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January 8, 2007

Warm moldy smelling air tried to push me back up. I never been in that cellar, but I knew it would be just like Grannies’ and my mothers and lots of others in the neighborhood. Joeys’ Pop had probably left gallon bottles of homemade wine on the shelf next to some mason jars of minestrone, meatballs and ancient cans of corn and asparagus, Like my Grampa did. After squeezing myself down the narrow passage, I got to the bottom and rounded the stairs. There was an old what we used to call ‘coffin freezer’ under the treads, right below the shelves on the wall, just like I had imagined they’d be; wine, cans, and everthing. The cellar was narrow and noisy. Narrow because the dusty furnace took up so much space, and noisy cause the dryer was humming and the washer was banging against the chipped blackish-red brick wall.
Slats was tip-toed, leaning over the dryer, moving boxes of soap and blueing and bleach bottles around on a ledge, reaching for something. Her stomach was flat and tight and mashed up against the dryer. Hard nipples pushed out against her thin t-shirt. Looked like a couple of thimbles, or gumdrops under there. She found an old A&P Tea can and took it down, opening it with her fingernails at the same time, like somebody who handled this can many times. I moved closer and she instinctively tipped the container away from me, fishing inside with her finger tips. She looked good at that moment. I all of a sudden found myself getting sad and angry that a better type guy hadn’t got to her soon as she landed from New Rochelle.
“Ain’t you worried Miz Ragoosa’ll find that can”?
“The old lady never comes down here anymore. She doesn’t have to. I do all the washin’ in this place now”. I’m keepin’ it from Joey”.
“So you takin’ care of you and him”?
“You’re Smarter than you act….Poochie”.
She put the old can back in its spot and turned to me. Another little grin as she waved a tight roll of bills. Slats turned away and walked further back into the darkening of the cellar, passing through a slit in a curtain of plastic sheeting that had been hung from a beam. A light went on behind the plastic.
“Come on Poochie…..get what you came for… Joey is sleepin”.
Sounded like the old bitch upstairs perfectly.

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