Under the Dirt Floor


Lila and JJ were in bed.

“It’s too hot,” she said. “Don’t you have a fan?”

“Yeah, somewhere.”

“Well, summer’s here.”

“Not yet,” JJ said. “This is just the beginning.”

“Well the sticky is here. And I don’t like sweating in bed.”

JJ looked toward the window, still and dark out there and, yes, humid. No breeze from outside. No moonlight. The hot and hazy days come suddenly and then you wait for the breaks. You wait for the thunderstorm and the dry breezy day after when everyone says “what a relief” and “I can live with this”. But, we still have to live through it all, JJ thought. Or we should try.

“Did you ever think we’re supposed to sweat? Maybe it’s supposed to be hard to sleep.”

Lila got out of bed. “Where’s that fan?”

“In the basement.”


“I’ll get it,” JJ said and rolled out of bed. The basement floor was dirt in this old farmhouse without a farm, and she hates it down there. She thinks there are bodies beneath that dirt. JJ thought of an old Stephen King story as he walked down the two flights. An old Nazi, living anonymously in the American suburbs, rediscovers his penchant for killing. Old habits, old lusts, reawakened. The old Nazi starts with animals, cats from the neighborhood, and buries the bodies in his cellar. The old Nazi may have buried a person down there, too. Maybe Lila had a point.

He returned with the fan and plugged it in. It was a box fan and it fit nicely on the window sill to pull in the fresh air. “How’s that?”

Lila was stretched out on the bed in a long t-shirt, spread-eagle on her stomach. She spoke into the pillow. “Now I’m cold.”

JJ pulled the sheet, which they had kicked into a crumple at the foot of the bed, over her. He got the light blanket and left it folded in half at the foot of the bed, ready to be deployed for a 3:00 AM chill. “How’s that?”

She rolled over and looked at him. “You’re nicer than you used to be. It freaks me out a little.”

“Yeah, well, fuck you.”

“That’s better. Don’t get too nice. Don’t go all docile on me.”

It could never work between them the old way. Their past was always in the background with it’s relentless patterns and ways of being. Bags in the hall. A reversion to the mean. You try to change, you try to bury it and move on, but a hand comes up through the dirt and grabs your ankle. You can only pull free so many times.

“Let me tell you what’s buried in my basement.”

“You know that freaks me out.”

JJ got into bed and turned out the light. “I’ll never be too nice,” he said and reached for her.