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The Elephant on Matthias Avenue

The Elephant on Matthias Avenue

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Published by Adora Svitak
A young girl decides to investigate who really lives in a house on the hill.
A young girl decides to investigate who really lives in a house on the hill.

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Published by: Adora Svitak on Aug 18, 2010
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial No-derivs

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08/20/2010

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There is a house on Matthias Avenue that stands apart from all its neighbors,not by virtue of its color, shape, or size, but rather for its placement on the street.The street is an altogether flat one, except for one little bump²a rather large bump, really²that manifests itself in a tall grassy hillock, and that is where thestrange house sits. It is, by virtue of this hillock, the tallest house, and from itslarge round window with its triple-paned glass, you can see the top of the roof of every other house. It is rather absurd, really, when you see it²a line of straight, perfectly reasonable houses, and then² 
bump!
 ²a house on a hill in the middle of it all. And then life (and Matthias Avenue) resumes going in a straight line.It is common for every street to have its noisy, argumentative couple, whocontinue their shouting late at night; a family with a dog; and the reclusive bachelor who stays mostly to himself. But nowhere in the list of expectations onemight have when moving into a neighborhood, comes a house that rises up tallabove you²an unsightly pimple on the otherwise very normal, smooth skin of Matthias Avenue. No one bothers knocking on the door of this odd house (perfectly normal inevery way except for its location); it is simply too much work clambering up thesteep side of the hill upon which it sits contently. The postman puts the mail in amailbox at the bottom of the hill, and can be counted on to whistle, looking up atthe house, and say, ³Good riddance.´ The boys on the newspaper route have agame by which they see who can throw the newspaper farthest up toward the house before it either rolls back down, or settles in the grass. If it settles in the grass, thenthat is that; the paper is delivered. No one bothered knocking on the door of thisodd house«that was, except for me.I was in third grade when my family first moved to Matthias Avenue. Welived in the house next to the house on the hill, and I was always infinitely curiousabout who might live there. I asked around, but everyone seemed to haveconflicting opinions. They would argue on and on, too. Some would insist hotlythat they knew for sure, from eyewitness research, that it was a middle-agedwoman with a baby; some said, that it was by no means the middle-aged woman, itsimply had to be a young couple and that was that; yet others shook their headssagely and said, no, no, the youngsters were all wrong, it was an old man. Withsuch contradictory statements, I decided to find out for myself. I had the perfect
 
opportunity²I¶d just begun selling cookies to the neighbors, and surely I couldfind out by knocking on the door?So I brought my clipboard, pen, and sheet of paper with the types of cookiesI was selling²chocolate chip, mint, peanut butter, and sugar²and courageously, Iclimbed up the hillock. It was slippery with the dew on the grass and I got the hemof my dress more than a little wet. When I got up to the top, I stared out and lookedover the neighborhood and potently wished that I could fly²for here would be the perfect launching spot. I turned around to gaze at the house. Surely I had seen itenough from the ground, but that was looking up at it, not eye level. I noticed thatit had a porch in the front with a wind chime and some potted flowers hanging onit; there was a small mat in front of the door that said ³Welcome.´ I tentativelystepped onto the porch, faced the ordinary whitewashed door, and knocked.I waited half a minute before I heard scrambling inside, and a middle-agedwoman with a baby in her arms raced down the stairs. She peered out the windowat me and opened the door.³Yes?´ she said impatiently, bouncing the baby as it began to fuss.I was so startled by the veracity of Timmy the newspaper boy¶s claim that amiddle-aged woman with a baby lived inside the house (Timmy, of all people, thatcongenital liar!), that I stood gaping like a fish for a moment before I got my voice back.³Er, yes, ma¶am,´ I mumbled. ³I was selling cookies, and I waswondering²´The wrinkled little baby began to fuss, before shrieking with the vocal cordsof a lion. I could barely hear myself talk over the noise. The mother franticallytried to soothe the baby, but its cry got louder and louder.³That¶s alright, I¶ll²uh²come back later,´ I said hurriedly, backing out andracing down the hill. I slammed into Timmy, the newspaper boy, on my way down.He was older and bigger than I was, but I still managed to knock him over.³Ack! Watch where you¶re going!´ he shouted, pushing me off him. ³Youlook like you¶ve seen a ghost. So? Was I right?´
 
³Yes, amazingly,´ I said gleefully. ³It
was
a woman and a baby. I¶m goingto come back later, though²I didn¶t sell them any cookies!´Timmy scoffed derisively, as he knew that the newspaper route job was far superior to any cookie salesmanship skills of mine, and after tossing the paper intoMr. Burris¶s driveway²hitting the rhododendrons, as usual²he waved to me andstrode off.I was so pleased with my detective work that I forgot to go back that day, but instead had to return the next day early in the morning. I climbed up the hillwith the veteran attitude of a trekker, and knocked on the door, cookie clipboard inhand. I was shocked to see that the woman with the baby did not answer the door, but rather an old²grandfatherly age²man. He had hair-sprouting ears, white hair,and a beard which went all around his face. Surely he was not married to the ladywith the baby? Who was it that had told me an old man lived in the house? Therewas a whole group of people who had said that.³Uh²hello,´ I said.³What?´ he asked, cupping his ear.³Hello!´ I said, louder this time. ³I¶m selling cookies.´³What kinds? Do you have peanut butter?´ he asked loudly.³Yes. How many?´³Two boxes.´I made a mark on the checklist, glad at least that all the hard climbing hadresulted in a sale, thanked the old man, and wandered back down. How odd²the people who argued that it was a woman with a baby who lived in the house(Timmy and the other newspaper boys) always argued the most with the factionthat argued an old man lived in the house (the senior center inhabitants). And yet,here they were both right!I forgot about the whole affair until three weeks later, when the cookiesarrived and I realized that I would have to climb up the hill again in order todeliver the cookies and collect payment. I knocked on the door, ready for either the

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