Willard sat in the oak breakfast nook trying to sink the remaining Oateeos floating mockingly in his bowl. “Damn dinghies got a hole in ‘em,” he thought as the clacking of his spoon got louder.
“Willard!” came his wife’s shout floating down the stairs from the bedroom above, vaguely reminding him of the sound a rat makes when it realizes it’s stuck in a glue trap. “Willard!” Her screaming had only gotten worse in the past forty-seven years, ever since they moved to the suburbs.
“So it is….” Willard mumbled into his bowl.
“You promised to clean the basement on Sunday!”
“Yes, yes, the basement.”
“Clean it out!”
“You’re cleaning the basement?”
“I’m cleaning the basement!” Willard enjoyed shouting back at his wife and took every opportunity he could to do it. Then, pushing his Oateeos aside with a promise to come back later “and teach you a few goddamn things about dinghies,” Willard made his way to the stairs of the basement.
Going down, his salt-crusted work boots hit each riser hard letting out a parrot squawk echoing into Willard’s own hollow thoughts about his descent and the sea. Clicking on the light, he took an initial survey: broken oars, moldy life vests, tangled fishing gear, empty scuba tanks, jammed harpoon guns, rotten chunks of old rowboats and kayaks, welding torches — the plunder of Willard’s passion unfulfilled. He sat down on one of the life vests, started poking through a cracked tackle box, and sighed.
“Willard!” His wife’s shout was at puppy-with-a-broken-leg intensity now.
“Yes, yes, I’m cleaning the basement. I’m cleaning!” Willard chuckled to himself, proud of how loudly he could shout.
His survey of the basement completed, he thought, “Piles are the key.” If he could just get everything into piles then that would be enough.
Plan settled, task at hand, Willard set to work.
“Fins with snorkels, oars together, life vests with the dinghies…” For thirty minutes or so, Willard picked up his treasures and moved them from side to side.
“I’m still working!” Willard suddenly shouted lustily because he could, because it felt good, “I’m cleaning the basement!”
By then, Willard had cleared a path to the far side of the room where a pitted, crumbling rowboat leaned against the wall.
“May have to cut this one in two to fit it on the pile,” Willard thought as he blew dust from its hull. He grabbed it and tugged, but it seemed to be stuck in place. He strained and he pulled, but it wouldn’t budge.
“I’ll use an oar as a lever!” he yelled.
“What?” came the screech from above.
“What are you talking about, Willard?”
“I’m cleaning the basement!”
Flushed with the pleasure of having shouted again, Willard did as he said he would and grabbed one of the least rotten oars he could find. He jammed it behind the boat and, with all of his strength, he pulled back on it. With a grinding “SQUANK” the boat shuddered from the wall and Willard fell flat on his back.
“What was that?” shouted the screech.
“The dinghy…” a breathless Willard mumbled, staring at the cobwebs on the ceiling.
“Willard, what was that?” came the screech again.
“I’m cleaning!” Willard shouted and climbed back on his feet.
“Don’t hurt yourself.”
“I’m cleaning the goddamn basement!”
Invigorated from shouting but winded from the work, Willard looked at the wall where the boat had been resting. There was a door.
“Where the hell did that come from?” It looked like it was made of old pine and had a tarnished copper knob shaped like an Oateeo.
“A door!” he screamed as loudly as he could.
“Throw it out!” was the screech’s reply.
“Throw it out?” Willard screamed.
“We have enough doors!”
“There’s never enough doors, you sea-hag!”
“I’m cleaning!” Willard giggled and looked at the door.
“Hmmmmm,” he thought, “might make a good raft…” and then Willard drifted … saw himself astride this door, shirtless and strong, a patch over his left eye, a saber clenched between his teeth — the scourge of the seven seas — avast ye hearties, avast — and he reached for the Oateeo shaped knob, opening it out.
* * *
There is a sudden sucking sound, like when you lift the vacuum from the carpet and the engine revs. Willard feels himself being pulled forward, helpless against the force. “Hey now…”
What is it? Seconds, minutes, hours — alone in the darkness, Willard feels himself pulled further and further in, heading towards a light up ahead.
Awash in the brightness, Willard quickly tries to get his bearings as to where he has ended up. From all the accounts of his senses, he is high above a vast ocean — high above a vast ocean and falling — high above a vast ocean and falling fast.
The sea air whips across his face and the roar of the descent fills his ears while his arms pinwheel in a vain attempt to slow himself and every muscle in his core tenses.
“Shoulda grabbed me a dinghy!” Willard shouts out to the capacious emptiness around him as he plunges headfirst towards the briny deep and an uncertain landing for sure.
Daniel Elkin is lucky because he has his eye on a majestic creature every time she comes to visit. He can be found on Twitter (@DanielElkin) and is Your Chicken Enemy (http://danielrelkin.blogspot.