He was going to die and he knew it

but he marched forward

because Dad needed a Phillips screwdriver from the basement

and he knew that he had reached that age

when a boys quivering lip ceases its pronouncement of childhood,

and begins the hardening stoicism that will come to define him.

Stood poised on the rubbery knees of a rapidly vanishing boyhood

holding back tears and excuses,

looking into the void

breathing in the faint sour stomach smell that drifted from below,

clung to him,

wrapping him in the moist reek of things which grow in the dark.


Trip wire caution in worn sneakers

his mind keeping pace with his racing heart

taking note of the gap behind each heel

of his exposed ankle that offered itself to the void

his insubstantial weight exploding the silence

dry wood planks complaining

reluctantly agreeing to bear this burden at least once more

each step loudly declaring his presence

to whatever lived  and scurried below.

The banister under his hand jiggled unsteadily

hissed as his palm slid across the smooth useless wood

until even that small comfort ended abruptly

with the blunt point of its matter of fact ending

and he stood

paralyzed for a child’s moment

unglued from his mooring on the stairs,

his connection with the upstairs world of sunlight and parents severed

unmoored and adrift in that space

his hands shot out as his ragged breath

began to form a tiny prayer that he would find a wall,

convinced that he wouldn’t this time

that he would reach into that black forever

that he would never feel anything again,

would find nothing but space and void and darkness

that this time there was no return,

only this vast, cavernous space

that there would only ever be this space

and he was lost in it.

when his fingers found the cheap pressboard paneling

they traced the ridges of that wooden wall desperately

his yearning for the light switch overwhelming him

his breath not ragged now but still


until that miraculous plastic protrusion appeared under his index finger

and he jerked his whole hand upward

spastically swatting creation back out of darkness

smiling a little at his own terror even as he grabbed the wrong screwdriver

flipped the switch,

 and sprinted back up the stairs.




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