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Children's Stories
by Margo Fallis
Which Path Should I take

Calvin opened his front door. An envelope lay on his porch. He picked it up and read it. “It's an invitation to a party at Uncle David's house.” He slammed the door shut. “Mother! I got an invitation to Uncle David's 90th birthday party. Can I go?”

His mother read the invitation. “It says he lives at the old Riversniten house. That's a strange place. Old man Riversniten built it a hundred years ago. He wanted his house to be different than anyone else's and it is. When I was a girl, I thought the house was haunted. My friends and I stayed away from it. You should too.”

“But he's my uncle. There must be a reason he invited me. I don't believe in haunted houses anyway,” Calvin said.

“You can go if you want, but be careful. There are three paths that lead to the house. One of them leads to an old dungeon full of spiders and bats. One of the them leads to the oldest part of the house, where old man Riversniten kept his library and his pet snakes. Choose wisely, Calvin.” His mother gave him back the invitation and went into the kitchen to wash the dishes.

Calvin washed his face and scrubbed his hands until they were clean. He brushed his hair and put his hat on. “Goodbye, Mother,” he called. “I'm off to Uncle David's party.” He'd found a box of chocolates that his mother had given him for his birthday last week and had wrapped it for Uncle David.

Mother stood at the door. “Choose wisely, Calvin.”

Calvin ran down the road, excited about the party. “I wonder what Uncle David's house looks like.” He chased a squirrel up a tree and picked up shiny rocks and put them in his pocket. Soon he came to the edge of the woods. “There it is. It does look strange. There are three paths, just like Mother said. I wonder which one is the right one.” He looked at the house. “Mother's silly. It won't matter what door I go to. There are no such things as ghosts and haunted houses.”

He picked the path on the left and ran down to the door. He was about to knock, but heard some odd noises coming from inside. “What's that?” Calvin put his ear to the door. “It sounds like snakes hissing.” He listened again. “It is snakes. Mother was right. This must be his library where he keeps the pet snakes. I'll go and try another path.”

He ran back to the place where the paths split. “I'll go to that one.” He chose the path on the right. Calvin skipped towards the door, looking at the round house. “What a strange house. I wonder what's at the very top.” He was about to knock when a spider fell on his hand. “A spider!” Hitting it on the ground, he squished it with his shoe. “What if Mother was right and there's a dungeon behind that door full of spiders and snakes? Maybe I should choose the middle path.”

Calvin ran back to the place where the paths split and headed straight down the middle path. He stood in front of the door. “I smell chocolate cake.” He sniffed again. “I smell rhubarb pie with cream.” Knock. Knock. Knock.

The door creaked open, but there was nobody there. Calvin stuck his head inside. “Hello, Uncle David. It's me, Calvin. I've come to your 90th birthday party. I've got a present for you.”

He stepped inside and looked all around. The room had wood paneling and lots of furniture. A spiral staircase stood to the side. Calvin stood at the bottom of it and looked up. “Wow! It goes up to the top. Maybe Uncle David is up there.” Grabbing the hand rail, Calvin made his way up the winding stairs. A door at the top was open. He walked through it. There sat Uncle David. “Uncle David. I'm here for your party.”

The man in the rocking chair didn't move.

“Uncle David?” Calvin walked over and touched him on the shoulder. “Uncle David?”

The man turned around and smiled. “Oh, it's you, Calvin. I didn't hear you. I'm so glad you came to my party. Have a seat. From here you can see for miles. There's the sea out there and if you look that way,” he pointed, “you'll see the forests and mountains. I love this old house.”

Calvin looked around. “Is anyone else coming to the party besides me?”

“No. I only invited you. Nobody else would come. Everyone is afraid of this house. They say it is haunted.”

“Do you have snakes in your library, Uncle David?” Calvin stood.

“I don't have snakes, but old man Riversniten used to keep them. Why do you ask?” Uncle David stood next to Calvin.

“I went down the wrong path and I heard snakes,” he said.

Uncle David smiled. “Ah.”

“And when I went to another door, a spider fell on me. That must be the dungeon. Is it really full of bats and spiders?” Calvin gulped.

“Old man Riversniten never cleaned the dungeon. I'm sure there were bats and spiders,” Uncle David said. “Would you like to see the house? It's very odd, isn't it? I have no idea why he built a house so round and big. I like it though.”

Calvin said, “Yes, I'd love to see it.”

Uncle David led him down the stairs into a huge room. “Just go in there and wait for me, Calvin. I'll bring us some lemonade and birthday cake.”

Calvin opened the door and went inside. Suddenly bars sealed the doors shut and caged him inside. When Uncle David came back, he walked straight through the door, as though it wasn't there. Calvin cried.

“You don't believe in ghosts and haunted houses, do you, Calvin?”

“No, Uncle David. I...I...I don't.”

“Did your mother ever tell you my name?”

“No, she didn't, Uncle David.”

“Well, it's David Riversniten. Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha.”

Calvin was never seen or head of again. His mother knew what had happened to him, but was too afraid to go and find him. “I warned him, I did. I warned him.”

The old house stood at the edge of the woods. Spiders crawled on the doors and bats flew in and out. Snakes hissed and Uncle David sat on his chair watching the sea.

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