“Are you kidding me? Clean out the basement.” Josh was clomping with indignation down the stairs just outside of his mother’s range of hearing as he mimicked her. It was a crisp October Saturday and his plan was to sneak out to meet his friends at the 7-11 and spend the rest of the morning at the skate park, but his mother was in the kitchen with a bug up her ass cleaning like the Pope was coming for dinner and bringing Jesus as his date.
He unspooled a couple of black garbage bags from a roll he found at the bottom of the stairs and circled the basement at a sprint pulling all the strings at each bare light socket. The strings swayed back and forth casting skinny shadows on the cinder-block walls. Josh stood in the middle of the open space and did what any teen-age boy would do when faced with a large chore: he picked a random spot to get started and pulled out a box from underneath the stairs.
There was nothing and everything written on this box rendering it as mysterious as if it were blank. The box wasn’t even closed, the flaps were just tucked into each other. Josh shook open the black garbage bag and prepared himself to just start shoving the contents from the box to the bag when he saw the pictures.
There were a lot of pictures in faded color and some in black and white. The subject in the photos was a band; a rock band. Some of them looked like they were taken in a bar, one was outdoors, like at a dance or something with spot lights and a crowd huddled up to the stage. A banner hung over the drummer – it read CULT ZERO in drippy Gothic lettering.
Then he saw the one of a young couple. A girl with a wicked smile and long wavy, dark hair balancing a top hat at a preposterous angle . She wore a form-fitting black jacket, military in style with all kinds of buttons and pins on it. Her jeans were slim. So slim that you couldn’t tell where they left off and her tall, skinny boots began. She was in the embrace of a shaggy dude. Their faces were in smiling profile, eyes focused on each others’ lips — maybe they just stopped kissing? Or they were about to. He was wearing a tee shirt so most of his arms were bare, and muscled, like a drummer’s. He stood behind her, maybe his embrace was a surprise, but you could tell they were way into each other.
They looked so young, so free. Josh recognized the shape of her face, the eyes. Yes, that was his mom, but she wasn’t tired or angry-looking. This could not be the same woman who was upstairs emptying the ‘fridge and muttering under her breath? But who was that dude hugging her and making her smile? It sure didn’t look like Dad. And he wasn’t quite sure what shocked him more.