Bigger Fish
The Curse of the Lady Bug
The Man in the Moon
The House on the Corner

The House on the Corner
By Michele Briere
Summary: The walls between one life and the next can be thin.

    The sense of having spent many days playing in the light blue house, two houses down from the corner and across from the pharmacy, was so familiar that she climbed around the back seat of the car as her mother drove through the neighborhood on their way home from the park. The girl wondered why they never went to the house anymore; she knew there was a long train track on the living room floor, metal train cars all linked together and they made train noises as they sped around the track and through miniature towns.
    There was a boy in the house, a few years older than her but he was nice to her, unlike other older kids who didn’t want to be saddled with babysitting duty. They played together in the living room while their mothers sat in the kitchen, smoking and talking as the radio played in the background. The children were given orange sodas or creamy, root beer sodas, warned not to spill them, and sent away from adult conversation. Sometimes they went out to the backyard to play on the swings, sometimes they stayed in and looked through books with lots of pictures, and pretended to read to each other.
    The girl remembered the last time she played in the house, the mothers decided to walk to the corner store for cigarettes. Being told to behave while they went to the store at the corner was such a normal occurrence that the children absently acknowledged their mothers. Being told to keep hands off the train set that took up a corner of the living room floor was also a common occurrence.
    The boy had sent her to the window where she watched their mothers walking down the sidewalk, talking. When they were more than three houses away, she ran back to the boy sitting on the floor. He plugged the cord into the wall and started the train moving. They giggled at putting small, metal people, cars, trucks and even fake rocks onto the small tracks. Usually the train was able to push them all off. Sometimes the train missed, though, and fell off the tracks.
    The girl frowned, trying to remember something as her mother parked the car outside the pharmacy across the street from the blue house. She remembered running to the window to see if their mothers were coming back. They were! Heart pounding in fear of punishment, she tried to hurry the boy into stopping the train. He couldn’t pull the plug out of the wall! It was stuck! He told her to get the scissors and he’d cut the cord out. She found heavy, metal scissors in the drawer of the wooden desk set against the wall near the kitchen and ran to him, holding the scissors out. He took them, held the power cord between the blades. He looked toward the windows, hearing their mothers laughing about something. With the girl helping, they both tugged at the cord again. It was still stuck! He picked up the scissors again, took a deep breath and …
    She wondered slowly around the pharmacy, looking at all the nifty things. There was a fire, she remembered that, and she remembered seeing their mothers crying and holding onto each other as they stood on the sidewalk. How did she get out of the house? The house looked alright, now. She didn’t know the old people on the front porch, though.
    “Mommy, can we go play there?” she asked once she found her mother at the window of the man in the white jacket.
    She pointed across the street. “Where we used to play,” she said. “With the boy and the train.”
    Her mother frowned. “We’ve never been there, honey,” she said.
    “But we have, I remember! The boy’s mother is your friend.”
     “Honey, I don’t know those people. Look, those are someone’s gramma and grampa. I’m sure there isn’t a boy living there.”
    “Used to be.” Her mother turned to the man in the white coat. He was holding her bag of medicines out to her. “Hasn’t been a little boy there in, oh, about forty years. That house was rebuilt after a fire. Seem to remember the police saying it was an electrical fire that started it. Two kids died in that fire, little boy and girl. Poor things. Their mothers watched from the sidewalk, the fire too hot for them to even run in after those kids.”