My Basement

… The basement smells like standing water, and it’s dark, dim at its brightest. During Christmas time, Mom would have to move one of the two overstuffed la-z-boys out of our cluttered living room to the basement to make room for the Christmas tree. This made the basement my new favorite hideout during my teen years. Despite the dimness, I would sneak down the steep, creaky stairs just to get some alone-time in the rocker. I was in my James Patterson phase, so I would sit down there for hours reading about the grisly murders to which Detective Alex Cross was assigned. The loudest sound was the crackle of the furnace, which my dad came down to stuff with coal and wood seemingly at random, or whenever he was bored with the conversation upstairs. Besides the fire, I could hear the purr of my cat, Miss Kitty. She was a soft calico with a split face, one side orange and the other dark. I told myself she loved spending quiet time with me down in the warm basement, but really, she probably just enjoyed being safe from the winter air and the hunting dogs who liked to tree her. Between the furnace, the cat, and the rocker, I was always warm, bordering on too warm. I stayed because I loved to be alone and I felt proud to be a girl enjoying such a masculine space. It was dark, unkempt, and filled with the hunting trophies from the men in my family – deer antlers were strewn everywhere, and once, my oldest brother stored a dead bear in the deep freeze in the corner, just so my mother would be shocked when she came to re-stock her upstairs freezer. In the spring, the basement flooded multiple times so that the wet must lingered and mingled with the scent of the bone-dry carcasses. The air tasted like mildew and cobwebs abounded. Sometimes I could feel them on the back of my neck as I walked down the stairs and would quicken my pace…

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