When I was a teenager, I was a budding filmmaker, by which I mean I happened to own a video camera. I had a great idea for a documentary film called “The Shed,” which would have been an exploration of the shed in our backyard. Ominously rusted and sunken into the earth, it had ceased being a functional storage space, and was more of a tomb for abandoned household items, old bikes, and gear from our long-deceased swimming pool. Pools have a way of becoming family members. It’s so sad when they die. It’s like you can never bear to part with their skimmers and chlorine floaters.
I also was dramatically certain that the shed was filled with Amazonian spiders, raccoon nests, and moldy new lifeforms festering in the dark. My film would have been part nature documentary and part horror film. And I know something exciting would have happened if I’d ever had the opportunity to make it. Maybe I’d have found a drifter living in there. A rabid family of possums. Tetanus, at the very least.
However, my father had none of it, informing me that there was nothing interesting or worth filming in the shed except our old bikes and some tools.
“Don’t mess around in that shed,” he said, sending the film into development hell forever.
These days I have my own shed in my own backyard, and I still sometimes entertain the idea of resurrecting the film. I’m imagining the opening sequence, shot in art-snob sepia, first-person style. All you hear is the measured breathing and the rustling through leaves as the camera shakily approaches those metal doors.
Suddenly the screen goes black and you hear the awful screeching of the doors being pried open.
The screen comes back. And you see.
In the corner, a grass seeder that was just used once in the failed grass growing experiment. The camera rapidly pans across. A bag of charcoal for the grill that is now rusted shut. The camera spins around. Broken hedge trimmers, unused mulch, a cracked planter. The breathing is heavier now. A balled-up patio umbrella net from the time I envisioned creating a screened-in effect, but instead got the effect of protecting ourselves from the malaria outbreak.
I know now what my father knew then. The Shed is not a horror film. The Shed is ultimately a tragedy, a place of broken dreams, an unorganized vision of a more perfect yard that I do not and will never have.
Well, and the wife would be quick to inform all of you that one time there was a spider. And not just any spider, but a spider the size of a fist. In fact, it was the size of a small sovereign country. This thing could still totally be a horror film.
Of course, there would be other films in the docu-series as well: The Attic. The Sump Pump Pit. That Red Tupperware Bowl in the Back of the Refrigerator (Oh God How Long Ago DID WE MAKE THAT) — quite possibly the most terrifying film of them all.