Short Story Fiction
Under the House
Scott A. Gese

Joel Bradford was nervous. He had to crawl under the house.

under the housePublic Domain Pictures

He didn’t want to. He wasn’t looking forward to it. But if he wanted what he thought was under it, there was no other choice. He had to do it.

His mind was racing. What sort of creatures lurked in the damp dark corners the houses’ underbelly. Snakes? Rats? Big black spiders?

Good God! Just thinking about it scared the shit out of him. Ever since he was a young boy he had been terrified of places like this. His over-active imagination had always got the best of him when it came to dark and creepy places… like under the house.

To this day he slept with a night light on. The closet door to his bedroom was always shut tight and latched. He never let an arm or a leg hang off the bed while he slept lest some unknown creature lurking beneath the bed frame should grab him and pull him under.

Why did Joel feel like he needed to crawl under the house?

The house was originally built in the 1800’s. He had inherited it from his father who had himself inherited it back in the 1920’s. His father had added indoor plumbing, but that was about it. The house needed to be updated in the worst way. Joel had recently taken on the task of modernizing the kitchen. Replacing the old and rusting metal kitchen cabinets was a top priority.

The work was progressing right along. Joel was almost ready to hang the new wood cabinets. All but one of the metal cabinets had been taken down. As Joel worked at removing the final one he noticed something he hadn’t seen before. The back of the cabinet was loose and he could slide it to the side. When he did, it revealed a small opening in the wall. He immediately knew what it was. It was an old hidey-hole. He was surprised his father had never found it.

Inside was a scrap of yellowed paper wrapped around a Morgan silver dollar dated 1883. A cryptic note was written on the scrap. It read… below the belly of this beast. Southwest corner three feet down.

One coin and a note to what? More coins? A buried treasure? Joel’s mind began to race… until it hit him. Below the belly of this beast might mean under the house. He hoped he was wrong. He racked his brain trying to come up with another explanation. He couldn’t. Under the house made the most sense.


It was a Saturday morning. Joel sat in front of the opened access door that led under the house. He was wearing a pair of old coveralls. A small shovel and a flashlight were by his side. He had read the note a thousand times and his conclusion was always the same. The belly of the beast must mean under the house.

The Southwest corner? It was the furthest from the entry.

He was sweating and nervous. Somehow he had to find the courage to do the impossible. No way was he going to trust someone else to do this for him. If there was treasure to be found, he would be the one to find it. “It’s time to face my fear,” he thought. “There’s nothing under the house that can hurt me. If I’m going to do this, now’s the time.”

Joel took a deep breath, turned on the flashlight he had with him and somehow found the courage to do what he thought he would never do. He crawled under the house.

That evening as Joel’s friends met for drinks one of them remarked. “Has anyone seen Joel? He was suppose to meet us here. I called his house but there’s no answer.”

There was no answer because Joel was still under the house.

That morning he had only made it ten feet before he turned around. The light wasn’t bright enough and he let his fear get the best of him.

He went to the local hardware store and bought the brightest portable flood light he could find.

Saturday afternoon he tried it again. This time the space was much brighter. He felt better about crawling to the back corner. Not wanting to be under the house any longer than necessary, he started to dig as fast as he could.

It was hard digging in such a confined space. It took him over an hour to get below the first eighteen inches. By now, Joel had lost his fear of being under the house. He focused on his digging and thought of nothing else.

Three hours later the shovel hit something hard. There was an adrenaline rush that gave Joel the extra energy he needed to keep going. He soon dug up a small metal box. It was heavy enough that he had a hard time lifting it out of the hole. He drug it to the entry and carried it into the house. He cleaned it off and easily broke the rusted latch.

When he opened the box he couldn’t believe his eyes. Not only were there more silver dollars, there were also one hundred, five dollar gold pieces from the early 1900's.

The total amount wasn’t enough to retire on, but it did pay for the remodel and give him a good head start on his retirement nest egg.

Most importantly of all, even though it wasn’t completely dark under the house, Joel had faced his life long fear of dark and creepy places. He even found the courage to start sleeping with his night light off.

Although he did still latch the closet door.

© Copyright 2024 by Scott A. Gese All Rights Reserved.

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