Try not to worry about it.

When engaged in the decision-making process, it is important, naturally to give some consideration to every detail which is likely to potentially inform the best decision. But, it is equally important to avoid the waste of time and effort and mental energy which comes with consideration of unimportant details. And a good example of such a detail is the color of the primer in the utility basement.

When painting a house, whether interior or exterior, it is the usual practice to first apply at least one primer coat, to seal the surface and provide key protection against the elements, and then to apply over it a color coat, the yellow or blue or marble-flecked alabaster paint which reflects your aesthetic tastes and conveys what you wish observers to see. Oh, the color of the primer is of some indirect importance to such a sort of venture -- a dark primer may be seen through a light color coat, and so a light primer ought to be used if the intended color coat is a light color. But if yours happens to be the standard utilitarian basement, intended to be employed for, primarily, storage of knicknacks and bric-a-brac and housing of the water heater/laundry machinery/mushroom garden, then what observers see at all shrinks to a pittance in importance. We're not talking about a basement made into a subterranean rec room, discotheque, or love nest. We're speaking here of the basement into which people are not supposed to go, of the kind in those scary movies where the audience is meant to gasp, "don't go in the basement!!" And so, the builder who spends long hours comparing color swatches for primer coats does himself a most inefficient disservice.

Indeed, the tempered builder worries over this facet not at all, his experience having yielded to him sufficient insight on this question that he already knows which primer he would use for a particular purpose before the particular purpose presents itself. To this builder, the first question is, what qualities of durability and water-tightness and insulation do I want in a basement primer?; the second is, which color is the cheapest?; and all those being equal, the third is, which can of paint is closest to the cart I'm loading up to take them to the register?

The color of the primer in the utility basement is a rough muddy color that He used to say was from it being so old. I've managed to memorize every single splotch of dirt and every dingy shade of almost-but-not-quite-yellow and white-that-looks-more-like-gray-but-isn't-yet-dark-enough and even a few patches of brown-yellow-fingerprints by the switches, or above the dryer where he'd put his hand to balance himself when he was cleaning. Sometimes- a lot of the time- when I'm bored, I'll just sit down and look at the walls and find patterns and pictures in them. I've done this so much, I know all the pictures and all the ways to see them. All of them have stories in my head. Sometimes I'll tell him the stories, but he usually doesn't care about them.

I know every inch of the utility basement. I know the loose floorboards that squeak just so when I step on them and how different the squeaks sound from stepping on them at different angles. I know the creaky light that hangs from the ceiling and sometimes flickers dark and then light again. I keep trying to count how long the dark spots last and then time them from each other- like how long between them and how long they last each and stuff, but I always lose track. My head cannot hold that many numbers, but that is okay. He said I don't need to know numbers. He said I don't need to know a lot of things, but the things he does want me to know, I should know really really well.

Sometimes, if he was being nice and I had been good, he'd take me to the park. It's only down the street. There are always so many people there. I always get nervous and he winds up taking me home soon after. It's weird to see all the other people. Some of them look like him and some look like me and some look like an older me and some look like little tiny mes and little tiny hims. I think I should like to have a little tiny him someday.

I told him that, once. He laughed and said nuh-uh. He doesn't want little hims running around at all.

"What about little mes?" I said.

He thought about it for long enough for me to be sure he was going to say no. Instead he smiled and said, "Maybe. I'd like another little you."

And then I smiled because he was smiling but also because any little person would be so nice, even if it was a little me rather than a little him.

Now that I'm thinking about it, I feel so stupid. I want to reach back and smack me for being so dumb. And now I am thinking I gave him the idea! Stupid.

* * * * *

I think it was long after that (though I might be wrong because it's hard to keep track of time down here) when I started getting sick. I've only ever been sick a few times before: that one time when I was itty-bitty and we found out I was allergic to catfood, and that time he locked me up outside for being bad and it rained all night.

This time felt like my insides were trying to be my outsides and I hate-hate-hated it. When he came down here to see what was wrong, I'd gotten blood on the mattress and wrecked my dress. I asked him if I was dying. He got a funny look on his face and told me, no, I wasn't sick. I was just growing up.

I told him growing up was stupid and asked if he did this.

He said, no. It was just something I did. Then he left because I think it was too gross for him. It was too gross for me, too, but I was stuck with it.

* * * * *

He didn't talk much for the next few days. He kept giving me funny looks and stopped letting me sleep upstairs. Even after I stopped bleeding.

"How come you don't like me anymore?" I said the next time he came down.

"I still like you," he said.

"No you don't-"

He told me to stop being silly. I could tell, though. He stopped liking me, no matter what he said.

* * * * *

I think it was the next day he brought her home.

He brought me up and had me help him move something from the car. It was wrapped up in a big sack and kept kicking us when we took it inside. When we got to the kitchen, he pulled it out and I saw what it was.

She looked like me, only her hair was yellow instead of brown, and she was a little littler than I was. She had tape on her mouth and on her hands and when he took the blindfold off, I could see that she'd been crying like crazy, her eyes were so red.

"This is your new friend," he said. "She's going to live with us now."

"Friend?" I said. The girl was snorting and crying and being loud and snotting up everything.

He tried to look cheerful. "Oh yes! You two will get along great. I want you to show her the ropes. Let her know how things are done here."

I crossed my arms and turned away. "I don't want to."

"Don't be like that. . . "

"How come you want her, huh? We don't need her! Is it 'cause you don't like me anymore?"

She was shaking her head and crying. She didn't even want to be here. She didn't want to be here, and he was replacing me with her. He was replacing me with a snotting, red-faced crybaby.

He was getting mad. I could tell. He stiffened up straight and closed his hands and glared at me. Well good! I was mad at him too.

"Maybe," he said slowly. "Maybe I don't like you anymore. Maybe the only way I will is if you teach her."

And then I got cold on the inside. Really cold. It almost hurt, how cold I was.

I was next to the counter. The counters were always full of junk because he hated to clean, and hardly ever let me come up to clean them. The sink is always full of dishes. I sighed loudly.

"Fine," I said. I'll take care of her."

He brightened up. "Good!" he said. "I knew I could count on you."

"Yeah yeah. . . " I leaned against the counter. My arms were still crossed.

"I'll move her downstairs for you," he said, turning to pick the girl up.

"Thanks," I said, reaching behind me, into the sink.

I waited for him to go down the basement stairs. That way I could get a good jump on him. I got him in the back. I always thought cutting somebody would be harder. Like there'd be a lot of meat and muscle and bone and stuff to get through first. But I guess not. Or maybe I was just that mad. Or maybe I just got him in a really good soft place.

He fell down, and so did the girl. He was already at the bottom of the stairs when I got him, so I don't think she was too terribly hurt, but I didn't care just then. I kept going and going until my arms were tired and when I finally got done, everything was red and stinky. Even the girl. The girl had wriggled into the corner, near my bed and was looking all scared and stupid and soaked with blood that I guess splashed on her.

I got off him and went over to her. The squeaky floorboards didn't squeak. It was weird. The blood had soaked up into them and now they were all quiet. Some little part of me felt sad abut that.

I cut the tape around her feet and arms, but not her mouth 'cause I wanted her to stay shut up. She ran as soon as I finished. I rolled my eyes.

"See?" I told him. "She didn't even like you. Why'd you like her?"

He didn't answer which was okay, since I guess if he'd tried talking after what I'd done to his throat, he'dve sounded gurgly and weird.

I dropped the knife and sat down in my spot and looked at the wall.

Now with the browns and yellows and grays and not-whites, there was a lot of red and black-red and red-brown and all new splotches to look at.

So I sat down and looked at them. That was a while ago. I'm still finding new pictures and patterns in them. Part of me's happy that there's new things to look at, the other part is still sad that the old ones are gone. It just means I will have to make up more stories. I hope the old ones don't mind. . .

I don't think I'm mad at him anymore, though I still feel cold on the inside. I told him so, but he didn't say anything. I think he might be mad when he wakes up, especially since I let the girl go, but I'm sure he'll forgive me eventually.

There are loud noises outside. The siren thingies, I think they're called. I hope they shut up soon. The noise they're making is distracting me from the pictures.

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