The Brick House, as we call it, may not have actually been brick. I can remember riding the bus home from school and getting off at a friend’s house across the street where I’d wait for my mom to pick me up. I don’t recall her working then, so I’m not sure why I did that other than to play with my friend’s awesome Video Painter. But every day as I stepped off the bus, I would look to my left toward my own house, perhaps checking for my mom’s car, and I swear to this day that it was brick. Not that it matters. It’s amusing to talk about around my parents, though, as the only brick house they remember is the one beside my Aunt Elaine’s, the only two houses on a dirt road with no name that ran alongside a railroad track. I suppose I’ll talk more about that in another post.
So, the Brick House. Apparently, we were renting it from a sketchy old man who would routinely sneak into the unfinished attic and smoke cigars while flipping through Playboys. Imagine our surprise when my dad told us this while we were discussing the cigar smoke we often smelt there. I guess he thought that would explain things. My mom glared at him for a moment before launching into a series of questions like “How would that old man even get up there?” and “If you knew he was doing it, why didn’t you say something?” The only way to access the attic was via a stairwell behind a door that we weren’t allowed to open – it was full of black garbage bags bursting at the seams. There was a window upstairs that faced the front yard but if anyone had tried to climb up there and slip in, especially a humpbacked old man, hell would have been raised. Unless he did it after nightfall, in which case … ew. I was five at the time, my sister would’ve been three or four. Alone all day with our mom sound asleep, our tuckuses parked in front of the TV with only three easily spooked cats and a hyperactive poodle to protect us.
Yeah, no. I don’t buy it, but it’s been the most logical explanation for the smoke smell thus far.
I watched a lot of TV back then. Besides standing in place and spinning in circles, it’s about all I did. I would set my clock for five till five so I could catch Chip ‘n Dale: Rescue Rangers every morning. David the Gnome followed, and I’d spend the afternoon watching Captain Planet and Pirates of Dark Water (now that I think about it, Dark Water had probably stopped airing by then – I would have watched it the year before). With a few exceptions – Sonic the Hedgehog, a fluffy white cat with a big blue bow featured prominently on the cover of some kids book, Barbie – all of my imaginary friends were swiped from cartoons or horror movies I was too young to be watching.
This has a point, I promise.
I have two very vivid memories from our brief time at the Brick House. The first is of staying up till sunrise, watching TV, and my dad coming home from work and fixing himself a bowl of wheat cereal. He worked nights, and most of the time he’d come in and change out of his boots and head for bed without me ever noticing. I was too enamored with whatever was on the tube. But one morning I noticed, and he sat down on the couch beside me and ate his cereal and neither of us said a word. I was laying on the same couch when I found myself flying around the living room, looking down at myself, my back pressed to the ceiling.
Had I fallen asleep and dreamt the whole thing? I remember it well enough. My sister was playing on the floor beside me while our mom pecked away at the ancient computer in the hallway. The TV was off for once and the sound of clicking keys reverberated through the whole house. I was on my stomach with my right arm hanging over the edge of the couch, my knuckles brushing the floor, and I was thinking about my friends Chip and Dale and Zip and Gadget. They were passing around corn dogs, and for some reason Gadget was wearing a white muumuu. Golly, the things you hang on to. At some point, my mind began to wander and I sensed I was hovering over the couch rather than resting on it. Weird, I thought, before pressing my face into the cushion. Only the cushion was no longer there. I opened my eyes then, really opened them, and stared down at the room from eight feet above. I was snaking around in a wide circle with the hideous popcorn ceiling snagging my hair and the back of my shirt. I was smiling but I never laughed. I was quiet, so quiet my sister hadn’t noticed the transformation despite sitting right next to me. Too quiet.
© Lauren Treece
I blinked once and raised my head from the couch, my arm numb and my eyes dry, my toes starting to tingle. My sister chirped something unintelligible and our mother stepped into the room, swinging a heavy book at her side.
Golly, the things you remember.