Over the years I’ve written only two children’s books. One, THE AMAZING ADVENTURES OF SHARON AND MAUREEN IN OUTER SPACE, has now been published as an e-book under my other name, Johnny Giesbrecht, and is available at www.amazon.com. It is illustrated. The other book, THE HOUSE THAT MACK BUILT, also under my Giesbrecht byline, has not been formally published, but I am now making it available free of charge, as this week’s posting.
We are in the Christmas month, and Christmas is very connected with children. Although THE HOUSE THAT MACK BUILT is not a Christmas story, I thought it would be sort of appropriate for December. In any case, we should all read a children’s story once in a while.
The House That Mack Built
by Johnny Giesbrecht
Copyright 2012 Johnny Giesbrecht
Johnny Giesbrecht is the writer of seven adventure novels, as well as 13 thrillers under the Johnny Carlton byline. All are available as e-books at www.amazon.com
Mack was enjoying the new cereal. It was made of wheat, oats, corn, and a lot of other things that are good for you, and it was called Funny Flakes. But Mack was enjoying the box that the cereal came in almost as much as the cereal itself, because on the box he could read about a contest.
Mack read: “Send in five box tops from Funny Flakes Cereal along with one reason why you like to eat Funny Flakes. If your name is drawn, you will be asked a skill-testing question, and if you know the answer, you will win a furnished home of your own design.” Mack thought he would like to enter the contest.
Mack knew what was meant by “a home of your own design,” because his dad was an architect. He and another man called an engineer made plans on paper of how a house was to be built so that the carpenters and other workers would know how to build it. Mack’s dad had designed many houses, including the beautiful one they lived in.
Mack’s dad asked, “Why do you want to enter a contest to win a house? Don’t you like this one?”
“I like living here,” said Mack, “but I also would like to have a house of my own that would be exactly as I would want it to be.”
“Well, I guess I should be able to understand that,” laughed his dad. “After all, that’s what I wanted when I designed our home.”
On his way to school in the bus, Mack learned that his friends were also excited about the new contest. His best friend, Robert, said that if he won the contest he would have a castle built. A girl by the name of Lita said that if she won the contest she would have a beautiful little cottage built, and it would have a rose garden in the front. A boy by the name of Altonstyle, who always had his nose up in the air, said that if he won the contest he would have a great mansion built and his dad would let him have his own servants. Altonstyle asked Mack what kind of a house he would have built if he won the contest, and Mack just said, “I’m still thinking about it.”
In the days and weeks that followed, Mack ate an awful lot of Funny Flakes cereal because he needed five box tops. But it didn’t matter because he liked Funny Flakes. Before he had finished eating all the cereal in the fifth box, his mom let him cut the top off and he was ready to enter the contest. Using a ballpoint pen, he wrote a letter to the cereal company:
Dear Sirs: The only reason I like Funny Flakes Cereal is that it tastes so good and my mom says it is good for me and because I want to win this contest. Sincerely, Mack.
He put the letter and the five box tops in an envelope, sealed it, wrote the address on it, put a stamp on it, and took it to a nearby post office.
Although Mack knew there was only a small chance that he would win the contest (for thousands of boys and girls had entered it and were all hoping to win), he still thought he would go ahead and plan his house. So he began to work with pencil and paper, drawing all kinds of pictures of what he thought he might want it to look like. Most of the pictures didn’t turn out right, so he crumpled them up and threw them into the wastepaper basket. After working for a long time, he began to draw pictures that he liked better. But he still was not sure of exactly what kind of a house he wanted.
One day as Mack was in the school playground with his friends, Robert, Lita, and Altonstyle, Robert said, “If I win I’m going to have my Uncle Duncan design my castle for me, because he used to live in Scotland where there are lots of castles, so he knows what they look like.”
And Lita said, “If I win, I’m going to have my mom and dad and my art teacher all help me design my dream house with its rose garden.”
And Altonstyle told Mack, “If I win, I’m going to hire the most expensive architect in town–much more expensive than your dad–and have him design my mansion. If you win, Mack, I suppose you’ll have your dad design your house.”
“No,” said Mack, “I’m doing it myself. But I may have him check over my plans when I’m done.”
Every day when Mack came home from school he worked on the plan for his house. Not only did he draw pictures of what he wanted the outside to look like, but he drew pictures of all the rooms that he imagined would be in it, and of all the furniture too. Finally he completed the plan.
Not much later he got a phone call from the Funny Flakes Cereal Company. A nice sounding lady on the phone asked him a skill-testing question: “What did Abraham Lincoln do when he saw a pig stuck in the mud?”
Mack didn’t really know, but he thought there probably was only one thing a good president like Abraham Lincoln would do in a case like that, so he said, “I guess he pulled the pig out.”
“You’re right!” said the voice of the lady. “And that means you win the contest!”
Mack was very happy, and so were his mom and dad. Mack then showed his house design to them. For a few seconds they didn’t say anything and looked shocked, as though they thought there was something wrong with the drawings. But then Mack’s dad said, “It’s and interesting plan. I’ll see what I can do with it.”
The next day Mack’s dad took him and the plan up to his office on the top floor of a big downtown building. He introduced Mack to some of the other architects and engineers who worked there and they looked at the pictures. It seemed to Mack that their faces all turned pale just then, for the unusual house plan seemed to be frightening them. But they studied the plan carefully. After a while one of them said, “Yes, I think a house like this can be built, although a few small changes will have to be made to make it more safe.” Mack said that was fine with him, for he knew that safety was important.
The Funny Flakes Cereal Company sent a lot of money to Mack–enough to pay for building his house and also to cover the cost of the empty lot on which it would stand. Mack was glad this was close to where he lived with his parents. As the workers began to build the house, and as it grew higher and wider every day, the people in the neighborhood were amazed. Many of them took time to stand around watching, and they would say things like, “This is the strangest building I’ve ever seen!” and “Is anybody really going to live in there?” and “This has got to be the most weird house in the whole world!”
And then, one day, the work was finished. Many people were standing around looking at the finished house, and reporters from the newspaper and TV station had come to take pictures of it.
Mack’s house certainly was strange looking. It was huge and had crooked towers sticking out of it all over. It had doors and windows of unusual shapes and sizes and in places where you wouldn’t expect to find them. There were water slides coming out of the walls, and outside stairways and walkways leading from one crooked tower to another. The house was painted in every color of the rainbow, but with a lot of yellow and purple. Mack stood there looking at it, and he couldn’t help but say to himself, “It’s so beautiful! It turned out just the way I hoped it would!” Then everyone, including Mack, had to step aside to make room for the trucks that were bringing candy, cookies, and ice cream; for Mack had planned right from the start that he would have lots of good things to eat in his house.
Well, Mack moved in and had a great time, because the inside of the house was just as strange as the outside, and there were so many rooms with fun things to do in them. There were firemen poles to slide down, ropes to swing on, and waterslides that led from the top floor through many strange rooms all the way to a basement swimming pool with plastic alligators in it. And many of the rooms had a lot of pipes sticking down from the ceilings. He could hold a cup or plate under any of these and pull a little lever and the pipe would open and candies, cookies, or ice cream would come out. Some of the pipes had strawberry ice cream, some had chocolate, and there were plenty of other flavors too. And there were pipes with many different kinds of cookies and candies. Mack’s favorite pipe was the one that poured out chocolate maple-buds when he pulled the lever.
Mack wondered why none of his friends had come to see him in his new house. When his dad stopped in, Mack asked him about it. His dad said, “I hate to tell you this, but it seems that all the people in the neighborhood think the house is dangerous and have decided not to let their children come here.”
This bothered Mack a little, but he said, “Who cares?” After his dad left, Mack continued to enjoy himself by getting lost in the maze, looking at himself in the funny curved mirrors, and jumping up and down on the extra-bouncy bed. He often bounced so high that he hit the ceiling. This didn’t matter because the ceiling was made of soft foam rubber, and every time he hit it a plastic goose would stick its head out of the wall and say, “Good jump! Do it again!”
But after a few days of having fun by himself, Mack began to get lonely. He wished his friends could be there sharing all this with him. The more he thought about it, the more he didn’t feel like doing anything by himself. After a while he climbed a ladder to a chair that was fixed to the wall close to the ceiling. He sat in it quietly and looked down at the floor far below and felt sad and lonely.
Then he began to hear a strange sound. At first it was like ocean waves and the voices of people on a beach far away. But the sound quickly got louder until it was almost like thunder and there were loud, angry voices mixed in with it.
Mack got out of the chair, climbed down the ladder, hurried to the banana-shaped front door, and stepped out onto his lopsided veranda to find out who was making all the noise. He was shocked to see dozens of people marching all around his house, carrying signs and shouting. The signs read: TEAR THE UGLY HOUSE DOWN! and WE WANT A BEAUTIFUL NEIGHBORHOOD! And the men and women carrying the signs were shouting the same sort of things.
Mack was so scared that he ran back into the house, shut the door, and hid in the basement behind one of the plastic alligators.
He was glad when his mom and dad got there. They had heard the shouting and brought along some police officers including the Chief of Police. It had been hard for them to get through the crowd, but as soon as they were in the house they held a meeting to decide what to do.
“All those people out there are very angry,” said the Chief to Mack. “They think your house is ugly and dangerous, and they want it torn down. I’ll try to make them leave, but it’s not going to be easy.”
Mack said, “I’ve got an idea.” And he told the Chief of Police what he’d like him to do. The chief thought it was clever so he said he’d give it a try.
The chief stepped out onto the lopsided veranda, held up his hands, and asked the people to be quiet and listen to him. As soon as they quietened down, he told them: “Ladies and gentlemen, if you insist on having this house torn down, it is only right that you should know exactly what you’ll be getting rid of. If you think the house is strange looking on the outside, you should see the inside! It’s at least ten times worse!”
The chief then invited the people to come inside for an inspection, but he said that only twenty-five at a time could come in. He said that the police officers would take each group on a safe tour through all the rooms of the house. Everyone in the crowd thought this was a good idea, for they wanted to see for themselves how awful the house was inside, so they put down their signs and stood waiting their turns.
When the first twenty-five people came into the house, Mack politely said hello to them and told them they were welcome. Then he and the chief began to lead them through the rooms and Mack showed them how to use the interesting things with which to have fun. Soon the twenty-five people in the group were having a wonderful time sliding down slides, climbing ladders, swinging on ropes, looking out of the high tower windows, and eating candies, cookies, and ice cream.
When the rest of the people waiting outside heard the sounds of happy laughter coming through the funny shaped windows and doors, they went into the building too, even though they were supposed to wait for their turn,
Now the whole house was full of people, all the way from the basement were the swimming pool and the plastic alligators were, to the top room in the highest tower which had glass walls and which jiggled around when a button was pushed. So everyone was having great fun as they climbed through small tunnels that led from some parts of the building to other parts, and as they painted big pictures on the walls with paints and brushes that Mack had put there for that purpose, and as they rode on a merry-go-round in the living room, and threw water bombs at one another in the dining room–which was also called the water-bomb room. And they ate a lot of candies, cookies, and ice cream.
Finally they were all tired and sat down to rest. Some sat on barrels, some on tractor tires, some on beanbags, some on large stuffed animals, and some in the branches of a big tree that had been planted in the middle of the house and stuck up through an opening in the roof. Mack sat in his favorite chair, the one fixed to the wall close to the ceiling. Mack’s mom and dad, and the police officers, sat on a long sofa that was also a swing, for it was hanging by ropes. The people all agreed that they had never had so much fun in their lives and that they would like to bring their children over so they could also enjoy the house. Mack, of course, was happy about this, so he told them that they and their children would always be welcome.
But then one of the people, a man by the name of Mr. Rumple who lived only a short distance down the street, said that he thought it wasn’t fair to Mack and his parents if everyone used the house to have fun in, but didn’t help to pay for the electricity, water, repairs, candies, cookies, and ice cream. He said that it would be good if Mack charged an admission price to help pay for these things. And the Chief of Police said he thought there should always be some grown-ups in the building with the special job of looking after everyone to see that no one got hurt. Everyone, including Mack, thought that these things should be done. And Mack said that he would like to put one person in charge of the whole building in his place, so he could go back to living with his parents for a while, because he had been getting lonesome for them.
When these things were settled, Mr. Rumple asked if he and the others could call home to ask their children to come over. Of course Mack agreed to this, and soon children from all over the neighborhood began pouring in through the doors and open windows. Mack was happy to see them come, for when he had planned the house he had wanted it to be a place where he and they could have fun together. Robert, Lita, and Altonstyle also came, and Mack showed them a special room with air blowing up from the floor so that it lifted them up and let them fly about. It was so much fun that they stayed there a long time, gliding around through the room and pretending to be birds.
The next morning, back in his real home with his parents, Mack tried out a new breakfast cereal his mom had bought. It was called Choppy Chips and tasted even better than Funny Flakes. On the back of the box were the rules for a contest. It said that by sending in five box tops, solving a riddle, and later answering a skill testing question, one had a chance to win. The first prize was twenty-five baby monkeys along with an instruction booklet on how to feed them and take care of them, and how to train them to build and fly their own airplanes.
Mack told his mom and dad, “If you don’t mind, I think I’ll enter this contest too.”