House of Leaves

Sue Ellen sniffed the acrid smell of burning leaves and felt the wind blowing her curls. She looked up through the gold and red leaves still on the maple trees in her backyard and thought she’d never seen the sky so blue. Today was Saturday and she was restless. “Mom,” she asked, “what’ll I do?”

Her mother laughed. “Why, Sue Ellen, on a nice October day like this, I’d make a house of leaves.”

“Oh, Mom,” Sue Ellen said, “how can anyone do that?”

“It’s easy and lots of fun,” her mother said. “Get your little rake from the toolshed and rake up a big pile of leaves. Then when you get tired of jumping into them, let me know and I’ll show you how to make a house.”

Sue Ellen’s best friend Linda lived next door. She couldn’t think of anything to do either until she saw Sue Ellen raking an enormous pile of leaves.

“Can I help, Sue Ellen?” she called.

“Sure, Linda. After we make a big pile, Mother’s going to show me how to make a house of leaves.”

Soon their pile of leaves was higher than both of the girls.

“Let’s run and jump right in the middle!” Sue Ellen shouted.

“Let’s!” agreed Linda.

They ran and jumped plunk into the middle. When they got up, there were leaves in their hair, down their necks, in their shoes, and some were even sticking out of their ears. And they laughed and laughed. “How do you make a house of leaves?” Linda asked.

“I don’t know, but Mother will show us,” Sue Ellen replied.

Sue Ellen’s mother came out with the big rake. “Now then, how many rooms will your house have?” she asked.

Sue Ellen said, “We’ll want a kitchen so we can make gingerbread men and a dining room—”

“And we need a living room and two bedrooms, one for Sue Ellen and one for me,” Linda interjected.

Sue Ellen’s mother raked a square of leaves. Then she said, “We need a door to the porch and one to the dining room and lots of windows.” Then she raked away some of the leaves for the doors and windows.

“Oh, oh, I see!” cried Sue Ellen. “Come on, Linda, let’s make the rest of the rooms.” And soon they had a kitchen and a dining room and a living room and two bedrooms and a porch.

When their house was finished, Sue Ellen said, “Now we need some furniture for our house.”

“I know!” declared Linda, clapping her hands. “Let’s get our dolls and doll furniture and play house.”

After the girls had everything arranged, it was time for lunch and their nap. When their naps were over, Sue Ellen and Linda decided to make a different house. So they raked their leaves up into a pile again and made an even grander house.

About three o’clock Sue Ellen’s mother came out and said, “Knock, knock. May I come in?”

“Oh, Mrs. Anderson, how nice to see you,” Sue Ellen answered. “Do come in.”

“Please have a chair,” Linda said.

“Thank you, I will,” Mrs. Anderson replied. And she sat on a little pile of leaves in the living room.

“I came over to ask if you ladies would take tiffin with me.”

“Oh, yes, we’d love to!” they both answered, giggling.

“I have it all ready, and I thought we could have it at your house. I’ll be back in just a minute.” And faster than you can say one, two, three, she was back with a tray of hot chocolate and hot gingerbread men.

After they finished eating, and when Mrs. Anderson was leaving, she said, “What a lovely house you have!”

“We think so,” Sue Ellen and Linda answered. “Thank you very much for tiffin, and do come again tomorrow.”

[illustration] Illustrated by Barbara Bailey