Friday, January 8, 2010


There was a beast that lived in my grandparent’s basement, just past the bottom of the stairs in that big mysterious room closed off by a large dark green curtain, that come to think of it, was probably just a bed sheet. It was a gigantic rat that fed primarily on peanut butter. Sometimes cheese, but mainly peanut butter. I imagined this rat to be human enough to walk around on its hind legs. It would be hunched over as it dragged its oversized frame around the basement room it had been given. It wore a mahogany colored robe, to keep warm. Its eyes were undoubtedly green and gave off a dim light.
            When I was eight the basement of my grandparents house was a fort. It had a pool table, which was great for sneaking around and crawling under. The basement was spacious for a few kids who had yet to reach a decade in age. It was our play-place whenever our mom brought us over so she could visit her parents. You could get to the basement from the living room. Down one half flight of stairs, where a few rooms existed, then down another half flight. At the bottom of this flight was always the green curtain that we were constantly warned to stay away from. We never dared to question our grandpa- why he kept a giant rat in his basement and if it was so dangerous, how did the curtain keep it at bay? We entered our imaginary fortress the same way every time, by taking the stairs on the far right side and sliding into the room, always staying away from the rat’s domain.
            As I grew older I feared the rat less and less but never tried to peer past the curtain. I never felt the urge to look past it as I got older. The room never existed in my childhood explorations so it never existed as I became a teen.
            Imaginations are powerful things, and children are the magical wizards they imagine themselves to be any given Tuesday afternoon, and the next day they really are in a struggle for their lives as they escape one of their siblings who has turned into a swamp creature. But as the months pass by every child loses its powers. Imaginations fade. You come to realize that your hand really isn't a gun and you really didn't just shoot your brother with it, and on top of that you realize that getting shot would really suck and you have absolutely no desire to really shoot your brother. Schoolwork becomes real, and so does that cute girl you see between third and fourth hour every day on your way to your locker.
            You've grown up. Being a kid was fun, but the days of make believe are over. Right?

            "Mom. Come on- can't I just stay at home this time? I've been there billions of times and there's nothing to do there. It's so boring."
            "You're coming with me and that's final!" Everything moms say are final. Don't ask them why 'that's final' because you'll never get an answer. "Because I said so. That's why."
            Every time it’s the same seemingly involuntary act: I sigh and drag my feet around, suddenly feeling the need to walk aimlessly around the living room half as fast as I normally walk. My favorite windbreaker is waiting for me on a chair where I threw it sometime after I last came home. It's blue, white and orange. I got it on sale. Thinking about it now, I understand why it was on sale. It's ugly. But it made me feel cool when I first put it on and made my mom buy it and now I have an unspoken attachment to it- like the ratty pair of shoes that you refuse to throw away.
            We have a mini van. It's a gray Astro van, and for a van I think it's pretty awesome. It endured many trips of us kids bouncing around before we were finally buckled down, and now it endures trips of three teens staring intently at nothing through its windows.
            In the corner of the basement a variety of bean bags and blankets await our arrival. A few chairs, too, but none of us really liked the chairs that much. Bean bags fit us much better; slouching was becoming the new posture of choice.
            "Ukhh" said the back of Ryan's throat. "I don't know why mom still makes us come here. This sucks."
            "Yeah. But we'd be sitting at home doing nothing if she didn't take us with." I said in a lazy response.
            My brother used to get mistaken as my twin. We really don't look a whole lot alike. Our hair colors aren't even close to being the same. It’s my sister and I that look alike- the blonde hair- the blue eyes. We used to joke that he was the adopted child, when really it was Jacqi and me that bore the least resemblance to our parents. Ryan has brown hair and eyes that he insists are “hazel”. I tell him that they’re brown because he’s a boy and boys shouldn’t worry themselves with whether their eyes are “hazel” or not. He persists. I never understood why people thought we were twins. I guess we just act alike.
            "Apparently she thinks we still play down here?" stated our sister. She was the oldest of the three of us. She knew we were far too old to still play games and communicate across the room with walkie talkies, and if she knew something was true we were liable to believe her. She had over a year of living on me and a little over two on my brother.
            "Come on guys," I chuckled "who wants to be the sea monster this time?"
            "Ha. Not it."
            "You can say you're not it," Smiled my sister "but we can make you be the sea monster again if we want!"
            "You guys suck. And you always have." Ryan had that grin on that he's been making since he was four years old stealing moms coffee from the table top as she got ready for work in the morning. I don't know how it didn't burn his mouth but he always drank it all. And fast.
            "Well... we could go free Garatron from his dungeon." joked Jacqi. She said it like a joke but it was more of a challenge. None of us believed in the thing that came to be named Garatron (Gargoyle+Rat+Tron [we, as all kids in our generation, had a robot fixation]. This name struck the proper fear into the unknown creature that lived behind the curtain), but none of us jumped to the challenge that came up at least once every time we came over.
            "Still not it." He didn't sound excited. The joke was probably getting old to him.
            "You guys. Have you realized that we have never even so much as peeked behind that curtain? That's just silly. We all know there's nothing back there. Grandpa probably just has a bunch of old crap he doesn't want us to break back there." I always felt like mine was a voice of reason.
            "Alright. It's settled. You get to go back there and tell us what you see." Jacqi was always first in command. Whatever she said generally had to happen. When Ryan or me said something she had the power to deny it.
            Well fine. I wasn't afraid. But I wasn't getting up either.
            "Puhftt.." My diaphragm popped my stomach up for a split second as the corner of my mouth pointed towards my eye which was half squinting as I looked back and fourth between the people I had spent most of my life with. They were calling my bluff and I knew it. "fine!" I stood up abruptly; my face still holding that grin assuring myself that I thought this was ridiculous.
            "Go on!" Ryan smiled as he lazily extended his arm and flicked his hand in the direction of the forbidden room.
            "Yeah." I let my head fall back slightly as I turned to head in the direction of the room. I marched the same way as I did when I found out I had to come here earlier today.
            Jacqi started to laugh. Quietly for a second or two then more obviously. Ryan joined in. I had only walked about five steps. Without moving my feet I turned around and smiled. They both shot up to follow me as I picked up my pace and headed straight for the ugly green curtain.
            We stood there in a “V” pointing at the room, me at the tip. I stood staring at it. I had dared to do this before a few times on a few of the many trips we had been forced to make. This was about to be a trip I had only dared to think about up until this point. I reached out to grab the side of the curtain. . .

            Inside there were a lot of boxes stacked against the walls. I saw the mousetraps scattered around with peanut butter. Apparently, if the mousetraps didn't kill it the years of partially hydrogenated vegetable oils were going to do the trick. However, if they hadn't by now the chances were slim. The rat beast must have been smarter than that by now. We slowly walked around the room through the mazes of old crap our grandpa clearly didn't want us to break. I'm sure he's never going to use any of it, though.
            A noise came from somewhere behind me. My heart skipped a beat as I spun around just in time to see my brother trying to set a fishing pole back in its place. "I thought you were Garatron," I said with the quiver in my voice of a nervous laugh.
            "No. That...That's Garatron.." My sister said as she pointed behind some boxes, her mouth partially dropped open. Ryan and I looked over from where we were poking around. I was closest to her and the first to show up and peer behind the box. I saw nothing. Ryan came up and stood looking over my shoulder.
            "There! There's his tail!" he exclaimed and pointed to an edge of one of the boxes.
            "Um," I said, a little confused at the floor space of nothing I was looking at. "Guys..?"
            "He's coming after us!" Jacqi said as she fled the room.
            I looked at my brother and smiled. I looked back and there he was. Exactly as I imagined him. With a grin I was half my age again- seven, eight, and nine with my brother and sister.  "Get the walkie talkies!" I commanded as I took off with Ryan after our sister. We ran back to the bean bag area and found the walkie talkies laying around. The batteries were dead. We probably hadn't touched those walkie talkies in two years. "I'll go get some batteries," I said in a serious voice and I took off for the stairs. I stopped at the curtain and jerked it across the entry way. "I think he's still in there guys!" I called out as I pounded up the stairs.
            I calmly took a right as I got to the top of the stairs, entering the living room. I walked into the kitchen, breathing a little heavier than normal. Mom looked over as I opened a drawer with random household items that didn't really have a place anywhere else. The junk drawer also served as the battery drawer. I tested two nine volts with my tongue. It quivered a little bit as a light shock shot across the two contact points from the first one. "Dith un's gud," I said with my tongue out, ready to test the second one. "Bla. That one too." I shook my head a little. I hated testing nine volt batteries but this was a serious matter. "Bye mom!" I said in a slightly raised volume as I turned and quickly headed back to the stairs.
            "And a hearty 'Hi' to you too!" said my grandpa as he leaned back and looked for me around the corner of the kitchen. We made brief eye contact as I smiled and waved. The stairs thudded under my heavy steps as I ran back down to aid my brother and sister in the struggle we were about to embark in against Garatron.
            "Watch out! He's right there!" warned my sister.
            "Aw basketballs!!" I said as I stopped abruptly on the last step.
            "I have a plan. Wait one second." She appeared back by the stairs a few seconds later holding a pillow. "I'm gonna throw this at him and when I do..make a break for it!"
            I nodded, two batteries clutched in my right hand as I bent my legs, ready to spring forward. She threw the pillow. It bounced off of a box from behind the curtain.
            "Got him! Quick!!" she said urgently.
            I jumped from the final stair and we ran back to the other side of the basement where Ryan was waiting for us, ready to devise a plan.
            "Alright. What do we know about this thing? What can we use against it?" Asked Ryan, looking to us for council.
            "I think it's sick of peanut butter by now. If we're going to lure it, we're going to have to use something else" I said, glancing between the two other faces in our huddle.
            "Peanut butter and pickles."
            "Jacqi? Peanut butter and pickles? How will that help?" Our mom got us hooked on peanut butter and pickle sandwiches early on in our lives. I looked a little miffed at such a ridiculous plan..there wasn't any time to waste! I continued: "Ryan, got any ideas?"
            "Hold on!" She insisted. "This is a good idea. Garatron is familiar with peanut butter. You can't get sick of something if you've never had anything else to compare it with.. so the peanut butter will lure it in. The pickles, something new, will give him even more reason to go after it."
            "Alright good point. I got the batteries, though, so who's next to go up? Whoever does it has to somehow get past Garatron..twice."
            "I'll go." Said Ryan. He was always brave. Never too energetic, but rarely afraid to do something that took some guts.
            "Alright, we need to make a distraction." I said, breaking my position in the huddle to look around the room for something to use.
            "Here's what we'll do.." Said Jacqi, pulling us in with serious comportment. "I’ll get close to him and distract him by talking. I’ll keep moving back into the room every time he gets closer. He's not fast so I won't be in too much danger. You guys will sneak around the pool table, and when it's safe, Ryan, you go up and get the sandwich. Cut it into four pieces. Lee, you go into the room and find an empty box. A big one. Get back to the corner and set the box up on its side and hide behind it, behind the closed side. And take this walkie talkie. Ryan- you'd better make it quick!!"
            And we were off. I didn't think about what I was supposed to be doing hiding behind this box in the corner of Garatrons den and I started to get a little nervous when I heard my brother come back down the stairs and receive further directions from my sister.
            "Alright quick.. find Lee and put a piece right in front of the box." I heard the walkie talkie by my side static and then I heard my sisters voice more loudly: "When we say 'now', jump up and capture Garatron in the box." Then the static preceded my sisters voice again in a distant and faint volume from across the room: "Lay the other three pieces in a trail leading to the fourth. He'll take the bait, promise."

            "Lee..Lee, did you hear that?" Ryan fervently whispered.
            "Yes. And I think I'd feel safer if you guys would just give me a harpoon gun instead of this box"
            And then there was silence. I heard the grotesque smacking of ratty masticating grow nearer until it was almost directly on the other side of me.
            "NOW! NOW LEE! NOWNOWNOWNOW!" It was a sort of unisonous tumult from my siblings, both in audible shouting and staticky telephonic transmissions: an electrified galvanization for a call to action. I jumped straight up, holding the box in front of me. Garatron fell backwards because, as I later learned, his head was actually in the box and all I really had to do was tip the box forward to capture him. Unfortunately I was feeling rather valiant, hence the jump to my feet with the box. Garatron soon regained his bearings and I swear I saw those green eyes glow! He began snipping at my feet, snarling and drooling everywhere in the process. I looked up, fearful and impuissant. My brother and sister stood on, apparently unaware of the struggle that was happening between my feet and this beast. Garatron lunged forward for my seemingly palatable ankles and I saw my window of opportunity. I jumped backwards and brought the box down upon the giant rat at the same time. How the whole things fit under the box, I will never know. The box shook from its attempts for liberation so I pounced on top of the box, securing the rat betwixt the floor and the box. Panting, I called out to my brother and sister:
            "Got him!" I announced with a triumphant grin while kneeling on the box, but no sooner than my grin spread it quickly faded. I heard our secret code beeping through the walkie talkie, three short staccato beeps followed by one long one. It meant one thing: adults. Ryan was feverishly pounding out the warning signal as he looked up at our mother, who was standing right behind the two of them with a smile on her face.
            "Are you guys ready to go yet? or should I leave you be for a while longer? It looks like you're actually having fun down here!"
            "No mom, we're good..we were just..we saw a..." Jacqi stalled for a quick excuse.
            "I donno, I'm ready to go whenever" Said Ryan as he sheepishly hid the walkie talkie behind his back.
            "Don't tell grandpa?" I said with a pleading smile that could win any mom over in an instant.
            "Don't worry kids, I won't. Anyway, someone's gotta be around to keep Brutus at bay."
            "Brutus?" We all kind of said under our breaths at the same time.
            "Well whatever you call him. That's what we called him. You ready?"
            I climbed down off of the box I was still perched on, feeling invigorated but doing my best to not show it as we all walked out of our grandpas house, bidding our farewells and for the first time in years not feeling dread when he said, as he always did: "You kids should come back over sometime!"


  1. Hahaha yes... though I hope you're not serious about peanut butter pickle sandwiches. Ish.

    Oh, and you said Jackie once and then switched to Jacqi for the rest of the story... might want to fix that. :)

  2. HAHA oops!! That's my own sister's name! That part, the part with the wrong spelling, was added after the whole thing was finished for quite some time. Then I thought I'd add the bit about how my brother was the adopted sibling :) jokingly, of course. haha. I guess I wasn't actually thinking when I was writing that in. Shhhhhhhh. I was like what?! How did I a) mess that up... and b) miss that every time?! Well. I don't proof read my additions all that much. haha

    The peanut butter and pickles combo is true and delicious. Introduced by my mom, originating from a dare from her brother when she was younger.

  3. Haha nice job. I guess that's what editors are for (which is pretty much the only thing you can do with a creative writing major... haha). :)

    Peanut butter and pickles... I may have just thrown up a little. Bleeehh.