The first thing Frank Forester did when he discovered the volcano in his cellar was call the insurance company. “This is going to be a real headache, honey,” he told his wife, Francine, cupping his hand over the speaker of the phone. “And I just finished the mini bar. Had the billiards table picked out—the one with mahogany trim—the guys at the station would’ve loved it. Would’ve been a great rumpus room.”
After forty-five minutes on hold and five minutes on the phone with his perpetually effervescent State Farm representative, Robby, Frank realized there was little he could do in the way of insurance. He had a volcanic fissure vent in his cellar; State Farm only insured New York State certified Stratovolcanoes. Frank disentangled his fingers from the coils of phone cord, hung up the receiver, and opened a bottle of beer. He called for the boys.
Freddie and Francis came tumbling downstairs. Sons and father stood in a line, stared down at the floor, scratched their heads, and sighed. Their volcano was a three-foot sliver, about four-inches across at the widest point, smiling through their Levitt home’s cement foundation. It hissed steam, glowed red, and smelled of sulfur. The boys covered their noses. Frank bellowed upstairs for a fan.
While there’s nothing one can do eliminate volcanic fissure vent, with careful maintenance one can stop it from widening. The first thing one needs is ice. Dropping ice cubes into the fissure lowers the temperature of the hotspot. The temperature of the plume causes the crust to melt and form pipes that vent the magma that open the fissure wider. Frank was going to need more ice cube trays. He sent Freddie to Woolworths.
Next, one needs insulation. Like other volcanoes, fissures rumble—especially in the early morning—and those reverberations tend to damage cement foundations. Frank needed beach sand, and a lot of it, to soften those movements. He sent Francis to the beach with a five-gallon bucket. “Not too much seaweed,” Frank advised his son. “We don’t want it to smell like rotten eggs and dead fish.”
Finally, every volcanic fissure vent, classified in Nassau County as a “natural wonder,” requires a city permit. In the permit, it’s advised that the fissure caretaker attend church at least once a week. Frank delegated this task to Francine.
For the first couple of years, the Foresters and the fissure lived in relative peace. Certainly, the rumbling woke the dog, which in turn woke the family; the fissure’s steam rusted some of the pipes and the water pressure wasn’t what it used to be. But the family adapted. They bought a second fridge for ice cube trays, and Freddie, the smart one, devised a way to feed the volcano between one hundred fifty and one hundred and fifty-five ice cubes a day. The cellar steamed like a sauna. They say saunas are quite good for the respiratory system.
Francis, the strong one, filled the basement ankle-deep with beach sand. Frank liked it this way, and, along with his mini-bar, a couple of Tikki Torches, and a record player, the family hosted neighborhood luaus, which were particularly popular in the winter. Soon the Foresters knew everyone in Hicksville. Frank and the other fathers shared lawn care secrets. Francine made friends at church. Though Frank wasn’t sure the churchgoing made a difference, she baked more often, and this he supported.
It wasn’t until Freddie went off to CW Post and Francis started working at the Millridge, that Frank and Francine started to have trouble with their volcano. Without its daily allowance of ice cubes, the fissure got hotter, the cellar grew cloudy with soot, and the sand got dirty. Frank couldn’t keep up. Year by year the fissure grew longer and wider, until one day it reached across the entire cellar. The Foresters had to cancel their weekly luaus after the Damen’s son, the stupid one, fell in the fissure and burned his foot off, clear to the ankle.
The family grew apart. Freddie went to work in the city. Francis married a Jersey girl and moved out to Hoboken (this, the family agreed, was very unfortunate). Francine stopped baking. After Frank retired, he found himself spending more and more time in the cellar, even to the neglect of his lawn. He replenished the sand. He fed the fissure ice cubes. He even tried Church (it didn’t last).
One night many years later, Frank went down to the cellar, sat on the stairs, and dangled his feet above the fissure, now as wide as a fishing pond. He looked across the expanse of gurgling red, wiped clean of sand, mini bar, Tikki Torches. He stared down at the floor, scratched his head, and sighed. To the fissure, Frank Forester spoke of his sons, his dreams, the past. The rumbling hid his words.
Will Fenton grew up in a small town on the coast of Maine. In 2005, he received his Bachelors degree in English from Rollins College in Winter Park, Florida. He has worked in contract (Just Communications, London), commercial (Create Magazine, Orlando), and educational (Harcourt, Orlando and New York) publishing. He is currently a candidate for Masters in English with Writing Concentration from Fordham University in New York City, where he intends to continue on for his PhD.