Guest Post: The Little House That Grew Up by Leon Moss
Thank you to everyone who submitted work for the January Short Story Contest. The 1st selected featured entry is:
The Little House That Grew Up by Leon Moss
Leon Moss is a retired engineer. He enjoys writing and painting in his retirement. Enjoy his musings on aging at his website: exceedinglysenior.com. This is his second featured short story on this site.
Leon’s entry was based on this writing prompt:
The Little House That Grew Up
I recognized the place the minute I saw the photo. Riverside Manor! The elegant and large house that’s been in my life four times. So far… Brilliantly situated ten meters from the Tenth River with the rolling mountain at her back. It’s quite a story and forms more than one chapter in my autobiography. In fact that’s exactly where I’m sitting as this moment; putting the finishing touches to my autobiography, the history of my time on earth. I turned 88 years old last week and the handing over the book to the publisher is my celebration of a long and exciting life. Not that I expect it to end any time soon but one never knows.
We lived in that house before the war – the Second World War, that is. I was born in 1933 and my brother 3 years later. My mother was 27 and my father 30. The house consisted of one module, the left-hand one when you look at the photo. Partly hidden behind that tree.
My memory is still working well and I remember a few incidents from my early years. Like the day I fell into the river and my mother rushed over, jumped in and fished me out, coughing up water, wet and with a new respect for water deeper than me. I remember the days that my father planted the trees behind the house. I ran up and down with buckets of soil and fertilizer. I must have done a good job; just look at those trees in the photo. Tall, strong, evergreen trees. I remember not having any friends. The house was remote and there were no neighbors.
In 1939 the war broke out and father rushed to the enlistment center and was soon on his way to Africa. Mother sold the house. We packed up and moved to her parent’s house in the city. Mother, brother and I shared a bedroom for 5 years. Mother hated it. At every opportunity she took her two children, stood at a bus stop and boarded the first bus that came along. “Where to?” asked the driver. “Anywhere,” she answered. We spent afternoons in strange places.
My brother and I were at a nearby school and life was good. We made new friends. Letters from father were exciting and frightening. Some contained photos, all of which I still have in my old album. We knew all about the war. My friends were always asking me questions about the war.
In 1945 the war ended and father came home, older but safe and sound. He found a job in the city and we continued living in our grandparent’s house. One day he walked in and announced that he had bought a small house a few blocks away. We moved a few weeks later. I remember the excitement that day, walking east to school in the morning and walking west to our new home when the school-out bell rang.
Two years later we moved again, this time to a brand new house in an upper-scale suburb. Father was appointed the manager of the store where he had been working. The new house was great and I found new friends nearby. The years flew past. Schooldays came to an end and I was off to university and a new life. New friends, new activities, new interests.
I met Sue. We dated and fell in love. Sue wanted a wedding with all the trimmings and she made sure it had them. She insisted on a great honeymoon and said she would arrange it and surprise me. A week spent in a special ‘Honeymoon-Hideaway’ in the country. It was my second stay in our old house. This time the building consisted of 2 modules. The second one from the left in the photo had been added and the whole building transformed into a fairyland.
It was a magic week. We wandered around gardens lit up in different colors. We sat next to a fishpond that played softly to a music fountain. We took rides in a gondola on the river. The gondolier didn’t sing but he spoke Italian and looked good in his costume. We drank mystifying drinks. It was a magical honeymoon. Many corners of the old house brought back memories of my childhood.
Back in the city Sue and I worked hard, raised children, joined the PTA and a motor pool. I mowed the lawn and the children fed Bruno, our dog.
I worked in a large engineering company, doing calculations for buildings and roads and bridges. It was rewarding work and I enjoyed seeing the results of my labor.
The boss called me in one day and told me that big changes were coming because computers and software had been developed for engineers and now calculations that had been done on slide-rules and calculators would be replaced by the new technologies.
“I have selected you, Peter, to be our man at a training camp for engineers. It will be held at a small and elite college in the country. Pack a bag. You will be away for a fortnight. When you come back you will be made a partner and you will be in charge of computerizing the company and its staff. Good luck!” He handed me an envelope of information. “Better do some reading before you leave!”
The top page of the enclosed papers had the address of the place where the classes were to be held. I took a quick glance at the first line, saw the address and recited the rest of it.
It was my third stay at our old house. This time the building consisted of 3 modules. The second one from the right in the photo had been added and the whole building had been converted into a college. The honeymoon was over!
The classes were long, boring, partly in my home language, English and partly in something like Greek. But I learned the basics and welcomed a lecturer’s remark; don’t worry! Once you are sitting in front of the computer everything will become clear. I hoped he was right! I spent two grueling weeks there and was pleased when it was over. But of course I had enjoyed seeing the old house again and I was in awe at its growth, tenacity and modifications. About 3 years ago I decided to write my biography. I wanted my grandchildren and their children to know about me and to know a little about the world I lived in and the times I lived in.
Was it selfishness? I don’t know. I do know that it was a gigantic task. It seemed to go on forever. Writing, reading, changing, reading, correcting…
Finally I said to Sue, “I’m going away for a while. I have to be alone and completely free from the world in order to finish this thing.”
I called the number I had from the long-ago time I had spent there learning about computers to see if they would let out a room for me for a month or two. Or three. Or however long it took.
“The college moved out of here years ago,” explained someone. “We are now a health resort. We are part hotel and we do have rooms for guests at the spa. We have a swimming pool, gyms, exercise classes. Come along. You will enjoy it.”
I booked for a month and went down the next day. I stood looking in amazement at the building, Another module! That’s four! And more… As I approached I saw a detached item that was new. It looked like a small church or chapel. The roof was sharply pitched, matching the roofs of the older houses. There must be heavy snowfalls or rainfalls around here and owners want to get the wet stuff off their roofs as quickly as possible.
I settled into my room, unpacked my small suitcase, fired up my laptop and sat looking at the screen. It was four in the afternoon. I had missed lunch and I was thirsty. I went across to the dining room in search of food and drink, but the best I could do was operate a coffee machine and find a ready-wrapped cheese and tomato sandwich.
I walked the few meters to the river bank and stood looking at the water. A motor launch came along and slowed as he neared me. “Want a ride, Guvnor? I’m going downstream and I’ll be coming back in about two hours. There are a couple of pubs lower down. Hop in! It’s not free but it’s cheap!” I didn’t hesitate for a second. A pub! A couple of beers will get my literary juices flowing, I thought.
“Is that a church? I asked the boatman.
“It is. It was built when this place was a college, many years back. The owner was religious and he believed in that old Roman saying ‘A healthy mind in a healthy body’. So he had the church built for the students. I reckon healthy included all aspects of health, body and soul. They have services on Sundays and there’s a young priest there. Gets quite a crowd, too!”
“I’ll check it out!” I said. And I did. The church was full. The priest gave a stunning sermon and the boatman was waiting for me when I walked back to the river.
Two months later the book is finished. I call the publisher who doesn’t sound all that pleased. Not as excited as he was when I handed over the final draft of my ‘Engineering by Computer’ book. I am sitting on the verandah one day with the manager of the health center. I am celebrating with tall glasses of beer in front of us.
“You like it here, don’t you, Peter?”
“I love it,” I answer. “It’s as close to paradise as I can get!”
“Well I have news for you. We have permission to build. I’m thinking of a retirement center. Would you and your wife be interested?”
“Where do I sign?’ I ask.
More by this Author
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