The Cave

My grandmother was the sole proprietor of a three room cave, to which we sold tickets and gave tours. She always said, “It’s a funny thing to have built a life upon the absence of Earth”. When she died, she left us the cave (my mother had already died in an incident that was unrelated to the cave), and this is how I became the proprietor of one third of a cave which was located just south west of a small town that wasn’t even a tourist destination.

My grandfather, always a pragmatist, found that the work of his evenings revolved around trying to get my grandmother to use the cave for something practical. He was always interested in the yield.

“We can’t just keep giving tours with this little seasonal traffic; bat shit from the floor of the cave won’t miraculously turn it into food,” he complained, as he sat at the dining room table, using his fork to prod at white, mushy potatoes. The lumps struck me as oddly resembling the very bat shit which he claimed we couldn’t eat. He shoveled a forkful into his mouth and mashed his chompers up and down. The clumps of bat shit that did not make it past the guard of his lips ended up in his wiry, greasy beard. I gazed at him, wondering how we could squeeze more money out of the emptiness in our backyard.

My grandparents had tried making cheese at one point because cheese and caves go hand in hand like scotch and cellars. They gave it a good go. They accumulated a number of goats. One hairy, black goat, had it not been for movies, would have gotten off scot free from being the devil. But instead, the unlucky goat, who just wanted attention from us children, was painted with the name Phil and cast into a life of neglect, depression, and loneliness. Phil only produced one rind of cheese in his life, and it was never eaten. Instead it was left in the cellar where it grew horns of green mold and later became the feature event of a slow year.

When I grew up, the mountains called me, probably because I had spent so many hours underground. As I stumbled up the rocks, I couldn’t help consider that part of my equity contained a third of a cave. Nonetheless, on my thirtieth birthday, from the peaks of a medium sized mountain, I looked out over small drips of other mountains in this particular range. I studied the shadows from the sun and layers upon layers of rocks and clouds. I had come so far from the cave of my childhood. A memory occurred to me then, as if the thin threads of cirrus clouds were weaving images in my mind like a loom.

I wasn’t sure if the memory was mine or was patched together from television shows, recordings my father had captured, subconscious dreams, etc. I couldn’t figure out why my grandmother had been so happy with nothing at all. In my memory, my grandmother trounced around the kitchen, cooking, surrounded by almost nothing: a few potatoes, a can of corn, a tin of sardines, a rutabaga, the milk from the goats, and some magical ingredients, the name of which she refused to disclose (us children all agreed it was bat shit or scrapings off the hooves of the goats or mashed up hair). As I watched her dance around the kitchen, blissfully ignorant of our poverty, my grandmother, every so often, glanced out the window above the sink at the entrance to our cave, as if waiting for a beast to emerge. One of her idiosyncrasies was that she refused to put the lids of jars back on the jars after she opened them. She also slept with the door to her bedroom open. Perhaps, I remembered, everything, to her, was a cave.

I descended the mountain and went back home and sat in the cave. Although I could have forcedly conjured some revelation by sitting cross legged like a yogi in the cold, damp, dark hollow, underground, I didn’t. Instead my mind felt as empty as the three rooms of the cave. I walked out of the entrance of the cave into the sunlight and immediately signed away the deed of my property. I told myself that the difference was that my grandmother had been born a pessimist.

I walked from the porch of my childhood home to my silver car, and, glancing over the wooden fence towards the goats in the pen, I caught Phil’s eye for the last time. He raised his heavy, horned head with a tuft of grass in his crooked mouth. He watched me as he swallowed the grass and then he swung his tail and lowered his head for another bite.



surreal, erotic, and stodgy writings that generally always include the moon

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Desmond Blume

surreal, erotic, and stodgy writings that generally always include the moon