from: 'Stories My Mother Told Me' by Jackie Summers
"You're a very bad girl Ann!"
No Mamma, don’t make me go down there, you know I’m afraid of the dark!
It stinks of mustiness, Ann said, choking back her tears.
Surely it had to be the dead people.
She never sniffed a dead person, but she knew it had to be what they smelled like. After all people were put into the ground and covered with dirt when they died, just like the earth she dug up in the yard when she had to bury one of Tippy’s puppies. The odor was the same, the thought chilled her. The drumming of her mother’s words weighing heavy on her heart: "Where the dead people live.."
It was cold and clammy in the cellar, fear tingled her spine, something touched her leg and she began sobbing again. A voice from above screamed out;
"Ann I told you, STOP that crying!"
Ann sat down on the cold wooden stair, it felt like sandpaper. She could hear noises in the dark. As hard as she could peering into the abyss of her nightmarish prison she could only see shadows, something had flashed past. She wanted to scream but didn't dare. She knew it would make her mother angry again, but what if it was a ghost? The thought made her skin crawl, and what about the snakes!
Usually a song always helped in times like this, but the only song Ann could remember was the one her cousins taught her; The worms crawl in, the worms crawl out, the worms crawl over your juicy snout!
She quietly climbed to the top of the stairs, if only she could reach the string. She was too short! She held back her tears, what if Mother was standing at the door and heard her? She decided it was not safe to be so close and moved down a few more rungs. From here she could at least see the light coming from the crack under the doorway.
She tried to remember what it was she did wrong. She was always doing something wrong, but what? She did everything her father told her to do. If your mother tells you to do something Ann, just do it. " But I do Pop." Then do it better. I don’t have room for you Ann, your grandmother and aunt share a bed, and I sleep in another room that barely fits a cot. You're just going to have to try harder. If I have to come back I’ll take you, I just don’t know where to put you.
Just then the door to the cellar opened. Ann crept down a few stairs, relieved it was not her Mother when she heard her neighbor Sophie’s voice.
"Ann, what are you doing here?"
Mamma said I was bad.
Sophie took me by the hand and knocked on our apartment door. When my mother answered it, Sophie told her,
" I think Ann is all done with time out!"