After an extended bout
ping, we decided to re-group in the cubby house.
Dad built the cubby for me when I was about three years old. Actually, now that
I think of it, one of my earliest memories is of Dad and his cousin Sam laying
the foundations for the cubby.
It wasn't very big - probably about 6 by 6 foot, with a 5 foot high
ceiling - but it was more than enough for me and my best friend Daniel,
who lived next-door, to dream up a million-and-one different uses for it.
Sometimes, it would be the captain's office on a pirate ship
. On some
days, a criminal's seedy
hideout. And on other days it was a rustic saloon
with an imaginary bar where I would serve up whiskey
burn a hole in the table. It was our spaceship
, our police station
, our jail
and our time machine
. Or sometimes, it was simply our cubby
- somewhere to go and play checkers
, or to swap trading cards
But on this particular summer's day, it was an abandoned outpost on the
edge of space. We were playing Doctor Wars... or Star Who... whichever
way you want to look at it.
Basically, I had just discovered the Star Wars films and had become immediately
obsessed with them, while Daniel had watched just about every Doctor Who episode
in existence. So naturally, we combined the two, leading to the rather unexpected
adventures of Han Solo, captain of the Millennium Falcon (me), and The Doctor,
time traveller extraordinaire (Daniel).
The waning sun turned everything orange, which seemed to be an unspoken cue
to retire to the cubby until our respective parents called us in for dinner.
There was a set of four or five wooden steps that led to the cubby's door.
We would often have to duck under the drooping branches of the huge willow tree
that engulfed the structure as we entered. We sat down on our tiny chairs and
There was only one source of light in the cubby - a 2 foot window made
of thick Perspex that you couldn't even see out of. It was probably the
cheapest solution for a window Dad could find, short of Glad-Wrapping a hole
in the wall (it's like Saran-Wrap, for all you non-Aussies). At the time, it was obscured doubly by the overgrown branches of
the willow, making the cubby pretty much devoid of any light at all. Not that
there was much to see at the time, besides a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles poster
and a couple of board games stacked on the cubby's one and only shelf.
We were still in character. Han Solo had just destroyed an entire alien fleet,
while The Doctor devised an ingenious plan to rescue the beautiful Romana, who
was being held hostage by the Daleks on perilous planet Skaro. The adventurous
duo had returned to the abandoned outpost on the edge of space.
After the alien invasion, all of the non-vital electrical systems had been shut
down, including the lights. Fortunately, the life-support systems were still
operational. As a result, it took a while for Captain Solo's eyes to adjust
to the dim interior of the outpost. But when they did, he came face-to-face
with the biggest, ugliest, hairiest space-monster one would ever fear to encounter.
Actually, it was a huntsman. But a bloody big huntsman. Of course, any huntsman
is a big huntsman to a seven year-old. I froze up, gawking like a comic book
character at the dangling spider that flailed frantically as it tried to gain
purchase on it's silky web.
Daniel had shot out the door as soon as he'd seen the beast. His fear
of the eight-legged freak was already well established as he'd stumbled
upon similar creatures before. But this was the first time I had ever encountered
such a fiend, and as such, I was petrified with dread. I tried to yell, but
my heart was blocking my windpipe. My intestines felt like a taut ball of rubber
Before he had a chance to react and blast the hideous alien to smithereens,
Captain Solo was yanked back by The Doctor. They boarded their ship with the
utmost haste and made for a friendlier environ.
ed it out of there, and returned to the relative comfort of our
After that incident, we rarely returned to the cubby. Fast had it been converted
into a haven for the most sordid variety of monsters that Mother Earth could
produce. The Perspex window had become riddled with every manner of repulsive
snails and slugs, and we dared not walk up those wooden steps to the door, for
who knew what foul, abhorrent bastards of nature inhabited this once innocent
It took Dad a good ten years before he actually got around to destroying the
cubby house. Even as the structure came apart, piece by axe-hacking piece, and
the billions of insects were returned to the soil, I couldn't help but
feeling regret for all those wasted years.
What if I hadn't been so freaked out by that puny little huntsman? What
if I had slammed it's frail form into the wall with the well placed whack
of a shoe? Maybe Daniel and I could have enjoyed weeks, months, years of playing
in the cubby house, without so much as a darting scuttle of another insect.
It's one of those things I think about whenever I need an escape from
real life. I think of the wasted years.
But then, I think of the future, and the cubby house I'm going to build
my kids. And I think maybe I'll build another one, just for me - away
from the commotion of the real world. Somewhere where I can imagine I'm
a cowboy, a pirate, a detective.
Or a space adventurer.
I'll keep it simple. Just a thick Perspex window and a single shelf.
I think I'll keep some insect repellent in there as well.