Once upon a time there was a little brick house with green shutters and a red door. A family lived in the little brick house. It was a large family, with many children who were almost grown up. They were very busy, and often left in a long white van for many days at a time. The little brick house with the green shutters and the red door grew lonely. Its rooms stood empty for hours and hours, and they missed the sound of laughter, the buzz of talking, the sweet soaring of musical instruments, and the sense of comfortable satisfaction the walls and ceilings felt when they were sheltering the family.
One day the family of mostly grown-ups left, and didn't return for a very, very long time. The sun rose, the sun set, and rose again, and set again. Rain blew upon the house, but no young girl cooked chili and cornbread in the kitchen with the flowered wallpaper. The leaves of the trees surrounding the house grew gold, and then brown, and then they drifted to the grass, but the glass windows saw no little boy playing in the leaves. The first snow fell sweetly upon the little brick house, but the den with the black-and-white pictures heard no mama ask the papa to build the first fire of the season on the little brick hearth. The first spring buds crept from the plum tree outside, but no young girl went outside to smell the blossoms.
The sunroom especially grew lonely, for the sunroom had wooden siding instead of brick, and often felt left out from the other rooms in the little brick house. Too, though the sun continued to shine in through its many windows every day, there was no papa to come into work early every morning and drink hot coffee from the pewter mug. The wooden siding on the outside drooped and became soggy from sadness. The eaves hung lower to the ground, and wasps died in the windowsills.
Then, one day, the sunroom was shaken out of its sadness by a pecking. The pecking rang sharp and clear in the early spring stillness. It hammered evenly and crisply on the planks. It tickled the sunroom, and, as the windows looked down, the house saw that it was a bird. The bird worked hard night and day, pecking away at the sunroom's siding, trying to make a home for his mama bird to nest and lay her eggs in. Soon a hole appeared in the siding, and the papa bird and mama bird flew to the hole almost every day, bringing twigs and paper and pebbles and things to build their home with. The sunroom became happy again. The walls grew interested in the little nest between the siding and the drywall. Once the birds built their nest, they pecked at the wires inside the walls to decorate with the colorful plastic. The wires became hot and their warmth heated the little space. Soon little blue eggs lay in the nest, and then the blue eggs cracked and little baby birds peeped their heads out. Now the mama and papa birds worked even harder every day, flying out of their little home before dawn to search the ground for worms to feed their nestlings with.
The birds, as they flew, tweeted their sweet songs. When they perched for a rest in the communal birdhouse in the backyard they sung with the other birds. They sang about their lovely nest with their fair fledglings inside and about how warm and cosy were the colorful wires around the nest. The other birds were jealous of the house-birds, and began to fly around the little brick house more and more, looking for a place to build a nest.
One bird family found a hole in the side of the brick that was covered with a tin flap. They squeezed underneath the flap and found a long tunnel which gleamed silver in the sunlight, and was lined with fuzzy lint of different colors. The birds loved the warm prettiness of it, and built a nest there. The laundry room, which felt cold and unhappy because for a long time its walls had not seen a young girl come in to fold the clean, fresh-smelling clothes or sort colors, grew warm and happy with the birds fluttering inside its walls.
The squirrels, who loved to climb to the top of the trees and eat walnuts and plums in the heat of the sun, saw how joyful the little brick house with the green shutters and the red door was to have so many little friends inside of it. They chirped about it with their friends the mice, and the mice, who had long been battling with a mole and a rabbit over who was to live in the backyard, burrowed their way under the house to keep from fighting any more. The walls of the cold, lonely house were now quite warm from mice scurrying up and down, building their roosts and having many new baby mice. The pantry, which hadn't been opened by a young boy looking for crackers in so long, now saw mice scurrying on its shelves to gather food, and the drawers in the kitchen with the flowered wallpaper were soon poked open again by little mouse paws and little mouse snouts.
The mice and birds were so happy in their newfound home that they peeped and tweeted very loudly about it, and the termites outside in the very old apple tree heard them. They learned about how the house was full of friendly neighbors who didn't eat them, how there was a great deal of wood to eat, and how there were no two-legged giants inside to harm them with deathly poisons. So the termite colony chewed its way into the garage, which was full of wooden furniture and wooden planks. They grew fat and jolly from feasting, and they boasted to their friends the ants about their happy fate.
The ants, hearing about how heavenly the little brick house with the green shutters and the red door was, left their ant hills and pilgrimaged to the no-longer lonely house to live with the mice, the birds, and the termites. They found feasts of raisins and rice in the pantry, crumbs in the dining room, and spices in the cabinets. They climbed up and down the flowered wallpaper and lived in harmony and comfort, safe from all spring rainstorms.
The little brick house with the red door and the green shutters was happy and full now. The walls loved the mice, with their loud scurrying and their many little ones; the kitchen basked in the loveliness of seeing creatures eat inside it again; the garage liked to see the tiny termites chewing so ravenously on the old furniture; and the laundry room and the sun-room walls were the happiest of all with the sweet birds singing songs to them early every morning.
One day the long white van pulled into the driveway, and the large family with the mostly grown-up children stepped onto the long grass. They opened the red door and exclaimed with happiness at how they had missed their little brick house so much. They were sorry for how cold and stale the air felt in the rooms, and clucked their tongues over the dust on the bookshelves. The walls of the house were very happy to see them, though they had found so many other friends.
The family went to bed early that night, as they were all very tired, but promised to clean the house very well tomorrow morning and get back into their regular home routine as quickly as possible. The next morning, just as the birds in the sunroom walls were feeding their hungry babies, they all awoke and began to get the little brick house homey again. The papa was the first to get to work. He came into the sunroom and sat down at his desk to sip hot coffee from the pewter mug and play songs on his piano. But then the walls saw him wrinkle his brow and cock his ear toward the wall as the sounds of fluttering wings hit against the drywall. The papa stepped outside and groaned and rubbed his head when he saw the hole in the siding and the papa and mama bird feeding worms to their nestlings.
The basement stairs were rudely jarred as the oldest grown-up child came running up them, shock in her large green eyes. The walls heard her exclaim to the mama about how she had nightmares all night about mice scurrying around in her bedroom walls, and then, lo and behold, in the morning there were noises of animals running in the walls. The mama looked very puzzled. Another young girl, looking in the kitchen cabinets for the oats to make the morning's porridge, shouted out and spilled the cereals because she saw ants scurrying inside the oat box. The mama came in, looked grievously at the ants, and moaned over the little mice pills which she saw in the rice and the drawers.
The laundry room that morning looked in, too, upon another young girl in great distress, for, after sorting a mountain's worth of colored clothes, she turned on the dryer, and heard birds screaming and fluttering their wings inside the dryer tunnel. She gasped and shut off the dryer as quick as she could, and hoped she had not scorched the poor little birds. She did not know what to do, and so she came to tell the papa about it, and then she and the papa together went and talked with the mama and the other two young girls about the mice, the birds, and the ants. As the large family with the three daughters discussed together, one of the older young boys came upstairs with a worried look on his face, for he had seen termite marks in the garage.
The walls of the very full, happy house saw the despair on the faces of the large family with the mostly grown-up children, and the home felt sad that the family they loved so much couldn't live in peace with the ants, the termites, the mice, and the birds. They hoped, though, that perhaps one day the family would realize how peaceable the animals were, and grow to love them as the little brick house with the green shutters and the red door loved them.