Daddy spent a lot of time in the basement. No one knew what he did down there. "He's practicing his bowling," my mother said and left it at that. We knew enough to question her no further. Night after night, sitting in the family room, we heard the sawing, the hammering, and the clanging of pipes coming from under our feet. We heard the sound of women's laughter down below. We turned the volume on the television higher to hear our cartoons better. We did our best to ignore the racket. One day, daddy didn't come up for dinner when my mother called. "Go get your father," she tells me. "Tell him dinner's ready." Why me, I think, it doesn't seem fair but I go down the stairs to find him all the same. Someone had to. Every story needs a sacrifice. I mean, a hero.
I guess it has been a long, long time since I've been in the basement because it seems a lot larger to me than I remember it. What I recall is a damp, poorly-lit, concrete room with a furnace, a dartboard, and a disordered workbench. Now the one room leads to another, which opens onto another, etc. There is an entire labyrinth of rooms beneath our house. Each is rough-hewn, unplastered, hastily hacked from the raw earth, as if my father, not finding what he was looking for in one room, his car-keys, for instance, impatiently abandoned it for another. And now I feel like I am following in his footsteps. Because I find no answers in the room I'm in, I imagine another and another. I am continuing my father's work.
I walk for what seems a very long time, calling out, "Dad? Daddy? Poppa?" but there is no answer. After a time, I grow tired and frustrated. I don't want to admit it but I am also frightened. I decide I'd better turn back and tell mom I can't find him before I get hopelessly lost. But when I turn around I realize it is already too late. I have no idea where I am or how to find my way back. Every room looks exactly the same and there seems to be thousands of them. This is the real house, it suddenly occurs to me, the house beneath the house we all thought we were living in. Now that I know the secret I have to tell someone.
I find a broom standing against a wall in one of the rooms and thump it's handle hard against the ceiling. I stop and wait and thump again. There is no answer from above. Instead I hear one of my siblings turn up the volume on the television, just as we'd always done. Mother, you sent me down here to do a man's job, but I wasn't a man. I wasn't even a boy. Nor were you a mother or even a woman. It was a case of mistaken identities all around. We were both virgins and this labyrinth was intended to be our tomb. The truth is slowly dawning on me. I am fated to live alone with my father's secret. What was he thinking, this man who was not my father any more than I was his child? What was the purpose of this labyrinth? Did he hide his sin down here, his monster, the thing that was never to see the light of day? Had he ever bowled a perfect 300 game? I will be down here forever trying to answer these questions. I will live in fear of finding the monster who will devour me when at last I stumble upon the final room in this maze. But every room is the final room and I am the monster in every one.