- Shopping Bag ( 0 items )
Maddy is a slow nine-year-old girl who is kept in the basement. Sometimes she talks in a gravelly adult voice. Sometimes she seems knows things about others that she couldn’t possibly know...and predicts things that ...
Maddy is a slow nine-year-old girl who is kept in the basement. Sometimes she talks in a gravelly adult voice. Sometimes she seems knows things about others that she couldn’t possibly know...and predicts things that always come true. And sometimes people from the government come by to spend time with Maddy down in the basement.
Maybe Ryan’s luck hasn’t changed as much as he thinks.
Elliott Granger pushed his walker to the open front door and looked through the security door as Ryan Kettering finished mowing his front lawn. The lawn had been tall and bushy with weeds before Ryan came over and offered to mow it. Elliott knew Marie next door had sent him over – she had been taking good care of him while he was down with the hip.
While Elliott wasn't too sure about the other two boys in the group home next door, he thought Ryan was a good kid. Marie had told him Ryan's mother was a drug addict who lived on the street half the time, going from fix to fix. No one knew who his father was, but Marie said Ryan had expressed no interest in finding out.
Ryan was very guarded. When he first met the boy, Elliott sensed the walls he threw up. Then one day, Ryan learned Elliott was a writer and expressed an interest in his work. Elliott gave him copies of a couple young adult thrillers he'd written. After reading them, Ryan had discussed them with him. He'd expressed an interest in writing and Elliott had told him to keep a journal, write down his thoughts and experiences. Elliott got the feeling the boy was so guarded because his feelings were just beneath the surface, raw and vulnerable to hurt. He knew how therapeutic it could be to write about those feelings, to drain them on the page.
Elliott Granger was a writer of horror fiction. It was the only thing he'd ever wanted to do with his life since he was eight years old. He had no problem with the fact that he was a horror writer, but so many others seemed to that he hesitated to admit it when asked, "What do you do?"
"I write for a living."
"Oh, what do you write?"
"Novels mostly, but a short story now and then."
"What kind of novels?"
At this point, Elliott usually had not spent enough time with the person to have any idea how they would feel about his being a horror writer, so he'd have to make a snap personality judgment, or just play it safe and say, "Thrillers, mysteries."
"What kind of thrillers?"
He usually gave in quickly and confessed the truth. "Horror, actually, I write horror novels."
Their true reaction did not come right away, it came a little later. First, they had to say the inevitable: "You mean, like Stephen King?"
While they did the same thing for a living, Elliott's advances were not even in the same galaxy as Stephen King's. This was always the first thing discussed by everyone, man, woman, and child, without exception, when they learned that Elliott wrote horror novels.
"Wow, I betcha you'd like to get some of his royalties by mistake, wouldn'tcha?"
"You could probably live well off his interest, couldn't you?"
"You ever think of writing a book the way he does it?"
"Do you know Stephen King?"
Sometimes, Elliott felt like saying, "Of course, he comes to all the meetings," but he never had because it was snide and unpleasant, and he tried never to be snide and unpleasant to potential readers. He had, however, tried two different answers to the question. When, in response to, "Do you know Stephen King?" he said that he'd met Stephen King, people were always friendlier to him than they were when he was honest and said no, he did not know King. So he had King to thank for that.
Then, once all the frivolity about Stephen King was over, it started to set in – they realized that this guy actually thought that stuff up, and they began to get suspicious. And he didn't even do it for millions of dollars, like King – it was common knowledge in town that he lived in his parents' house because he was flat broke and was having trouble selling a new novel, when he could be making perfectly good money at a perfectly normal job.
"Where do you get your ideas?"
"How do you think of such things?"
"Do you just sit around and think about horror all the time?"
"Why do you write horror?"
And that was about the time he usually lost them, when he couldn't come up with a satisfactory answer for them – and who could? He preferred King's response: "What makes you think I've got a choice?" But that never made anybody feel any better.
Ryan turned off the mower and rolled it into the garage. It was a few minutes after ten in the morning, but it was already hot. Ryan was sweaty as he came out of the garage and headed for the front door. He wore an X-Men T-shirt, a pair of denim cut-offs, and old sneakers. He was a slender-muscled boy with a thick head of blond hair.
"Come on inside," Elliott said as he backed away from the door.
Ryan came inside.
"Here, take this," Elliott said, handing him a ten dollar bill.
"Oh, no, you don't have to pay me, Marie told me to just come over and –"
"I know, I know, but go ahead and take it, anyway."
"But I didn't even do the back lawn."
"So you can do the back lawn tomorrow morning."
Ryan hesitated, but finally took the ten and stuffed it into his pocket. "Thanks, Mr. Granger. By the way, I took your advice."
"What advice was that?"
"I started a journal."
"Hey, that's good. Now, if you ever decide to try writing a short story, let me know. I want to read it."
"Okay. I might take you up on that." Ryan shrugged. "Well, I guess I'll go. But I'll come back tomorrow morning and do the back lawn, I promise. It's getting hotter fast out there."
"That sounds good, Ryan. Give Marie my best."
On his way out, Ryan said, "I think she's cooking something for you."
"She's always cooking something for me. I don't know what I would've done without her."
Marie Preston had made sure he was well fed and cared for the last few months. In fact, he'd put on a few pounds eating her food. The pain from the osteonecrosis had been excruciating and he'd been unable to walk without crutches before surgery. It had hurt too much to write, and not writing had made him feel like a useless vegetable. His right hip had been replaced with a prosthesis. He'd had the surgery only a couple months ago and was recovering.
He hobbled with the walker back down the hall to his office and seated himself – he winced at the pain in his hip when he sat – at the computer on his desk. His cup of coffee was next to the keyboard. He read the morning's headline stories in a number of different newspapers while Diane Krall played on his stereo.
Elliott and his brother and sister had grown up in the four-bedroom ranch-style house in which he now lived alone. When his father died, his mother had used the money from his life insurance to buy a double-wide mobile home in a park across Airport Road from Fig Tree Lane, just north of Kent's Market. The house was too big for her to keep clean, but she didn't have the heart to sell it. That had been four years ago, about the time Elliott and his wife Irene were getting a divorce, and Elliott had moved into the house.
"Stay as long as you like," his mother had told him. "Think of the place as yours."
He always had. The house was home.
His brother Mike was a twice-married veterinarian with a son in Red Bluff and his sister Angie lived with her therapist husband and their two kids in Sacramento. Elliott and Irene had an eight-year-old daughter, Lizzy, who lived with her mother. Elliott saw her every other weekend, although Irene had brought her by more often since he'd been down with his hip, and he'd been grateful for that – Irene even had made an effort to be civil. On the corner of Elliott's desk stood a stuffed Opus the penguin – it belonged to Lizzy, and she had left it to take care of him while he was recovering.
He was ready to get to work when he drank the last of his coffee. He reached for the single crutch leaning against the wall by the desk. When he had to carry a drink, he walked with one crutch, although it was more painful than walking with two, or using the walker. He was halfway down the hall when the doorbell rang.
"Coming!" he called. He opened the door and found Marie standing there holding a pie in both hands, smiling. He pushed open the security door. "Uh-oh, looks like you've been baking, Marie."
"The girls and I went blackberry picking down by the river early this morning," she said as she came in. "I made an extra pie for you, Elliott."
"It looks delicious, Marie."
She took the pie to the kitchen and set it on the counter. "Is there anything I can do for you while I'm here?"
"No, thanks, Marie. I'm good for now. I can't thank you enough."
"I see Ryan mowed your lawn for you."
"Yes, he did. I like Ryan. He's a good kid."
"Yes, he is. His mother is coming to see him this morning."
"Really? He didn't say anything about it when he was here."
"He just found out himself. She only called a few minutes ago." Her smile faltered. "Sometimes I think her visits do more harm than good to that boy. He always seems so unhappy after she goes."
"How is she?" Elliott asked. "I mean, is she off the drugs?"
"She's better sometimes than others, but she just doesn't seem able to shake the drugs for long. They've really got their hooks in her."
"That's too bad," Elliott said.
He thanked her again and she reminded him to call her if he needed help with anything, then she left. He felt bad for Ryan. What must it be like to know your own mother can't take care of you because her addiction to drugs takes precedence in her life?
He got a fresh cup of coffee and went back to his office to work.CHAPTER 2
Ryan did not want to see Phyllis – that was his mother's name, and that's how he thought of her, as Phyllis, not Mom – but no one ever asked him if he wanted to see her or not. She just showed up once in awhile. She usually looked worse each time, and this time was no exception.
Marie put them at the dining room table together – Phyllis at the end and Ryan on the side, with only the table's corner between them – with iced tea and a slice of blackberry pie each.
"How ya doin', honey?" Phyllis asked.
"I'm fine," he said, staring at his pie.
"Well, look at me, sweetheart." She reached over and hooked a finger under his chin, lifted his head. "I haven't seen you in – how long's it been?"
"Has it been that long?"
She could not hold still. She jittered and fidgeted at the table as if she were about to come out of her skin. Her pale, rough face seemed to be collapsing – her top front four teeth were gone, and most of her bottom teeth as well, and her lips and cheeks sank into her face, and her temples were twin indentations flanking her brow, giving her face a skull-like appearance. Her nose, pierced in the left nostril, was always runny and sniffly, her eyes always red. There were dark grey half-moons beneath her eyes, and her blonde hair was pulled back in a ponytail and looked unwashed. She was skinny and all bones. She wore a red halter-top and a pair of jeans that looked too big on her, cinched tight at her waist with a thin, worn red belt. Her arms and shoulders were pale, with a yellowish hue, small dark bruises here and there. The old track marks on her arms were ugly, but she made no effort to hide them. Her hands never stopped moving. They touched her hair, her face, fumbled with each other, fed pie into her mouth, reached across the table to squeeze Ryan's hands. They were like spiders on the ends of her arms, crawling here and there and all around.
"I thought I'd come by and let you know I got me a place," she said. "You know the Lazy Z Ranch, that little motel off Highway 273 on Spring Gulch Road?
Ryan knew the place. It was a run-down flea-pit with little bungalows arranged in a U shape with a small courtyard in the center and a pool off to one side. The pool had been empty for as long as he could remember. The Lazy Z was a motel, but people lived there – drug addicts and alcoholics who couldn't get apartments. People like Phyllis. People like his mother.
"Yeah, I know where it is," he said.
"Well, I got me one a them little bungalows now," she said as she reached across the table and squeezed his hand. She took a bite of her pie and talked while she chewed. "You can ride your bike over there and see me sometime, couldn'tcha?"
He shrugged. "It's on the other side of town."
"Oh, I know, but you ride your bike everywhere, don'tcha, honey? I'd like to introduce you t'all my friends over there. I want 'em to see what a handsome son I got. Would you like that? To come and meet my friends?"
I'd rather eat my own lips, he thought, but said, "Yeah, sure. Maybe sometime."
"I'm clean, y'know," she said.
Yeah, right, he thought.
"Been clean for sixteen days now," she said.
He didn't believe a word of it.
"Aren't you proud of me?"
He nodded. "Yeah. Yeah."
She asked about his job, how he liked living with the Prestons. Ryan answered the questions, all the while trying not to look at her. Her eyes were set so deep in her skull, and there was something about them that he didn't like – a hunger, a desperate need. Her eyes looked like they wanted to suck him dry, to drain him of his energy, his youth, his health.
"Well, I gotta go," she said after she finished the pie. "I borrowed a friend's car and I promised her I'd have it back by eleven. You wanna ride with me over to the Lazy Z? I could prob'ly get you a ride back."
"I've gotta go to work soon," Ryan said. He was relieved to be able to say it.
"Oh, well, we don't wantcha to miss work."
She made a big deal of hugging and kissing him, like she always did. He'd decided some time ago that the visits were something she probably did for herself. Whenever she started thinking about him and suffered pangs of guilt, she made a quick visit and touched him a lot and gave him a big hug and kiss and convinced herself she was a loving mother. He certainly hoped the visits weren't for his benefit, because if so, they didn't work.
After she left, he went to the bedroom he shared with Gary and Keith. A wall had been knocked out to combine two smallish rooms into a larger one. There were two sets of bunk beds on opposite sides of the room. The boys had put up posters of swimsuit models and rock bands.
Ryan had the bottom bunk on the eastern wall – the top bunk was unoccupied – and he sat on the edge of his bed and put his elbows on his thighs, his face in his hands. Visiting with his mother always tired him out. It was exhausting, the way she constantly moved and twitched and jittered, the way she kept touching him and squeezing, squeezing, as if she were trying to milk something out of him – love, or acceptance, or –
Maybe forgiveness, Ryan thought. But he doubted it.
Gary and Keith came into the room laughing. Gary punched Ryan in the shoulder and said, "Keith and the old man were just playing ping pong down in the rec room and Keith beat him three times in a row. It's drivin' the old man crazy."
"He couldn't take it anymore," Keith said, "so now we gotta go weed the garden."
"You toasted him," Gary said, holding up a hand, and Keith high-fived him.
Gary was annoying at times. He was overly enthusiastic about everything, filled with nervous energy, a little twitchy. He was seventeen years old – less than a year left in this branch of the system for Gary – and he was the kind of guy who, if he couldn't find some trouble to get into, would invent some, and then get into it. He was short, about five feet, six inches tall, and skinny. He had a thick head of black hair and piercing blue eyes that usually looked a little too wide. He was good with cars, and had a part-time job at a garage in Anderson. There was usually grease under his nails.
Keith, fifteen, was probably the worst kind of person you possibly could have around a guy like Gary – Keith was a follower, and he followed Gary like a disciple. He was over six feet tall and ducked his head slightly in an attempt to lessen his height. He was big and doughy and clumsy with a mop of rusty hair and a mustache he was trying to grow. He cleared his throat frequently – it was more of a nervous tic than an actual clearing of his throat. He parroted everything Gary said and seemed to have no thoughts of his own. He was usually pretty quiet.
Gary and Keith changed into their oldest, rattiest jeans and a couple torn old T-shirts to work in the garden.
"How about some airhockey later on, Ryan, huh?" Gary said.
"Yeah, sure, when I get back from work. Maybe after dinner."
Ryan took a shower, then scrubbed himself dry. He put on jeans and a shortsleeve yellow shirt. On his way out, Marie stopped him.
"You okay, Ryan?" she said, smiling as always.
Excerpted from The Girl in the Basement by Ray Garton. Copyright © 2004 Ray Garton. Excerpted by permission of OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Posted October 31, 2012
This is a short story (97 pgs) about a not quite so innocent little girl who lives in the basement of a group home. Things are not what they appear....I would recommend it to those who want a quick scare : )Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted August 5, 2011
No text was provided for this review.