It's Just on Fire!
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I curse expectations.
It would help if I admit that the smoke alarm in our house has an overactive thyroid. It has an extremely high opinion of itself. It’s trigger happy. A drama queen. Overzealous. Unrelenting. And worst of all, deafening. It’s almost given me a heart attack. It’s so loud that your mind can’t force your body to get close enough to fan the air to make it stop. Human cells are scared shitless. It made Chuck Norris cry.
Okay, maybe that’s excessive. But you get my point. Let’s continue. So even with two shower heads beaming blasts of liquid bullets at me with the strength of gale force winds, I knew the beast had been triggered.
I waited. I don’t think it’s unrealistic for a middle-aged woman to take a fifteen minute intermission from life with the hope that a twelve-year-old boy and a full-grown man could operate at least on the same level of maturity to start a fire in a wood furnace in a basement walled by concrete.
Note to self: Damn expectations.
Then I heard it: “It’s on fire!”
I should have panicked, right? But the Irish in me reared its ugly head: This should be interesting. Not that I haven’t bolted from the shower, soaking wet and sudsy, to address the panicked plea of my significant other in the past. This time, however, I was on the fence with how to respond. Call it apathy. Call it exhaustion. Call it funny as hell.
The alarm was blaring. I thought, Hell, I’m in the shower. With those two roaming unsupervised, it might be the safest place on the planet.
I listened. Heavy rapid steps ascended the basement stairs and hammered into the kitchen. A young voice called from downstairs, “We should use the fire extinguisher!”
The answer: “No, that will make a mess!”
I couldn’t even respond. I turned up the water pressure. The dog started barking. She loves excitement. If the house burned down, she’d be the first to say, “That was awesome!”
Feet boomed down the basement stairs. I discovered I was biting my lip. Why? God himself couldn’t hear anything over the siren, the shouting, the panic and the mutt. I laughed out loud. I slipped on the porcelain and hung onto the side of the tub.
I might have had a heart attack.
My husband yelled, “Step back, I’m throwing water on it!”
Yeah, that won’t make a mess.
Now the quandary: Should I stay in the shower until the discourse passes and pretend nothing happened or hustle up and confront psychosis?
I heard my son in the hall. “Wow, there’s a lot of smoke.” He was disturbingly calm.
My husband marched by. “Open the back door. I got the front. We’ll get a cross wind going.”
Was it just me or were they trying to clean up the chaos before I appeared? I can’t even remember if I washed my hair. I started over. I can’t make this shit up.
Finally I turned off the spigot and wondered what I’d witness. The alarm had stopped—a sign that either the fire was out or my husband put his fist through it. Either was possible. I listened. The footsteps had ceased and the voices were quiet. Maybe they’d died. If so, I’d proved that the tub is the safest place even during a self-induced natural disaster. How many people have burned down their house to prove that?
I’ll die a hero.
Instead I shimmied to my room in my robe, sniffing. A huge floor fan was circulating air through the house. I think they stole it from a jet turbine. Over the roar I said, “Is everyone okay?”
My child spilled the beans. “The chimney was plugged so when we started a fire, all the smoke came into the house.”
“Humph,” I said. It’s one of those answers you use when your mind has embraced mental illness. Knowing my husband is a pyro, I can only imagine how big the flames were before the discovery was made. I’m sure he used lighter fluid. He probably ignited it with his welding torch. His personal motto is More is More. The implications are mind boggling. I burst out laughing—again.
“Mom,” he continued, “there was smoke everywhere! Everything’s covered in it!”
Damn if I didn’t just dust. And I only do that once a year.
I spot the dog. She’s standing with big eyes and a wagging tail like she’s telepathically tattling. It might have been the highlight of her life.
My husband appears. “We don’t have heat tonight.”
“Honey,” I said.”That’s the least of our problems.”