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The Man in the Basement Joshua Rupp

ManBasementWhen I bring food to the man in the basement, he asks me what day it is. I don’t remember. The young cockroaches are coming out of the walls. He has killed one. The young ones are yellow, like the ends of the cigarettes I don’t bring him. And we never talk anymore. I cut up magazines and make ransom notes and leave them outside. Sometimes I put them in the mailbox with my return address on them, but no one ever writes back. Sometimes I don’t cut up the magazines properly and I send too much of the article so it says WE HAVE YOUR SON SEVEN WAYS TO PLEASE YOUR MAN.

Once he asked if there was a war, and I think there must have been but I don’t see any point in talking about it. The mailbox is filled with ransom notes. Sometimes I smell smoke from the woods. I bring food to the man in the basement. He is not chained. He could come up the stairs. I worry that he has come up, quietly, that he is standing behind me. The garage is filled with magazines and glue sticks. The oldest magazine is older than I am. It has swollen in the rain.

I have a nightmare that the basement is full of rotten food. I wake up in front of a ransom note that says WE HAVE YOUR SON COME GET HIM. I bring food to the man in the basement. He has either eaten the cockroach, or it is no longer there. The basement is filling with plates. Sometimes I smell smoke in the woods.

I ask him if he’s standing behind me. He doesn’t say anything. He’s probably not there. Yesterday I took the notes out of the mailbox to make room for the new ones. I take a Playboy out of the garage. I cut it up. I glued CUM ALONE to a piece of paper. I ask him if he is standing behind me. He doesn’t say anything. Sometimes I smell smoke in the woods. It is morning. I bring food to the man in the basement. I have a nightmare. The basement is full of rotten food. He asks me what day it is. I have been finding notes in the woods. The letters on some of them are older than I am.

I take food to the man in the basement. The young cockroaches have grown old. They are eating from the plates. The man is crying, asking them something. He wants to know what day it is. Upstairs, I think that I remember it is his birthday. I go to the stairs. He deserves to know. I can’t go down the stairs, there’s no reason to, I have already brought the food, I tell the stairs that it is his birthday. Sometimes I smell smoke in the woods.

I have the kind of scissors a child would use. They are almost too small for my fingers. I cut up one magazine, one yellow newspaper. More letters than I or anyone else needs. How many words do you need to say that I am waiting? I ask him if he is standing behind me. He doesn’t say anything. I cut out We. we. WE. I cut the “re” off a “were.” We. have.

Come COME cum comb com Come

I bring in another stack of magazines. This will take awhile.

It takes time to find alone in the magazines.

© Joshua Rupp

Meet the Author

Joshua Rupp

Joshua Rupp

When Joshua Rupp was a child visiting Germany, he went to the Bone House, a cage in town where they stacked the skulls dug up from paupers’ graves. While he was staring at the skulls, a man from a local stall came over, wound up a mechanical chicken, and made it walk over the top of the cage. He then took his chicken back, bowed, and went away. Joshua realized that nothing more important was ever going to happen.

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  1. Tawfiq
    October 18, 2016 @ 11:33 am

    it was good book


  2. Suzanne Brazil
    August 1, 2015 @ 5:56 pm

    I’m sitting in the dappled shade of my backyard patio completely creeped out by this. Well done.


  3. Summit Abrams
    June 2, 2015 @ 10:15 pm

    Could someone tell the man in the basement to explain this story to me? I don’t get it.


  4. MatthewTuthill
    June 2, 2015 @ 12:19 pm

    Brilliant as always, Josh.


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