Trevor the Builder
A Holiday Fable
The building blocks were average enough. A standard set of 48 wooden cubes, they were cut from fresh oak, painted in primary colors, decorated with the simple silhouettes of cows and cats and trucks and trains and all the letters of the alphabet. Each block weighed a single ounce and measured 11/4 inches from side to side and from top to bottom. Stacked end to end, one on top of another, they would stand exactly five feet high, which was a full one foot, five inches, taller than Trevor T. Fitzworth, the little boy whose blocks they were.
Thus begins the happy part of our story.
The blocks were a Christmas present from Trevor’s uncle, the famous architect Freddy Fitzworth. They arrived in a sturdy pine box, wrapped in red paper. Carved across the box’s smooth wooden cover were the words “Trevor the Builder.”
The blocks delighted Trevor, from the sharp, dusty smell of them and the sweet, powdery taste of them to the little stacked-up clicks of them and the sweet snaps and taps of them as they rattled in their box.
Trevor quickly grasped the basics of structure and design, building a 48-block tower rising 39 inches into the air, boasting four turrets and a patio.
His entire family was pleased.
They had always approved of useful endeavors. And as Uncle Freddy often said, “What could be more useful than building things?”
Trevor soon built many things.
He built houses and bridges and cities and coliseums and castles and pyramids. He built them strong and tall and fine. But Trevor was not satisfied with merely building his buildings. The best part about building blocks, he soon learned, was making them all fall down. After finishing a fresh new building, Trevor would smile a sweet little smile and think, “Oh, what a noise that will make.” Then he’d snatch one block from the bottom of a building, and a roaring, rolling crash would shake the chandeliers and rattle the china, as the tower or bridge or pyramid came down hard, smacking the floor in a tumult of bangs and thumps and clatters, sending dozens of blocks scattering in all directions.
The bigger the noise, the happier Trevor became.
Trevor’s parents waited an entire year, hoping he would outgrow his fondness for making his blocks fall down. He didn’t. He merely expanded his talents, learning to increase the sound and fury of the falling blocks by building his buildings at the top of the stairs. Properly done, this resulted in a noise like a bomb followed by blocks skittering and somersaulting to all corners of the house. Trevor showed no signs of stopping.
So they took away his blocks.
They did it on Christmas morning, replacing the little pine box with a stack of architecture books and a drawing board. This is how they explained themselves.
“Building is good,” said Trevor’s father.
“And smashing is bad,” said Trevor’s mother.
“And that’s all there is to it,” added Uncle Freddy, who greatly admired his nephew’s architectural talents but was similarly disturbed at his tendency toward knocking things over. “So which will you be? A good boy or a bad boy?”
Trevor had to think this over carefully.
He knew that he wanted to be a good boy and that he wanted to do good things.
If building things was truly good, as his father had insisted, and if Trevor was good at building things, which he was, then he must already be a good boy. But if smashing things was bad, as his mother had declared, and if Trevor was so delighted by smashing things, then he must already be bad. But since he could only be one thing or the other, as Uncle Freddy had said, and if he could choose which one he wanted to be, as Uncle Freddy made loud and clear, then Trevor’s decision was as simple as ABC. He would choose to be good, which meant only one thing.
“Keep the blocks,” he told them. “I won’t need them anymore.”
While it is sad that Trevor gave up his blocks, and it is sad that he did not see them again for 37 years, the saddest thing of all is that Trevor the Builder, over the course of those 37 years, had become a sad and unhappy man. He was rich enough, having become the most famous architect in the world, even more famous than Uncle Freddy, whom he hadn’t spoken to in years, but couldn’t remember why. Trevor had built the 10 biggest buildings, the 10 longest, the 10 highest, and the 10 most expensive. He owned hundreds of buildings, and even a whole city, Fitzopolis, a city he’d designed and built himself.
But none of it made him happy.
It was as if, when the blocks were taken away on that Christmas long ago, Trevor had begun to build something in his heart, something big that stood in front of his happiness, shutting out people and possibilities, even shutting out Christmas, a holiday that, for Trevor, had not been any fun since he was a little boy.
Now we come to the final part of this story. Whether it is happy or sad is for you to decide.
As Trevor stepped from the elevator, he saw something he never expected to see. It was Uncle Freddy.
“Merry Christmas,” Uncle Freddy said. “My boy, I’ve learned something, and I thought you’d like to hear it. I’ve learned why people love Christmas. All year long, we run around building up walls against people, people who’ve hurt us or disappointed us. We build the walls and up they stay. But at Christmas, we come to believe it’s almost possible to take down those walls. And we even wish we would. Because it is sometimes more useful to tear things down than to build them up, and I’m sorry I ever said otherwise.”
With that, Uncle Freddy put one hand on Trevor’s shoulder, and said, “You’re a very good boy.” Then he stepped past him onto the elevator, and was gone. As the door closed, Trevor turned toward his apartment door. There on the mat, Trevor saw a little box, wrapped in red paper.
What happened next was both unexpected and entirely predictable.
Trevor took the box inside and tore off the paper. It was the same pine box, the same 48 blocks, the same words carved onto the cover–Trevor the Builder. He gently shook the box, which sent out a chorus of snaps and taps as the blocks rattled and bumped. From somewhere in Trevor’s mind, a rumbling sound began, it was the sound of 37 years’ worth of building blocks never sent falling to the floor. The sound made his heart beat faster. It scared him a little, but he liked it. The sound grew louder as Trevor emptied the box onto the floor. He sat down among the blocks. The rumbling increased. Trevor carefully stacked up the blocks–1,2,3. The sound grew deafening as Trevor placed the 48th block on top of the tower.
He hesitated, then quickly reached over and pulled out one block.
Down crashed the tower, smacking the floor so hard it made the windows rattle, splattering blocks across the floor, sputtering and spinning in all directions, pounding and plinking.
It made a wonderful noise.
So he did it again.
Trevor–who would go on to become Trevor the Wrecker, the happiest and most successful building demolisher in the world–kept on stacking up the blocks and knocking them down. Crash! Bang! Over and over. Each time, he grew happier and happier and happier.
But it still wasn’t enough, and he knew it. After all those years, Trevor wanted a bigger noise. In fact, he wanted to knock over the biggest, highest stack of blocks around. Fortunately for Trevor, he already owned the 10 tallest buildings in the world. Trevor smiled a sweet little smile, and thought, “Oh, what a noise that will make.”
From the December 14-20, 2000 issue of the Northern California Bohemian.