Roller Skating in the Basement by Dan Nielsen

Roller Skating in the Basement

Martha Winthrop photographed flowers. She was in her backyard doing just that when she heard humming coming from the birdfeeder. These were bees. She leaned in and snapped a shot. These were a lot of bees. This was good because bees were dying. She’d seen a documentary.

As night fell, Martha went back inside and downloaded what she’d done that day. The bees in the birdfeeder made her smile.

Harold Winthrop, Martha’s father, was coming for a visit. He’d bring his girlfriend Gertrude and Gertrude’s grandson Tim.

There was cleaning and shopping to do, and Martha forgot all about the bees until everyone was seated at the patio table sipping lemonade.

“Martha,” Harold said, his voice stern. “Do you know you have hornets?”

“These are bees, dad,” Martha said, foolishly disagreeing with her father. “They built a hive in the birdfeeder.”

After a glance, Harold said, “Gert, get Timmy into the house … now!”

Safely inside, Harold lectured Martha on hornets, how any disturbance could mobilize the entire nest, how anaphylactic shock can cause a quick and painful death.

A backyard barbeque had been Martha’s plan. Instead, they went to Olive Garden, where Harold continued his lecture, nonstop, through salad, soup, breadsticks, and unlimited plates of pasta.

In the morning, Martha looked with dismay at the infestation. It saddened her. This was a birdfeeder. What must the birds be thinking? What must the birds be thinking of her?

Martha checked the Yellow Pages for exterminators. She remembered an eighth-grade slumber party and a prank call to The Orkin Man.

“I have termites! Will you come here and kill them, please?”

“Can you describe the extent of the problem?”

“All that’s left is the stool on which I’m standing!”

The girls screamed and laughed. They practiced the latest dances to Top 40 radio. Martha’s mom ordered pizza. They watched scary movies. And then, best of all, they roller skated in the basement.

Martha decided against phoning and drove to the hardware store, where she found a spray can with a picture of a hornet.

Back home, she put on long pants and a turtleneck sweater. She put on a winter coat and scarf. She pulled a stocking cap over her head until only her eyes were exposed. She put on dark glasses. She looked out the window to make sure the neighbors weren’t watching. She went outside.

She sprayed until the can was empty. She watched until all movement had stopped and every last hornet had died.

Following a long, hot shower, Martha put on pink shorts and a yellow tank top. She found her roller skates on a shelf in the hall closet. She went down to the basement.


hornet dan markeye.jpg


Dan Nielsen carefully rations his limited talents so as to cover writing, music, art, and standup comedy. Old credits include Random House and University of Iowa Press anthologies. Recent work has appeared in, or is scheduled to appear in: Lockjaw Magazine, The Fem, Semaphore Magazine, Minor Literature[s], Storm Cellar, and Pidgeonholes. Dan has a website: Preponderous

Also by Dan Nielsen The Attempted Kindess of Well-Meaning Strangers


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[Picture by Dan Markeye]