Saturday, 31 May 2014

The Secret House

"Three can keep a secret if two of them are dead." -- Benjamin Franklin

People love secrets because they represent the challenge of the unknown.  Many businesses depend on them.  Spies of all kinds are tasked to unravel them.  Even kids like to have a secret or two, such as a diary to record their innermost thoughts, or a special place to go and be alone for a while.

Part of my childhood imagination was built around superhero comics and spy movies.  I memorized the runic writing from the Tolkien novels and used it to write coded entries in my diary.  I invented pictoral codes and shared them with a few special friends so we could pass secret messages, which were delivered either by paper airplane or hidden in a prearranged location.

One of the best secrets of all came one summer from my friend Carlson.  He and another friend Yves had been delivering flyers along their route when they stumbled upon a kids' dream house.  This wasn't a mere tree house - Carlson had one in his back yard - but an actual house.  It was a raised bungalow with a property that looked out onto the river... and it was completely empty.  The occupants had departed at the end of June and left the place bare.  So it was an empty house, I remember arguing.  People move all the time.  But Carlson said with a gleam in his eyes, we could actually play at having a house.

I was skeptical until the two boys swore me to secrecy and then showed me what they meant.  We walked down to where the house was; we couldn't take our bikes because they would be noticed.  Then after making sure there was nobody watching, we scurried around the back of the house to a door that led into an unfinished part of the basement.  To my surprise the door wasn't locked, and we were able to slip inside.

We moved into the centre of the room to see a trapdoor set into the ceiling.  A few concrete blocks dragged over from a corner served as a stepladder to get high enough to open the trapdoor, and then we could clamber through and into the house itself.  The place was amazing, with hardwood floors, wide windows offering a magnificent river view, and even running water (it apparently hadn't yet been turned off by the town).

For three glorious weeks, the three of us would get together as often as we could and head down to our own private playhouse.  We all knew the risk we were taking, that if somebody were to see us and call the authorities we would be in big trouble.  But it never happened.

And then one day we arrived at the house to see a FOR SALE sign on the front lawn.  We glanced at each other and sighed dejectedly.  The sign meant that people would now be coming to see the house at any time.  If we happened to be playing inside we would likely have no warning before someone arrived, and we would be toast.  We had to give up our prize and move on.

Time went by, Yves moved away from the neighbourhood, Carlson and I grew up and lost touch with each other.  The house that had been our secret was demolished and a new house was built on the property.  But I never forgot it and I never told anybody.  Until now of course.

1 comment:

  1. That is awesome. It feels so glorious and 'grown up' to have secrets as a child. Even if it is something small, you still feel powerful knowing something nobody else does!