Life happens in the basement in this house. It is where you can wear pajamas and put your feet on the gold and orange plaid couch while watching TV and eating popcorn. If a kernel drops, no biggie, the carpet's black and red indoor/outdoor of the variety that can soak up an entire soda, burp, and be no worse for the wear.
A little boy who has planned his strategy for requesting a paper route launches into his proposal to his dad on that couch. He tells his dad how much money he will make, what time he will need to get up in the morning, how he will need to collect in the evenings. His dad swirls a tumbler of something strong, ice clinking in the glass as he considers his answer. He tells him something about responsibility and confidence and lets him get the route. Months later, they fight about this same route in this same place. Voices rise so loud that no clinking can be heard, just angry whiskey breath, stomping stairs, and slamming doors. Neighbors close their windows, not wanting to get involved, and watch the youngest to make sure everyone's ok. She is proud of the yelling that is so loud people hear across fences and yards. There is passion in it and honesty and strength in not being afraid.
This is the place where she colors construction paper hearts with markers and uses double sided tape to pretend her ears are pierced. It is where she skips and jumps rope and her dad tells her "I'm watching the news," and "not in front of the TV," when she cartwheels end to end four in a row across the entire floor. Where she waves a hair ribbon pretending she's Mary Lou Retton and stands on a pedestal of her own designing to put on entertainment shows that her parents clap for. Her mother rarely comes into the basement, but when she does, she is a captive audience. The girl can stand behind the couch and is at just the right level to "do" her hair. She combs it and puts mismatched plastic barrettes all over her head and her mom thanks her for how beautiful she looks.
The same voice rises and throws itself against door jams and windows in a fury over what have you and the household shrinks and hides. The cats know they could be thrown down the stairs at any moment and the dog is the only one who is safe. The garage door slams and someone has gone for a walk but neither the boy nor the girl come out of their rooms to see who has gone and who is left.