The Basement – Part 1

by cunningstuff

We turned onto the driveway, out of the hot and busy downtown street. You could see the heat waves diffusing light just a block away, it was so hot, and of course, no breeze. I was worried that my new apartment was going to be to hot, but today would surely shine it’s heat beam on the spot if it was true. Truth was actually a question, I was questioning the truth of the deal I was looking into. A friend of mine works as a bartender at the new Hotel Du Paumpf, all the rage in Denver lately, and was approached by the manager of the hotel wondering whether she knew anyone who could really use a low rent room. She said she knew me, a struggling author, who needed a place to stay.  The rent was ridiculously low, it’s in a hotel already, so why would it be just 100 US a month? Oh well, I never looked a gift horse in the mouth. I do now.

The hotel is exactly what I thought it would be, valets, brass, huge sheets of green glass, water fountains, drinks that cost what I would get for one transcript of 500 words. We were directed to a back vanilla hallway with four precise and uncomfortable waiting chairs, with a plain brown door  that said manager in a brass plaque for our view. Maintenance guys with big rings of keys would come and go, and after about 20 minutes, I started to get heated. My friend Ernestine begged me to be patient, the manger was really cool and laid back, but he hated people to get in a hurry with him. I settled in for the long haul by counting the number of maintenance men who came by. To my surprise, they seemed to be counting me, because they were only two different guys, just similar beefy builds, and they kept eyeballing me nervously as I did them. I counted ten times, before the manager stepped out, with a welcome smile and a handshake and invited me in.

“Heh-heh-hello! You must pardon me, I have had some interesting results in getting your room ready, the maintenance men and I have decided to go ahead and get you on down there.”

“I’m sorry? What’s going on?” I was hesitant, but I really needed this rent.

“Waaaayyyyyelllll… Ok look, this room is a deal, right? The truth is, there are strange circumstances surrounding it, that are out of my control. The last tenant insists on seeing you personally, and though we have tried, your just going to have to put up with him for a few minutes.”

“Ok, explain it to me, I’m very reasonable.” Nervously perhaps, but I just was tired of waiting.

“I will get Bill to take you down, that will be the best way.” He reached over to a 2 way motorola phone, and keyed into it. “Bill, we’re ready.”

Bill popped in almost like he was waiting outside the door, and ushered me out before I got to wordy with my questions. Mostly I just shrugged and let them lead me away, Ernestine begging off to her locker for something she “forgot.” We went down two floors of stairs and ended in a plain steel door at the bottom of the stairs. Bill mentioned that we had to pass some old foundation work to get to the apartment.

He opened the door and the first thing I noted was grey stone, old with pits and worn with rounded corners, like cobblestone, but a wall of it. We walked out onto a platform made of some sort of concrete, but again, old and grey, that had safety rails all around it. Another half flight of stairs, and all around, it was like the basement of the hotel had been built-in someones badly designed warehouse. Plywood of different colors tacked up between studs, some high, some half high, others covering from floor to ceiling. on the other side of the room was the industrial steel grate stairs, going up to a cat walk about as high as this platform, with double doors on it. In the far corner was another plain steel door, painted black. The floor was a maze of what looked like drainage depressions, little ditches in the concrete going to various holes and grates. We walked through this strange room to the plain door into another room.

The door flung open easily, and almost slammed into the stone wall, which had become even more apparent in this place. Walls were 5 meters high, the room was probably 20 meters by 40 meters, and in precise neat rows were the old glass shelf display counters you used to see in every variety store. Piles and piles of stuff arranged in some unseen order, coated in dust. Cups, glasses, plates, pitchers, pictures, knickknacks, small statues, candles, flags, tennis rackets, baskets of yarn unspooled, boxes with lids open, closed, taped, cut off. All manner of plastic goods, flatware, cooking utensils, toys, shoes, jewelry, just never-ending. Bill saw my look and wandering eyes, shrugged, and said one word, “Storage.” He walked me over to another door across the room.

This door afforded even more of a surprise. This room also large, but the ceiling was low. The beams of the ceiling were at 2 meters exactly wooden, and covered in both chicken wire and dust. Also coated in age and dirt were ukulele parts, all tied with baling wire to the chicken wire, that was taped or nailed to the beams. Thousands of ukulele parts. In the exact middle of the room, which was about 20 meters by 20 meters, was a 10 meter square area on a perfect white ceramic floor. Two couches, with a table between, of some old and rather expensive looking material, and a bed butted to the couches, were in the middle as well. 10 doors ran the outside of the room, each door paneled by a different kind of plywood. 3 of the doors were obviously marked by an international bathroom sign, a shower sign, and a kitchen sign, but the other doors, although clearly marked, were obscure in meaning.

A primly dressed older man sat on the end of one couch. He was balding, with longish hair in a sort of wild array that somehow reminded me of a clown. His face was birdlike, and his movements spoke of a nervous but decided individual, quick, firm, but just a bit of hesitation. I like him immediately, and from the lisp he had, was also pretty sure he was gay.

He got up from the couch when we approached, and shook my hand with both of his. “My name is Curtis, and I just know you are the right man for my room!”

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