After an extended bout of zapping, 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, resplendent with an imaginary bar where I would serve up whiskey that could burn a hole in the table. It was our spaceship, our police station, our jail, our headquarters and our time machine. Or sometimes, it was simply our cubby - somewhere to go and play checkers or snap, 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 sighed.

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 bands.

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.

We high-tailed it out of there, and returned to the relative comfort of our own homes.

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 lodge?

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.

Cub"by (k?b"b?), Cub"by*hole` (-h?l`), n. [See Cub a stall.]

A snug or confined place.


© Webster 1913.

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