The next morning I woke up because the window by my bed was rattling. The light coming through it was different, not shiny. I heard many little taps on the window. It was raining. I loved the rain.
I jumped out of bed and ran to the doorway of my mom and dad’s bedroom, but they weren’t in there. The rain tap tap tapped on their window looking out into the backyard where the spruce trees on either side of the yard were glittering dark green and swaying in the wind.
I ran into the kitchen to find mom wearing an apron and sitting at the kitchen table reading the newspaper. She looked up at me and pretended to be surprised.
“Good morning Zuper Duper Clubius!” she said. She said stuff like that when she was happy. I think she was still happy because I had started to talk.
“It’s raining!” I said. I was really excited.
She almost laughed but instead just grinned. Shaking her head and then nodding. I thought it was strange for her to do both.
“It’s nice to hear you deliver the weather report!” She said with a big smile on her xface and her big blue eyes all twinkling. “Do you have anything else to say this morning?”
“Not yet, but I think I will.” I tried to answer her question but it made her laugh. I thought it was strange sometimes that grownups just laughed when nothing was funny. I could smell the scrambled eggs and toast cooking.
“Tell your dad that breakfast is ready.” She moved her head over towards the side door and the stairs down to the basement.
I ran down the steps into the basement. I liked the way I had figured out how to just let my feet quickly tap on each step so I could go down them quickly without really staying on each step. One two three four five six seven eight nine ten eleven twelve thirteen steps, though today I jumped from the eleventh to the basement floor.
The basement was the neatest part of the house. It went off in four directions from the bottom of the stairs, and each direction, each corner, became a different sort of place with its own feel to it. The floor was all that hard gray stuff and the walls were giant sized bricks. Small windows up high looked up out onto the driveway, back and side yard. The top part had big wood bars, and metal pipes that would whoosh with water.
Off to the right and behind me was that “furnace” thing that made the house hot when it was cold outside. It was big and metal and made these really neat noises when it started working. You had to walk all the way around it to get into the “laundry room” with the washing machine, the big hard gray sinks, plus “clothes lines” for when it was too cold or too wet to hang clothes outside. That was one “quarter” of the basement. Mom had showed me that you could “divide” something up into four “quarters”, and so that’s what I did with the basement.
Off to the right in front of me was my dad’s office. He had this wood desk in the corner painted white with his black typewriter on top and always different piles of papers. He was sitting in this neat wood chair, which was painted green. To me, it was more like a machine than a normal chair, since it rolled around on wheels, the seat turned around, and big black “springs” under the seat let dad lean back to do extra thinking. On either side of his desk were “shelves” along the walls. They were made out of wood boards I had helped him paint white, and also bricks on the sides. That’s where dad had all his books. Between the bottom of the stairs and his desk was a bed, kind of like my bed, where he said he took “naps” sometimes when he was working late. He said that “naps” were just a little bit of sleeping.
He had this neat thing called a “bamboo screen” that was hooked onto one of those big wood bars on the top part of the basement. It was interesting, because sometimes you could see through it and sometimes you couldn’t. It hung down next to the bed. He said it gave him “a little more privacy”, which he said meant when you wanted to be alone. His quarter of the basement had a small “rug” thing, over the hard gray floor part. Mom said the rug made that part of the room feel “cozier” when he was down there working. I liked that word “cozy”.
To the left and behind me was my quarter of the basement. It had shelves on one wall made with painted white boards and bricks on the sides like dad’s. Wood boxes on the shelves had all my toys when I wasn’t playing with them. Mom and dad let me leave my toys set up on the floor of that part of the basement for as long as I wanted to. I could even write on chalk on the floor to make roads or islands or rivers or whatever I wanted, to make my pretend places. Then there was the fourth quarter of the basement, which had just a white wood table with metal legs in the corner and just one white wood chair to sit at, a table that my mom or dad sometimes did “projects” on.
I went into my dad’s office quarter. He heard me coming and swung around in his chair. “Good morning Cloobster! Is it still raining?” Because I had not been talking much until yesterday, mom and dad had gotten used to figuring out what I was thinking.
I had been ready to tell him it was raining, but he had said it first, though I didn’t know why he said “still”. I was wondering about that and I guess he figured out that I was.
“The rain started late last night after you were asleep”, he said, “It’s supposed to rain all day.”
Now that was really exciting to think about. We were all nice and “cozy” inside. Like we were in a boat or a submarine with the water all around us. I also thought that maybe I should put on my raincoat and go outside. I loved walking in the rain. Seeing everything looking different, all wet and shiny. Smelling that rain smell in the air.
“Hey you two. Breakfast is served!” It was mom’s strong clear voice from the top of the stairs.
I ran up the stairs, going around mom on the flat part by the side door. I couldn’t remember the last time I had walked up or down the stairs slowly. Even in other people’s houses or buildings in town with stairs, I liked running up and down them too. Being on stairs felt like being nowhere. The exciting stuff was either at the top or the bottom.
Mom gave us eggs and toast and the three of us sat and ate at the little table in the kitchen.
“So I read in the paper”, mom said, “That Nikita krushchev has been made the new premiere of the Soviet Union.”
Dad shook his head and looked like he didn’t like that. “He’s just another two-bit Stalin!” he said.
Mom seemed less sure about that. “The way I see it”, she said, “Things have an opportunity to change when the people in power change.”
I had heard that “Soviet Union” place before when mom and dad were talking to other grownups. I figured that maybe the “Soviet Union” was our enemy now like the Germans had been during World War Two. They also said that it was a “cold war”, whatever that was. I guess that was different from a regular war, but I didn’t know why. I was really interested in war, because grownups and even kids talked about it a lot. They talked about the people who were the “generals”, and about the special ships and planes and tanks that the good guys had and the badguys had. To me it all seemed like this great adventure that men did with courage for their country, like dad had done in World War Two. It was this real story that everyone knew and talked about, and us kids liked pretending about so maybe we could figure out more about our dads who were soldiers in the war.
So back when I wasn’t talking yet, I just listened to everything mom and dad said and figured things out if I could. But now that I was talking, each time I wondered about something I had to figure out if I was going to ask a question or not. I wanted to know so much, but I also didn’t want grownups to think that I thought they were strange or that kids were better. I didn’t have to worry about those things when I wasn’t talking!
Mom and dad looked friendly enough this morning, and I felt like I could ask at least one question, since they had already talked about it.
“Are we fighting the Soviet Union?” I asked.
They both looked at me but I was glad they did not smile or laugh at me.
“Well,” mom said, and then paused and looked up as she was thinking what to say. I was excited that I’d asked a good question, and might find out something I really was wondering about. But then I got worried when she seemed to be thinking for a long time without saying something. I wondered if it was one of those things I could tell grownups knew but they didn’t want to tell kids.
I saw dad push his lips together and started to nod his head, which I could see mom saw and finally made her start talking. She put her hand on dad’s shoulder like she wanted to talk before he did, like she wanted me to hear what she was thinking instead of what HE was thinking.
“I would say it’s more like a very important game and we are one team and they are the other team”, she said, “And we’re afraid what will happen if they win and they are probably afraid what will happen if we win. So if the game continues with neither side winning, that may be the best thing we can all hope for.”
Dad put his hand on hers, still resting on his shoulder, and looked at her with his biggest smile.
“Liz”, he said, that was his nickname for her, “You are a born politician, Eisenhower could not have said it any better!”
Mom grinned, her cheeks got a bit red and her blue eyes twinkled. She seemed to like what he said but also like that she had told me what she thought was a good answer. It was something for me to think about.
And as we all ate our breakfast, mom and dad talked about what they were going to do today because it was raining. I was busy thinking about mom’s idea about the “very important game” with us and the Soviet Union, and that it might be better if nobody won. I liked winning better than losing. My mom and dad liked playing games and winning too. I’d watched them both play tennis, baseball and that card game Bridge. They both always tried hard to play really good and be the winners. And dad would often get mad when he didn’t play good or when he lost. I wondered if winning was the most important thing. Was it more important than just having the chance to play the game? What if you just played for fun and nobody won?
We all ate fast and mom washed our plates, forks, glasses, and the frying pan in the kitchen sink. She liked to have all that cleaning stuff done right after we ate. She put the clean wet plates, glasses and forks in this plastic wire thing to dry off, and put the pan on the stove upside down and turned one of the knobs to make the fire for a minute. I remembered she said that kept it from getting “rusty”, whatever that was.
Mom said she had to go to the store to do some “shopping”. She put on her raincoat and took the “umbrella” from the closet by the front door and then headed out the side door to drive the car to the “grocery store” where she got food. That was some of the “work” she did for the family. She made stuff in the kitchen we could eat and wash the dishes after. She put the dirty clothes in the washing machine and then hung them on that thing outside to dry. She also cleaned all the rooms in the house, even my room. I don’t think she liked doing most of that stuff. What she did like was working on the plants outside in the yard. “Planting” them, “weeding” them and “pruning” them.
Dad’s work was different. He read books and typed on the typewriter. He “graded papers”, which looked like he was doing reading and then writing on the pieces of paper he was reading. He drove off in the car to do work at other houses, like that “frat house” place. He would also fix things around the house, like a sink, the toilet, a door, or a window. And to fix things, he would go to a different store, a “hardware store”. I liked going to that store with him and looking at all the interesting stuff they had. It looked like toys for grownups. He would also “mow the lawn” outside with this big metal thing with wheels that he pushed around. He liked all that stuff sometimes, but other times I could tell he didn’t like it, even though he would never say he didn’t like it.
Sometimes at night I would hear them talking in their room about the stuff they worked on. Dad would tell mom all the things he did, like the more things he told her the happier she would be. Sometimes mom said her work was “boring” and she tried hard not to “feel like a drudge”, whatever that was. Those things didn’t sound very good, and now that I was talking, maybe I would ask her about it.
After mom drove off in the car, dad was still sitting at the kitchen table. He rubbed his eyes and looked up at the top part of the room thinking.
“Cloob”, he said, “I have some papers to grade down at my desk. Are you going to play down in the basement?”
I nodded. I had been thinking about playing pirates and soldiers like I had last night in the tub, but this time down in the basement with all my toys, not just the bathtub ones. But now I was thinking about having the chance to be in the upstairs of the house all by myself.
“I’ll come down a bit later”, I said. I had heard my mom and dad say that, when they wanted to be by themselves.
He looked at me and seemed to be thinking if that was okay. Finally he nodded, stood up, and went downstairs.
I walked from my chair at the kitchen table and stood in the doorway that separated the kitchen from the living room, a door that was always open. From all sides I could hear the noise of the rain on the windows. I found the spot, which happened to be just inside the living room from that doorway, where I could still see both windows in the kitchen plus both in the living room at the same time, all dripping with rain. Looking over my shoulder, I moved just a little farther into the living room to where I could see through the doorway from the living room to the back hallway and across to the open door of the bathroom and its window looking out into the backyard. From here I could see all five windows.
The rain on all those five windows made the dry, still, inside of the house feel like the inside of a big box. The living room was empty except for that one “Windsor” shiny brown chair in the corner and that white and yellow “Herman Miller chest” by the front door. The floor in the living room was shiny brown like the chair, and like the floor of the bedrooms and the hallway. I kind of liked it that there wasn’t much stuff in the living room. I liked that you could see all the corners. It was like a giant toy house that you could decide what other toys to put inside it, and then put in different ones the next time, if you had a different idea. Also when you made a noise in the living room it sounded extra loud.
I listened to the rain for a long time and it kind of made me stop thinking and just listening. But then I finally started thinking again and wondered if there was some other spot in the house where I might be able to see five or even SIX windows. It seemed the best place might be standing in the back hallway by the bathroom door. From there I could see out the bathroom window, and then turning my head each way, see out the window in my bedroom looking out onto the driveway on that side of the house and out my mom and dad’s bedroom window looking out on the other side yard. And then looking over my back, if I moved just a little bit toward the living room, I could see out both the front and side windows in that room, so five windows as well, but a different five. Moving a bit more through the doorway from the back hallway into the living room, by the time I could see the front window in the kitchen I couldn’t see the windows in each bedroom anymore. So I had lost two and only got one. Four instead of five.
I started wondering about my mom and dad’s bedroom. I almost never went in there. It felt too much like grownups and made me worried. But now I wanted to feel what that room felt like with the rain outside changing how everything inside felt. It seemed the most full of stuff of any room in the house, even though it was small like my bedroom. Beds, tables and chairs mom and dad called “furniture”. They seemed to talk to each other a lot about “pieces of furniture”. Which ones they liked and which ones they didn’t like. Which ones they had and which ones they wanted to have.
Their room had four pieces of furniture. A bed in the middle of the room against the side wall of the house that was wider than mine and did not have those black metal bars on the front, back and sides. It had white sheets covered by a blue blanket like mine, but two pillows in white pillow cases where I only had one. On each side of the bed next to the pillows, they had little tables. Then on the other side of the bed was a dresser like in my room, but theirs was white instead of shiny brown like mine.
The one on dad’s side had a brown top and white legs and nothing under it. On the top part was a white bowl where he kept his keys, money, and that “wallet” thing that he would open and take out or put in small pieces of paper. The outside of it was shiny brown like the floor, but when I touched it with my finger it felt kind of soft instead of hard. It also had a clock that was kind of gold colored.
The little table on mom’s side was all white and had a small light on top. Below the table part it had little drawers going down. I pulled open the top drawer and it had lots of shiny things and little bottles with different colored liquid stuff inside.
Then I opened their closet door. It was full of clothes on hangers with some in big clear plastic bags. The closet had a strange smell that tickled my nose. There was a shelf above the hanging clothes that had some shoes that I thought were mom’s. Also some boxes. Down on the floor were shoes that I figured were dad’s. Dad’s shoes looked more like regular shoes but some of mom’s shoes looked pretty strange.
I started to worry that dad might come upstairs and get mad at me for being in their room. So I closed the door of the closet and went back out in the hallway. I looked in the bathroom, but I already knew that place really well, and I continued to the hallway closet next to the bathroom door. It had shelves from top to bottom, with folded towels and other folded stuff on top, and stuff my parents used to clean the house on the bottom shelves. There was that smell that the house smelled like when my mom had just cleaned it. Those long cleaning things called a “broom” and a “mop” were hanging on the wall on each side of the closet. There were two “pails” on the closet floor.
Then I went back to my own bedroom and opened my closet door. The stuff in there I knew, just some of my shirts and jackets hanging on one side. On the floor below were my other shoes. On the shelf above was a folded blanket. Looking farther up I could see the “hatch”, that was what my dad called it, that was the door to the attic. There was a wood “ladder” on the closet wall under the hatch that I had seen dad go up a couple times.
I wondered what it looked like in the attic, and it WAS in my closet. So I decided to go up like dad did and look. I went up the ladder and pushed up on the hatch. I started thinking that this was really neat because it was more like a ship than a house, climbing through a “hatch”. I wasn’t sure how it opened and I pushed on it gently with my hand and one side went up a little. I was worried something bad might happen, but then I thought that I had watched dad do it and he wasn’t worried at all. So I took another step up the ladder and pushed the hatch up some more, enough to peek inside. There was just enough light coming in from a tiny window I could see on the other side of the attic and another behind me. I could make out slanted wood beams above and then other wood beams below instead of a floor.
I was about to lower the hatch back down when I saw what looked like a wheel off to the left. I looked closer and there was a second smaller wheel of what looked like, in the mostly dark, a tricycle. It was sitting on pieces of wood over the wood beams. Having never looked in the attic before, I wondered if it had always been there and why.
I could hear dad’s feet coming up the stairs into the kitchen, almost like he was right next to me even though he wasn’t. I got scared and quickly lowered the hatch but it banged down and you could still kind of see through like it wasn’t closed right. I could hear dad walking through the kitchen, maybe looking for me or heading to his bedroom. Getting more scared, I didn’t try to fix the hatch and climbed down the ladder, got out of the closet and closed the door. I had time for just one excited breath before my dad poked his head around the door from the living room into the back hallway and saw me standing by the closet door looking worried.
“Cloobster, are you alright?” he said, coming to the door to my room and looking at me with his big brown worried eyes.
Feeling worried inside, I suddenly didn’t want to talk anymore and I just nodded, really fast. I could see in his eyes he was doing a lot of thinking and even wondering, but he didn’t say anything. I got even more worried
“I was just checking on you”, he said, “It’s okay.”
I nodded again and figured I’d try to pretend it was okay too.
“You going to come downstairs and play?” he asked.
I nodded yet again, saying nothing. Before he could look at me again and maybe figure out I did something bad, I ran by him, out through the living room into the kitchen and then down the basement stairs. I pulled the wood box off the shelf in my quarter of the basement with my plastic soldiers in it and put it on the basement floor. Then another wood box with a bunch of cars and trucks, along with a couple toy boats. The sound of the rain softly tapping on the small high windows on three sides of me made the big basement space seem cozy and calmed me. I sat on the floor and started looking through the stuff in both boxes, which stopped me thinking about what had just happened. I could feel my heart start beating slower and softer.
Still I knew that tricycle was up there in the attic above my bedroom but not why and what that story was all about.