The House on Maple Street
by Anne Lindsay Kerr
(Marlton, NJ, USA)
“Someone’s moving into that old house across the street.”
Aunt Jane was looking out the window as she was dusting in the living room. David and Megan were sprawled on the floor watching Saturday morning cartoons on the TV.
The old house on Maple Street had been empty for almost a year, ever since the Morgan family had moved to Texas. The house had begun to look very forlorn. No one had cut the grass on the small front lawn, and the windows were gray and dirty.
David and Megan ran to the window to look. They hoped there would be a boy and a girl for them to play with. They both missed Johnny and Mary Lou Morgan who used to live there.
The tall trees around the house seemed to be even taller, and the house itself seemed to stand up straighter. As they watched the moving men carry pieces of furniture into the house, a small car drove up and a short gnome-like man got out.
David and Megan knew there would be no playmates for them. That little old man didn’t look like he had any family at all. Disappointed, they ran back to watch the TV again.
By suppertime the moving van was gone. David and Megan had their supper with Aunt Jane in the kitchen.
“When will Mom and Dad be home?” asked Megan.
“Where did they go this time?” David added.
Their parents often had to go away for a week or two on business trips. David and Megan weren’t quite sure what that business was, but they knew it must be important to take their parents away so often. Aunt Jane lived with them and took care of them when their parents were away.
“They’re in London this week,” Aunt Jane replied. “And next week they’ll be in Paris. Then they’ll come home again.”
The next few days were busy with school and homework for David and Megan. They had almost forgotten about their new neighbor. Thursday afternoon they saw the little old man again when they were coming home from school. He was struggling with a large box, trying to carry it into his house. They saw him again on Friday with another large box.
“What could he have in those boxes?” wondered David.
“Maybe it’s a television or a washing machine,” said Megan. “It’s big enough.”
Saturday morning Aunt Jane told Megan and David they would be having a guest at lunch. She had invited their new neighbor.
“Not very interesting,” said Megan.
“Boring!” said David.
But Aunt Jane said they had to be on their best behavior, and not be rude to their guest.
Lunch wasn’t as boring as Megan and David had expected it to be. Their guest, “Old Jake” he said his name was, kept them wide-eyed and open-mouthed with his stories of his inventions. Each one sounded more fantastic than the last.
Aunt Jane was very interested in them all, too, and promised that they would come over the next day to see his inventions. David and Megan were sure they would be too excited to sleep that night.
The next morning at breakfast Aunt Jane said, “We’ll go to see Old Jake after lunch today.
This morning you two have to clean your rooms.”
David and Megan were still so excited about seeing Old Jake’s inventions that they wasted no time getting their chores done.
Finally lunch was finished and the three of them walked across the street and knocked on Old Jake’s door. The next hour was filled with seeing one amazing contraption after another.
One was a toaster that not only toasted bread but when it popped up, a small brush coated one side of each slice with melted butter. (“Saves time,” said Old Jake.)
Another one looked like a toothbrush with a comb attached to the handle. (“So you can brush your teeth, comb your hair, and have only one item to use for both when traveling,” Old Jake explained.)
“Now I’ll show you what I’m inventing now,” said Old Jake. “It’s going to be my best invention yet!”
And he took Aunt Jane, David and Megan down to the basement where they saw a large motor attached to a reclining chair and with two rockets attached to either side. There was also an awning above the seat, and a stick to steer with.
“This will be a fast way to travel, even better than a car, because you don’t need a road. My ‘Hover Chair” will float several feet above the ground.
“Have you ridden it yet, Mr. Jake?” asked David.
“No, but I’m going to test it in the basement tonight.”
After supper that night, David and Megan were doing their homework at the dining room table. Aunt Jane was knitting a sweater while she watched TV in the living room. Suddenly, they heard a rumble, followed by a roar.
They rushed to the living room windows and got there just in time to see the old Morgan house across Maple Street rise a few feet in the air.
It was a perfect lift-off.