Once Upon a Time there was a Poor Man and His Wife
Monsters choose many forms in which to rear their heads. There was old Loch Ness and that Big Foot creature, and who could ever forget the Thing in the Closet? There are even witches deep in the woods, brewing trouble in their big black pots. But for the Willoughbys, monsters were not so solid and fightable. Their monsters were not ones to be cut down with swords but with money.
And so they sat at their old rickety kitchen table in their old rickety house trying to find ways to stretch money here and save it there so that this old house would stay their house. The bank had declared foreclosure on them not three days before and Harry Willoughby had lost his job a week before that and so they sat with more receipts than they could hold in two hands and a limited amount of paths to choose from there.
All the while the monster lay in wait.
Of course Charlie Willoughby who, as of yesterday, was seven and a half years old thank you very much, knew nothing of words like ‘foreclosure’ or ‘bankruptcy’. These were not monsters with which he identified. Although, he had gone toe to toe with the Thing in the Closet enough times to make him puff his chest out a little more and carry his wooden sword with pride. No, today Charlie’s main concern was that the puddles were at their prime for jumping in and he was going to make as much use of them as possible.
Donning his faded yellow windbreaker and black boots that had seen many battles, he hopped down the stone steps of his front porch and straight into the awaiting oceans of water. His boots sent cascades of muddy water up around him and for a moment, he almost felt as though he was sloshing through some enchanted swamp.
Grinning at the mud that was quickly soaking into the jeans that had been freshly cleaned this morning, Charlie ran straight through the puddles toward the woods out back. His tree fort would be the perfect place to hide from the gloomy atmosphere in the kitchen. Though what his parents had to be gloomy about he couldn’t imagine. It was a perfectly rainy day and the house was deliciously warm. There were books waiting to be read and adventures waiting to be had, and just yesterday he had seen a cloud that looked almost exactly like a hot air balloon.
His parents had tried to share in his excitement but it seemed that they had other things on their minds.
Charlie trudged into the little laundry room off the hallway with its glistening ceramic tiles and its rumbling machines. He stripped off all of his muddy clothes, right down to his underwear, at his mother’s command and headed off to the bathroom.
As he sat in the bubbles helping a plastic sailboat on its mission to reach the faucet all the way at the end of the tub, Charlie listened to the house speak. It creaked every now and then as if it was dancing with the wind, waltzing back and forth like his grandparents used to do before they didn’t live here anymore. The rain pattered against the windows in a gentle drum beat as though it had taken up the duty of playing music for the wind and house to dance to. Charlie smiled. He liked that idea. He liked mud and castles and boats in great seas of course but the thing he liked most of all was when people seemed to love each other no matter what. And if this old house hadn’t fallen down yet, that must mean that the wind loved the house very much indeed, enough to hold it up in the storm anyway.
“Charlie dear! It’s time for dinner!”
Charlie heard his mother’s voice from the tub and sighed. Draining the tub, he hopped out and slipped on the soapy floor, falling hard. Glaring at the bubbles as though they had meant this to happen, he scanned the iron rack in the corner of the little bathroom for a towel. But there was none. Fairy’s must have stolen it. Grimacing and rubbing his backside gingerly as he got up, Charlie steeled himself before swinging open the bathroom door and sprinting down the hall toward his room.
He heard Maggie groan, “chaRLIE!” from her open doorway before he reached the safety and warmth of his room and slammed the door shut.
As he got dressed, Charlie scanned the books sitting neatly on his wooden shelf and the slew of paper planes in different models lining his little desk. The bed was unmade, the quilt sagging in a heap that nearly touched the floor and the sheets in disarray. But his sword hung on it’s hook by the door where it always did if it wasn’t strapped to his waist. He smiled. At least in his room things never changed. Grabbing the sword, Charlie Willoughby went to dinner.