What’s in the Cellar? by Jeanette Cheezum

This mysterious tale caused quite a stir over on Thrillers, Killers ‘n’ Chillers back in March 2010.

What’s In the Cellar?

1940: Deep in the woods of Georgia.

If it rained or snowed no one would come down to check on Lucy. She wore diapers, sometimes only one a day until she turned four. The weight of the soiled fabric made it easier for her to slip out of them. She stomped her feet in the urine puddles because it felt good to her feet. Sometimes she could play in the wash tub that sat under one of the windows. The man had dropped a hose down the wall and put water in there for her to sit in, once or twice a month. There wasn’t much else to do down in the cellar. Except hold onto her rag doll and lay on her old mattress on the floor.

Bugs crawled on her at night but somehow didn’t feed on her nasty skin. One morning the large doors opened and the man that came to see her brought a pot downstairs for her to use. The first time she wasn’t sure what she was supposed to do when he handed her a pair of cotton bloomers. She stuck her hands through the holes and placed them against her sparsely covered chest. They felt nice and soft and she liked that.

The man shook his head, removed them, and pulled them onto her soiled bottom. Up and down several times in an attempt to make her understand.

Lucy looked forward to his visits and watched his every move.

“I brung ya some food.” He shoved a bowl and a quart bottle of water in front of her.

She learned to eat slowly and save some of her food. To make a safe for the food under an old crate was the only way to keep the rats from eating it. When the man turned to leave, she shook her head flailed her arms and grunted. He paid no attention and left her alone.

An index and middle finger was used as a game to skim along the cool cinderblock walls. She did this several times just before she ate the bread and beans or apples and bananas the man brought her.


The warmth from the steam heater kept the cellar toasty in the winter for years; in the summer the man would open the two windows at the top of the wall. She watched the mosquito’s land on her and when they bit her she slapped them until they quit.


Around the nineteenth summer the man hadn’t come to see her for two nights and two days. Only crumbs were left under the safe, and the chamber pot had spilled over the brim hours ago, but she continued to use it.

The door opened and remained that way. A taller man stood in the opening and gasped. The stench was stifling.

The light was bright from the doors being open so long, and Lucy shielded her eyes with her rag doll until they adjusted.

After some time the man came down to investigate. Would there be another body like he had found upstairs? He pulled the chain to allow more light then stopped at the bottom step.

Lucy stood still; then handed him her bowl and empty quart bottle.

“Oh, my God, I wasn’t the only one–How long have you been down here?”

Silence surrounded them.

“Come let me take you upstairs.” He reached out his hand.

She didn’t budge, only stared.

“It’s okay . . . I want to take you out of here.” He brought her to the stairs and tugged.

Lucy held onto her rag doll. Once outside, they climbed another set of stairs and entered the meager house, set in the privacy of the woods.

“We need to do something about your cleanliness, but first, let’s get you something to eat?”

Before he took his big hands and moved her to the kitchen table, she had paid no attention to him, looked around the room and touched things. She stopped in front of a picture frame showing the man and another person with long hair.

“You’re not going to talk to me are you?” He moved to the sink and wet a dish towel. Tried to wipe her face and hands but she pulled away. He relented and brought her some food and water. “You can’t speak or hear can you?”

Lucy made strange sounds and grabbed the food. Eating like someone that hadn’t been fed in a long time. He watched her and thought about his mother’s story of his father. How his father had walked away when he was born and never came back. How hard he and his mother had to work to stay alive. Now that she had died he came to have it out with his sperm donor, but had been robbed of that pleasure. He had found him dead in the middle of the living room floor. At least he had the pleasure of burying him behind the house. No funeral and friends for him, he didn’t deserve it.

Zachary left the room and went into the bathroom. He rifled through the shelf where the thread bear towel and washrags were kept. At least soap and shampoo sat on the window ledge.

Lucy followed him after he waved her on to the shower. The water sputtered and came out cold at first. He had her touch the stream of water. Now . . . how would he get her to clean herself?

He stripped off her tattered clothes and moved her into the shower. She grunted a pathetic cry and struggled with him.

He turned off the shower and removed his clothing. Knowing she would watch closely, he stepped inside the rusty old shower and turned on the water. He held his head under the stream and placed soap on his face. He smiled as he rinsed and held out his hand for her to join him. She stepped in slowly. He handed her a soapy rag. She didn’t know what to do so he rubbed her face again and moved her face to the water to rinse. She held her breath flailed her arms and shook her head.

What could he do to relax her? He continued to wash himself with the soap, maybe … He soaped up his hands making a nice lather, and ran them across her shoulders and down her back.

Lucy seemed to like this. She made a humming noise. He massaged shampoo onto her hair but found it impossible to penetrate the layers and get to her scalp. She kept trying to look up to see what he was doing. The dirty water began to puddle and soap scum skimmed against their feet. She wriggled her toes.

He continued to rub her full grown chest and moved down towards her stomach. Should he? Well it would be the only way he could clean her. He tried to ignore the swelling in his groin.

He moved up to her ears and her neck. They were unbelievably soiled from neglect. He ran his hands under her hairy armpits and raised them to the warm gentle water. She smiled and made sounds that he had gotten used to hearing. He turned her around and let the water rinse away the filth.

Did he dare? Yes it had to be done. Mother always said “never leave a job unfinished.” He lathered her behind area and slipped in and out of the crevice. At least she had used toilet paper downstairs. He washed her legs and ankles and moved in close. Her body was against his and she didn’t move. He massaged her breast and used his fingertips on her rock hard, nipples. Then he slid his fingers down to her pubic area. He ventured slowly, so as not to alarm her.

Lucy hummed as he touched her mass of hair she giggled with a honking sound. He spread her legs just a little and lathered the area. She looked down to see what he was doing when he slid his finger into her young virgin area. Her humming became more intense. He rinsed the lips with a shower hose to remove the soap and stench that had gathered for so long. He turned her around. While finishing the job he lost his erection with an explosion up against her back. He shuddered and she never knew what had happened.

He assumed Daddy had never washed her or showed her how. The detective told him his daddy had taken another wife and she died giving birth. This must be the child. Lucy held her slender fingers above her head and watched the water bounce away.

No one would know – Daddy was dead and surely wasn’t looking down from heaven.

After he dried them off, it was time to teach her how to brush her teeth. He showed her how, but when her turn came she ate the toothpaste and drank the swish water. He laughed out loud. “I can see my work is cut out for me.”

“Now to cut that hair.” He opened the medicine cabinet to find only a straight razor, shaving bowl and cream next to a brush. “Well we may have to do this the hard way, if there are no scissors.

After three feet of hair and more under her arms he felt satisfied with his master piece. He found some clothes that must have belonged to her mother and helped her get dressed. They could live here no one would know the difference. Neither of them had anyone to love so he would teach her everything. She had already started to mimic him. But he would never kiss her if she wouldn’t clean her mouth.

Zachary showed her the mirror and she jumped. Lucy had no mirror so she never gave any thought to her appearance; large nose, sunken eyes, protruding brow, thin lips and matted brown hair.

He touched the mirror and then touched her face. Pointed to himself and then touched his face. “See, we look just alike. No one wants us, but now we have each other.”

“Let’s go to the bedroom and change the grimy sheets,” he wondered if she’d want to sleep on the floor. He led her to the side of the bed. On the other side he lay down and patted the mattress for her to do the same.

She stood still and gazed around the room. He crawled over to her side and pulled her down on the bed, then turned off the light.

All night she entered his thoughts. He moved closer to her wanting to feel her body against his. Daddy had given him something after all… a home and a woman that didn’t care how he looked.

Copyright Jeanette Cheezum 2010


Jeanette’s work has been published on several online writing sites and in three of Smith Magazines Anthology books and Six of Six Sentence’s Anthology books. Most recently, Pen Ten Scribes and Thinking Ten a Writers Playground (Academic Edition) Vox Poetica’s Inspiration Collections 1 and 2 Words and Images. Three of these books have made the New York Times Best Sellers list. Awarded The Helium Networks Premium Writer’s Badge, Bronze Creative Writing Award and a Marketplace Writers award; a semi-finalist in the Verb’s Dynamic Dialogue Contest.

Forthcoming: Vox Poetica’s next poetry collection in 2011. One of her stories was recently chosen as one of the top five crime short stories of 2010 by Paul D. Brazill of You Would Say That Wouldn’t You. You may see where some of her work is published at the about me page at


or on the members page at http://www.hamptonroadswriters.org


6 Responses to What’s in the Cellar? by Jeanette Cheezum

  1. I wrote this on an airplane after a much needed vacation. I was afraid my friends wouldn’t like it, but I had to send it to you for TKnC. I was thrilled at the response.
    Thanks again for the opportunity.

  2. That was gruesome, grimey, and disgusting. Not many stories can make me cringe and feel uneasy, but this one did, big-time. Man, do I feel dirty after reading that. Powerful as Hell. Great work.

  3. I loved this first time around – just as powerful this time, too. Great job!

  4. David Barber says:

    I missed this piece when it appeared on TKnC last year, but I’m so glad I caught up with it. That was grisly, fascinating and twisted all at the same time. I don’t think I took a breath from start to finish.

    Excellent, Jeanette!

  5. Thanks! I appreciate your comments. Thanks Col, for bringing this with you.

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