Peter’s Cracked Foundation: A Love Story

The following story was written one sentence, or one Steel White Table comment, at a time by… too many people to list. It began in August 2008 and was finished in September 2008. I just noticed it a few minutes ago under Random Posts.

The house was built on a cracked foundation. A young man named Peter Wilson lived in the basement with that cracked foundation. Any kind of precipitation, hail, rain or snow, required he lift his shoes and books off the floor where they would otherwise get wet overnight. CRACKED FOUNDATIONThe water seeping through the foundation at times became audible, the sound of a trickling brook. Inevitably Peter would make several trips to the bathroom. A rug by the side of his bed had to be rolled up and stuffed onto a shelf in his closet. He would have damp feet all night.

Peter lay in bed, tossing and turning because the pervasive dampness made it hard to get warm enough to fall asleep. He imagined the water rising, floating him and his bed out the door as he slept, down the street to the harbour. The harbour, once a place of personal enchantment, joy and laughter, now haunted his dreams. And these slushy, muddy, never-dry dreams, in turn, haunted his waking days, days that he (and his dog Muckmuck) would have rather spent working on his thesis with the ponderous but undoubtedly accurate and important working title, “The Adult-Tiger Relationship in Calvin and Hobbes: A Jungian Archetype or an Adlerian Neurosis?”

One morning, while standing in Home Depot reading the labels of sealers and epoxies, he realized that the long drying times needed for epoxy would enable him to work on the thesis and stop the seepage at the same time, thus breaking the strangle-hold of lethargy and lighting his creative and restorative juices simultaneously. Thus a new sense of optimism prevailed and Peter, with renewed vigour (and dry feet), felt it was time for the fieldwork on his thesis to commence — bring on the tiger!

“On second thought,” he thought, “what the hell am I doing working on a some silly thesis no one will ever read or care about?” He crumbled the three completed pages into a ball, tossed them somewhere near the overflowing trash can, and turned on the TV.

Several months passed sitting in front of the television in that watery basement, and then one day the damp and wet creeped into the heart of the TV and, in a display of sparks more interesting than anything broadcast for hours, shorted it out. Peter sat, stunned and silent in the dripping dark, the nascent flash of the dying TV slowly fading from his retinal memory, and as the image faded he started to embrace the quiet and wondered what he was doing there. In the darkness, the thesis had become the rotting carcass of the albatross wrapped around his life, but perhaps not all was despair. Before he could lose his nerve, he grabbed his cell phone and called Emily. She was very surprised to receive his call, as she was just leaving the library.

“Hey, Emily,” Peter asked, “How about stopping by for a mayonnaise sandwich this afternoon?”

Emily was so surprised by the invitation, which was a code they used when one of them needed help, that she could barely choke out , “Yes, I’ll be there in 45 minutes.”

He hung up and started to wonder if the TV was still alive, so he gingerly stretched one of his fingers towards the floor. As soon as it touched the dampness, the jolting — yet oddly pleasing — sensation of electric current surged up his arm. His arm, up until that moment, was capable of distinguishing between pain and pleasure. The sticky brown smoke floated up from what was left of his steaming fingertips and filled his nostrils with the smell that reminded him of chutney. Exponential pain flooded “the cabin” like an army of banjo-wielding hamsters. “Holy Zeus,” he screamed and ran to the fridge to get ice to put on his hand.

As the ice packs eased the pain from his fingertips, he picked up a fork with his good hand. Puzzled at the lack of feeling in his feet, he scratched them gently with the fork, only then realizing they’d turned to fertilizer during his rapid dash in search of frozen relief. Panicking, he whipped out his typewriter to write to his podiatrist, Bob, about his feet. (Bob was an oddball: he wore both a toupee and an earwig, but he certainly knew his feet.) He finished the letter, crammed it in an envelope and hobbled over to the counter to set out wine and glasses for Emily’s imminent arrival.

Watching the ripples on the wine made Peter think of the time he and Emily had spent in The Windy City, in an apartment that had been as windy as his current one was wet; how he had cursed the gales in that apartment then, how he longed for them now!

About Phillip

Phillip Cairns is a beekeeper in St. John’s, Newfoundland, who writes about beekeeping at mudsongs.org.

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