes only to have the bottom drop out along with everything else in the box. So I began collecting an assortment of wooden pallets and old tables so I could stack the boxes on those.
A couple weeks ago, on the night before trash pick-up day, I was out walking with Willow when we passed by a house that had a coffee table sitting next to the trash container on the side of the road. The table looked pretty solid, so I immediately thought of how many boxes I could stack on it in the basement. But there was no sign on it saying it was free, so I wasn’t certain if the owner was throwing it away, or was about to set some potted plants on it for a spring display.
Two days later, the table still was out there, with nothing sitting on it other than a layer of yellow pollen. That’s when I decided it was free for the taking. So early the next afternoon, I drove over there in my hatchback. I pulled up in front of the house, opened the back of my car and then bent to pick up the table.
I couldn’t budge it. The table felt as if it weighed 200 pounds. Determined, I continued to struggle with it, trying to lift one end and drag it over to the car. The only thing I succeeded in doing was nearly herniating some essential body part.
I soon found out why the table weighed as much as a small car. It had a separate hinged top on it that could be lifted to about two feet above the bottom part of the table. So it was like getting two tables in one. Immediately I thought of how much extra stuff I could stack on the two separate layers.
I stood on the side of the road and looked around, hoping to see someone who resembled Arnold Schwarzenegger jogging toward me so I could ask him for help. All I saw was a black-and-white cat.
Frustrated, I drove home without the table.
For several days after that, every time I walked by that house and saw the table still sitting out there in the wind, rain and humidity, I secretly wished I had trained to be a professional weightlifter. I already considered the table to be mine, so I didn’t enjoy seeing it taking a beating from the elements.
Finally, when Willow and I were out for a late afternoon stroll one Friday, I saw a woman out in the yard at the coffee-table house.
I walked up the driveway and called out to her.
“Hi! Are you giving away that coffee table?”
The woman turned to look at me. “Yes. In fact, I was going to take it to the dump in the morning.”
“No!” I thought. “Not my coffee table!”
“Well, I’d like to take it,” I said. “I want to put it down in my basement, which has a damp floor, so I can stack boxes on it. But the problem is, I can’t lift it.”
“Yeah, it weighs a ton,” she said. “I had to bring it out here in a wheelbarrow.”
“If I go get my car, can you help me load it into the back?
“Sure,” she said. “I’ll be out here working in the yard for a while.”
I rushed to take Willow home, then jumped into my car and drove back over to the house.
The woman and I then proceeded to make so many grunting noises trying to lift that table into my car, people nearby must have thought a wild boar was running loose through the neighborhood.
Finally, the table was safely in my car. I smiled with satisfaction.
“So,” the woman said, “how do you plan to get it down into your basement?”
She really knew how to spoil my moment of triumph.
“Oh, I’ll get someone to help,” I assured her, even though just about everyone I know is suffering from everything from bad backs and knees to arthritis and heart problems. Trying to lift that albatross of a table probably would send them to their early graves.
So as I write this, the table still is sitting in the back of my car.
I’m thinking if I just can find some way to drag it as far as the door to the basement, I can get the Devil Dog From Hell to head-butt it down the stairs for me.
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