Dust In The Cellar
“Alexandria, I need you to bring me some ice from the cellar if we are going to make smoothies for your party!”
“Momma, can Gavin go get the ice please? I always get it.” She pleaded.
“Alexandria, hurry please! The girls will be here any minute!” Her mother’s voice had a sense of urgency and Alexandria knew there was no use in arguing. I dread going down there! Alexandria was no longer skipping through the house because she found herself confronted with the cellar door.
She twisted the bolt that held the old wooden door closed and pulled it to the side. The door popped open and slowly creaked forward. A waft of old dusty air assaulted her face and she squinted as she looked down the long dark stairs. She barely made out one step in front of her but she knew she must continue. The switch for the light was at the bottom of the stairs. Her fingers fumbled along the old brick wall for the tiny switch. Finding it she quickly pulled it. Light instantly flooded the room, but there was only one old bulb to light the entire cellar and the ice, she knew, was in an old freezer under the stairs. I’d better hurry, she thought. The earth was cold against her bare feet as she stepped out.
“Eeeeeww,” she whispered.
“Eerrrrrrrwwww.” came a reply.
Panicked, she raced back for the stairs by the light. Quickly turning around she half expected to see a big black rat lurking in the shadows. She gasped. Stop scaring yourself, Alexandria. You know there’s nothing down here. She took a deep breath and decided to grab the ice from the freezer and race back upstairs. Finding the large ice box, she opened it and plunged the old bucket in. She scooped out as much ice as she could. Just so Momma doesn’t send me down here for more.
“Eerrrrrrwww, eerrrrwwww.” This time it was louder. Alexandria froze. She tried to take long deep breaths. The light flickered by the stair. It was failing and she knew she would soon be in utter and complete darkness.
“Eeeeeooooow.” Something screeched. She found she couldn’t even screech herself, let alone cry for help! She dropped the bucket as she felt for the flashlight Momma always kept hanging on a nail somewhere on the large beam that held the old rickety stairs. As she ran her palm along its wooden surface she winced in pain and drew her hand back. Splinters. She felt she could cry. I wish I was brave, oh If I could just find it!
“Oooooowwwww, eeeeoowwwww.” came the creature’s raspy voice. Suddenly she felt something wet and scratchy on her leg. Again and again it licked her toes. I’m going to be eaten and Momma will never know! She felt herself shake and tremble as big sobs erupted from inside her throat. Whatever was down there was now claiming her for dinner.
“MOMMA!” she finally wailed. Just then she found the flash light. She quickly pointed the light down and discovered what it was that was going to eat her.
“What is it dear? Are you OK? You’re crying!” Came Momma’s comforting voice. Momma gasped too.
Together they were speechless.
Just then a knock came at the door and then another. Alexandria smiled at Momma.
“That must be the girls!” Exclaimed Momma. “Why don’t you run upstairs to greet them?”
Alexandria purposefully ran up the stairs to greet her friends, she could hardly wait to tell them the news. As the orange front door opened she greeted Sally, Meg, Missy and Amanda with hugs.
Come help me bring something up from our cellar!” She shouted with joy.
Sally hesitated once inside which caused Meg, Missy, and Amanda to bump into each other.
“Isn’t it scary down there though? Aren’t there creepy things?” She asked.
“Oh no!” Said Alexandria confidently. “Come on!” “Come see!”
Alexandria paraded her best friends down to the cellar.
“Kittens!” Alexandria’s smile beamed.
“The mother must have slid in here somehow to birth her kittens,” Momma said. “We should move them upstairs next to the wood stove to keep them warm.”
“Can I keep them, Momma?”
“If you prove you can care for them responsibly you can keep one. We’ll have to find the others homes.”
“I want this one,” Alexandria said as she drew a smoky gray kitten close to her face. Her fear had gone. She was in heaven. “I want to call him Dusty… since I found him here in the dust.”
The girls helped Alexandria move the kittens upstairs. Alexandria raced back downstairs to get the last one without a second thought of the dark. Finally upstairs Alexandria turned to lock the cellar door. Her birthday was the happiest it could have been. There are no boogie monsters, she thought. There is only Dusty.
The tall brown grass brushed against my thighs as I walked through the horse pasture to the barn. My palms faced up as I felt the grass seed heads sift through my fingers. I picked one and stuck it in my mouth. Its bitter taste made me wince. A cacophony of buzzing and loud rasping filled my ears as the male cicadas sang their mating choruses. It reminded me that late summer was here.
A hot breeze blew and the smell of old leather and horse manure filled my nostrils. I looked around me. The horses rested in the shade of the barn overhang and the Arabian gelding hid in the shadows of his stall. His black body was barely visible in the shadows. Only his white muzzle gave him away. I caressed his coarse fur and felt his lips grasp the orange carrot I had drawn from my pocket. I held it out on my palm and foamy drool dripped from his mouth as he grinded it on his back molars.
I picked up the green grain buckets by their rusty handles and plunged each one into the grain bin. As the grain filled the buckets the horses nickered with excitement. The smell of oats and molasses filled the dusty air. The horses stomped their hooves on the dry barn floor creating a cloud of dust as they tried to shoo away the flies. The flies only danced around them in return.
I took a deep breath as I left. The scent of decomposing vegetation greeted me as I walked toward the back gate by woods to check the lock. The smell of wet leaves and mossy wood reminded me so much that this was Virginia. Munching on a leftover carrot I found in my pocked I sprinted back through the wispy grass. Spittle bugs and grasshoppers jumped off their perches as I raced by.
As I closed the back gate behind me and hooked the lock, a waft of air greeted me. The smell of curry and bacon was so distinct. Mom must be making dinner.
I glanced behind me toward the barn. It was masked in the shadows of the dark deciduous woods that cast their late afternoon shadows. The horses ambled to the water troughs. So much of my life was in that barn. Bees buzzed busily around the delicate Queen Anne’s lace that flourished next to the blue barn walls. The sun pierced its rays through the bees’ delicate wings. They looked translucent. As I headed off for the basement door I thought to myself, ‘tomorrow I will go riding.’