The Clearing

by G. R. McNeese

Darrius abhorred spring cleaning, despite the fact his dorm room was the most immaculate. It was more of the fact that during his Spring Break, his mother Ava set up an entire weekend to cleaning the house. This year, she gave him the task of cleaning the basement. Of all the rooms, Darrius hated the basement the most. He complained that it always smelled like someone died. Despite his grumbling, Ava smiled and handed him the cleaning tools. He marched downstairs, hiding the disdain on his face.

“Well,” said Darrius, “let’s get this over with.”

He turned on the lights and immediately went to the radio sitting on the window sill. He twisted the knob, searching for the station that was broadcasting the basketball tournament. It came out a little fuzzy, but was satisfactory for him. Dust rose from the linoleum floor as he swept. It entered his mouth and he coughed as though he swallowed a fly. He swept the dirt into the dustpan and deposited it into the trash can.

This went on for an hour. The basement was so muggy from the lights giving off heat. Even with the handkerchief wrapped around his head, Darrius wiped his forehead on multiple occasions. Ava came downstairs, admiring her son’s hard work. She carried a stack of boxes to the workbench. She then pulled totes from underneath the bench.

“Mind helping me with this stuff?”

Darrius released the broom and slid each of the totes away. He then noticed something he hadn’t before. A small wood door with a latch.

“Mom, what’s this?”

Ava kneeled down underneath the bench. They looked at each other clueless. Darrius grabbed a flashlight and opened the door. A strong stench overtook their noses. Darrius gagged.

“I think this is where the smell is coming from.”

He entered the crawl space. He waved his flashlight, but all that was there was mounds of insulation. He crawled further until he felt something soft. He backtracked and shined the light. He sifted through the mounds of fluff and became amazed at what was buried.
“Darrius, what’s in there?” Ava asked.

“You’re not going to believe this.”

Darrius pulled himself out with a black bag in tow.

“There’s our culprit.”

He slung the bag onto the open floor. They untied the bag and gasped in shock. The bag was full of decayed kittens. Ava covered her mouth and tears started to run down her cheeks. Ava ran up the stairs. Darrius turned off the radio just as the announcer reported the biggest upset of the first round; the Wildcats lost.


G. R. McNeese started writing in eighth grade. He originally went to college pursuing a teaching degree, but changed it to English with a Creative Writing concentration. He primarily writes Contemporary short stories, but lately he’s been trying new genres.

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