Cunningstuff

A new life, for an old man.

Month: October, 2012

The Basement – Part Three

Part Three, a bit slow, but it is my first short story here, and I am using the back burner method of simmering the story out. It is also based on a dream, a place I feel the most important stories come from.

I slept fitfully, I kept feeling like someone was in the room with me. I knew it was just nerves, what with the weird rent agreements and all. I got up though, and went into my new bathroom. It was sparse, just a shower, towel bar, sink and one small counter for the sink. I took a shower, but the water never really got hot, just lukewarm. I got out and took a look at the clock. 3:00 p.m. and for me, with the overnights, a decent start for the day. I decided to go explore the next room, the one with all the shelves, and see if I could find a radio.

Walking into the room again, I was just amazed at the amount of display shelves in the room. I would walk around, there were six rows of shelves, each with sides on each row, and no matter how many times I would walk around, it would happen that I would see something completely new. One thing though, it stood out even when I just first glanced around the room. A shelf stereo, and it was something I had never seen before. I immediately thought it might be oriental, or perhaps japanese, because every stereo set up I had ever seen was the required grey, black, or the occasional wood or brass. This stereo was gold, with red oriental dragons in a pattern throughout the gold. Like an oriental silk, red curving dragons of glossy bright red, with gold leaf over the rest. I thought, well… if someone wants it back, I will return it, I am just moving it over a room.

I noticed it had no dust on it, and was as shiny as if it was brand new, so I could not wait to play some tunes. I put it all into a large wicker basket I figured would suit as a trash can, with a liner in it, and brought it back over. It must have been the confusing set up of the room, but I could have sworn I would need a shelf to put the stereo on, but there was a small one, perfect size, beside a support pole waiting for me when I got back. I thought I should maybe draw the room out next time I had a chance, and get my sketching skills back in order. I set it up on the shelf, and plugged it in. Soon the sweet sound of rock and roll was playing in the room, and I felt a little more at ease. A trick of the place though, maybe the large room, after every song ended it seemed I could hear clapping, like amusement or happiness from the song. I liked this college station, and there were no commercials, but since it was amateurs doing radio, there was often silence after every song, if only for a minute. I would walk over to the stereo and turn it down, but eventually I figured it was acoustics and decided to ignore it. It wasn’t very loud and I could never found out what the sound was bouncing off of.

I opened the other doors, and all of them had some sort of collection in them. The kitchen and the toilet were plain and simple like the shower, but the other rooms were highly interesting to look at. One room specialized in porcelain dolls, another stuffed animals and small plastic animals, like in a specialty toy store. A third was what looked like a complete Barbie collection, and I was pretty sure some of them were very old and worth a bit of money. I didn’t write anything down, but took a hard mental note of what was laying about, as I would take a look on some collections in ebay and see if they matched up for some money. I’m not into collecting, but I knew that some things were worth a good bit to hardcore collectors.

This actually sufficed for a good hobby for a few days. There were literally thousands of items, all toys, that were in these rooms, but most looked worthless, missing shoes, hair all in knots and messy, or cut, crayon scribbling on the cloth and boxes, but everything was fairly neat, in a box, usually the original toy box they had come in. I never got to sleeping well, so I would leave the radio on all the time, something I did as a kid, having grown up in a loud large city. I would sleep for two or three hours, then get up, sure there was someone in the room with me. I would hear someone talking, but it always seemed like it was children, or maybe just a child that was talking, always in my dreams.

One night the hotel had a Drum and Bass party in its basement. I had been fired at work for showing up late, mostly because of the duo of working overnight combined with the lack of sleep, but I wasn’t worried, I had 300 US in my pocket and had paid rent for two months in advance already, so I asked if I could hang out at the party. It was on fliers all over the music stores, so there was no reason for anyone to tell me no, and I thought maybe I could meet an interesting girl or at least have a conversation. I was at the party for maybe an hour when three girls and a guy that were cliqued together at the bar started to talk with me. One thing lead to another and I ate some mushrooms with them, and we went into the room that would lead into my set of rooms.

This was the half-finished room, the one with all the drainage depressions and grates. I knew it had to be the drugs, because all I could see and hear was dripping water. I asked the girls about it and they said it was just dry concrete, calm down, it is just the mushrooms messing with my vision. I would stick my hand in what looked like a stream of drops, and I could feel the cold water hitting my skin. I could hear rain, heavy rain, beating down on the floor above us, and I would run up and look, only to find there was no up, just back into the basement party, and then into the hotel. Eventually I was left alone, after not to subtle messages about laying down and letting things wear off. I felt a little crazy, to be honest, because I had been a very veteran party goer all my life, and never wigged out before. I eventually put very calm music on, some classical, and fell asleep.

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The Basement – Part Two

This would look like the first room of the basement, without all the junk in it. It’s the little stairs, half high, that does it. I can imagine the little water ditches and the different plywood in peeling paints all over.

Curtis seemed very intent on telling me everything he expected me to do while I stayed in his apartment. I needed to play with his niece whenever she came over, that was the most important part and repeated over and over.  I had to make sure the upkeep was tip-top on all the dolls of his collection. I needed to make sure no one stole the ukulele parts. I could move the couches and the bed around, but I had to keep them here. I could add whatever I wanted to the collection, if I so desired, but the collection and the apartment would always be considered his, so no selling of anything.

“I don’t mean to be rude Curtis, but I am not a caretaker, a museum collector, or any kind of collector . I am renting a place to work as writer, and I am not really up to all of these demands.” I stood up and started walking back the way I came.

“I’m sorry! I’m sorry!” He said this really fast, and came over to me again, putting his hand on my shoulder. “Just one thing, promise me one thing, if my niece comes over, you will play with her one last time. Do that, that one little thing for me?” He had tears in the corner of his eye, and I could feel something strangely desperate about it.

Maybe it was the whole shebang of weirdness, maybe it was the moment of tenderness I felt for another human in a bad situation. I was a little overwhelmed at the whole idea of the place, I was in over my head, but I said,” Ok… I promise one last time for her.”

It was like an Alvin and the Chipmunks version of Tony the Tiger burst out of his mouth. “GurrrrrRRReeeeat! I can go to Paris!” I am not even exaggerating, he started doing some strange dance waving his hands around and bending at the waist, but it was obvious he was happy.

Much to my relief, for the most part, the weirdness was over. He proceeded to grab loads of baggage that was already packed, was helped out in three trips by Bill the maintenance guy, and handed me my keys as he left. He pinched my cheek like a grandmother would, reminded me I had promised, and left. I sat on the couch and blew out a huge sigh.

Bill came back in and was very nice to me. One of the walls in the strange room was actually a roll up door separating my room from another storage room of the hotel, full of actual hotel furnishings. He said I could help myself from this room, all day long, as the supervisor was on vacation until tomorrow, and had no clue what was in or out. He also strung a phone in, advised me no long distance calls, dial 9 to get out,and the phone was free. I soon had desk set up with a typewriter and paper, a coffee table, and all the hotel accouterments a man could ask for. You know, towels, wash cloths, soap, shampoo, coffee and such.

Then it got a little weird again.

“Ok look, once I roll this door down, it don’t come up again, ever. Them other rooms we passed through are yours to use, all the stuff is yours, as long as you do what you promised, you won’t have any problems. Curtis lived here 40 years bef….”

“40 years! He couldn’t! This hotel opened up last fall!”

“Ohhhh yeah, well… That’s why this door stays shut, it goes under the street to the next hotel. Curtis lived here before this hotel was built. Look, I got to get back to work, you ok now?”

That same tension was in him again, the one that had watched me while I waited to get the room. Again I was being forced along some path I didn’t understand, or necessarily liked, but again, I had no real idea of knowing what to do at the time. I nodded and thanked him, figuring it was time to get settled into this place anyways. I took a few minutes washing my face and just looking at all the stuff.

Actually, it was two hours later when a knock was at my door. Ernestine had come back with my duffel bag from the car, and inquired what had happened. She mentioned how no one ever saw Curtis much, and that no one ever came down here anyways, much less a child. I calmed down, begged a few dollars off of her until payday, and got ready for work that evening.

I worked as a cashier in gas station part-time over nights. I really had a hard time concentrating, as the events that had given me my first place in Denver were strange, bewildering, but seemed just that, just weird, no rhyme nor reason to its circumstances. Dawn broke and I found myself walking back to my new place, dead tired after being up all night and all day. I walked in the hotel, past absolutely no one, down all the stairs and paths, and finally collapsed in heap on the bed, not even changing clothes. I was asleep in about 10 seconds.

…and woke up in a cold sweat, heart beating fast, breathing erratic. I was panicked and didn’t know why, but had a feeling of hearing a loud scream, a girl’s high-pitched scream. I was freezing as well, like it was winter just outside the walls. I could even see a bit of frost in the air from my breath, as I had left the lights on when I fell asleep after work.

I calmed down, grabbed a blanket around myself and mumbled and grumbled some cuss words. Damn hard time to sleep, damn cold for summer, damn damn damn. I slowly fell back asleep, the clock saying it was 9 in the morning, and I had only slept for 3 hours. Right about the time I knew I was asleep, I heard a door click. I had a dream of my grandmother putting me to sleep when I was little, muttering about how tired I was, and feeling her tuck the blankets in around me. Probably the first dream I ever remembered having right after I fell asleep.