Adventure Coming of Age Fiction

When I was nine years old we lived on a dead end street in rural New Jersey. My Mom  worked full time as my Dad had passed away a few years before and  was the sole breadwinner of the family. There were four of us and we spent quite alot of time on our own.    Back in those days , circa 1965 four or five children was a pretty average number of kids to have in one family .  As I can recall many families had 5 children , and in grammar school  I can recall  that the Turner family had seventeen children , I kid 

you not! 

  Along with every other parent , my mom had her standing list of rules.  A pretty basic list including but not limited to:  Always  say please and thank you , especially  when on a playdate,   chew  with your mouth closed , no kids allowed in the house when she is working , don’t touch the heat , etc.

But the one rule she was adamant  that we obey was never ever , under any circumstance , go near the vacant house at the end of the street .  Just in case this directive was not clear , she had also clarified , “Dont even go on the property .”  This was a house the kids in the neighborhood had renamed  “old lady Coffets  house “.  Looking back , I  dont even know if that was even the lady’s real name. It does sound strangely similar to the word coffin. Nor do I recall the backstory behind that infamous little cottage. I guess back in our day it was our very own Boo Radley mystery house.

There were four of us.   My two older brothers , Frankie and Nicky, myself,  I am Madison, the middle child and I am nine and the youngest , Allie. 

During the school year  Mom would ensure that we were on the bus to school  before she left for work and we would arrive home from school promptly at 3pm.   We were  part of that group that was appropriately named  “Latch Key Kids “ as  we all carried  a key . The overhead garage door would be left unlocked and the key fit  the inside door. Frankie the oldest figured out early on that a screwdriver , located  on  Dad’s workbench  next to the door would work just fine  if you lost your key.   We stayed home alone until 5:30 P.M. when mom would get home .  During that time , we would watch TV,   grab Ring Dings or Twinkies for snacks , and always call mom  to inform her if  someone ate more than their share. Allie, and I loved jumping  on Mom’s bed and yelling random things out the window to the  kids walking home from  the public school. A special added treat of being a “Latch Key Kid “ was to climb up on the top shelf of the pantry in the hallway and pull out the unwrapped Christmas presents to play with and then return them to the shelf.

The summer  was much more exciting ! We would get up early and ride our bikes over to our friends' houses , who I might add , had more supervision than us as their Moms were “Stay at Home “ moms.  

Except the MacMurphy’s.   They  were the richest family on the block !  The Macmurphy’s had a  heated built-in swimming pool with a slide ,  a custom made tree house with running water , ( featured in Life Magazine), four color televisions and a large deep freezer in the laundry room  that held frozen Milky Way Bars.  Both parents  worked and the cleaning lady, an old Irish woman nameed Jean  with an accent, was in charge. So typically this was the hang out house during the summer.

  When I  was nine  my best friends were Mindy MacMurphy and Jayne Maute .  On any given  summer day we would ride over to Mindy’s after breakfast and figure out  how we were  going to spend the day .

On this particular  day , we did not feel like driving to the school  playground or playing in the woods behind Jayne’s house . We were leaning on our bikes in Mindy’s driveway and as the sun was shining down upon us  Mindy  shared her great idea for the day.

“Hey , let's drive over to “old lady Coffets house “ now!  We can poke around to see if any windows are broken and maybe sneak in !”

I answered first  without  hesitation.

” Nooo, I dont think so. I'm not allowed to go  there, and I ‘m afraid  If  I disobey the rule,  my Mom won’t  take us to  see the new Beatles movie on Saturday .”

“ Aww c’mon, chicken , she won’t even know !, what about you Jayne ?”

Jayne, always up for an adventure ,  responded with glee , “Sure ! , count me in!”

Mindy gave a thumbs up signal and that was it .    I was disobeying  my Mom’s most serious rule before 10 A.M.

We pedaled over and within ten minutes we arrived at the house. 

Even in the bright morning sun , I can remember that house still having a major creep factor to it .   There was a dirt driveway with weeds and rocks surrounded by woods that led up to a tiny rickety cottage .  The three of us sat on our bikes and gazed at the broken cement  steps without a railing leading up to a weather worn front door and a broken storm door hanging off on one side .  As I glanced around I saw weeds and dead plants surrounding the steps. Without speaking , I knew that  we all had the same feeling.  Nervousness .  Anxiety.   I remember feeling a slight breeze blowing and I thought  this was August , there  shoulden’t be any breezes . The breeze was faint  but enough to cause goose bumps on my arms  and I could feel my mouth go a little dry.   As I glanced up at the windows  with crooked or missing shades in front  and the broken down detached garage , I  nervously wiped my mouth and  said , 

“ Hey guys , I dont think this is such a good idea . We are all alone out here and no one can see or hear us. Besides the fact that no one even knows where we are.” As soon as the words left my lips  I heard a faint sound . A  cry?  A wimper ?  We all heard it .

Mindy yelled as she was already turning her bike around , “ Agreed ! let's get the heck outta here!”

“Wait “ I whispered , “what is that ?”  I laid my bike down and walked slowly  following the sound over to the front of the garage. My two best friends watched and said nothing .

 I quietly stepped over to the side of the garage  and leaned over . There in the deep overgrown grass was a  brown puppy. No, two brown puppies . They were sitting inside some kind of homemade  enclosure . I knelt down and stuck my hand in. They both came over, nuzzled my hand with their noses, licked my fingers and rolled on their backs.

I called the girls to come over and we all sat and stared at the puppies.  I picked up the brown one and Jayne reached  for  the brown and white one.

As I was holding the little squirming him or her  , I said 

“ We have to bring these two guys home and show our parents . They will know what to do and figure it out  . We can’t leave them here, they will starve or get eaten by the coyotes“.

Mindy chimed in “or bears!”

Jayne said , “ I can carry one in the basket in front of my bike !”

“ Great Idea!”  I said , “the other one will fit in my basket!“

 So that was it .  That was the plan . We would bring them home and show our parents . 

 As we  were all riding home , I  was a little nervous about what  my mom would say.

I knew that  if I told the truth my mom would understand . Even though I  disobeyed her greatest  rule , and even though  I may be grounded , and perhaps miss the new Beatles movie ,  she would understand . 

And she did.  Our family  got to keep the brown puppy , that we named Bailey ,who grew to be over 60 lbs and lived for 13 years .  

This was  one of those special  life lessons learned in childhood that  to this day I have shared with my own kids.

 Sometimes  rules will be broken , but if you're honest and you truly  beleive  it's for a good reason , things will usually have a wonderful way of working out.  

Oh and  by the way , we did get  to see the Beatles  Movie “ Help “ that weekend in 1965.

October 22, 2021 15:18

You must sign up or log in to submit a comment.