Friday, May 3, 2013

Stay Out of the Basement (Goosebumps #2)

Stay Out of the Basement (Goosebumps #2)
R.L. Stine
Scholastic, 1992

Genre: Horror


Casey and Margaret's father is acting more distant lately. They moved to California so their dad could work at PolyTech, a biological science company, but he was fired four weeks ago for some plant experiments that went wrong. For the past four weeks their father has been sequestered in the basement working. He's been doing all kinds of experiments with different equipment and plants that have been delivered to the house. One day they decide to try and see what he's working on and go down to the basement. Their father very uncharacteristically yells at them and tells them to never come back down there again.

Two weeks after receiving the warning to stay out of the basement, Casey and Margaret are told that Mrs. Brewer is leaving for Tucson as she's received a phone call that her sister is in the hospital. Their dad leaves to take her to the airport. Diane, Margaret's best friend, is over and says that now is the perfect time for them to look in the basement. Margaret is a little hesitant but Diane calls her chicken. They all follow her downstairs for just a quick peek.

The basement is like a sauna. It is hot and moist and there are tall, jungle like plants and trees in a swampy atmosphere. Diane touches one and says that its leaves feel like a glass. Casey inspects one plant that he swears is breathing. Margaret listens closely and thinks she hears it too, but Diane thinks that they're going crazy. Suddenly one of the plants releases tendrils with a moaning sound. They head back upstairs just as Mr. Brewer is returning. Casey realizes that he left his shirt downstairs, which he took off because it was so hot. He decides to run back down to retrieve it quickly before their dad comes into the house. After a few moments the girls realize that he is taking a long time to come back up. When Casey went downstairs and was reaching for shirt he once again heard the breathing and moaning from the plant. As he reached for his shirt the tendrils grew and grabbed him around the waist like an animal. They weren’t hurting him, just not letting go. Margaret finally appears to help him break free only to be confronted by a very angry father at the foot of the stairs. He tells them that he will talk about the plants someday soon and locks them out of the basement.

The next morning Casey and Margaret discover a brand-new lock on the basement door. A few days later they discover that their father has taken to wearing a Dodgers baseball cap and won't take it off. Home alone, Margaret decides to get some lunch when she spies her father in the kitchen devouring something from a plastic bag. Margaret is intrigued because he has been refusing to eat with them for a long time. She waits until he goes back downstairs and discovers that the bag she saw him eating from contains plant food. She tells Casey about it but he just laughs and thinks that she's crazy that she might be suggesting that their father is turning into plant. Diane informs Margaret that her father says that Margaret's father was fired because the University told him to stop his experiments and he actually refused.

A few days later on their way home Diane's, Casey and Margaret are shocked to see their father outside. Casey throws a Frisbee at him for fun but accidentally knocks his hat off. They discover that their father is totally bald and in place of hair he's begun to grow green leafy sprouts out of the top of his head. Their father sits them down and tells them that he has talked to their mother who informed him that they are worried about him. He says that the leaves are just a side effect from his experiments that will soon go away. He finally admits to them what he's trying to do—build a brand-new plant that is not only a plant but is also part animal.

That night Margaret can't sleep. She hears her father in the basement early in the morning and decides to ask about the plant food. She ends up seeing him unwrap his hand which she’d seen him cut the day that he had told them long ago to stay out of the basement. Margaret is freaked out when she sees that he's bleeding green blood. She can't sleep so she goes to the kitchen for some water. Casey ends up scaring her. They hear sad moaning from the basement and Casey admits that he thinks that their father is lying to them.

Margaret wakes up in the morning and goes into her father's room but he's already down in his basement. She notices that his bed has huge clumps of black dirt and is crawling with earthworms. As Margaret and Casey try to decide what to do, they notice of their father has come upstairs and has made lunch. He wants them to try his new dish. It does not look very appeasing as it looks like mushed green mashed potatoes. They are scared to eat it and are saved by the doorbell. It is Mr. Martinez, their father's old boss. He has come to see their father's work and so they head down into the basement.

The next afternoon their father agrees to help the neighbor install a brand-new sink. Casey and Margaret decide that this is their best chance to get back into the basement. Once again, they hear moaning and apparently breathing plants. They finally hear something that sounds like someone banging on the door. Under a table Casey finds Mr. Martinez’s clothes and they recall that they didn't actually see him leave the house yesterday. They hear footsteps and escape out the basement window. Their father knows that they were down there. He gathers them and tells them that Mr. Martinez got hot and actually left his clothes but he plans to return them to him today. Once again, he tells them to stay out of the basement as it could be dangerous.

The following Saturday their father leaves to pick up their mom from the airport. Casey decides that he wants to go flying kites but all the kites are in the basement. Despite numerous warnings, Casey breaks into the basement again to get his kites. As he is searching on a shelf for them he finds a pair of trousers with a wallet containing Mr. Martinez's ID. Soon he hears the banging in the closet again. He and Margaret manage to remove a 2 x 4 nailed in place and then jimmy the rest of the door open. Inside are moving, breathing, moaning plants with human parts growing out of them. There is even one with a human face. At the far back of the closet Margaret sees a human. She goes inside and finds her father tied up. He says that the man who left for the airport was actually a plant copy of him. Mr. Martinez is also in the closet. Suddenly their father and mother show up and Margaret is left to question which man is really her dad.

The man from the closet calls her Princess. That suddenly gives her an idea. Casey tosses her a knife and she proceeds to stab the father that she found in the closet in the arm. Red blood trickled out. She is pretty sure that closet dad is the real one. She goes ahead and hands him an ax and he succeeds in chopping the other father in half. Green blood slips out of his body as they realize the plant father was just one gigantic stem—he had no bones or organs.

By the end of the week most of the suffering plants have been destroyed. Margaret is happy to know that her father is going to stop his weird experiments. However, she doesn't expect to discover a flower outside in the yard that calls her by name and tells her that it is her real father.

Thoughts and Nuggets of Wisdom for Research

Not much evidence in the second installment of the Goosebumps series. What is available is about parental relationships. In this case, the mom is actually physically absent for most of the story while the father is mentally absent.

Early on on page two, Margaret narrates that “she felt sorry for Casey. He and their dad were really close, always playing ball or Frisbee or Nintendo together. Then Dr. Brewer didn't seem to have time for that anymore. . . . Dad hadn’t been the same to her, either. In fact, he spent so much time down in the basement, he barely said a word to her. He doesn't even call me Princess anymore, Margaret thought. It was a nickname she hated. But at least it was a nickname, a sign of closeness.” She also notes how “having Dad home has made Mom really tense, too. She pretends everything is fine. But I can tell she's worried about him” (p. 4). Their mother eventually says, “Your father's experiments are very important to him,” to which Meg cries, “More important than we are?” (p. 42).

There is also a brief gender stereotype in passing as Margaret calls Diane the science freak and says she loves math and science—the two subjects Margaret hates the most (p. 13). Even though this took place in the 1990s there was still the idea that girls shouldn’t like or enjoy or be good at math or science.

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