by David Lubar
The first time Kevin noticed the crack, he was down in the basement looking for an
old board game his father had stored away. At least it wasn't dark, yet. During the
day, with the sun coming through the small, dirty window at the top of the wall, the
basement was bad, but not awful. The air always had that wet, dark-green smell
whether it was midnight or noon, but shadows didn't seem as deep during the day.
Kevin had just lifted an old box that was overflowing with books and photographs.
He set it aside and moved into the open space so he could reach the next box.
That's when he glanced down and saw the crack.
The jagged line curved across the concrete, disappearing underneath boxes on
either side. Kevin traced the crack toward the left, and found it ran all the way to
the wall, ending near the corner. He traced the crack in the other direction and
found it reached the wall on that side, too. He bent down and tested it with his
fingernail. It wasn't very wide.
"There's a crack in the floor downstairs," Kevin told his dad that evening.
"No big deal," his dad said. "Concrete does that. It cracks as it gets older and
settles. Don't worry about it."
Kevin pushed it from his mind. But a week later, bringing a box downstairs for his
dad, he spotted the empty space between the stacks of cartons. Before he put the
box down, Kevin checked the floor. The crack had grown. Another line branched
out from the center, going to the far wall. The crack was now like the letter Y. The
house is going to fall down, Kevin thought. He put the box down, as if the weight
might keep the crack from growing.
"The crack's gotten bigger," Kevin told his dad that evening at supper.
"I'll check it this weekend," his dad said.
That night, Kevin listened as the house creaked in the wind. With each small groan
or snap, he pictured the walls crumbling and the ceiling crashing down, pinning
him to his bed.
But the house remained standing.
"Did you check the crack?" Kevin asked his dad that Sunday.
"I'll get to it," his father said as he flipped through the sports section of the paper.
The next week, though he really didn't want to, Kevin went down to the basement.
He wasn't looking for a game and he wasn't carrying a box for his dad. He had no
reason to be there -- no reason except to check the crack.
He lifted the box and looked beneath it. The box slipped from his fingers when he
saw floor. He lifted it again and tossed it aside.
The crack had grown and spread. Where there had been three cracks meeting, there
were now five. Kevin stuck his fingernail into one of the cracks. It was definitely
"Dad," Kevin said at dinner that night.
"What?" his dad snapped.
That night, as he lay in bed, Kevin could feel the house shifting. In his mind, he
saw it pouring into the crack like the last ten seconds of sand in an hourglass,
slipping down into the ground and flowing to the center of the Earth.
Kevin decided that, no matter what, he would never go into the basement there
For two weeks, he managed to avoid the basement. For two weeks, he imagined the
cracks growing and spreading, until the floor looked like a shattered mirror. On the
first day of the third week, his dad said, "Kevin, run down to the basement and get
me one of those empty gallon jugs, please."
Kevin blurted out his reply before he realized what he was saying. "I don't like it
down there." Then he froze. He knew what would happen. His dad would make
him go down.
"Face you fears." That's what his dad always said. That's what Kevin expected to
hear. But his father just sighed and said, "Don't bother, I'll get it myself," and
headed down to the basement.
Kevin listened to the footsteps. That was the last sound he heard. His father didn't
After a while, Kevin stood at the top of the stairs and shouted for him.
There was no answer.
Kevin went down three steps. He couldn't bring himself to go farther, not when he
knew the floor was a fractured network of gaping cracks. He went back up.
He listened. There was silence below. Now what? Kevin sat at the kitchen table
and wondered what to do. Sighing, he dropped his head and stared down at his feet.
"No . . ." It was less a word than a whimper.
Kevin looked at the crack in the kitchen floor. He'd never seen it before.
Kevin thought about going outside, away from the house. But he knew it wouldn't
matter. There would be cracks out there, too. There were cracks everywhere.