Where the Lost Things Go (a Short Story)
Where the Lost Things Go.
"Mum, have you seen my Optimus Prime transformer?" Korey asked, "It's been missing for weeks."
"No Korey I haven't. Have you checked your toy box and under your bed?" his mother replied.
"'Course I have. It's not there! someone's pinched it, I bet!" he snapped sounding exasperated.
"There you go again, blaming other people." She was trying to remain calm,"I'm sure no-one has stolen it. You've probably just misplaced it."
"I haven't - it was in the tree house and now it's gone, just vanished like all my other stuff. My teenage mutant ninja turtles are all gone, my super-soaker, half my hot wheels cars, my...."
"Hush now!" scolded his mother, cutting him off, "You have to learn to take responsibility for your own things. Now go and have a proper look. You won't find anything if you just stand here whining at me."
"But Mum...," Korey started to argue, but stopped himself. He knew it was a waste of time, she just didn't seem to care. She always said the same thing, "Go and look for it." Well he had already looked, and looked, and looked, and there wasn't anywhere else left. He'd turned the whole house upside down, combed the entire yard, and even secretly looked in dad's tool room (he wasn't allowed in there. no-one but Dad was) and come up with nothing. Well, he did find a box of magazines that Dad must have been hiding from Mum....they had ladies with no clothes on in them...um....and he did find a long lost baseball, behind a barbecue and under a pile of wood. Fat good it was though, the cover was ripped and the stuffing was spilling out.
In a huff Korey walked outside and sauntered towards the tree house, kicking aside anything in his way. He picked up the useless baseball off the ground in front of him in despair, and without aiming, tossed it with all the force his nine year old body could muster. The ball flew through the window of the tree house and smacked into the opposite wall. "THUMP!"
Now "the tree house" wasn't your usual tree house because it wasn't actually built up in a tree. Korey's dad had built it for his son's 6th birthday, at the base of a large poinciana tree which displayed whirls of beautiful red flowers at certain times of the year. The tree house was quite large with a ladder up to through the roof, and was enclosed by logs giving it a fort like appearance. When you climbed onto the roof you were actually in the tree and could hang from the branches or crawl along them. It was Korey's favourite place in all the world.
Korey stooped to enter. Originally it had provided sufficient head height for a six year old, but three years later Korey had just begun to outgrow it. As his head poked through the doorway he was startled by a loud hissing noise.
"Shit!" he exclaimed with a start, pleased neither of his parents were close by. "Molly, you scared me. Stupid cat." Korey's pet Manx "Molly" spent most of the day sleeping in the tree house, but here she was back arched, fur standing on end, hissing and spitting.
"Aw, sorry Molly," coaxed Korey reaching to pet her, "Did I hit you with the baseball?" But she just continued to hiss, and suddenly darted out the doorway. "Silly cat," he whispered as he searched for the baseball. But there was no baseball. it had vanished into thin air. "Impossible!" he thought, having seen it fly through the window and heard it hit the wall hard. But the tree house was empty.
Korey climbed up the ladder to the roof and looked around...nothing. Then, suddenly, he thought he saw something move high up in the tree. It was probably just a bird, but it had seemed bigger. He stared up between the branches, beyond the clusters of red flowers, and into the leaves. There it was again! A quick movement about five meters above and to his left. this time Korey got a clear look at what was in the tree.
The creature sat motionless on the upper branch, staring down at Korey with it's round bead-like eyes. He'd never seen anything quite like it before. It looked kind of like a cat without ears and a bit like a possum, but it was an orange colour with brown and white spots. Possums were usually a brownish grey. Korey had seen a few of them. There used to be one living in the roof of the house a couple of years ago before Dad got up in the ceiling and chased it out with a broom. It was hard to see among the brown branches and the red and orange flowers of the flame tree, and Korey wondered how long the thing had lived here without being noticed.
It finally began to move, and as it walked slowly along the branch Korey could see that it was carrying something in it's long tail...the small round shape of the missing baseball. Well, it could keep the baseball for all he cared, but then he thought, "If it took the baseball, well maybe.....," suddenly he heard his mother's voice calling from the kitchen, "Korey, come on up. Dinner is ready."
Dealing with the creature could wait 'til tomorrow, he was starving.
As the family sat around the dinner table, Korey asked unexpectedly, "Dad, what's orange with brown and white spots and lives in trees?'
"You kids are coming up with new riddles at school all the time," his father said smiling. "Let me think...um...is it a leopard maybe?"
"No Dad, it's not a leopard. It's smaller."
"I give up Korey. What's orange with brown and white spots and lives in trees?"
"I don't know Dad, but there's one in our flame tree out the back."
"Hey, that's not bad. You made that up all by yourself right?"
"No Dad, it's no joke, it's true! I saw it today, it took my baseball."
"Come on now Korey, a joke's a joke," his mother chimed in, "but you're taking it too far. Your baseball of all things."
"But Dad, Mum....," he was cut off sharply.
"Enough of that! just finish your dinner and go have your bath!" his father snapped sternly.
Korey knew it was a waste of time arguing. When his dad said "enough!" that was it. He just wouldn't listen to another thing. Tomorrow he would climb the tree and investigate it himself.
Early the next morning, still dressed in his pj's, Korey headed out to the tree house. He climbed onto the roof and then up into the tree. It was sturdy, but still a little scary as he had never climbed this high before and some of the branches were too far apart for him to climb easily. Eventually the trunk began to fork high up and Korey could see a kind of hollow that seemed to be filled with bark and twigs. Just as he approached, he was startled as the animal jumped from the hollow and scampered up a branch next to him and stopping out of reach to watch the boy from a distance.
Korey began to remove some of the twigs from the hole and looked inside. He couldn't believe his eyes. He reached in and pulled out his transformer, followed by the missing ninja turtles and a few cars. There was even stuff he'd completely forgotten about like an Action Man figure. The super soaker wasn't there but it was too big to fit anyway. Perhaps he would have to admit to misplacing it himself. The creature had stolen everything he'd ever left in the tree house.
At school later that day, Korey visited the library. He spent all of the lunch break going through books on Australian animals/marsupials and looking on the computer. Finally he came across a photo of something almost identical to the creature in the flame tree. The book said it was a tree-dwelling mammal, a marsupial related to the possum, and found mainly in rain-forest areas in the northern tip of Australia and Papua New Guinea. it was called a "Cuscus".
Well Korey had no idea how a cuscus came to be as far south as Rockhampton, where he lived, but even if no-one believed him he was now 100% sure of what it was. Besides, now he knew something that no-one else did. He'd discovered the answer to the age old mystery, "Where the lost things go."
The common spotted cuscus is about the size of a common house cat, weighing between 1.5 to 6 kg, body length from approximately 35 to 65 cm, with a tail 32 to 60 cm long. It has a round head, small hidden ears, thick fur, and a prehensile tail to aid in climbing. It is generally found in rain forests in the Cape York area of northern Australia, Papua New Guinea and surrounding islands.
© 2014 John Hansen