One of the disadvantages of living six feet under – aside from the lack of sunlight, of which we’ve already spoken – is the worms.
I measured the other day and determined that the entrance to the basement apartment Ace and I are living in is exactly six feet beneath ground level. I’m trying – despite coming from a family of undertakers – to not read anything into that.
It was while trying not to read anything into it, standing in the stairwell just outside my door to smoke a cigarette — here in a town that owes its existence to, as they’re sometimes called, coffin nails — that I noticed the worms, slithering by my feet.
The “man cave,” as the owner of the mansion in North Carolina calls it, is a fine place – warm, clean and comfortable, with a wood burning stove.
But living in a basement can play games with your mind – both dog mind and human mind, I think.
Ace has shown a distinct preference for the upstairs, and I don’t think it’s solely because its occupant, the homeowner, is prone to handing him treats – making sure to give one to her dog, Lord Barkley, at the same time.
He dashes up the ten stairs to the outside, ground-level world, and shows some hesitancy when it’s time to head back down. Twice now, I’ve returned from brief outings to hear him moaning from the bowels of the mansion – eerie moans that cease as soon as he hears me coming down the stairs.
I’m wondering if he has a touch of seasonal affective disorder, or if maybe he’s sensing some evil spirits lurking within the mansion walls. Or, it could just be the newness of it – though he’s stayed in about 100 new places over the past nine months. It might even be the fireplace. The sound of crackling wood distresses him, and he tends to never forget sources of distress.
Possibly, he – a very social dog — is bothered by the lack of socialization that seemingly comes with living in a basement. Even though we get out several times a day, there’s a sense of solitude when you’re a cellar dweller that follows you up to the earth’s surface – a feeling that you’re disappearing, a need to shout, “Hey, I’m here. Look at me. You do see me, don’t you?”
Maybe other people can’t see you anymore. Maybe, the memory of you, too, is vanishing.
John and Ace? Oh yeah, they used to hang around the park. Nice dog. Didn’t he write a book about something … John, I mean. Whatever happened to them?
Last I heard they’d gone underground. They’re with the worms now.
Sorry to hear that. Ace will be missed.
The worms aren’t actually that bad. They come out of a drainpipe built into the bottom step, then slither their way to an underground drain in the floor, about 18 inches away, go down that hole and – I’m guessing here, because they all look alike — continue to make the circuit every time it rains.
I’m not sure whether their journey is intentional, or not. Perhaps it’s a light at the end of the tunnel thing. Perhaps they’re seeking some refreshment, a quick burst of sunlight, then taking the subway back home to their families beneath the dirt. But, in any case, I think they might be on to something.
The secret to living underground, in addition to buying more lamps, is to get out as much as possible.
Then again, partly a result, I think, of my subterranean lifestyle, I have a growing fear – unrealistic as it might be — that I might not be accepted on the actual surface of the earth; that when I slowly emerge, pale and slow-moving, blinking my eyes in the harsh light of day, perhaps a worm or two squirming in my hair, I might frighten people.
They might shriek in horror. “He’s coming out! He’s coming out!” They might run away, convinced that I am intent on drinking their blood, or, worse yet, smoking a cigarette.
“Hideous monster. Why can’t he just stay underground, where he can’t infect us with his evil ways?” they’d say. “We don’t need his likes up here.”
“Nice dog, though.”