Monday, January 12, 2009

One of readers' favorites

"Light my fire"
(originally published Jan. 1, 2007)

It’s never officially a party until somebody burns down the house.

Or at least tries to.

***

I spent three frenzied days cleaning the house for our holiday party. The rooms smelled of apple cider and cinnamon. Bing Crosby crooned “White Christmas” from the stereo. The family room oozed coziness with stockings hung from the mantle and white candles casting soft shadows on the walls.

I smiled. It was just like a freakin’ HGTV holiday special in here.

And it lasted for all of five minutes.

It started when my husband asked, “How about a fire?” So he cranked up the fireplace for the first time that winter.

And ten minutes later every window was open to the frigid December air and the house was filled with a foggy, white smoke.

Welcome to my world. But let me back up a little.

I was in the kitchen, minding my own business, which really isn’t that difficult when I’m in the kitchen. I don’t cook. I don’t know how to cook. And I don’t want to know how to cook.

But I can stir whatever it is my husband is making. So it’s understandable that I was totally engrossed in my task while the family room was burning down behind me.

I leaned over to catch a whiff of my husband’s homemade chili and noticed it smelled a bit smoky. Perhaps my husband had found a new spice to mix into his recipe. He’s such a girl.

The very thought brought tears to my eyes. No. Wait a second. Why are my eyes watering?

I looked up from the stove and slowly turned around to see the family room engulfed in smoke.

“Santa’s on fire!” I screamed and ran over to the fireplace, fanning the smoke with the over-sized oven mitt I was wearing.

I dropped to my knees, threw back the guard and immediately determined the problem. My husband, Frontier Jon, had started the fire without opening the flue. Instead of drawing up through the chimney, the smoke was pouring into the family room.

Coughing and sputtering, I bravely reached into the searing, hot flames and searched blindly for the flue handle.

And that’s how the oven mitt caught on fire. So I tossed it behind me.

And, uh, that’s how the sofa caught on fire.

Insert appropriate swear word here.

I ran to the hall closet and grabbed the fire extinguisher. Then dropped it. On my foot. Damn. That thing is a lot heavier than it looks.

I picked it up again and held on tight. Then tripped over the dog on my way back through the kitchen. I stumbled into the family room on my knees but managed to stay upright.

I pulled back on the handle and prepared to blast the burning sofa with a spray of sofa-saving chemicals, while screaming, “Say hello to my little friend!” like Al Pacino did with a machine gun in “Scarface.”

But nothing happened. No streaming spray of life-saving chemicals spewed from the end of the tiny black hose.

“You stupid piece of ****!” I screamed, shaking the red metal container like it was a Magic Eight Ball.

Oh, wait a second. There’s a pin. Oops.

I saved the sofa then turned my attention back to the fireplace. Oven mitt-less this time, I reached in and grasped the iron-hot flue handle while screaming a rather colorful word but still managed to shove it to the open position. Then I collapsed into a heap on the hearth.

And that’s how my husband found me.

Lying on the floor, clutching a half-empty fire extinguisher. My face and hands smeared with black coal. Ashes scattered in my hair, the ends of which still hissed from their dance with the fire. And a half-burned sofa smoldered in the corner.

So much for the apple cider and cinnamon-perfumed home I had worked three days for. In exactly 13 minutes our guests would begin arriving to a house that smelled like it starred in a Smokey Bear “Only you can prevent forest fires” video.

At least my husband showed adequate concern for home and wife.

His eyes widened with alarm and he worriedly asked, “Did you remember to stir the chili?”
So much for HGTV, I thought as I jumped at him. Our party was going to end up on “Cops” instead.

You can e-mail Kelley Baldwin at life-like-mine@hotmail.com.

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