• Dzama

You’re the Best

The phone wouldn’t stop ringing but Tanner ignored it, heading down into the basement. He stepped on a few darts that were scattered on the floor in front of the dart board on his way over to the bar. Dropping some ice cubes into a tumbler he poured himself a whiskey. There was a pool table on the other side of the basement and a large TV with an old orange leather couch in front of it. Tanner took the vacuum cleaner from under the stairs and plugged it in near the TV, drowning out the incessant ringing of the phone when he turned it on. He took another long swig of whiskey, set the glass on a coaster that read “Dad”, and proceeded to vacuum the carpet.

It took about an hour to vacuum everything. Tanner placed a few action figures and the darts that were on the floor all on the bar, filling up another whiskey while he was there. Just then his cell-phone rang, it was his ex-wife, and he turned it off completely. Then he went about dusting everything with a dirty yellow feather duster. Stacks of video games got dusted, old sports equipment, shelves with old books, ash trays, a set of golf clubs leaning against the wall in the corner. Tanner took one of the heavier clubs out and tried a few swings. He set it down on the coffee table and took a book off the shelf at random. It was a book of jokes and recipes from the Sixties with yellowed pages. He sat on the couch and read the book for a while, not laughing once but learning how to make a better hamburger.

Towards the back of the basement was a pegboard with tools hanging on hooks and an old vice. Above the pegboard were recessed windows up by the ceiling that looked out on the back yard. Tanner moved a gas can aside and climbed up onto the worktable to peer out one of the dirty windows, through cobwebs. The children were playing on swings some distance away. Tanner let himself down and went back to dusting.

Behind the bar was a picture of a statesman of some kind from the 1800’s or earlier. The man had tremendous muttonchops. Tanner took the picture down and stared at it. When he went to put the picture back he noticed there was what appeared to be a false panel where the picture had been hanging. He pushed against the panel and it gave way, revealing an opening in the wall. Something moved around in the dark hole. There were two eyeballs glistening in the dark, in a rotting, monstrous head. Tanner stared. The head bobbed around then a hand darted out of the hole and took hold of Tanner’s face, scratching with sharp, broken fingernails. Tanner was pulled closer to the hole. He struggled but now the other arm got a hold of his neck and pinned his body against the wall. “Aiieegghhh!” he yelled. The thing snapped sharp teeth at his neck and tore some flesh off before he was able to pull himself away from the wall.

He found himself holding his neck with one hand and pounding the golf club into the hole with the other. He grabbed a handful of darts as his own blood dripped and stained the carpet. He threw dart after dart into the hole until the creature finally retreated. Then he grabbed the gas can from the work table and poured gas into the hole. He found a box of wooden matches and threw one in. The room filled immediately with smoke. Tanner made it halfway up the steps, clutching his neck and coughing before falling to his knees and throwing up.

Sirens could be heard and soon the cellar door burst open, firemen trooping down into the basement. They dragged Tanner up to the fresh air and went back down to put out the blaze. Tanner lay on the couch half-conscious, just barely hearing the screams from below. He clutched at his neck, the pain burning, and squeezed his eyes shut. Finally he got himself up off the couch. He broke open a case and took out a hunting rifle. Barely able to see straight he still managed to load it and get to the cellar doorway. Through the smoke he could see the firemen had all been torn to shreds and the rotting creature stood in the center of the room amidst the flames, gnawing on their bones.

Tanner, delirious from blood loss, shot at the beast, blowing off its arms one after the other and finally its head. The two children watched from the top of the stairs as Tanner fired more rounds into the creature’s hideous corpse until it collapsed. The children clapped and cheered, hugging Tanner. “You’re the best, Daddy! You’re the best!” they chanted, over and over. In the ambulance looking down on him: “You’re the best, Daddy!” And even in the hospital, his ex-wife looming disapprovingly in the background, they still sang, “You’re the best, Daddy!” until he fell fast asleep.

Copyright © 2008. All Rights Reserved.

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