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The House On Maple Street

By: Andrew Graham

imageBased on this picture by Harris Burdick 

            “When I grow up, I wanna be up there!” the small finger of a boy in the final years of his childhood pointed upwards to the moon that shone brightly in the clear, dark skies.

            “That’s ridiculous son; man will never land on the moon. Just watch the news, America and Russia are always struggling with this space-age nonsense. They got no idea what they’re doing!” His stern father was always quick to try and correct his son’s ambitious ways.

            “But Dad! How can you…” the young boy protested before he was interrupted by his father.

            “But nothing, son! Now get some sleep! It’s already past your bed time, and we don’t want to upset your mother, now do we?”

            “No, sir.” the young boy replied.

            The father’s attempt at shutting down any wild ambitions would fail to work on Jimmy, a typical American boy who’s mind had not yet fully grasped the concept of limitations. He also hadn’t yet fully grasped the concept of everything that was required in order to safely land on the moon. To add to this lack of understanding, Jimmy didn’t even know too much about how exactly to get out of the atmosphere, heck the boy didn’t even know what an atmosphere was. However, there was one thing Jimmy did know, he knew that he wanted to fly to the moon.

            It was summertime in 1954 when these particular set of events happened; the happiest time of the year for Jimmy and many of his peers. The quiet suburbs where he lived with his parents was far from being the most interesting place known to man, but it certainly wasn’t far from being perfect. It had everything one needed to live out the American Dream; a well knit community, a safe neighbourhood, and the best lawns within a 25 mile radius. None of this ever satisfied Jimmy. He certainly wasn’t ungrateful for what he had, in fact the suppressed nature of Jimmy around his parents portrayed him as a very polite young man, but he would have chosen life on the moon were he given the option. Even if there was a poorly kept lawn, a neighbourhood  prone to alien attack, and a community full of introverts, Jimmy knew for a fact that he would be more than fine and dandy.

            “What’s the plan for today you little munchkin?” Jimmy’s mother asked with the most sincere curiosity.

            “Me and a few of the Cunningham boys were gonna go toss the pigskin!” replied the little munchkin.

            “Those Cunninghams are bunch of hoodlums!” his father interjected.

            “Honey, stop that! Don’t listen to your father, Jimmy, the Cunninghams are perfectly good boys. They’ve always been polite to me.” Jimmy’s mother was the exact opposite of her husband. The caring nature and superhuman-like mother senses she possessed prevented her from ever letting somebody stop Jimmy from doing what he wanted, so long as she knew that at least the tiniest bit of good could come out of it.

            “Well, they’ve never been nice to me! Those kids are nothing but trouble! Son, you better make sure you get back before dinner time!”

            “Will do pop, see you guys later!” replied Jimmy, as he rushed out the door leaving nothing but a half eaten cereal bowl behind.

            It took about five minutes for Jimmy to meet up with the Cunningham boys, Richie, Bobby and Ralph. He had pedaled his bike eagerly as he remembered the brothers saying that they had good news for him earlier that week..

            “Hey Richie, hey Bobby, hey Ralph.” said Jimmy.

            “Hey Jimmy!” replied the boys in a synchronization that was only achievable by the closest of brothers.

            “So why’d you guys bring me out to Warner’s Creek anyways, it don’t look like anything special to me.”

            Richie, being the oldest brother, therefore the one in authority, would be the one to answer Jimmy’s question. “It’s not about the creek silly, it’s about who lives near the creek!”

            “Yeah, who lives near the creek!” repeated Bobby, to further emphasize his brother’s statement.

            Tired of waiting, Jimmy asked, “Well, who is this guy?”

             ”They call him Buzz!” replied Ralph before either of his brothers could.

            “But there’s more! This guy says he could fly a kid to the moon!” Bobby added.

             ”He just needs a house to perform his operations!” Richie said, to finalize the three brothers’ statement.

            “The moon? Let me meet the guy already, quit teasing!” Jimmy said with an uncontrollable excitement.

            Then, all together, the brothers yelled out “Buzz! Come out Buzz!”

            Suddenly, out from one of the many bushes surrounding the creek, a man appeared in front of the children. He was a scruffy, middle-aged man who had clearly seen better days. Despite his strange appearance, he still possessed a charm that prevented him from scaring children into making an urban legend about him.

            “So this is Jimmy, the space boy.” Buzz said in reference to Jimmy.

            “Yes sir, that’s me, sir.” replied the young boy.

            “So you want me to fly you to the moon, huh?” asked the mysterious homeless man, scratching the thick facial hair that sat on his chin.

            “Yes sir, that’s all I want in fact, to be able to go to the moon, sir.”

            “You got a place to call your own, kid?”

            “Yes I do sir, my parents call it a house!”

            “That’ll do Jimmy.” Buzz replied with a smirk.

            Despite being in a deep state of shock after the exchange of the words, Jimmy was able to pull himself together and arrange a meeting with Buzz. He would bring Buzz back to his house, have him wait outside until everybody was asleep, and then sneak Buzz in hopes of turning his house into a rocket ship. The whole ordeal ended with a handshake between Jimmy and Buzz, and the Cunningham boys looked at the final results of this situation with smiles on their faces, celebratory handshakes going around, and a sense of accomplishment knowing they helped a buddy out.

            Jimmy came home for dinner as planned, he’d done his daily chores as planned, and he wished his a parents a goodnight before saying his prayers, also as planned. It was around 11pm when his family was sound asleep. Jimmy snuck downstairs and ever so gently opened the sliding backdoor of his household for his new friend, Buzz.

            Buzz inspected the building with the mannerisms of somebody who knew what they were doing, “Nice house ya got here, Jimmy. Definitely something I can work with. Where’s your sink? And your ventilation system? I’m gonna need a toolbox, a lighter would be nice too” Jimmy rushed to show him to the sink and the house’s vents and supply him with all the tools that Buzz would need. To Jimmy, there was nothing wrong in letting a strange, homeless man into his house to mess around with his plumbing and ventilation system. The thought of going to the moon certainly clouded his judgement, and the fact that this happened on such a clear night’s sky didn’t help either.

            It wasn’t long before Buzz announced, “It’s all done. If everything’s put in the right place, we should be at the moon in about 10 minutes from now.”

            “You mean it, Buzz? We’re really going to the moon?” said Jimmy with all the excitement in the world.

            “Haha, yep we’re going to space, kid. It ain’t nothing special, I’ve been there a few times. My buddy Neil and I used to go all the time, but I’m sure you’ll love it. It being your first time and all.”

            “Wow, my dad told me no one’s ever been there before!”

            “Yeah, well dads will do that sometimes. Hey kid, you wanna do the countdown to liftoff? Start at ten and just work your way down.”

            “Of course! Thanks for everything, Buzz, you’re the best.” He began to count, “Ten, nine, eight, seven, six, five, four, three, two…” Before Jimmy could reach one, Buzz turned a bolt with his wrench and the house started shaking as if a 9.0 magnitude earthquake was happening right outside the front door. The sound of engines running, and rockets launching flooded the ears of the young astronaut, and soon enough the house was defying gravity.

            It was a perfect lift-off. The house soared into the night, pushing over a nearby tree and ruining Jimmy’s parents’ well kept lawn along the way. The moon became bigger and bigger as the house approached and soon enough, Buzz and Jimmy had reached their destination.

            “Go ahead, take a small step.” suggested Buzz, “Neil and I used to sign our initials here all the time, that looks like a nice spot!” Jimmy rushed to write his name on the Moon’s surface with his small, boyish fingers. It was this small step, and this signing that Jimmy would remember for years to come. Soon after, Buzz noticed that they were running low on fuel and would have to return to Earth shortly. Jimmy was pleased however, even if it was a small step and signature, he knew it was enough to proudly say he’d been to moon and back. He knew that his ambitions weren’t too wild for this world.

            They landed safely without even shaking the house too much. Jimmy quietly ran upstairs to find that his parents were still sleeping, and looked out the windows to see that the neighbourhood was sound asleep as well. He then walked back downstairs to say goodbye to his friend and arrange another trip to the moon, but his plans were altered when he saw Buzz wasn’t to be found anywhere in his house. He ran out the door to see Buzz all the way down, on the other side of the street. Crying out to him certainly would have drawn his attention but Jimmy would rather be caught dead before waking up his neighbours at this hour. He then started to run to Buzz, but noticed that his body had not adapted to the change in gravitational pull from the moon back to the familiar planet he lived on. Sprinting with all his might, the vision of Buzz slowly slipped away from his eyesight, and in disbelief, Jimmy fell to his knees with a sense of not having closure on the events that just happened.

            Jimmy woke up the next day from the best sleep ever, he had finally adjusted to the gravity and everything was back to normal. The lawn was somehow still intact, same with the tree that appeared to have fallen over. He knew he couldn’t tell his parents unless he wanted to risk being grounded for the rest of eternity, so he went to tell the Cunningham boys. Richie, Bobby and Ralph all agreed on the consensus that Jimmy was making things up with the synchronized statement, “Liar, liar! Pants on fire!”. They claimed to have been kidding around with him the whole time, and that Buzz was nothing but a crazy homeless guy they had found who likes to smoke a lot. Jimmy then gave up on trying to tell the world, just as he did with his other “wild” ambitions, but this was merely an act. Under all these suppressed emotions, Jimmy had always kept in his mind what he knew was true, and what he knew was important. No matter what anyone told him, Jimmy always knew that there was a house on Maple Street that was once a rocket ship, that Buzz was the pilot, and that there were two letters on the Moon would always belong to him.

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