Through a Hole
in the Floor

by David Klose

After the fourth time Luna peed on his closet floor, Michael cut up the carpet, using a box cutter from work.

The carpet was hard to cut, and he spent most of his free afternoon strong-arming it. He’d cut a little, pull a little, and repeat. He was overweight and out of shape, and the activity drained him. Luna watched from the other end of the room, her head resting on her paws. When it finally gave, he rolled up the carpet and threw it to the side. It smelled like a mixture of dog piss and the apartment dumpster after a light rain. Sweat pooled at the small of his back, his shirt clinging to his skin.

Beneath the carpet, there was a rectangular piece of plywood, about the length and width of the thick, second-hand TV in his bedroom. He lifted the plywood and discovered a hole—like an uncovered manhole in the street—that led to darkness.

He peered in with the small flashlight he kept on his key chain and saw nothing. He inhaled but smelled nothing. He wondered of the hole’s depth. Fingering the insides of his pockets, he fished out loose change. He kept the quarters and the nickel but dropped three pennies into the hole, one at a time. Not a peep.

He grabbed an old hockey stick from the hallway closet and slowly lowered it until he held it by the end of the blade. Then he let go. Again, no sound.

Michael had started bagging groceries at the S&F during his first semester of community college. A way to put petty cash in his pocket, so he could buy cigarettes and alcohol and late-night tacos after the bars closed.

Fifteen years later, and he now managed the frozen section. He restocked the dairy shelves, and most days he ate lunch alone on an upturned milk crate in the walk-in fridge he called his office.

He thought he’d have traveled in his twenties. Now he was nearing thirty-five and was as stationary as ever. He penned a list of places he wanted to visit, in order of preference: Reykjavík, Paris, Moscow, and Seoul. But he assumed that once he started traveling that he wouldn’t stop. He believed that there was a question in him, something perpetual, that college couldn’t answer, that relationships couldn’t answer, and that work couldn’t answer. The answer was “out there,” and could be found only in the act of leaving one place for another, again and again. But the furthest he got from his hometown of Phoenix, Arizona, was California for the annual family trip to Disneyland.

Michael learned that people will pay to get rid of certain things: a shoebox full of memories; a flannel shirt that reminds you of your ex-husband; dead pet you don’t want to bury, but you can’t keep around; gun; a baggie full of cocaine. An average-size body fit down the hole without issue, but wider bodies had to be cut into smaller pieces first.

Michael learned that he could think negative thoughts, make them the center of his focus, then dip his head into the hole. When he pulled himself out, the thought was gone.

But there were unintended consequences to dipping. He kept a list of things he had unintentionally forgotten: how to tell time; how to use the French press to make coffee; the name of his mother and that his father died of a heart attack two years ago; the colors of the rainbow; how much hot sauce was too much hot sauce on his Mexican food.

These things took time to rediscover, and it was becoming impossible to keep track of the days.

Michael put sticky notes on the appliances and on the food in the fridge, trying to prepare for things he might forget. This is milk, pour it on your cereal. This is the laundry room, where you clean your clothes. He put a note by the hole that read: do not forget to pull yourself back up. On his phone, he found a photo of a dog he did not recognize lying on a dog bed he did not recognize in his living room, which otherwise looked unchanged.

“I had a dog?” he asked aloud because he forgot he lived alone. He looked all over his house for an answer. In the very back of a kitchen cabinet, he found a half-empty bag of dog treats. “I had a dog,” he said flatly.

Sometimes Michael forgot who he was and what he did for a living. There was a notebook for this. It explained that in the second bedroom of his home, he had over one hundred thousand dollars in a safe. On the safe was a sticky note with the combination. In the safe, with the money, was a letter explaining how he had so much money and what he had to do to get more. In the margins, there was also the cost of a one-way ticket to Reykjavík, but there were no other clues as to why Iceland of all places or what he had hoped to find there.

He went to the hole in the closet floor and looked down. He wondered of its depth.

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