A New Door in the Neighbourhood
That door wasn’t there yesterday.
Ben stopped on the pavement, blinked and looked again at the wall. The side of Mr Patton’s shop had grown a door! He had never seen it before. But it looked like it had always been there. How could they put a door in so quickly? And make it so firmly part of the red brickwork that surrounded it?
As Ben stared, he thought he could see an occasional flash of light reflected on the surface of the door as if it were metal. He reached out a finger and touched the paintwork. It was smooth and cold, yet spongier than a door. His finger could dig into the soft surface a little. That’s strange.
He gently rapped the Door. It certainly sounded solid and wooden. He knocked again a little louder, ready to run if Mr Patton answered. He tried the door knob. It was locked. But at least Mr Patton hadn’t opened it. That would have been embarrassing.
Mr Patton owned the shop at the end of his Nan’s street, the shop behind this new Door. Ben went to his Nan’s after school until his mum got home just after five. Nan would give him ‘treat money’ (“You’ve had a hard day, after all.”) and would send him a few doors down the street and around the corner to the shop.
He knew Mr Patton lived above the shop and had a little storeroom at the back. But this strange Door was not the way in to the shop. That was at the front, just around the corner, a glass door decorated with advertisements and posters, between the large shop windows. Yet this Door did not lead to the storeroom either. That door was a few bricks away from where Ben stood.
Now Ben was not a builder of buildings but he had an eye for space and distance. As he wondered about what was behind the Door, he reckoned it wasn’t in the right place to enter the shop or the storeroom properly. It looked like it was exactly inbetween the two rooms, facing into the wall that divided them. Open the door and you would see the end of a brick wall running down the middle of the doorway. Unless there was a secret passage between the two rooms?
He hopped quickly around the corner and stared through the large shop window. He had been in the shop a couple of minutes ago and hoped Mr Patton would not see him. He stood so he could look into the shop and along the side of the shop at the same time. By covering one eye and then the other, he could see the back of the shop area and then the position of the door on the side of the building. Thankfully Mr Patton was too busy helping Mrs Dotrice pack her shopping to notice the strange sight just outside his window.
After several closing left eye-right eye manoeuvres, Ben dropped his hand and bit his lip. He would do that sometimes, it helped him think. There could be no question – that strange door led directly into the back wall of Mr Patton’s shop. If you opened it, the doorway would be split in two by the end of a brick wall. What was going on?
Who would put a door there?
Who would want a door there?
Was it even possible to build a door like that, a door that didn’t open into either room?
Ben walked back around the corner and gazed at the Door again. He blinked. Something had changed. Ah yes, the street lights have just come on. A grey afternoon in November was now becoming a dark evening. He needed to get back to Nan. He checked his trouser pocket – the change was still there. He checked his coat pocket – his chocolate raisins were there too. He chose them because they were Nan’s favourite too.
The orange glow of the street lights glinted in the strange soft wood-metal surface of the door. He stared at it, wishing it would open and reveal its secrets. He walked slowly a few steps towards Nan’s. He reached the other door in the side of Mr Patton’s shop, the door that had always been there, the storeroom door.
Suddenly he heard a girl’s voice behind him, high and urgent, “Quick, Dad, round here!”
He turned and saw a girl with red cheeks and blonde hair run round the corner shop towards the mysterious Door. She stopped at the door and flung it outwards. Ben couldn’t quite see what was inside but was sure that it wasn’t the back wall of Mr Patton’s shop. The girl had run straight through the Door.
No sooner had she disappeared inside than another person sped around the same corner. He was a chubby man with a red face, puffing as he ran. He skidded on one foot as he reached the Door and turned to leap through it.
Ben could never quite explain the feeling that came over him in that second. Here was the mysterious Door wide open in front of him. It was an opportunity he would never have again. He wanted, no, he needed to see inside. His heart beat rapidly as he stood in the darkening street. It was now or never. He forgot everything else – his Nan, the sweets, his Mum, Mr Patton’s shop. The only thing that mattered was getting through that Door.
His legs were sprinting the few strides towards the open door. Inside a light had been turned on; the outline of the Door was cast outwards on the dark pavement, a kind of reverse shadow. When he reached that oblong of light, Ben leapt. He had never been much good at the long jump at school, but this leap would have won him a medal on sports day.
He flew through the Door and landed with a thump and rolled. He was inside.
“What was that?” The man’s voice was a little startled. “Quick, Anna, the door!”
Ben lay still, hardly breathing. Had the man seen him, or had he mistaken the sound for the door banging?
He didn’t dare open his eyes. He heard the light footsteps of the girl, Anna, walking to the Door and closing it. The footsteps seemed to walk away again, but he wasn’t sure. So he just closed his eyes a few moments longer. It seemed the safest thing to do.
A door that wasn’t there.
A room that shouldn’t be there.
Who were these people and how did they come to be hiding in Mr Patton’s shop? How could they build a room in the side of a wall? And how would he get back to his Nan without being spotted?