Read an excerpt from Mrs. Eels Basement of Beautiful Magical Things
By Michelle Tamiko Hardy
Library of Congress Copyright 2016
I was taken aback by the slight hint of cat urine in Mrs. Eels basement but honored at the same time. I took baby steps as I followed her down the stairs into this place where she would come and lurk at her beautiful things. The stairs didn't creak or make any noise as old staircases would and they were clearly rotting or being eaten by the rats of my assumption. I don’t think the smell bothered Mrs. Eels because she never said “excuse the smell my dear.” She never said it out of all the times she allowed me to be in the magical place of beautiful things.
When we walked downstairs into the basement, Mrs. Eels pulled a string that clicked when she pulled it and about 30 watts allowed us to see the fantasy and shine. Though things were dirty, I could see the gold trim on the tea cups and the elegant designs on each cup. Mrs. Eels allowed me to touch her magical and beautiful things. I began to wipe them with my thumb to make out the intricate pieces and not to blemish but to see and feel the value as Mrs. Eels did with her human eye. I was not a connoisseur of magical and beautiful things. I would walk around the room looking and peeking into the corners of dust and value, getting value on my clothing and dust in my throat. I found a small lamp that had a cheap brown cord attached. I searched for an electrical outlet and the only one visible was covered with dust and rat hair. I used my shirt sleeve to wipe it off and I plugged the cheap in.
With the lamp, I could see at 70 watts, more magical and more beautiful things appeared. There were smells of Marie Antoinette, Bernadette Freedrick and Malor Curtue all of whom are dead people; disguised as the beautiful and the magical. There were brooches silver and rare. Alot of treasure and distinct application in each piece. Some so priceless, I dare not rub them with thumb or sleeve.
I made my way in the circle to see the beautiful and it overwhelmed the space abundantly. There was a continuous ticking of a time piece I was sure to have belonged to a confederate or someone who resembled Custar. I fancied myself to view behind the stairs and behind there were little rat droppings and in-between were ruby earrings hanging from a nail. I flicked the earrings with a shaking wrist and eye.
Mrs. Eels deep masculine voice summoned me to return for a sandwich and tea. She said for me to bring the Eleanor and Martha, which were tea cups I had favored while circling the Basement of Magical and Beautiful Things. I had favored them during a thumb. I did hurry to go back and retrieve them both, not matching, but like things favored and memorable they would be well received of the tea we would drink.
I settled them on my right and left hands carefully walking up the non-creak, not turning the 30 watt off, expectant for another chance to thumb and wipe. So expectant. The door at the top of the stairs was open for the grand entrance of Elenor and Martha. I, personally, did not matter for only Elenor and Martha were of importance.
I carried them both to the table where Mrs. Eels had placed two fine linen down, directing me with her snooty nose and eye as she spread the sandwiches. I placed both tea cups down, so gently. There was distilled water, a special cloth, I assumed to clean them. Mrs. Eels opened her mouth only as necessary and this was one of those times. She instructed me to first turn over each cup on its mouth to see the bottom, where I would not drink and wipe the part that was of no use. Elenor, the first cup was trimmed in gold, even on the bottom and strange. The real Elenor was not as refined with gold her bottom. I dipped the dusting towel in the distilled water and gently wiped Elenor’s bottom. Mrs. Eels instructing me to lean forward towards Elenor to look at the short neck and rub so gently to clean her. I stuck my neck out like an ostrich to see and thumb. I then, on my own, began to rub the large outer mouth and looked at Mrs. Eels to get approval. She said nothing as I knew was silent approval. Mrs. Eels then instructed me with her eye rolling to turn Elenor over and pour distilled water into Elenor, cleaning her of all dirt and rat hair. I raised the distilled jug and poured little into the mouth, then sopping it with my fine cloth. I poured for Martha in Mrs. Eels possession; she sopping Martha’s mouth. A whistle of tea ready and so good to hear the chime. Mrs. Eels had steeped without lemon, adding a few grains that looked like rat droppings, but I knew they were fine tea. Steeped just right, I dare not sip first to cool mine. I felt my cup of Elenor‘s heat from the steam as it rose to my nostrils, my spectacles fogging over. Mrs. Eels drank her Martha, hot, sipping expertly. I wanted so badly to appear very grown up but I was scared of the degree. Mrs. Eels could see I was anxious so she gestured for me to get at cube of ice from what she called the North Pole (the freezer). I jumped up, bumping and shaking the table, spilling some of Elenor and Martha out on the table. This didn't bother Mrs. Eels because tomorrow Mrs. Eels will be dying.
Weeks later my father came to me, sharing Mrs. Eels had passed away as her days promised were only extended until that night before. In the coming weeks I spent my summer days in Mrs. Eels basement clicking the 30 watt and plugging in 70 watts, dusting the way I felt she would. I mourned Mrs. Eels by being allowed to go back and continue to value her magical and beautiful things. Some days I would sit in the presence of the 70 watt and think about how fortunate I was to rub my thumb and sleeve and touch the rat hair.
I managed to spend the summer and an additional year of the days, returning to the 30 watt to keep Mrs. Eels in there. My click of the dirty string, stepping on the non-creak into Mrs. Eels heart. When I make my way to the 70 watt it was mundane over the year. I had become least attracted to the 70 watt, but not to its surroundings. I did not get pleasure as much because all of the beautiful and magical were missing Mrs. Eels as I. Things began to look less mysterious and more resolved. It began to look like a place of leaving; a place of matrimony. Only a place where Mrs. Eels would marry her life and her joys together.
Martha and Elenor were missing from Mrs. Eels basement of magical and beautiful things, so I ran up the non-creak, gathered them from the counter where Mrs. Eels had last drank and left her pewter lipstick stain. I didn't wipe it but smelled it. Martha smelled like Mrs. Eels and I would keep it that way. I did not run down the stairs passing the 30 watt. I walked so I would make no error in care for the best tea cups in all the world. I walked Elenor back to her original place and Martha to hers. I had not left my DNA on Elenor and would never intend to. I made a walk around the basement; returning behind the staircase where the earrings were on the very same nail. They looked cleaner, more polished. Also on the nail was a note written in Mrs. Eels handwriting with a calligraphy pen. So elegant, it read,
“I enjoyed my final days spending beautiful time with you, feeling magical with Martha and Elenor. We enjoyed the tea from the queen and water from the well of infinite happiness and much silence. You are the child who understood my most silent direction. I enjoyed my basement of magical and beautiful things. You are now the owner of the things and I love you. My spirit is the 30 watt, just as you contend, always clicking when you enter the room. We always clicked.”