Monday, October 18, 2010
My body is tilted off balance with the laundry basket propped on my hip one handed, while I struggle to slide the bolt lock to the basement door back with the other. I hesitate before opening the door as a shiver played my spine like a xylophone. A sign of bad karma, bad luck? Open the door already wimp.
Without a doubt, basements hold their own element of suspense; they’re damp, cold, concrete enclaves’ playing guest appearances in almost ever horror movie ever made. Creepy basements don’t bother me. However, a dirt encrusted, soot smudged, unblinking mannequin, in a bad version of a 60’s Santa suit scares the crap out of me. We’ve all encountered ‘that’ Santa at one point or another in our lives and balled our eyes out, convinced there was no freaking way Santa was anything like the mall version. The problem - ‘my’ version of evil Santa is lurking in the basement.
My laundry had no sympathy for my fear, growing into a mountainous heap more threatening than Santa. The laundry and the smell won, hands down. Ascending the stairs into the bowels of basement hell, cold air wafts up to greet me. My eyes fall on Santa in high-water red overalls, missing his boots. I do believe he was missing a few toes as well. His beard a rat’s nest gray, fingers posed into claws. Why anyone ever thought this spectacle could entice someone into a music store during the holidays is beyond me. On closer inspection, I realize the paint on one of Santa’s eyes has been scraped off and I can’t help but shudder.
I hugged the contour of the stairs, trying desperately not to brush up against Basement Santa and rush to put in a load of laundry and be done with it. When I turned around, there he sat in all his demented glory, bent forward into the passage between the wall and the stairs. Had he moved?
I refused to run back up the stairs, squaring my shoulders and forcing myself to walk stiffly by. Santa’s hand lifted up off his lap. I ran like the wind up the stairs and slammed the door shut, leaning against the door with all my weight and breathing heavy. Thump, thump, the door bounced against my back from the weight of something on the other side. Holy crap on a cracker (trust me, my profanity would turn virgins into heathens – this is the polite version).
Imagine every horror movie cliché you’ve ever watched. Now remember screaming at the screen, “Don’t open that door…don’t go outside…look out…” - you get the idea. Now start screaming at me. So what do I do? Make like a cliché and grab a pan and open the door. My cat Socrates flies out of the dark snarling and screeching like a banshee. I slam the door shut behind her, slide the bolt home, and avoid the basement until Santa’s evicted.
Was Socrates the guilty culprit? Probably. In any case, I hate mannequins.
The moral of this story? I’m deep in the midst of revisions and I’m finding more words are getting evicted in the same fashion as Santa than not. Does it scare me? I’d say it’s on an even keel with Basement Santa. On that analogy alone, cleaning out the basement (first draft) of my manuscript is bound to have the same profound effect. Useless words and structure bog down a storyline. Just like Santa wouldn’t be half as scary if he actually had a twinkle in his eye and rosy cheeks, my words will flow into lyrical prose.
I’m much happier writing the horror on the page in front of me than living it. Anyone remember Silent Night, Deadly Night? (Winks) Don’t let your fears keep you from finding out what’s on the other side of the door.
*On a side note: Basement Santa is a more appropiate story for Halloween than the holidays. I’m really not a Santa prude. Where did he end up? On someone else’s porch.