I’ve Never Been in Your Basement

“Hey Marty, how’s it going?” Clark waltzed through the front door like he had every weekend for the past decade. It was a brief walk across the manicured grass from his house, and it had become their new tradition.

“Hey Clark.” Marty, donning his sweatpants and hoodie, shuffled to half-heartedly greet his neighbor.

“You rea—” The stench hit him immediately. “What the hell is that, man?”

“Oh, yeah, I need to take out the trash.” Marty bolted for the kitchen, his slipper skidding against the tile. “Just a sec,” he called out.

Clark plopped down on the couch, puling his shirt collar up past his nose. He found the remote and flipped on the TV to try and find the game. “Damn,” he called out again.

Marty ran from the kitchen out to the garage. When he returned, he lit a candle sitting on the end table. “This should help,” he said.

“I hope so. Where’s Megan?”

“Out of town, went to see the parents. Took the kids.”

“You mean you have the whole weekend free and you didn’t tell me earlier?”

Marty shrugged. “Didn’t dawn on me, I guess. Hey, you want a beer?”

“Maybe after the first quarter.” Clark pushed aside a few Guns & Ammo magazines and kicked his feet up on the coffee table. “A little early for me, still.”

“You getting weak on me?” Marty laughed, heading back to the kitchen to the kitchen.

“Can’t throw them back like I used to, you know?”

“I know, old man,” Marty muttered, but still loud enough to project to the couch.

“I heard that,” Clark yelled from the couch.

Marty came back with a couple of water glasses, set them on the table, and sat.

“Think we have a chance today?” Clark asked.

“Doubt it. We haven’t won a game all year.”

“You’re depressing, man. You going to get dressed either?”

“What’s wrong with this?” Marty objected, tugging at his sweats.

Clark shrugged and picked up a water. “Whatever, man.”


The first quarter flew by. Clark only got up to pee once. Marty nervously dug at his fingernails. Neither man said anything the whole time.


“All right,” Clark said, standing and dusting off his lap. “Beer time. You in?”

Marty just nodded his head. “Thanks.”

Clark wandered off to the garage, where the smell only got worse. He quickly ducked in, opened the beer fridge, and grabbed whatever was in front. When he got back in the house, he jumped back, fumbling a beer in his hands before catching it. Marty was standing at the door to the basement.

“You scared the piss out of me, what the hell?”

“Sorry, just checking on something.”

“In your basement?”

Marty nodded.

“You know, I’ve never been in your basement.”

“That’s fine,” Marty said. “It’s nothing too exciting. Hell, it’s not even finished.”

“Yeah, you were going to do that, right?”

Marty shrugged.

“We did ours a few years ago, you knew that, right?”

Marty nodded.

“I can go down, check it out, let you know what problems we ran into.”

“That’s okay.” Marty was standing with his back to the door, grasping the handle.

“It’s not a big deal, really,” Clark said. He set the beer cans down on the kitchen table. “It’ll be like 5 minutes, really.”

“Clark, it’s okay.” Marty nervously laughed. “It’s just the kids’ stuff and other crap.”

“Right, so let’s just go down there. I can grab a measuring tape if you want.”

“Let’s just watch the game.”

Marty stared at the floor, but didn’t move away from the door.

“You okay, man?”

“Yeah, I’m fine, really.”

Clark eased his eyebrows and stepped back. He picked up the beers and tossed one to Marty, who caught it mid-air. “All right, let’s see if we can score at all this quarter.” He waltzed back to his spot on the couch and cracked open his can.


The second quarter dragged on forever. Marty hardly sipped his beer. Clark downed his. No man said anything again, but it felt different. There was a tension. Marty occasionally glanced at Clark, and then back to the basement door. Clark pretended not to notice. When halftime rolled around, he stood.


“Have to stretch those legs, right?” He headed for the kitchen. “Another one?” He pointed at his beer can.

Marty held his in the air and waved it around. “Plenty left, thanks.”

“Who’s the old man now? I guess me, since I have to pee again, too!” He laughed as he disappeared into the kitchen, but instead of going for the garage, he headed for the basement door. He inched it open, carefully, to make sure it didn’t squeal. The stench was overpowering even more, but now was mixed with some forest candle smell. He pulled his shirt over his nose again and opened the door just wide enough to fit through, sideways. He slithered around the door and onto the first step, lowering his weight with a delicate touch. He closed the door and made sure it clicked behind him. He took each step with care until he finally reached the bottom. He could feel the coolness of the concrete slab even through his shoes. He searched the wall for a light switch, and when he didn’t find one, waved his arms above his head hoping it was an overhead bulb. He walked forward with one hand in front of him, and one above him, until he ran into a string.

His fingers wrapped around the loose, frayed, dangling string. He didn’t realize it earlier, but he was shaking. He took a deep breath through his cotton shirt, trying not to think about the odor around him. He tried to calm his nerves, and as he pulled the string taut, his worst fears came alive.

The single overhead bulb illuminated the dark basement, revealing the secrets that Marty didn’t want out. Megan wasn’t out of town with the kids; she was down here with them, strewn about the floor in a hundred pieces. The only reason Clark knew it was Marty’s wife, was because her head was on a shelf right in front of him. He poked his head out of his shirt and threw up on the floor. His vomit mixed with the blood and guts already present, leaking every which way through the slanted floor. Clark fell to his knees, away from the vomit, and did everything he could to crawl back toward the stairs. He didn’t have a plan. He didn’t know what to tell Marty. He didn’t even know what to tell the cops. With every ounce of energy, he dragged himself across the floor, jeans gliding, palms burning, forehead sweating, trying to not pass out. Trying to hold it together. For the sake of his neighbors, now dead in their own basement. Had it been Marty, or someone else? He seemed so kind. He seemed like a good dad, and a caring husband. Maybe he didn’t know? Was it possible he didn’t know? Clark tried to reason it out as he inched toward the door, muscles trembling more than ever, his arms barely able to hold himself up. He could hear his own breathing and feel his heart pounding. Was he having a heart attack? Could he still get out of here, back to his house, or enough to get outside and call the cops from his cell phone. Would his own wife check on him if he couldn’t climb up the stairs? A million thoughts, and what seemed like a million steps to get out of the basement he wished he had never come down into.

He had finally reached the stairs, and reached out to grab the first riser, when a boot fell beside him. Clark looked up. It was Marty, standing with an axe. A tear fell from his eye.

“I wish you wouldn’t have come down here.”

The last thing Clark saw was Marty raising the axe above his head.

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