STORY – Toy Town (editing needed)

Toy Town – a short story about a curious cottage in a small town and what mysteries it holds.

This was, by far, the hardest story I’ve tried to complete thus far. Originally written back in 2007, I’ve tried once again to bring it to life and make it what I know it can be. In an attempt to just get it out there I spend years, months, weeks, days & hours trying to just get though it. Rather than just scrapping it I’ve persisted in trying to finalize it. Ironically, the whole story is about trying to endure life’s situation and pressing on, learning as we go.

Many of the metaphors in this story reflect on my real life conflicts, mental health issues and the imaginary world I find myself in somewhere between here, reality and hopes of going onto a heavenly home some day.

Between a few problems I’m having with my cell phone and some bugs WordPress is working out in a new edit program it is just not possible for me to write or edit this any more than I have.

YouTube playlist of stories being read: My stories:

“Toy Town”

On the outside people saw a shack. Some might even consider it to be a small, cute, little cottage, although not comfortable at all. Rather than looking like a home the building looked homely and was truly an eyesore to the tiny town of Dependenceville, Ohio. The town was in desperation to be known for something, to be, ‘put it on the map’, however the only thing, if anything, people mentioned when talking about the town was to 40 foot tall pencil in front of a family run office supply & printing shop. The cottage was talked about by locals in rumors only that spread like a wild fire or a wind tossed wave on Lake Erie. Some claimed that the house was haunted. Other said that it was once the home of a poor old man they called Mr. Dreammaker who was going to build a huge factory, maybe even an amusement park that would stimulate the towns economy and culture providing both jobs and entertainment for not only their small town the the communities around them. Unfortunately, when he died it was just left deserted and it continued to decay.
Johnny Maerd was a nine-year-old boy who lived alone with his mother. Kids made fun of his name but in addition to being the underdog because of his name he was also naturally shunned by so many of his peers. Johnny wasn’t sure why he didn’t fit it but always seemed to come up short and last in everything; last to be picked for kickball teams, last to get any free handouts and last pick when it came to anyone who wanted to be his friend. Johnny’s mother was very supportive and encouraging him, as much as she could be, but she knew without a father figure in the house there was no way for her to be a father a friend and also help him find other boys who would make good friends for him. Johnny asked his mother one night, before she tucked him in, “Mom, what do you think that old house…you know the little one down the street? What do you think that is?” His mom simply said, “If I told you Johnny you’do never believe me.” He smiled as he thought of the mystery his mom could create for him to fall asleep thinking about. “Come on Mom!”, he giggled. “Oookay, okay. But, you can’t tell anyone, okay?”, she said as she squinted her eyes and sit up the scene. “Wait…”, Johnny stopped her, “Is, is it, scary?” Mrs. Maerd just smiled. Johnny knew it would be mysterious but not scary. She began with a low deep voice, “So, you want to know about the little cottage at the end of the Street?” Johnny nodded yes as he gave her his undivided attention. She continued, “Well, regardless of what you may have heard the truth is that it was the home of a man known only as Mr. Dream Maker.” Johnny asked, “Was that his real name? His mom just put her finger to her lips to hush him then she looked over her shoulder as if she was going to tell him a secret that she didn’t want anyone to hear, “Johnny, that is not just any little home son. It’s a workshop.” She had Johnny sitting on up in bed now, “The old man built that home years ago when I was just a kid and it is still standing there today. You know it’s not just a tiny home don’t you?” Johnny was speechless and could do nothing but nod as his eyes widened. His mother knew this was going to be a tale that Johnny would hold on to the rest of his life and that he would share with his kids someday. The one thing she wondered was if he would believe that most of what she said was actually true. “The old man, Mr. Dream Maker, was the most innovative and creative man of all time.” “Like Dr. Rooosha?”, Johnny asked, “Yes but Mr. Dream Maker made use of his genius to create toys like Dr. Rooosha did with science.” “Toys?!”, Johnny lit up. His mom nodded yes and said, “But…these were not just any toys. They were the most amazing and breathtaking toys anyone had ever seen.” Johnny couldn’t help but chimed in again, “But, but, Mom, what happened to him? What happened to the toys and what’s in the house now??” She smiled and patted his head, “That is the ultimate secret and greatest mystery of all. But, I can tell you.” She looked over her shoulder again as if checking to see if someone was there in his tiny bedroom just waiting to hear what she was about to reveal. Johnny took her serious and found himself looking over her shoulder too as he waited to hear what may answer a lot of the questions the whole town was dying to hear. “Now, this is a secret, Johnny, okay?” Johnny nodded. “Cross your heart you won’t tell a soul?” Johnny nodded again and solemnly promised, “I promise.” “Okay, before the Old Man died he had two of the most wise, gifted and willing men meet with him. They were the first and only ones who were ever invited into his home. The old man was going to choose one of the two men to take over the workshop and develop it into a whole Factory, one that would help the whole town. He knew he would not live forever, although, it is said he could even turn himself into a toy and never really die. Out of the two men one said he wanted to take over and buy all the property in the area and fill the lot with the biggest toy store that would make the most money ever seen. His plan was to take over the whole town. The other man, when asked what he would do if he was given the shop, that was nothing more than the old hut you see there today, said that he would continue to do what Mr. Dream Maker was doing and listen to his ideas of what the original owner and developer wanted for the future. His hope was that boys girls moms and dads would find joy through the efforts there and help the whole town grown.” Johnny’s forehead wrinkled, So, which man did he pick?” His mother lovingly brushed his hair with her fingertips and asked, “Which would you have choose?” Johnny answered without hesitation, “The guy that wanted joy for kids and stuff. It sounds like the other guy would make everyone else move out, tear down homes and take over, tear down and destroy our town rather than develop it, making it even better.” His mom said, “You too are wise, gifted and willing to have the attitude everyone should have.” With that she kissed his forehead and said, “Goodnight son, sweet dreams.” As she was leaving the room she turned off the lights and was about to close the door, leaving it open just a crack, he begged for more but she replied, “another night son… another night.”
Johnny fell asleep after hours of mine wandering ideas, questions and dreams.

When morning came he could not wait to get downstairs to see his mother at the breakfast table. “Mom?” Johnny started, “You know the things you were telling me, about the toys shop and stuff? Well, what did the guy do, the guy that the Old Man chose, what did he do?” Much to Johnny’s dismay his mother mumbled, “What do you mean?” She seemed disinterested. Johnny looked over at the the coffee pot. He noted that she had already had at least one cup. It should’ve been okay to ask his many questions and receive a coherent response. “Mom, how could you not know what I mean? The man, the man that took over for the old guy… the original owner of the shack, the…the workshop… the one who wanted to make a factory… what happened?” Again Johnny was let down by his mother’s answers. She seemed to be searching for something to make up, “Well that’s the thing Johnny, we, I mean no one, really knows. The work shed cottage is still there. There have been no changes and the old man died. The young man he bequests it to, he was supposed to take over and do something but obviously it went no further than what you see today.” Johnny watched as his mother choked up a little bit. Her voice quivered. The fun mysterious nature turned into some type of frustrating monster she no longer wanted to bring to life as she did last night. Johnny wondered if she was hiding something about the whole thing but didn’t understand stand why. Seeing how upset she was Johnny thought it best to drop or change the subject and get off to school. “It’s okay Mom, I was just wondering. I don’t really care, I mean it was cool you told me but…” His mother interrupted, “Johnny, you promise you won’t tell anyone right?” Johnny was puzzled why it was such a secret and big deal mystery. “OH, oh, no, no, Mom why would I do that. Of course I won’t tell. I promise.” Johnny watches as mother dried a tear from her eye. “Well… I’ll see you when I get home from school or ah, when you get home from work. I love you.” With a quick kiss to her cheek he was out the door. He licked his lips and tasted the salt from one of her tears. He couldn’t make sense of any of this. He thought this was just a pretend bed time story, however, some of it must be true. He questioned why and who would care and get so sad and over emotional about it?
At school the morning announcements started with an over-excited 10 year old boy informing the students that the school cottage house on the corner of Dice Avenue and 13th Street was going to be open for tours. He had nothing more to say no details and was pushed aside by another girl his age acting like there were more important things that needed to be included in the morning announcements. Johnny heard nothing else after that. All he could think about was the toy workshop. In his mind he replayed the story his mom told him last night. He began to formulate detailed pictures in his own imagination as to how it looked on the inside. He questioned what kind of tour they would offer, it was so small.
At recess few of the older, cooler kids would sit on top of the monkey bars usually calling other kids names and acting like they were on top of the world. Johnny shied away from that group but was able to sit at the base of a tree within earshot of those boys conversation. Today they talk to each other more than heckled those down below. One boy said, “I heard that there are mice all over the place, dead ones half dead ones and ones that won’t die!” Another boy debated, “Half-dead?! How can anything be half dead?! You’re an idiot!!!” The challenger sputter back, “Na NO…my older brother snuck in the old Cottage and they said they saw some serious crap!” “Like what?!” another boy jumped into the heated debate. “They told me not to tell!”, He rested his case. “Buuull craaap!”, Nick called. Nick was the only boy in the group Johnny kinda knew. His association was just because their mom’s talked to each other in passing while he & Nick were drug along. Nick and Johnny had never spoke to each other but their mothers carried on for what seemed like hours while the boys would try to entertain themselves by reading cereal boxes trying to see which ones had a free prize inside and running their pocket match box car over the shelves dodging boxes that were huge boulders blocking the highway in their own mind. Johnny’s mind went from that world back into the current one as Nick’s real friend spoke loudly, “There’s nothing in that place, just dirt, dust and cobwebs!” The oldest and largest among the whole gang said, “There is something going on in there!” All the other boys gave him their attention as he dropped his body down from the top of the bars while still holding the top bar, his feet almost touching the ground. “My friend from Lucky Lake High School said they peeked in the windows and they heard banging!” He continued as he pulled himself back up demonstrating what they thought was unusual arm strength for a kid his age. “They couldn’t see much. It is dirty and they said there’s definitely something going on in there. Could be the old man’s ghost!” Johnny actually startled them as he came around the back of the tree and spoke up toward them, “It’s not the old man!” They looked down at him after quickly adjusting they natural jolt of fight or flight instincts. They all glared as if he had no right to speak, however, they listen because the whole town wanted to know more about that Cottage. Johnny continued, “It is some guy that took the old man’s place when he died.” The boys looked at each other and Johnny spoke with authority, surprising even himself he said, “He continue where the old man left off, building toys in the shed. Aaand he’s going to go on to make the biggest toy factory ever.” “Toys?! Hahaha!”, the shortest boy in the group mocked. He was between excited and some type of pride that some how wouldn’t allow him to admit to the others that he still liked to play with toys. The other boys didn’t laugh along. All of them still loved toys and we’re figuring out what toys were closer to reality and which ones they needed to play with secretively so their peers didn’t think they were still a baby. Nick recognized Johnny from the grocery store but didn’t bring it up, instead he challenged him, “How do you know?!” Johnny just turned and walked away. He appeared to be calm, cool and collected but he was actually really worried that he had already said too much. His chest felt heavy. He felt like his heart was snapping just like the promise he was breaking to his mother.”HEY, HEY!!!, a few of the boys began to shout, “COME BACK HERE!” The bell rang and ended the kids playtime outside. They had to go in. Once back in the classroom the boys from The ‘Monkey Bar Gang’ kept exchanging looks, not listening to a word the teacher said. Johnny occasionally looked up from his school book and caught the boys glaring over at him. I hope this doesn’t lead to a fight after school, Johnny thought. The bell rang ended the day. Johnny made a beeline for the door, leaving most of his things in his cubby. On his walk home he kept looking behind him. Out of nowhere three boys dropped down in front of him from a tree just above the sidewalk. Johnny almost wet his pants. Before he could say or do anything a boy came out of the bushes from behind him saying, “Relax.”, although that was the last thing Johnny was capable of doing under the circumstances. The boy put his hand on Johnny’s shoulder. “We just want to know more about that cottage and tonight, tonight you’re going to give us our own little guided tour of the old man’s work shed.” Johnny broke out into a cold sweat. He shuddered, “I don’t know. I really don’t know much guys. I just know that it is a workshop, like you guys said and that the old man that worked there picked someone to take over before he died. That is all I really know, really.” Johnny ended his nervous ramble. “You can do better than that.”, said Nick. The tallest boys said, “The tours coming up are going to cost an arm and a leg to get in and see what that place is really like. That’s what we got out of that geek that did the morning announcement. We don’t want to pay an arm and a leg do you? You wanna give us an arm and leg to get in there just to find out that it is an old cobwebbed filled toy shop that only history and antique Buffs would want to see?” Johnny nervously nodded yes as the boy continued to apply peer pressure, “That is why we need to get in there before the tours and check it out ourselves.” Another boy back up the hardcore persuasion, “We will be the first in the town to see what that place is really like!” Johnny whispered, “I can’t, I mean, I’d love too. I’m really curious too but, you can’t just break in there.” Nick smiled saying, “No we can’t but you can.” “No way!”, Johnny Protested. Part of him wanted to run away. The other part of him took a step forward rather than back as he admitted, “Look, you guys scare me, you intimidate me, but nothing, not even you guys threatening me could make me break the law. If you wanna fight we’ll set a date, time and place.” He felt the adrenaline pumping through his body. The apparent leader of the pack, impressed by Johnny’s boldness, said, “Hey, what’s your name?” Johnny he answered but he dared not say his last name knowing that they would have a blast making up names like ‘Smeared Maerd, Johnny Smear Potty Johnny, or the worst one, Maerd The Turd.’ The fearless leader seemed to be accepting Johnny, at least that is what he was picking up, with the hope that it wasn’t a trick. His voice seemed rough but oddly warm, “Johnny, Nick here says he knows you.” Nick nodded and looked at Johnny. “Nick says you know how to get in without breaking in.” Johnny started to gain more confidence and raised his voice, “WHAT? You gotta be kiddin’ me. We’ve only seen each other at ‘Food Mate.’ Our mom’s talked but Nick, you’ve never said one word to me.” Nick replied, “WELL, YOU NEVER SPOKE UP!” Johnny agreed and that made his point, “SEE! You don’t know me man!” Nick replied, “Yeah, but, you seem to know more than most and…” Nick hesitated. Johnny questioned, “AND WHAT?” The older friend of Nick pushed Nick, “Tell em’!” Nick said, “My mom said not to!” “You told me!” “Yeah but…but your my…my friend and…an’ you’re not…Johnny Meard.” Johnny got up close and pressed his chest against Nick. Nick turned his head as Johnny said, “Don’t tell me what?” Nick backed down saying, “Okay, okay, my mom said…your mom knew the guy that took over.” Johnny was taken back. That made him step off. “No, no way! I don’t know any more than anyone else.” Inside he wondered what more his mom knew. What was she hiding? Nick said, “You knew the old guy died and that there’s someone in there and that there are some type of plans for a large Factory to take the place of that crap hole Cottage!” Johnny answered, “Yeah, well yeah, but we’ll just have to wait and see I don’t know anything else and I have asked everyone I know what’s up with that place and no one knows no one knows anything more than what I told you. I swear to you guys!” “I think he’s telling the truth”, said Nick. The older boy said, “Yeah, but, he can’t afford the tour and we’ll never afford the tour that’s only for rich spoiled kids. We’ve lived here too long and I’ve heard too much to miss out on what that place is like. We should be the first to see and we’ll be the ones everyone looks up to.” All the thugs nodded and let out grunts of agreement, “Okay listen guys…” Johnny pleaded, “Do we even know how much the tour is going to cost?” One boy answered, “No nobody knows yet.” The leader put his hand on Johnny shoulder and moved his face closer to Johnny’s as he whispered, “Johnny, buddy…friend, it doesn’t matter how much it cost, what matters is that we are the first ones in there and people will pay us to know what’s up with this town’s biggest deal. This was the dumbest thing Johnny had ever heard but he decided that this might be his opportunity to make some friends and be part of some kind of special social group, even if it was with these morons. “O.K.!”, Johnny answer. The boys all looked at each other amazed how easy it was to get this outsider to agree to get them inside. Johnny felt like he needed them and now they needed him. “Oh, okay? O.K. then!”, the leader began again, “Tonight, 2 a.m., meet at the corner of Dice Avenue and 13th Street, across from the cottage behind the bushes in Mrs. Cushions yard.” The group broke up and Johnny made the rest of his way home feeling like he was actually in charge of a small gang of boys his age. He had always had trouble making friends and never tried to form a bond with anybody before. He felt heroic, however, when Johnny got home the fear of what was asked of him and what the boys were planning started to weigh heavy on his heart in mind.

That night while Mrs. Maerd was saying goodnight to Johnny he was fighting the feeling to talk to his mom or ask her any more questions about the cottage down the street. It had become the focus of the whole community. In a small town it didn’t take much to give people something to fixate & obese about. It was as if she could read his mind and she spoke first, “Johnny, remember the story about the house down the road from us, the little toy Workshop I told you about last night honey?” Johnny answered, “Yes.”, but tried to act as if it didn’t really matter. “Well…”, she continued bravely, “Soon we will be able to see what it is like inside there.” “Yeah, they mention that in the morning announcements at school.” “Well, well good honey, I…I just want you to know that the tour may not be as great as everyone is anticipating.” He gave his mother a confused look. She knew she needed to explain more, “You see, the younger man, the man who took over the running of the shop, he…he didn’t really succeed Johnny. I just don’t want you to be discouraged. The whole reason behind the whole tour and hype is just to raise money to try and build a factory and make that little Shack into a larger more attractive money-making toy store, that’s it. That is all, and do you know how much money it would take to build a factory?” “Lots?!” She smiled, brushed her fingers through her son’s hair and answered, “A lot more than lots, a whole lot more than lots.” Just after she kissed him and turned off his lights Johnny had to ask, “So, Mom?”, she turned looking in from the door she would leave open just a crack. “Mom, so you think even with the money from a tour that Cottage won’t become anything more?” She replied, “I’m afraid not son, get some sleep.” She walked away feeling disheartened that she told him even a little bit about that home and it’s history. Johnny called loudly, “Mom, MOM, Mom can you come in here?” She came back in saying, “I left the door open a crack. What’s wrong?” He just had to ask, “Mom, did…did you know the young man that took over?” She just said, ” Another night son, another night.” “BUT, Mom!”, he insisted, “DID you know him? DID he know Daddy? ” She softly said, “Yes son, I knew him.” Johnny felt like he was making progress, “Did daddy know him?” She paused then said, “IT IS COMPLICATED YOUR…your father, daddy, was very fond of him… too.” Johnny’s thoughts raced and his curiosity got the best of him. He asked, “Mom, was Daddy… you know… did daddy like other men, instead of ladies, women like you? Was the man that took over a gay guy and daddy ran off with him?” Mrs. Maerd just laughed. She was shocked that her little boy would go down that road with that train of thought. She gathered herself and said, “Son, let’s just say that he was very fond of himself but let me ask you son, where did you hear about people being gay?!” She began to tickel him, trying to keep him young and innocent from adult complications just a little longer. Now the tables were turned. Johnny laughed then went silent. No more questions would be asked this night. “Good night, SON!” Mom she walked away shaking her head. She looked back through the cracked door, “You’re daddy left me cause he loved his work and… himself more than me.” As she walked down the hall he heard her say, “Oh, and as far as I know…the young man that took over the workshop shop is not gay…I’m not even sure if anyone lives in that cottage, the roof leaks.
Once his mom was out of sight he set his alarm for 1:50 a.m., although he knew he wasn’t going to be able to sleep until after his attempt to see what was in that small dark mysterious Cottage. He was hoping his mom was right and that no one lived there.

The hour had come and Johnny, for the first time ever, snuck out in a race to meet the other boys. On the way he tried to hide in the shadows. His biggest feared was that the others wouldn’t show up and that this was just one big joke on him, the underdog that is constantly rejected by his peers. The small group of five boys could be heard breathing heavy and shushing each other. They were making even more noise just buy trying to keep each other quiet. Johnny was relieved to see them there. He felt like he wasn’t so alone. All of them were just as wide-eyed and nervous as he was. Nick asked the older boy, “So, what’s the plan Phil?” This was the first time Johnny learned any of their names other than Nick who he already knew a little. Phil looked at Johnny and asked, “Yeah, what’s the plan Johnny?” Johnny realized he was in charge now. “Well, you guys ever done anything like this before?” They all hummed and hawed acting as if it was nothing new. Johnny laughed out loud and said, “You guys haven’t done anything!” “s h h h h…”, the smallest boy demanded. “I’m sorry guys but I thought you were all big time.”, Johnny chuckled. He gloated in the fact that they were kids just like him. They just acted like they were better bigger and had the confidence that Johnny lacked, up until this moment. “Okay boys…”, Johnny began, “You got to listen to me and do everything I say and don’t do anything I say not to do.” He had the boys in the palm of his hand. He whispered but spoke forcefully, “Now, first we got to know what to call each other but not use our real names, you know incase someone hears us, and don’t call me Johnny! I’m not going to have people knowing I was involved in this break in!” When Johnny use the word ‘break-in’ the weight and severity of this sneaking about hit all the boys. They all nodded giving Johnny their full attention. Nick asked, “But what names?” Johnny hushed him, “SHHH, shush, I’ll tell you what names. Call me Panther. Johnny kind of thought he’d enjoy this strange way of meeting new friends. He figured he’d make up names that would be considered degrading and this gave him the revenge for all those times he endured name-calling. He assigned names like stubby, dirty, rock head, big lip and his favorite ducky. They huddled up and Johnny made up a scheme. On Johnny’s command the boys ran, hunched over and snuck to the bushes on the cottage grounds. Johnny then whispered more instructions. The boys didn’t just as he said as they moved as brisk but as low to the ground as possible. Phil even crawled on the ground. Johnny had the boys surround the work shed. Each boy was to look into a window assigned to them and see if any were and open. If they could see anything inside he told make a mental picture to report back to him later. He also them if one of the windows was open, or if they found a door to not go in. Some of the boys were lying on the ground to look into the basement windows. Middle School rumors said that rat slid down the stair railings. The boys looking in the side windows had hoped to see something like that! As Nick looked into one of the back windows he found himself stepping in something soft and mushy. Phil noticed how the street lights casting on the house revealed cracked paint, how dirt the windows were and how the place was falling apart. Johnny himself took the boldest position and went right up onto the front porch. This made him look like the hero and the bravest of them all. Johnny realized that he was the only one who wouldn’t be accused of peeking in windows, breaching privacy. If caught, he would be able to say he was just going to knock to see if anyone was home. There’s no law against that, he thought as he smiled standing in front of the old paint chipped door. This was the closest anyone had been to this legendary house. Johnny reached out his hand, made a fist, looked around and knocked loud and hard 3 times. Just after he knocked the boys all let out a terrifying scream in Unison and ran all the way back to the bushes across the street. Once behind the bushes none of them could talk because they were so afraid and out of breath. Phil got the first words out, “THAT… that was nuts.” The boy Johnny nicknamed ducky agreed and asked, “Yeah, hey, who knocked?” They saw Johnny still standing on the front porch across the street waving and smiling at them. He wasn’t shakin’ up at all. Rockhead said, “Johnny you’re nuts. You sure got guts man.” Again Johnny smiled and slowly walked across the street to join his new friends. Nick said, “I heard pounding before the knock.” Ducky said, “YA, yeah haha I heard some thuds coming from the basement!” The boy nicknamed dirty said, “I couldn’t see a thing through those windows. They were so dirty, but, I heard that hammering and pounding too, but, when Johnny knocked the face of this bear popped up in the window I was looking in!” All the boys started talking at once telling each other what they saw. .. a Big Bear’s head, a man’s body with no head, some kind of hairy creature, a spooky messed up clown face, a lady with no eyes! Johnny wasn’t sure if they had really seen anything or if each of them were just letting their imagination was running away with them. “Well guys.”, Johnny said, “Now we have something to tell others.” Johnny turn to walk home. “Where you going?!” He heard one of the boys crying in desperation. Johnny smile before turning around thinking how the tables have turned and now how he was the boy on the top of the totem pole now. He knew that tomorrow he’d be the top boy on the monkey bars. He said with confidence, “I’m going home and you guys better too. Who knows, he may be watching.” His voice sent a shiver through the night air. They all looked at each other with the same fear, he may be right. They all nodded and went their different ways. Johnny never slept better.

The next morning Johnny raced downstairs to greet his mother. She seemed serious and Johnny thought for sure that somehow she found out that he snuck out last night. He was ready for the, ‘I am so disappointed in you’, speech. Instead she handed him an envelope simply saying, “Here.” Johnny slowly open the envelope as he looked at his mom. It was two invitations to attend the opening day tour of the toy shop on 13th Street and Dice Avenue. Johnny was stunned. An awkward silence came between him and his mother. She broke the ice, “It’s for you and one of your friends.” “Why not you and me?” His mom had a small tear in her eye. Johnny thought it could have been because she was happy for him. He repeated the question, “Mom, why me and a friend? Why don’t you go with me?” His mom smiled a little and replied, “Because I think it would be good for you to make more friends and taking someone, even a girl if you want. It could be a good opportunity for you to make some new friends.” “Wow, wow, WOW, thank you! OH MY LANDS!” Johnny looked at the invitation. He couldn’t believe it was in his hands. He wondered how she got it and how much it cost. He read every word and noticed on the back, stamped in red, was the words complimentary. He had no idea what that meant. The envelope looked old and notice the invitations were brittle and kind of Dusty too. Johnny his mother interrupted his train of thought, “Don’t be too disappointed.” Disappointed, Johnny thought but before he could ask why she would say that she went on, “I’d also prefer you to take a friend rather than me because…Johnny, I just don’t think it’s going to be that great of a tour. But, who knows, you can’t judge a book by it’s cover huh?” She tried to cheer Johnny up. Johnny having seen the outside up close, knewing that what was inside had to be far more interesting. His face lit up. “Mom, don’t worry about that. It’s going to be so cool to be one of the few to be welcomed in, just to see what’s in there. I hope this didn’t cost you too much Mom.” She just mumbled in passing a…friend of a… family member of ours who we haven’t seen for some time, someone who worked in the workshop or whatever, they gave that to all the people they knew with great expectations that someday they would have it ready to show. Now get to school.” He ran for the door, invite in hand and couldn’t wait to see if the guys would be jealous, envious or honor that the he going in.” Johnny gloated it as he pulled out the coveted invitation. During recess all ears were filled with all Johnny said as he showed the ticket, “AND, THAT’S NOT ALL…” They all jumped at him, “WHAT, what, what?!” They were shouting over each other. He smiled and said, “I got two!” He pulled the other one out as if he was performing Magic. An even larger crowd started to form around him. People who had overheard spread the news to those just walking up and before you knew it all the teachers focus their attentions on the far end of the playground where every kid was gathering. Johnny noticed this one girl who he always thought was so pretty but he dared not tell her. The thought of asking her went out of his head as fast as it went in but he did feel special in her eyes now. Johnny raised his voice, “ATTENTION, whoever can be the nicest kid to all the other kids is going to get this other pass to go in WITH ME!” As corny as that sounded the teachers nodded and smirked at each other. The kids looked at it as a challenge. Johnny held the envelope high as the bell rang ending recess. Making it through the rest of the day at school was crazy. Everyone was passing notes to Johnny and each other. Some teachers were being extra nice thinking they just might get invited to go with him.

There was a group walking with Johnny on the way home that day. Each of them showing how nice they could be. A couple of the boys who had seen the house up close were sceptical of whether it may be worth going in or not. Johnny explain to them, “My mom had a car that looked awesome on the outside but on the inside it was all messed up. The car wouldn’t go in reverse and it was constantly breaking down. It had all kinds of engine trouble.” The oldest boy, Phil said, “Exactly, it’ll be worse on the inside.” Johnny clarified, “No, with this house it’s probably the opposite. It looks terrible on the outside but on the inside there’s probably amazing things to see. You can’t judge a book by its cover, good or bad.” Another young boy said, “Either way I’d love to go in and see what it’s like on the inside, for real.” The mystery, regardless of what was really inside, was enough to fuel their desires at any chance they had to get in and see for themselves. They made attempts to find out where they could get their own ticket but failed to find any more information.

After a whole week of most people being on their best behavior Johnny asked to be part of the school announcements so he could tell everyone more about what he meant regarding the pass into the toy shop. They were thrilled to hand him the microphone. Johnny was a little shy to speak into it but his voice was even a little louder than it needed to be. Everyone hung on his words as he proclaimed, “My name is Johnny Maerd. A lot of you didn’t know me a few days ago even though I grew up in this town. Some of you have made fun of me for years.” Those guilty of that hung their heads in shame and hoped no one noticed. “Well, it’s time for all that to change. Not just for me. It is time for you, all of us to treat other kids with respect and help them instead of always hurting them. It’s kind of strange how we make friends sometimes according to how accomplished, talented, tough or successful we consider them to be. We all too often get caught up, star struck and memorized by how we perceive a person’s value and treat then nice because we want to share in their accomplishments. Our accomplishment should be to treat everyone as we want to be treated.” Johnny paused before making his final announcements, “I want to say one more thing. I’m giving the second invitation, not to the person who treats me the nicest, but to the kid who treat everyone around them the nicest, nicer than they have in the past. The microphone clunk down as Johnny layed it on the desk in front of the regular morning announcer.
Several weeks went by, then three days before the open house, Johnny was asked to announce over the PA at school who he had chosen to give the invitation to. Johnny had been watching everyone and noticed that Phil went from being the leader of a gang of kids who are constantly name-calling, shoving and taunting other kids, to being a really polite and helpful kid. He saw Phil carrying other kids books to class for them, learning the names of those once considered nameless and not getting into or picking one fight. The whole school had changed but there was a few kids who still fought, still made fun of others and still did spiteful things like knocking the books out of poor friendless kids hands just to laugh at them. With all this in mind Johnny leaned into the mic explaining why Phil would be the one going in with him.

Finally the moment that had been talk of the town came, opening day. It was a cold rainy day in the middle of winter and much to everyone’s surprise there were 11 business executives and the two boys waiting out in front of the dilapidated wreck of a home. The invitation read,
My house is your house. YOU are invited to see the progress made of toy town. Signed, Mr Dream.
The day’s weather cast a natural gloom over what was considered to be the brightest day in this little town’s history. The boys stood there dripping wet, feeling out of place. Phil said, “You’d think there would be more kids huh?” Johnny commented, “More kids? Any he kids!” The business men & women stood under their big, fancy umbrellas, most of them black and color. It looked more like a funeral than an exciting town event. Nick was the only other kid who stood near his two friends, Phil and Johnny. He smiled and said, “Have fun guys!” Johnny almost expected him to add some sarcasm to that warm wish. All their elementary school classmates, the middle school kids and even high school members stood at a distance shouting things like, “I HOPE THE ROOF DOESN’T LEAK TOO BAD! TELL US WHAT IT’S LIKE IN THERE, IF YOU COME OUT ALIVE!!! GOOD LUCK, YOU’LL NEED IT!” Nick encouraged them, “You guys are lucky. Hey, no venture no gain. You’re adding the add to adventure, they are just jealous haters.” He looked back at the other town people who stood a good hundred feet away. No physical bearers kept them at that distance, they just seemed hesitant. There were so many rumors about the place some superstitious and myths had become stronger restricting convictions. People had convinced themselves that this hut was the hub of supernatural dwellings and an abode of paranormal activity. Johnny heard the adult business people raving about what a big opportunity this was for them, or their companies, and how they were going to get in there just to meet the crazy old man and whoever was taking over. They spoke as if they weren’t sure if the original owner was dead or alive. They talked about their offers to buy the property for some real developmental progress. One man was overheard saying something about how his grandfather was there when they built the place. Other exchanged business cards and talked of merging their resources to make the highest bid to retain the property. Phil awkwardly looked at Johnny and said, “Psh… toy town, yeah right! This isn’t a thing for kids. This is a waste of time!” Johnny said, “No, no, this is going to be great! This is a toy shop and again, who knows, just because it looks run down on the outside Inside it probably awesome! Have some faith!” Phil combated, “Faith in what? Faith in who?” Johnny wanted to tell Phil what little his mom told him about a friend of the family being involved with the cottage history but he didn’t know enough himself to share any helpful details. He still tried to assure Phil, “These business typhoons are the ones who are going to feel out a place once we get inside.” Phil started to raise his voice and rage as he spouted back at Johnny, “Yeah right! This place is just a freaking house. Some old man, some paranoid manic Madman has lived in there alone and there’s been tinkering for years just to fool this whole town into thinking that there’s something so amazing in there just to take our money and give nothing in return.” Johnny started to see the old Phil, “Phil, why give up hope? Why not just enjoy the mystery. Our imagination maybe painting a better picture than what it is really like but we you didn’t pay one cent for these passes! Who knows, it might be even better than we think.” Nick could hear the boys beginning to argue. As he walked to join the others across the street he said, “Hey, just check it out and let us know what it’s like in there!” Phil turned toward Nick to cast his verbal assault, “Shut up, Stubby!” Johnny was shocked. He thought Phil had found that is better to be genuinely nice to people and stop all the name calling. He also realize the name Phil called Nick was the disrespectful name Johnny himself had given Nick the night they were going to sneak in. Johnny was disappointed in himself, that he had become like the bullies he couldn’t stand. Johnny ripped the invitation out of Phil’s hand, “HEY! GIVE ME THAT!!!”, Phil shouted. Johnny said, YOU’RE NOT KINDHEARTED! YOU JUST FAKED YOUR WAY INTO THIS… WHAT I WAS CALLING A FRIENDSHIP!” Phil admitted, “Yeah, SO!” The adults shook their heads and one said to the other, “That’s why children should not be eligible to purchase tickets to enter.” Johnny turned with the partially ripped paper in his hand and address them, “It is a complimentary invitation ladies & gentlemen. It is a workshop to make toys for kids! We call it Toy Town!” He stopped there but wanted to question their motivation for entering. They just shook their heads and overlooked him. “NICK!”, Johnny shouted, “NICK, COME HERE!!!” Phil stood there feeling the cold rain coming down on him heavier now than before. He watched as Johnny gave the invite to Nick. “WHAT THE…”, Phil began. The boys started to push, shove and fight. Johnny’s mom was not able to be there in the crown but there was an uncle of his and a close member of the family Johnny never officially met. The two men ran over to break the boys up. One of the businessmen helped as well. The uncle pulled Phil away from Johnny and back toward the crowd watching. The others waiting to go in stood in front of Nick and Johnny. They turned their back and shook off the juvenile behavior. Johnny said to Nick, “You’re going in with me!” Nick exclaimed, “That’s fine with me, cool!!” Phil just scoffed from a distance, “Whatever dudes. I didn’t wanna go in anyway!” As he stormed away he fooled himself into believing that when in reality nothing could be further from the truth.

The entrance The front door squeak as it open slowly. The Spectators moved closer to try and catch a glimpse of the inside while the 13 guests moved out of the rain, under the water pouring off the wood shingled roof and into the foyer of this longtime legendary home. A middle-aged man greeted them, “I suppose you were expecting Mr. Old Man Dream Maker?” They all let out a nervous chuckle. The man smiled, teeth is white as snow, he continued with his welcome, “Well, I’ll be showing you around today. I’ve heard the rumors about this haunted mad Shack, at least I think that is what most people are saying, but I’m here to show you ladies & gentlemen.” Then looking down at Johnny and Nick with a heartwarming smile, “And younger gentleman. You’re about to have questions answered about this house and this property that this town has had since the original Mr. Dreammaker put this house here. This house is actually a town all of its own.” He raised his voice and pointed one finger in the air like a statue as he restated, “A town within a town!” No one was sure what to make of this. One of the men with peppered colored hair said, “Mr Dream, uh…no offense sir but, who are you if not, as you said, ‘old man Dream Maker’ and… is there any worthy reason we should allow you to guide us through this this Cottage?” Mr Dreams was still stuck in the statue position. They stared at him as the smile faded from his face. He slowly became unfrozen and spoke out of the corner of his mouth as he addressed the man, “Oh, oooh, oooooh…I’m sorry, may I see your invitation sir?” The man pulled it from an inner pocket of his trench coat. Mr. Dream took it, examined it then asked, “Did you buy this sir?” The man puffed out his chest and insisted, “Of course I did! Are you assuming that I am a fraud?!” Mr. Dream’s face was caught between a grin and a very serious poker face, “Oh, no, no, no sir, I would never make any accusation about a man I don’t know anything about. He smirked, then whispered with a hint of sarcasm, “You see the thing is, sir, I don’t know you, however, I know some things about you, I just don’t know you personally.” He got close to the man’s face and finished, “Invitations are usually given to people that are known and since I don’t know you…well then you’renotinvited.” Mr. Dream ran those last three words together. Johnny and Nick got a kick out of it. “Well!”, retaliated the man, “This is just a load of crock! Just like I thought, a load of crock, a scheme to just make money and not allow us to invest in something that could be so much more.” The man snatched the invitation from Mr Dreams hand and stormed out yelling, “YOU’LL HEAR FROM MY LAWYERS!” When the man slam the door the whole shack shook a little and drops of rain and mud dripped down from the ceiling. Outside they heard the men being mobbed by the town small’s press and media that had gathered that day. He was more than willing to share what he had just experienced inside. Mr. Dream said, “Does anyone else feel not invited?” Not one word was said. Mr. Dream didn’t ask any more questions and the business seemed to be relieved that he had not required them to show him their invitations. He simply moved right along, “Very good then, shall we move on. Bring your coats, umbrellas, shoes, hats, underpants and anything else you may have on you and… fooollow me. Mr. Dream stepped off in a little skip through the foyer, passed a nice warm fireplace were he led to a small box shaped room resembling a walk-in closet. Mr. Dream explained, “This is one of the very first forms of an elevator. I’m sure some of you men recall the old ones.” Some nodded. Johnny and Nick along with some of the other men just looked at Mr. Dream for further explanation as he continued, “Everyone, step in please. I know it’s a tight fit, but then again so are most of the vests you’re wearing.” Once packed inside the elevator Mr. Dream talked through his actions, “Now I close this gate with these triangle shapes or, uh…what are they… diamond shaped thingies. And then I close this other one with these… oh, with these…they’re the same shape, I never noticed that. Anyway you close both of those and then… you uh… pull this handle… and…” One of the men from the back got impatience and spoke up, “Here, here, I know how to use it!” He pushed his way to the front. Mr. Dream responded with sarcasm, “Oh, good a man who knows how to use my elevator. Let him through. Let him through people.” Mr. Dream smiled and moved his hands as if parting the Red Sea. The man got to the front next to Mr. Dream. He spoke unussually close to each man’s face, “Now wait…wait, take us through from the start cuz we may, we MAY just have to know how to use it to come back up to this floor, maybe. I really hope to learn to use this THE CORRECT WAY, someday. WOW, TODAY IS THAT DAY! YIPPEE! I may be here all alone, by myself one day and need your guidance.” As mr. Dream opened the two fence shaped doors he patted the man on the back just hard enough to push him out of the elevator and then cranked one knob. The doors closed and the elevator shot down the shaft extremely fast. Everyone gasped! Mr. Dream smiled, “I guess he missed his ride!” he snickered. The men held their hats. They ladies tried to keep their skirts from flying up. Nick’s face was being lasted by one of the ladies hair as it was tossed up and around by the descent. Johnny loved the smell of whatever conditioners, Colgan and perfumes that flew off their bodies and into the air around them on this journey down to who knows where. The elevator felt as if it was not going to stop. Then they felt it finally slow down. It actually bounced a little when it hit the bottom coming to a complete stop. “Well, the parachute and pillow still work. Let the fun begin. The doors opened and the guests stepped out. Their mouths dropped open. They could barely take in all they saw. It was a whole town, storefronts, roads, cars, trucks and people walking in every direction. The boys were the first to notice that toys were a major part of the scene. Toys were mixed in with all the pedestrians. They were rolling, hopping, sliding, some of the toys were even being carried by people. The sound of a busy City fill the air. One of the taller businessmen said in awe, “It’s a whole town!” Mr. Dream replying, “You’re good. You really pay attention to detail!” The visitors had to listen close to here Mr. Dream over the city’s noise as he announced, “Well, I’m going fishing. Enjoy looking about and see yourself out…HAH! I didn’t mean for that to rhyme that time.” With a wave he simply walked away. The business executives could not let him get away so easy. They followed after him, each fighting for first place begging not only for his undivided attention but for the chance to hear what he thought of their offers. Johnny and Nick shrug their shoulders and started to walk down the main street. They slowly began to realize the people they saw were not alive they were reanimated people, like life-size toys! Johnny’s mind went back to rumors he had heard about how the original owner maybe didn’t die but was able to turn into some other type of creature like… a toy. Nick felt like he was caught in a wonderful dream, “Johnny, slap me. This is cray cray!” “Yeah but great!”, Johnny answered. They found some go-karts with signs on them saying, “DIVE ME!” The boys jumped in and drove them through the streets. They eventually discovering a racetrack and took a couple of laps before parking them so they could take to the streets on foot to see more. They were frightened when some type of holographic image walk up to them and challenge them to a fun friendly fight. Nick ducked as it took the first strike. He shouted, WOW, whoa check this dude. This is like the game City Fight Club!” Johnny laughed and said, “Yeah but the Challenger isn’t in a box ready to K.O. a computer image of you, he’s going for the real thing, GO FOR IT!!!’ When Johnny shouted the fight began automatically. While Johnny watched he thought there is no way I’ll be able to describe this to her friends. Nick cried out, “Jump in! Help, Johnny the punch is somehow send a funny electric shock through me when it makes contact!” Johnny just laughed and said, “It’s not set up for two players Nick. This is your fight!” Nick laughed but shouted, “I’M SERIOUS!” “It doesn’t look painful. Does it hurt?”, asked Johnny. Nick said, “NO, UNTUH…IT ACTUALLY KINDA TICKLES!” Nick ran into a store just off the street. The Hologram followed, knocking down shelves and breaking through glass cases. Johnny followed them into the store then ran out the back door of the store. He yelled for Nick to follow. Outback was a helicopter made to fit kids their size. Nick jumped in and Johnny flew them away. The ceiling of toy town was really high, not just basement height. From up in the helicopter they could get a good view of the whole city. The length went on for miles, it didn’t seem to end. Under that tiny Shack outside was an entire city deep down in what was more than just any average basement. It did literally go on for miles and miles underneath the city above. “This goes all the way under my house, down the street and further!”, said Johnny. They loved how the ceiling was painted like clouds and Johnny watch not to fly too high in order not to hit it. All of a sudden there was a thud on the outside of the helicopter. Johnny looked, Nick pointed out an entire lineup of anti-aircraft fighting guns shooting hard pieces of foam at them. Nick cried, “The..there’s no place to land!” The foam was doing no damage to their aircraft but they were still alarmed. This playtime was so real and convincing. He looked in the back and saw two parachutes. Johnny looked back as well, then they looked at each other. They shot different words back and forth to each other, expression of their excitement, “RADICAL, EXCELLENT, AWESOME!!!” Then in unison they shouted, LET’S DO IT!” They strapped on the Chutes and jumped, pulling the ripcord in order to not plunk to the ground too hard. Both boys laughed harder than they had ever laughed before. Johnny manage to get out the words, “Are you okay?” Nick couldn’t stop laughing and just began to roll around on the ground yelling, “Yeehaw!” Their pre- adolescent voices cracked. “Lookout…” Johnny expressed in a sudden rise of fear. Nick couldn’t stop. He found himself sliding down a steep hill at a high speed. Nick was caught in between having fun and feeling sick to his stomach. The hill wasn’t just a steep decline but it was covered with snow! Johnny looked up. There were snowflakes drifting down in that section of the Town. Johnny put his parachute under him and gave himself a shove, racing right behind his friend. At the bottom of the hill the boys pick themselves up and brushed themselves off. There were no cold chuncks of snow leaving wet spots on their clothing. Nick confirmed, “Artificial snow!” Johnny replied, “It felt real, we could play for hours and not as cold!” They realized they were never in any real danger it was just one big a fun adventure after another. “This is the best time I’ve ever had Johnny!”, when Nick said that it made Johnny feel warm and welcome. He felt like he was finally gaining a true friend. “Hahey, what’s that?!”, Johnny said, pointing to a shed behind Nick. All Nick could get out was, “It….it….oh man am I dizzy!” Johnny finish the thought and confirm that Nick wasn’t seeing things, “It’s the workshop, the cottage from down the street from our homes!” They were looking an exact replica of the shed that was far above them on their home Town’s streets. The boys went up and knocked. There was no response. Johnny had a flashback to that night he knocked. So, they went in to look around. When they close the door behind them some dirty drops of water fell down onto their heads, just as it did when that man left at the start of the tour. The only thing different was that there seemed to be no Elevator Shaft. “Hey Johnny, how do we get out of here and when?” Johnny had been having so much fun he admitted that he had not given any thought to that. The elevator was that shot them down to toy town was at the other end of the building, as far as they could remember. They recalled exiting from the elevator and looking back before the elevator doors closed they saw it blend in with the wall of some brick building. “We got to get back.”, said Nick. “Well…”, Johnny remarked, giving a mischievious grin. He then convince Nick to hide with him there in the factory, the town, and come out after the place is shut down. Nick was a bit nervous but also felt like Mr. Dream did not make it clear when they were supposed to leave. He just told them to show themselves out. Moments after those thoughts of Voice was heard coming out of some well hidden speakers that must have been throughout the whole town. It was Mr. Dream, “Attattention, attention all…may I have your attention pleeeeease… I caught some really nice fish today and I hope you had fun exploring toy town. It is time to close things down nooow. I thank you for coming and, not too far in the future, I hope to open the town to the general public if possible. Come back please, come back again. Now, make your way now to the First National Bank in the center of the city where you came in. You will notice within the next few minutes of virtual sunset and as the lights imitate the sun going down the street lights will be used as a guide to lead you to the exit. Simply follow the streets that have the street lights on and. .. you can’t miss it. Again, thank you for coming and good night.” Johnny went into the kitchen of the cottage. He opened the cabinet under the sink. “Johnny, no!”, said Nick followed by a smile. “If we’re going to hide, this is not the best hiding place. This is probably where the tour guide lives that…Mr. Dream man.” Johnny jumped up, clapped his hands and said, “Well, lead on Captain Nick.” The boys walk down the the streets that had its lights on. They had not seen anyone else. The business executives that came in with them were never seen again. Now it was obvious that they were the only ones on the street and probably in the whole town. While walking down the street Johnny noticed the city sounds were replaced by crickets, frogs and an occasional owl sound. He ducked down a small alley, Nick followed. They tried doors that led into the alley and finally found one unlocked. As they entered they were glad to see that it was a back door to a very large department store. They made their way to the furniture department and hid under the beds. Nick started to whisper something, Johnny pressed his finger to his lips signaling him to stay quiet, then he held his palm up and face out, indicating to just wait. Nick understood. The boys heard some loud yet muffled booms, probably the sound of the generators that ran the town shutting down. They also heard what sounded like a high pitch squeal drop in speed and pitched until it was absolutely silent. Johnny still motion to wait. After good 20 minutes Johnny whisper, “Nick, you think he has security cameras or people and lasers?” Nick whispered back, “Naaa, not down this low. I bet all the security would be on the top surface, in the old shed. No one can get down here without going through there.” Johnny nodded then asked softly, “Heeey, you remember the faces and stuff we saw in the window when I knock that night?” Nick nodded as Johnny spoke in a hushed tone, “I think that knocks set off an alarm and those figures pop up in the windows to scare people away.” Nick strained out, “Yeah, it worked!” Johnny stifled a laughed, “Sooo, let’s go check things out!” The boy slipped out from under the beds to go explore. Johnny said, “We’ll never be able to describe to our friends all this fun we’re having, but we’ll have to try to capture key moments. Let’s head to the sports department!” Neither one of them were very much into sports but they had fun trying all the different equipment out. After that they went to the toy department and played with toys that they could never afford. They even found a flying carpet! They didn’t know how it worked but they were fascinated by how it was able to hover and carry both of them at once without any engine sounds. The ride was so quiet as they were gliding through the store they heard a noise. They took the magic carpet ride back to the beds to hide and wait. By this time they were getting sleepy but that natural sleepiness was being fought by all the excitement they were having. They waited a while then as they slid out from under the beds to see if it was safe to come out again they looked up. There above them was an adult figure standing there facing down at them in the dark. “Did you hear the announcement?”, the voice pierced through the boy’s bodies as they realized they were busted. They feared what the consequences would be. The man turned a flashlight on, shinning it on his face. It was Mr. Dream, the tour guide. The boys were not sure if they should be relieved or repulsed. Mr. Dream smiled, “You boys remind me of when I was a young man.” Johnny begin to try and explain, “We, you, I, he…” Mr. Dream laughed a little as he said, “EY’ Hey, it’s okay, this time.” Then he smiled again, “Actually boys, believe it or not, I’m glad you stayed. It gets lonely down here at night. I know that you weren’t trying to steal, break or destroy anything. You were just having fun, boys will be boys.” The boys felt put at ease but we’re still a little on edge. They knew they didn’t leave when they were told to. Mr. Dream led them back to the replica work shed/cottage there in Toy Town. The boys had so many questions and wanted to ask the same questions the whole town had been wondering about the Shack on the corner of 13th Street and Dice Avenue but never had the chance to. Questions built up in their minds and yet there was something about Mr. Dream’s presents that cause them to remain silent. He began to talk and even if the boys wanted to they couldn’t get a word in edgewise. “Boys…” he began as he brushed off some wood carving tools from the kitchen table, “I want to tell you a story and ask you some questions, okay?” The boys just nodded in agreement. He continued to talk as he set the house in order, “I’m not the original owner of this little toy Workshop, the one you see up in your town above. I don’t own this…basement/town under your town above either. It belongs to the original, the one and only, the real Mr. Dream Maker. I recall back when he invited twelve people here. He met with us as a group and he met with lots of others too, but, I personally recall he finally narrowed it down to just two of us. Ya know, honestly we all have two sides, so in reality I found myself coming into that Cottage to meet with him one on one. He was looking for which one of the two men would be the best to take over his life’s legacy here in Toy Town.” The story was oh so familiar to Johnny. He began to understand that the two men in the story his mom told him was actually the two sides of Mr. Dream. Mr. Dream fixed some hot chocolate as he confirmed this, “You see, it was really just me when it came right down to that meeting I had with Maker. Sitting in front of him he asked me a question that I had to honestly answer. First, let me ask you two, would you like some ‘scuit’ and cheese with your hot chocolate?” Nick wasn’t comprehending anything Dream was saying and asked, “SCUIT? CHEEZE?” The man let out a laugh as he explained, “Triscuits and cheese. I’ve shortened the name to scuits. They go well with cheese. I’d offer you some wine but I think that may add to your confusion, my dear boys. Sometimes it’s good to shorten things or turn things around don’t you think?” Again, they nodded and kept listening. “Boys, just like there are many types of people in this world and there are two of you here today, we all have two sides, maybe more really. When I sat down with the owner and creator of town town I was asked one main question and had to decide how I would respond. So let me ask you two, what would you say if you were in those two men shoes back then when Mr. Maker asked those same questions. If you could live here what you would do in and with toy town?” Then he stops talking and Nick spoke up right away, “Ooh WOW, you mean you’re asking us? YOU’RE asking us to live here or what we would do if we did take over?” Mr. Dream smirked and looked at Johnny, “He’s top in his class I’m sure.” Johnny gave a nervous smile back answering, “Uh, no, not really. Maybe you should repeat the question.” Mr. Dream said softly, “I’m asking you, my dear charming boy, what would you say if old man dreammaker asked you to live here and be part of Toy Town. What would you do here once assuming some type of ownership in this town?” Nick was taken back a little bit and felt put in his place by Mr. Dreams sarcasm. He didn’t let that stop him from answering with full pride, “Well, I was thinking about that today. This place is awesome and I love how you keep it a secret and…” “Nick, before you get too carried away first answer the question…”, insisted Dream. “Oh, yeah, I’m sorry. Well, I know exactly what I would do. I would open it to the public not only for tours but everything would be for sale and I would make it like an amusement park and become a millionaire. Imagine the fortune I’d make! Everyone would look at me different and treat me better because I would be the boss. I’d live like a boss too. I’d have more money and things than anyone!” Nick was proud of himself and his answer. Mr. Dream asked, “I see, and what would you do with the money?” Nick looked at him strangely and said, “Huh, are you serious? I would do whatever I wanted to do and I would be like the richest man in the world and I could just be like, in control of people and all this stuff. Other people would pay me and I’d make lots of money off of them! Not only that, but, I’d have a say on who can come in and who couldn’t afford to. If ya ain’t got the cash to give me then forget it until ya give me enough to get in.” “I see, yeah, I see what you’re saying Nick, you’d become wealthy and everyone would buy stuff from you so you could get what you want. A money making thing.” “YEAH!” Nick answered but with less confidence and just a little hesitation in his voice not sure why that was such a bad thing. Mr. Dream then turned to Johnny, “And you Johnny? What side do you take if given Toy Town?” Johnny answered a little slower and with more thought, “Well, Mr. Dream, to be honest…I think I would do the same thing you did. I would ask old man dreammaker what he was working on and what he wanted for the future and go from there.” Johnny wasn’t telling Dream what he had heard from his mother or just what he thought Mr Dream wanted to hear. His answer was sincere, from his heart. Mr. Dream could tell that. They were led into the foyer and were invited to sit in front of the fire. They sat with there hot chocolate and enjoy some Triscuits with some fake cheese on top. Then, Mr. Dream shared a little more as he confessed and clarified a few things, “Boys, I only sent out two invitations. They were to be given when I was finished. I wanted Johnny to come with one other very special person. All the other people invited themselves. They either made their own or bought and invite ticket from someone who convinced them it was legit.” Then he went back to telling the boys the rest of the story regarding the day he met with the owner & creator of this amazing place, “I had to decide which of my two sides to listen to. Part of me was bound and determined to make this place the biggest thing ever for myself and everyone else. The other part of me knew I had to follow what the original genius wanted in order for it to be the kind of place Mr. Dreammaker wanted. Selfish reasons and rational never benefit anyone but that self-centered person. Only one of my two sides had the same vision as the one who started it all. It wasn’t even based on what I could offer. Only one side of me was willing to sacrifice everything in order to join the founder and build Toy Town. It came down to not what I could give but based on what I was willing give up, an exchange. Everything else that would prevent me from completing this Mission had to be changed, my selfish ways, the way I functioned at my old job, some of my friends and even my own family, who wouldn’t allow or accept the changes.” Johnny said softly, with his head hung low and in deep thought, “That sounds like what my dad did. He left us and I’m not sure why.” Mr. Dream raise Johnny’s head with his hand and said, “Johnny, I’m talking about a man who thought things would be better in a land filled with toys, imagination and happiness just to find out that he lost everything and that no one can create the most perfect happy and peaceful town. I’m talking about… me.” Johnny looked into Mr. Dream’s somber face and said, “Mr. Dream, if that is what you did then… it sound like you’re saying that you are…my dad.” Mr. Dream’s eyes filled with tears as Nick watched on and heard him say, “YES, yes Johnny, I am.” Johnny stood up from his soft easy chair, knocking his hot chocolate on the floor as he shouted, “YOU’RE NOT MR. DREAM! WHY, WHY, WHY WOULD YOU LEAVE ME AND MOM?!” Mr. Dream stood up, “Johnny, you have every right to be angry. I am not Mr. Dream. I just took on part of Mr. Dream maker’s name when I decided to take ownership here in Toy Town. I am Johnny Maerd senior. I was living in a dream world here. I realize now my decision, although it seemed worthy and right it was foolish. Our name is just ‘dream’ spelled backwards. I chased this dream so far, deep and long only to find out I left behind what everyone wants, what everyone needs and what some people will never have…a family, a home and a home town that provides lasting love, peace, belongin and true joy. Happiness and fun are temporary, that is what we provide here in Toy Town but real joy and priceless laughs with friends and family are forever. No matter how hard it was maybe I could have kept my family and still accomplished things down here, where imagination and dreams come true.” Johnny dropped to his knees, “Mr. Dream, I mean Dad…”, his voice was choked up, “I understand now, but I do have a question for you…” Mr. Maerd said nothing, he just opened his arms and waited for Johnny to ask. “When can Mom and I move in and make this our home?”

Mister Maerd’s answer kind of shocked Nick and Johnny, “As soon as I shut down Toy Town and build us a real home.” Johnny cried out, “NO, but Dad the factory, the future, the toys and the fun it brings! We can’t just kill those plans!” “Son, I did all this for you, our family and other kids and their families but in doing it I actually left forgot and lost what family and childhood is all about. It’s not a surface happiness. A house is a temporary building but a home, home comes from within our hearts. Community, unity and togetherness isn’t found in a building or a town. Feeling like you belong comes from acceptance, no matter where you live. Buildings only last so long but belonging is forever. It’s time to go home now.
After that day the cottage on top of Toy Town was shut down. No one went in and no one came out. The foundation of the Maerd family was still there but Mr. Maerd himself had to start all over again, building up trust and forming the bond that he broke so long ago. Mrs. Maerd knew the second invitation was for her but she didn’t see any progress and assumed that her estranged husband may never returned. When Mrs. Maerd met with her son’s dad they were able to come to an agreement. Eventually their family unit moved back into the old Cottage. They began to work together on the surface and subsurface. The old rumors of that place were revived, however, now Nick was offering the truth of his own personal testimony. Johnny’s mom was so glad to see that her husband had come to realized that life was right here in their home town, not miles below the surface; and yet she realized that there could be so much more to their lives if they not only lived in the same house but worked together. They were in two different books but fonally got onto the same page. They shared the same dreams for Toy Town’s future as they tried to figure out how to share it with other people. They were about to meet with the press but in the meantime shared one on one with those closest to them. Johnny’s uncle moved in and Johnny finally met his uncle’s friend, the man that helped break up the fight when Johnny took the invite ticket away from Phil. They told Johnny that they visited Toy Town but didn’t want to live there until now. They realized now that this was a place intended to be lived in all the time, not just dreamed about and occasionally visited. Johnny still had a lot of questions. He asked his dad, “Why didn’t you just work here in Toy Town and come home at night?” Mr. Maerd tried to explain, “At the time I and your mom didn’t want that but now we are willing to accept each other and come to a shared agreement that is fair for all of us. Son, it is only when both are willing to work together on both ends that your relationship with others will work. Both individuals have to be unselfish in order to find self satisfaction. I’m not sure if you fully understand just now, maybe someday, but years ago I couldn’t live anywhere else but here in this old Cottage and below in Toy Town. Your mom, you and really the whole town, only knew of the cottage up above on the street level. Noone could see anything more. Everyone assumed this was an unsafe, scary, dirty place and that this cottage was no place to raise a child. Dedicating one’s life to something means giving some things up but, you still need to be involved with things around you. In this world but not of it. To be a real asset to this world you have to stay true & dedicated to yourself and what ever you feel called to accomplish; however, you also need to be available to your friends & family. When I came and stayed here I shut everything & everyone else out.” His boy said, “I understand. But you may not have completed everything here if you had not done that.” “My son, Mr. Dreammaker already accomplished everything. I was just a stewart, a care taker. Now we 3 will share in this same manner, just live here, enjoy & take care of things around us. Now we need to find others, like your uncle and Bill, his friend, who want to do the same but not to become materialistically rich & gain financial wealth but rather just live & enjoy this new rich life. Remember a dream is not just something that goes on when you’re asleep. You can have dreams, goals, wishes, desires & hopes while awake & fully alive in this new town, this new world. It’s not just a world of our own. We will share it and develop realistic goal but only with those who are sincere. Toy Town is for all who want to be part of what Mr. Maker wanted from the start.”

One night the father, his wife their son, the uncle and Bill were sitting in front of the fireplace in the little cottage they now called home when there was a knock on the door. They all looked at each other wondering who it might be. It was Nick and his family. They asked to come in and to find out more about what Mr. Maker’s plans were for Toy Town and find out how they could be part of those original plans. As they sat and enjoyed a mutual conversation there was another knock. Johnny wondered if it was Phil or some of the other kids from school. They were all on their winter Christmas break. Mr. Maerd got up and answered the door. It wasn’t any of his friends but it was the young business executives who came to the cottage with the ticket he bought from some friends, the one who never even made it to the basement. He was dressed to impress, suit coat, tie, shiny shoes as he bid Mr. Maerds good evening. He then employed his plea, “Mr. Dream, I’m here to work with you or for you. I am willing to purchase this old shack from you!” Mr. Maerd said, “I have one question. Why?” The gentleman could hardly suppress his enthusiasm, “I will DO anything and everything to make this work and build Toy Town to become known as the biggest and best money generating Corporation ever. I know what you have down below and I want in!” Mr Maerd knew he had to bust this man’s bubble on what it takes to be part of Toy Town. He said, “SIR, you already live in this Town, you are part of it. You have ownership. You can’t become any more involved in this whole investment. The only thing you need is to become more aware of your existence and part. Also, sir, you didn’t really answer the question.” “WHAT DO YOU MEAN MR. DREAM!?”, the man argued in discuss. Mr. Maerd said, “I am Mr. Maerd, not Mr. Dream. I’m asking you why, why would you want to take ownership, control and be a vital part of Toy Town? Is it just for what you can gain?” The guy was fed up and let down. He felt that he deserved more and couldn’t identify with this whole ‘Toy Town’ philosophy. Some spit came out of his mouth as he bellowed, “I expected more! I told you why. I would do it to get rich and famous and make you and this whole town famous. I’d generate more money than anyone could imagine! I could make you the wealthiest man alive!!” Mr. M looked back over his shoulder at his family sitting together just waiting for him to come back and join them. He saw Nick and his family waiting to finish their conversation. He looked back at the executive trying to execute his personal agenda and asked, “Do you feel that’s a worthy purpose? Riches are far more than what monetary things can buy.” The businessman replied, “You’re out of your mind!!!” They watched as the man just turned and walked away. Johnny’s dad noticed the wedding band on the man’s left hand. He just shook his head in dismay, close the door and went back to his family. His wife said, “I wasn’t sure if you were ever going to come back.” He replied, “I never really left. You and Johnny, your are the most important thing in this world to me.” Nick asked, “But Mr. Dre…I mean Maerd, why did you leave the fanily?” Nick’s mom & dad were embarrassed and tried to tell Nick that was personal. Mrs. Maerd’s husband looked at her as he gave the answer to Nick’s question, “I do need to try and give an answer for things I’ve done in the past. Back when I decided to live here I thought that the only way for me to carry on was to be away for a while. I left and worked on the inside of this Cottage and all that is deep within it. As you know, there is so much more than what we see around us here on the surface. I’m just a man trying to grow old  gracefully. I have learned a lot in this journey I call  life and still have a lot to learn. I’m so glad we can all live here now. Now, you can be sure that I’ll never leave again because now this life is truly, totally, complete.

 The end

My deepest thanks to my wife Rhonda for doing her best to understand me, how I am and how I want to be.

Also to all of my dear children: Kyri, Alexx, Olivia, Madi, Abbey, Christopher and Carol-Ann who cherish our love for each other regardless of our geographic distance, as well as, to my entire family and friends for all their support.

YouTube playlist of stories being read: My stories:

For a list of other stories go to:

This story or parts thereof may not be reproduced in any form, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form by any means – electronic, mechanical, photocopy, recording, or otherwise – without prior written permission of the publisher.

This story is a work of fiction. Any resemblance to persons, living or dead, or businesses in practice, are purely coincidental. The views expressed here are my own, as are whatever factual errors exist in the text.

Thank you for reading, Beetle



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