The Walden Effect: Farming, simple living, permaculture, and invention.

Salamander in the Basement, part 1

Lollipops, Garlic, and Basement SalamandersThere was little to recommend the long drive home.  "Come home for Easter," Mom had said, "I need you to clean out the basement."  Perhaps she'd known the task would attract me as the fetid odor of Skunk Cabbage blossoms attracts carrion-hunting flies.

The dark, moldering depths of the basement were below the house but accessible only through the outdoors.  The dirt floor was more dust than dirt.  Inside were boxes of mildewed books, discarded garments, garden tools, ice skates—who knew what I'd find down there.

When I was younger, the basement had been a cool refuge from the heat of Tennessee summers.  I would step outside and the humid air would surround me like the fog it almost was.  But the basement was a rare refuge.  Only on the hottest days would I trade grass for dust, sun for the dim, uncovered bulb with its dangling metal bead string.  Mostly, the basement was Mom's domain.

Oh, we'd keep things there—winter clothes would be engulfed in black plastic trash bags and would descend to the depths where Mom stashed them away in some odd corner, stacked on wooden pallets to be off the dirt.  Bushel boxes of apples and oranges were carried down by grudging children to chill in the cool, bowls of the fruit carried back up to the house even more grudgingly.

Only Mom would go there to putter, to shift the bags and boxes.  "Do you have a copy of The Plague?" I'd say, "I need it for school."  "Of course," she'd answer.  "Do you need it right now?"  Invariably, the answer would be yes, and down she'd go to rummage, returning an hour or more later, dirt-smudged but triumphant.  The book would release its basement mold slowly, missing the dark.

I hope you enjoyed this first segment of Salamander in the Basement.  Stay tuned for the next installment tomorrow, or splurge 99 cents on the whole story here.

This post is part of our Aimee Easterling Short Stories lunchtime series.  Read all of the entries:

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About us: Anna Hess and Mark Hamilton spent over a decade living self-sufficiently in the mountains of Virginia before moving north to start over from scratch in the foothills of Ohio. They've experimented with permaculture, no-till gardening, trailersteading, home-based microbusinesses and much more, writing about their adventures in both blogs and books.

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Wow great story! Sounds a little bit like my basement, accessible only from the outside, but I do have a concrete floor and the walls are painted white to brighten things up. Looking forward to part 2
Comment by zimmy Tue Jan 28 21:37:07 2014

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