The blueprints I had found showed the basement of Hotel Julian was not quite 100% of the building’s footprint. A small square area under what was now the grocery, at the back of the basement storage and supply room, was apparently, and inexplicably, walled off. I tunneled back through the storage room boxes, stacked haphazardly. The farther back I worked, the harder it was to move around, stuff packed floor to ceiling and wall to wall, a hoarder’s dream. I found old light fixtures, cords ropes and wire coils, used furniture, a sofa, a loveseat, broken chairs, mirrors, doors their hardware removed, wood boxes and crates of handles, screws, nails, hand tools. Bits of screen and window pieces, moldings. A box of electrical circuit fuses. Three detached porcelain wall urinals, the size that rose from the floor to your face, a little kid would be afraid of falling into. A workbench buried under empty picture frames myriad styles and sizes. No one had been through this stuff in ages. Past the space utilized for current housekeeping needs – the storeroom area devoted to supply shelves and boxes of toilet and tissue and wrapping paper, cleaning supplies of soaps and bleach and buckets and brushes and brooms and mops and rags, spare light bulbs, bedding sheets and blankets and pillows, vacuum machines, squeegees, hand tools for routine repair jobs, most of which was well organized, new and fresh, rotated and restocked regularly – behind the currently used and useful, in the cavernous dark depth behind the contemporary storage and supplies, I found a kind of spillage zone, where items cut out of use or broken were dropped off probably with temporary intent but that never got moved again but were pushed back or buried under more throwaway and discarded stuff, stuff judged not yet ready for the dump, stuff that someone felt or thought would be used again, fixed, or possibly sold or traded on some future occasion. But it never happened, that future basement sale, that repair job, that trade, over and over again, yet the stuff continued to pile up, and most of it was probably never even seen again, the farther back I crawled and squeezed my way through, in places the stuff stacked floor to ceiling, the ceiling bulbs now burnt out, never replaced, so that I had to retreat back through my mole’s tunnel and find a flashlight before burrowing on any farther.
“In Storage” is episode 30 of Inventories
a Novel in Progress in Serial Format at The Coming of the Toads.
(Click link for continuous, one page view of all episodes.)
Note: With episode 30, the title of the novel has been changed
from the original working title of “Ball Lightning” to Inventories.