This time of year, when I’m not skipping through mounds of crackly leaves, or sipping hard cider on my porch swing, or carving intricate designs on pumpkins, or canning the bounty of my prodigious garden, I’m preparing for winter. Taking a cue from neighborhood squirrels, who think my house a great place to gnaw on, I make list of things I should get busy with before winter turns my vistas brown and gray. At the top of my list is changing the filters in the floor vents and furnace. It’s not a big deal, but because I have to stop doing all the things listed above, I like to put it off. At least until I run out of hard cider.
Changing the floor vents is accomplished with little fanfare. I think I could change both of them in the duration of a TV commercial, especially during political campaigns. But the furnace is in the basement. If essays had sound effects, there would be one after the word “basement.” DA DA DAAAAHHH!
The basement is a place I avoid. To reach it, one exits a barn-type door and descends a short, steep stairway on a back-porch type area, to a landscape of red clay, spider-family webs, and darkness. It is cool and damp and perfect for serial killers, vampires, zombies and lifeless, decapitated bodies who crawl around in the dirt. It is also the storage area for gardening tools, which are known to be aggressive.
I take my little flashlight, too small to double as a weapon. It’s quiet in the basement. Cavernous and shadowy, with earthy odors and ancient dust whose waftings harbor secrets. Bad ones. When I reach the old metal furnace, the rusted doors scrape against the edges of the machine. An ominous, baleful silence is broken and battered. I am sure I have awakened dormant demons who are poised to uncoil from sinister corners, ready to abduct and drag me to a lair from which I will never see light again. I slide the filter into its slot and clang the metal door shut. It doesn’t go well, the door is out of its frame and the hollow stillness at my back makes every inch of my feigned composure crumble. “It’s nothing,” I tell myself, “Stop being a wuss,” but my feet carry me quickly away.
I have survived another trip to the basement. And for now, the monsters are contained.
By the way, I never do the things I suggested at the beginning of this tale. Perhaps I should. At least the hard cider part. It might arm me against the murky mysteries downstairs.