The Urban Sherpa - a blog by Christopher DeWan

(more fun than a barrel of, well, you know...)

Read Work and Other Essays, a collection of nonfiction by Christopher DeWan.

The House of Doors rating=3

Though the boy was scared and knew better than to enter the old house, his sister was curious and brazen and never did admit her fear (which made her a sometimes difficult playmate). "It looks like no one's been through this door in years!," and she charged off into the darkness. The boy followed reluctantly behind, hoping there wouldn't be too many cobwebs.

Instead of an empty house, they found an old man seated at a wooden table that he'd already set with three tall steaming mugs. "Well there you are," he smiled, not at all surprised to see them. "Would you like some hot chocolate?"

The boy blinked while his eyes adjusted. "Nobody drinks hot chocolate in the summertime." But his sister was already climbing into the high wooden chair toward the mug.

"Some people like hot chocolate in the summertime," the old man said. "In fact, if it's summertime here, that means it's wintertime somewhere else. I suppose everything is in fashion, somewhere."

The girl, who was often told at school that she was very unfashionable, got curious about these other places where unfashionable things were in fashion. She sniffed at her hot chocolate. "What's on top?" she asked. "Whipped cream?"

The old man chuckled. "It does look like whipped cream, doesn't it? On each cup of hot chocolate, I put a dollop of cumulus cloud, fresh from the sky. And this is very special chocolate, given to me by the ancient Aztecs. I travel a lot, and I like to bring back souvenirs."

The boy joined them at the table. "I've never seen an ancient Aztec."

"Of course not," said the girl, pushing up her glasses. "They're ancient. They all died a very long time ago."

The old man nodded. "But that doesn't mean you can't meet them."

"My name is Clarissa," the girl announced, suddenly aware of her manners. "And this is my brother Finley. He's shy."

"I'm not shy," said Finley. "I'm just cautious! Sorry we barged in your door. We thought this house was empty."

"Not at all. I was expecting you. My front door is always open to you. But if you're going to be a guest in my house, then I'm going to have to ask you to be more careful about charging through the other doors."

The children noticed then that the old man's little house was full of doors, but not the kind of doors that one finds in normal houses. The doors in the old man's house were all in the wrong places: some were in the middle of the wall; some were on the ceiling. There was a door set into the stairs and a door set into the sofa. There was even a big knob set into the kitchen table, and the girl realized suddenly that the table was a door. Some of the doors were square and some were round and some were wood and some were metal; some had elaborate handles and knockers and peepholes, and one had a big metal wheel that sealed it shut, and some were just normal unassuming doors. But the doors filled up the house, and they were all closed.

And a metal loop tied to the old man's waist held hundreds of keys that clattered and jangled whenever he moved.

The old man looked at his enormous watch, and stood up. "Please drink your hot chocolate. We have quite a day ahead of us, and I don't know when we'll have time for another snack."