Strange Happenings on Acacia Avenue

Once I heard about a man who bought a house. He moved in with his wife and amongst the purchase papers he found a note saying ‘Congratulations on having become the owner of a Bodhi home. (It was a foreign company but they seemed nice people.) We hope you enjoy your new home. It is pretty good. We think you will be fairly satisfied with it, and will probably find it moderately comfortable to live in.’ The man thought this a little strange – so he read on ‘However if you do find it a bit cramped – dark, dusty and depressing – because it is actually – if you want a better place to live in, simply knock this one down.”

The man smiled at what was obviously a joke and put the card away. But the house did now feel a bit dingy and dull.

He and his wife continued to live in the house. She’d go on about him about improving it – painting it, cleaning the drains, fix the garden, and so on. She thought the neighbours’ houses were so much better, particularly the mansion with the turrets and spires at number three. She particularly liked the mosaic dome in the Russian style; and the boating lake in the garden.

One day the man was walking past number three and the owner, a cheerful chap called Harry was in the garden.

“You have a fantastic house – I’m puzzled how you got so much on to such a small lot.”

“Oh yes! In fact I like seeing it grow so much that I’ve actually gone into the demolition business.”

“Don’t you mean the construction business?” said the man with a smile.

“Oh no! This is a Bodhi home. You know “Demolition is building, but building is demolition.” That’s their slogan.”

“You’re pulling my chain!”

“No I’m not. It’s just like they say in the brochure – you did read the brochure!”

“Yes but it doesn’t make sense.”

“You are right! It doesn’t make sense, but it does work. I’d been working away for a few years now and it seems to work very well.”

“But how does it work?”

“I don’t know that. I’m a simple practical man. If it works, that is good enough for me. If you wanna know how it works go see the philosophers. They live in that old trailer park over there. Anyway, nice to chat with you but I must get back to work. I’ve decided to blow up the west wing.”

Harry turned, pushed the plunger on the box in front of him and the western side of the house exploded in a brilliant flash of rainbow colours.”

The man walked on home.

That evening, as the sun was setting, the man and his wife were watching TV. She started nagging again. This time she went on about how dirty the windows had become and wouldn’t he please clean them. The house seemed so drab and danky. A surge of rage rose through the man. He didn’t hate anyone it was just that he wanted better – he wanted light and space – like the man in number three. In a fit of frustration he picked up his “I Love New York” mug and threw it at the offending window. The window smashed, the window frame cracked, and the wall creaked, groaned and collapsed. When the dust settled he and his wife saw, to their absolute amazement, a panoramic window, with sliding doors looking out onto the garden which now contained a lake with two swans swimming in it. The man, astonished, looked at his wife “It really works.” he said.

Over the next few months and years, every now and again when he had no work, was fed up watching TV, or doing something pointless with his computer, the man would pull down a partition wall, smash a window, pull off a few roof tiles and so on. Once he smashed down the lounge wall and a cute conservatory full of exotic plants and beautifully coloured birds appeared where the wall had been. Harry’s house at number three was now the size of a small city; and the philosophers were tearing their hair out over this problem. Even the man from the property tax was puzzled.

One day the man was taking a sledgehammer to the spare bedroom when he heard his wife scream. He ran into her room and there she was – gone. In her place he saw 500 dove footed nymphs – all exceedingly beautiful in face, form and voice. He soon forgot his wife and spent the rest of the day – and the next day – and the next – with the nymphs. He would probably have been even now – but he heard as if from a vast distance a voice calling. “Oi!” the voice was familiar, “Oi!, Matey! Come on – there’s work to be done.”

The man stuck his head out of the window.

“Hello Harry”

“Come on mate – time to leave the celestial babes and get on with the work.”

“But I’ve only been here a little while.”

“What! You’ve been there aeons – come on, stop messing about.”

The man reluctantly left the 500 dove footed nymphs and went down to the kitchen. “Hello dear,” said his wife “do you want some eggs with your coffee.”

“Thank you. I will.” said the man, a little bemused.

“So have you done any work in the basement yet?” Said Harry next time they met.

“What you mean?”

“In the basement,” there was slight hint of exasperation in Harry’s voice. “In the basement you’ll find the foundations of the house. Demolishing the old walls, windows and so on is OK, but if you really want to see some changes, some development, you should have a go in the basement. Take a few hits at the foundations. Has a great effect – and not always what you’d expect – very interesting.”

The man went into the basement that night. He saw six great foundation stones, one yellow, one white, one red, one green, one multi-coloured, and one blue. He picked up his sledgehammer and struck them hard one at a time. He waited. And then… nothing happened. He tried this again and again, and then, again and again nothing happened. Except that his wife came down into the cellar in a rage.

“What are you doing? Idiot, nincompoop, fat head, stupid, ignoramus, twerp, twit, nutter, madmen, complete lunatic, what are you doing?”

“I’m breaking up the foundations.”

“But then, you idiot, the whole house will fall down – we’ll have nothing, it will be just a pile of rubble, we’ll be homeless, rootless – we’ll have nothing, nothing at all.” She paused for a few moments “I like this house.”

“Yes but this will destroy it all, this will make it even better.”

His wife, exasperated, turned on her heels and walked away “My mother was right” was all she said.

Harry told the man that working in the basement was different to working on the house itself. “It don’t always show Johnny Boy. But when they Shift boy then you see some changes.” Harry grinned from ear to ear.

So the man continued to work in the basement. He was there most evenings – he had given up watching TV – and his wife was not too displeased. She spent much of the time on the new terraces tending the plants or strolling by the lotus ponds. Her mother thought they didn’t go out enough “becoming real home birds” she said but she felt more content than ever. The man began to lose interest in her sexually, but she didn’t mind. He was kinder than he’d ever been, was always attentive and they spent some lovely evenings strolling in the gardens. She worried a little about the wonderful perfume she detected on the second floor and once the she thought she heard delightfully sweet female voices coming from the new marble-floored bathhouses. But then it was probably her imagination. He seemed more interested in the basement than anything else. He worked hard on the foundations but they were as solid as Diamond. One day, after work, he went to the basement and noticed that the blocks had moved about. He called up to his wife, “Have you been moving these foundations?”. “No dear!” she replied “dinner’s ready.”

But the foundations still seemed as solid as ever but now they moved frequently – but never when he was there to see it happen. And every time they moved a new wing or story appeared on the house. One day his wife rushed down to the basement and threw her arms round his neck. “Oh darling, our first tower, we’ve got our first tower, come, come look, come now, oh it’s so beautiful.” And sure enough beyond the Lotus Pool, just past the jewel tree, there was a tower. Not a big one – not anywhere near as big as Harry’s, but it was a good one – in the Japanese style actually.

Entering the tower they could see the whole neighbourhood, including the philosophers who now seem to have moved out of their trailers into mud huts by the refuse dump. But they also had the uncanny feeling that they were in Harry’s Tower. This disturbed the man quite deeply because he didn’t think it right to be in somebody else’s tower without having been invited.

From that day onwards the man had all sorts of trouble with his foundations. They moved about, changed shape, changed colour and sometimes one or two would simply go away. But when they were there, they were solid as ever

Coming home from work one evening the man stopped by to see Harry. He looked very strange, his body seemed a bit “thin” – you could sort of see through him. But he was friendly and cheerful as ever.

“Hello Johnny, How’s the foundations?”

“Not bad, they shift about, but seem as solid as ever.”

“Oh yes! I had trouble there. Tried all sorts of things to shift the blighters. Sledgehammer, pneumatic drill, ten pounds of Semtex, even got a tank in once and took a couple of shots – not a chip, not a splinter, not a crack. Then, by mistake really – cleaning up the mess made by the tank – I touched one with a feather duster – it started to fall apart. Who’d have believed it – a feather duster. So since then I’d been brushing away.”

“You look – sort of “thin”.”

“Oh Sorry,” Harry suddenly “thickened” up.

“I think I was in your tower a few weeks ago – sorry to come in without asking.”

“No problem, you and your missus are always welcome any time. In fact the whole street turns up one time or another.”

“Tell you what Harry. I’d been thinking. I don’t like my work at the office much. I thought I might – you know – give it up – you know – sort of throw myself into the business. You wouldn’t mind would you.”

“Mind Johnny! Johnny my boy, Nothing would please me more!”