Bones in the Basement

Bones in the Basement

Bones in the Basement is the conclusion to the short story entitles Quest of the Talking Bones. Stinker and Theo become a knight-errand and his scribe to find the location of the talking bones. Other short stories that include these characters are Snow Day and Quirt.

It’s Halloween night

We staged the ceremony to call the bones out of hiding in my backyard under the full-moon light on Halloween night. I asked if Theo could sleepover. It was lucky we didn’t get caught stealing cigarette butts out of Quirt’s yard, or Mom would never have let him stay considering my first groundation.

After they took us trick or treating, Mom and Dad put on costumes for an adult Halloween party. She dressed up Like Elvira Mistress of the Dark, and Dad went as Lurch from the Adams family. Mandy had to work, so Mom left Kenny in charge until she got home, That was a lucky break for us. He would be upstairs all night playing video games and listening to loud music with his friends.

Besides, Kenny wouldn’t care about what Theo and I were up to in the backyard. We could make as much noise as we wanted without him interfering with our knight quest business.

Theo dresses up in his mom’s bedsheet

I was still dressed in my knight-errant costume when Theo and I snuck down the stairs and opened the backdoor that led out onto the patio. Theo made a scribe costume out of one of his mom’s old bedsheets and wore a pair of sandals on his feet.

A funny-looking hat sewn out of an old gold curtain sat on the top of his head. He said a scribe should dress like a Renaissance scholar because he was supposed to be filled with all sorts of wisdom and ideas. Theo might be smart, but he had a bossy streak in him that was getting on my last nerve. I was starting to wonder if he knew what he was talking about as far as knight’s quests and ceremonies to contact talking bones went. How much would a ten-year-old kid know about this knight-errant stuff anyway?

The ceremony we did to find the bones in the basement

The first thing Theo told me to do was take the shoes off my feet because I was standing on hallowed ground. He said we had to wait until midnight to do the ceremony. We sat there under the bright moonlight listening to the crickets chirp for hours. The pale moon looked spooky, hanging in the sky surrounded by dark clouds.

The smell of wood smoke filled the air because it was chilly enough for people in the neighborhood to lite their fireplaces. I shivered in my Knight costume while I waited for the ceremony to start.

We had to be quiet to hear the bones in the basement

Theo said we couldn’t do any talking because of the solemn ritual. In my opinion, Theo was enjoying all this mumbo jumbo way more than me. I would freeze to death if the ceremony didn’t start soon. Besides, sitting in the quiet under the creepy moonlight was making me scared. It was Halloween night after all.

The night was a time when the ghost and ghouls came out to play. Homemade, cardboard armor wouldn’t stand up to a real-life Freddy Krueger if he happened to show up in my backyard.

Finally, Theo glanced at his wristwatch and started to build a small fire on the concrete out of stinky dried up leaves he claimed were enchanted herbs. He said it was time for me to make my speech.

What I had to say to draw out the bones in the basement

I stood to my feet and yelled out at the top of my lungs, “Hear me, spirits of 601 N. Elm Street, I Sir Mark of the Talking Bones demand you reveal to me all your secrets. I command you to give me the location of the bones so I can help them rest in peace.” I felt weird while I was saying the words.  Yelling like that in the dark made me feel like a phony-baloney fool screaming to draw a pile of bones out of their hiding place. They probably weren’t listening anyway.

I tossed the items I found in the attic into the fire and sprinkled the tobacco from Quirt’s nasty cigarettes into the flames, just like Theo told me to do. A foul, moldy smell combined with the smoke as it rose from the fire, sucking up all the air on the patio for a second. It made Theo and me choke and cough.

Theo claimed the nasty vapor was a sign that the spirits of the bones were being woke up from the grave. I’m pretty sure he was getting creeped out by what was happening because I know I was more than a little scared.

I didn’t like what Theo asked me to do next

I watched Theo quiver a couple of times before he pulled a giant sewing needle out of his pocket. Then, he poured some water into one of my mom’s good drinking glasses. He never told me anything about the blood before we started.

If I’d known bloodshed was part of this knight’s quest deal, I never would have agreed to do the stupid ceremony. He ordered me to hold out my hand, and he stuck me with the needle.

I screamed because it hurt a lot. He held my bleeding fist over the glass of liquid.  Theo made me open my fingers, and he pinched the part of my hand, he stuck until giant drops of blood dripped into the water. It hurt like wildfire and brought tears to my eyes.

Theo made me drink my own blood

The blood turned the water a pinkish color, and I thought I was going to throw up all the Halloween candy I ate before we came out to do the ceremony. Even after all that, I wasn’t prepared for what he asked me to do next.

“You got to drink the water,” he said.

“No, I don’t,” I protested loud enough for everyone in the entire neighborhood to hear me.

“Yes, you do if you want to find those bones.”  There was a tone in Theo’s voice that made it sound like he thought he was the boss of me.

“Why didn’t you say anything about this before?” I asked.

He knew I wouldn’t do it to find the bones in the basement

“Because I knew you wouldn’t drink the blood if you knew. You got to do it, or the ceremony won’t work. If you don’t believe me, go read about it in that Don Quixote book I loaned you.”

Theo held the glass in front of my face. “Don’t tell me you turned chicken, cluck, cluck, cluck?” he said with a hard look. Theo formed a chicken wing with his arm and moved it up and down, emphasizing his point.

No way was I going to let Theo make me look like a coward. Not after everything he put me through to find the talking bones. I held my nose and drank down the pink-colored fluid with one gulp. A rusty taste filled my mouth, and I gagged. “So, what do we do now?” I asked.

Waiting for the bones to talk

“We have to close our eyes and wait for the bones to talk.”

I watched Theo close his eyes, and I resisted the urge to punch him in the nose. He sat crossed-legged like we used to do in our first-grade reading group and mumbled a strange incantation under his breath. I started to lose patience with him.

I was cold and wanted to go inside. We sat under the awful moonlight without anything happening for what felt like three hours. I started to get bored with the whole knight’s quest deal, so I was about to open my eyes and call the whole thing off when a little voice inside my head whispered, “in the basement.”

The bones were hiding in the basement

That’s when I knew where the bones were hiding. I stood to my feet and ran into the downstairs bathroom,  locking the door behind me. Theo stood on the outside of the door, knocking to get my attention. There was no point in letting him in on the search. The truth of the matter is I didn’t want his help.

I pulled back the trap door on the floor in front of the washing machine. It was hard to lift, but I managed to push it aside. The dirt floor under my feet felt clammy when I stepped off the stairs. I scanned the dark basement, not sure where to start digging. The bones called out to me from the left corner.

My nose tingled the further I moved into the basement. The place smelled like mildew. There was a shovel lying on the floor next to some old-fashioned girl’s shoes and toys. Whoever buried the body that belonged to the bones must have left the rusty digging tool there.

I didn’t have to dig far to uncover the bones in the basement

I didn’t have to dig very far before I found my first bone. It was long and white and looked like it came from a kid’s leg. The excitement of discovery bubbled up inside of me before I sprinted up the stairs two at a time. I moved past Theo without stopping to explain.

Confusion spread across his face. If I didn’t know better, I’d say he was surprised I found the bones. My Mom and Dad must have come home from the party while we were doing our ceremony to call the talking bones out of hiding. She sat on the couch, watching T.V. still dressed in her Elvira costume.

 

I showed my mom the bones in the basement

I lay the leg bone down in the middle of the coffee table in front of her. “See, I told you we had bones hiding in this house. And you and Dad want to send me to see grouchy Mrs. Grady.” I couldn’t keep a smile from spreading across my face because this proved I was right all along. “ I found this one in the basement. There are a lot more of them buried in the dirt down there.” Finding the bones made me feel important for about five seconds.

A look of horror spread across my mom’s face

A look of horror spread across my mom’s face. I wish I’d left those bones alone because this was when the nightmare began. My mom didn’t even wait until morning to call a policeman she knew at the Tecumseh PD. He sent a patrolman over to go down in the basement with Dad.

They found a bunch of bones buried in the corner. After that, events took on a life of their own. The next day, a homicide detective named James Lane showed up with the county coroner.

The people on channel six news heard about the bones. They sent one of those big trucks with all the antennas stuck to the top over to our house. Our front yard looked like the circus came to town before the day was finished. People showed up from as far away as Cincinnati when they heard about the bones.

Quirt watched the police uncover the bones in the basement

I noticed Quirt sitting on his front porch, rocking back and forth in the chair he kept out there. The sound of his laughter ricocheted off the side of our house. The toothless old-man enjoyed every second of the show.

The police strung yellow tape across our front porch. I could hear the anger in my Dad’s voice every time he talked to one of the cops. They wouldn’t give him a single straight answer to any of his questions. The Detective did mention there was a cold case from the 1940s where a bunch of kids went missing. Combine that with all the children’s clothing, and It was possible what I found in the basement were their last remains.

Mom paced the kitchen floor, complaining about the mess the police were making of her house. Kenny and his friends thought the events I set in motion were cool. A crowd of them hung out in his room, watching the commotion from a birdseye view.

The police hauled a bag of bones out of the basement

When the police hauled a bag of bones out of the basement, the weirdness of it all hit me like a blow from a sledgehammer. I went looking for Theo, but he disappeared as soon as he gave his statement. Kenny said he mumbled something about how his mom would kill him if she found out he was involved with the police. It occurred to me, my friend, Theo, wasn’t as up on knights and their squires as he claimed to be. He threw me under the bus when he disappeared.

There was no way I could answer all the questions the police had about why we decided to do all the knight-errant stuff to find the bones. I was thinking about how I’d like to disown Theo as a friend when I noticed Quirt moving in our direction. The crazy old- man was up to something,

Quirt’s explanation for the bones in the basement

Quirt walked right up to the cop holding the black trash bag full of bones and tipped his dirty baseball cap. My neighbor spit a thick wad of tobacco into the grass, and a wicked grin spread across his mouth, revealing his missing teeth.

“You’re wasting your time with what you got in that there bag if you think you found human bones. My family used to own all this here land. We farmed it for over a hundred years. I inherited my place when the last of them died, but this here house used to belong to my great-great granddaddy.”

Quirt pointed a chubby finger in the direction of our pink house. “The men would get together every fall and butcher one of the cows. They didn’t want animals to get at the bones, so they dug a hole in the basement. Since you’re here, I want to make a complaint. That one there’s been stealing cigarette butts out of my yard all week. And, I’d like to have them back.” Quirt pointed a fat finger in my direction.

Quirt tells the cop about me stealing is tobacco

“Is that true, son?” The cop asked.

“We needed tobacco because Theo said our house is on an Indian burial ground.” I was scared the cop might arrest me.

He turned to Quirt instead. “Are you telling me we spent all day digging up cow bones?”

“I guess you could say that’s a fact, Quirt chuckled.

“We found some kid’s clothing and old toys down there. Would you know anything about that?” the cop said.

“I suspect they belong to my Aunt Margret. Listen up. They didn’t have a city dump back in those days. They’d store stuff down in that basement in case they needed it later. Even the cow bones could be used for fertilizer in the fields. My family was a pack of hoarders from the get-go.”

“Why didn’t you bother saying something sooner?”

“What, and miss the best show in town. I would have made a killing if I had sold tickets..”

“If it turns out these bones are human remains, we’ll be knocking on your door.” I could tell the cop was getting mad at Quirt by the tone of his voice.

Quirt went home

Quirt made an about-face and marched back to his front porch. The air was filled with the sound of his laughter and the squeak of his chair when he lowered his weight onto the wooden seat.  The cop shook his head as he opened the trunk of his police car and placed the bag of bones inside.

“You better hope your neighbors right about those bones belonging to a cow. We’re going to have to come back and dig up the entire basement if they are human.” The cop slammed the trunk before he moved to the driver’s side door of the patrol car. He climbed inside and drove away.

The bones in the basement belonged to humans after all

At first, it appeared Quirt was right about the bones. The lab results came back in record time. The ones they analyzed belonged to a cow. As soon as the news crew found out, they loaded their equipment and drove away. The cops lost interest in our house and stopped digging in the basement.

I saw murder in Mom’s eyes when they left her kitchen and bathroom a mess. Still, it didn’t explain why those bones did so much talking to me. If they belonged to a cow, wouldn’t they have spoken to me with moos? It seemed like our life was about to get back to normal until Detective James Lane knocked on our front door again.

I stood in the living room and heard everything the Detective told my mom. Quirt had been right about some of the bones belonging to a cow, but he’d lied about the rest. On a hunch, Detective Lane had the state lab run a secondary analysis on a batch of bones dug up in another section of the basement. They turned out to contain human DNA. Detective Lane shook my hand and thanked me for solving a dozen murders.

The police took Quirt in for questioning

Mom almost passed out when the Detective told her they needed to dig up the rest of the bones in the basement. He promised they’d do it quietly. The news crews and newspaper people wouldn’t show up again

The police took Quirt in for questioning, and he admitted the family hid a big secret about a great-uncle who was a little strange. Quirt said he didn’t know all the details, but he had a good idea about how the human bones got in the basement.

He confessed he suggested the cow bones because he wanted to lead them on a wild goose chase due to a certain amount of family pride. There was no way they’d ever get around to testing most of the bones., so they’d give up and never uncover the truth. Quirt claimed there was a possibility the remains belonged to the missing children from the 1940s cold cases. He was at the police station for over six hours before they let him go.

Mom said to stay away from Quirt

Quirt wasn’t happy about being dragged into the police station for questioning. He knocked on our door soon after the cops started their digging. I heard him tell my mom to keep her kids out of his business, or else he wouldn’t be responsible for his actions.

He reminded her about how he murdered the O’Briens’ tree when it got on his nerves. The nasty old-man also suggested she might want to stick me down in the basement with the bones. She’d be performing a service to the rest of humanity.

My mom didn’t have to tell me twice to stay away from Quirt. She said the entire Quirt family was certifiable for at least four generations.

 

Grouchy Mrs. Grady thinks I’m psychic

I spent six afternoons doing therapy with grouchy Mrs. Grandy. She wasn’t so bad once you talked to her for a while. When I told her all about the bones and how Theo sent me on a quest to find them, she didn’t even flinch. Mrs. Grady explained to my mom about how I might be a gifted psychic. That was bad news for me. How am I supposed to be a normal kid with the psychic question hanging over my head?

The entire story came out in a statement Quirt gave to the Tecumseh Times after the police collected enough evidence to solve all those cold cases.

A newspaper guy came back around about the time they dug up the last human bone. That’s when the news got out about Quirt and his weird family. It was all over the front page of the Tecumseh Times about how those bones talked to me. People started to hunt me down so I can find stuff for them.

 

Quirt is out to get me

To top things off, I have to watch my back because I figure Quirt is out to get me. I asked Mom if we could move. She said no because a person couldn’t run away from their problems. So, I’m a kid with some pretty big worries all because a basement full of bones decided to have a few conversations with me.

Theo admitted he never read Don Quixote

After it was all over, Theo admitted he never read the Don Quixote book. He saw the story in a movie he was watching at his Aunt Valerie’s house. He needed the novel back before he got a late fee at the library. Theo said the idea of me becoming a knight was a  lame idea because things didn’t end so well for the Man from La Mancha.

The Quixote guy went crazy then he died realizing he was out of his mind with the whole Knight-errand quest deal. Theo didn’t figure any of this stuff out about Quixote’s bad luck until after I found the bones in the basement. That’s when he took the time to do some research online about what happened in the second part of the story.

  This night stuff is a bunch of hogwash

Theo also said I shouldn’t feel bad about finding the bones. A person couldn’t escape their fate because it was their destiny painted in the stars before the day they were born. He said I should be grateful I had such an amazing squire along on the quest to help me find the bones. Don Quixote wouldn’t even be a good story without Sancho Panza coming along for the ride.

If you ask me, all this knight stuff is a bunch of hogwash.  Theo confessing he never read the book proves he might be a genius, but he doesn’t know anything about real life. If you’re a true friend, you shouldn’t tell a lie like knowing about being a knight-errant. You should be brave enough to admit you don’t know everything, stop pretending to be smarter than you are, and just be yourself. I’ll never go on another quest as long as I live. This kid is definitely out of the knight business.  I don’t care if my fate is written in the stars. I still get to choose my destiny.

Who is Molly Shea?

Molly Shea is an accomplished fictional short story writer from Indiana, who writes short stories and novels about a fictional town called Tecumseh.  To read more of her short stories and adventures click here.

Be sure to follow Molly on Twitter!

 

Published by henhouselady

I am the author of Saving the Hen House. I didn't know when I started it would turn into a series. I love to ride motorcycles, the blues, my family, and going on adventures. This old hen rocks.

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