Thursday, November 22, 2007

Burning Down the House

I'm grousing around with my panties in a bunch because I think I've got the whole fireplace thing under control. If anyone would let me near it. I'm swinging a huge log pilfered from our neighbor's yard when they cut down the primary shade tree to our front yard back and forth in front of the hearth, not quite sure if I should just chuck it in or listen to Chris and Kristi and cut it into more manageable pieces.

I have no problem with the idea in principle because I like to do things by the book, but we have no hatchet, no ax, no splitting power. And in order to keep the fire going, I am whining about how, as long as it's hot, we should just keep fueling the fucker. This would be sentiment along the lines of something my grandfather would let loose at Christmas whenever a discussion about how to tend the fire would crop up.

I wait until all backs are turned and then heave it in. It lands perfectly in the crux of the small stack of pine branches and scrap lumber, the latter complete with nails still embedded in some places. It lurches sideways, then settles picture perfectly and the bark goes up in flames.

I'm a huge snot, so I probably said something like "HA!" as I clapped the pine needles off my palms and strutted around the living room.

Twenty minutes later, my sister looks over from her perch on the couch and sees the enormous log now rolling towards her, freed from purgatory by time and simple physics. There is yelling. The log builds momentum for a burst of space, but bumps against the couch and starts melting the varnish on the hardwood floor even before it stops rocking.

I dance around in a circle, not knowing what to do. Chris grabs two towels and, taking it by each end, hurls it back into the fireplace. The floor smokes. This has transpired in the course of maybe 15 seconds. We discuss the pros and cons of putting the grate up. Eventually we all drift back to our little nests around the room. The cats' tails are all normal sized once more.

This time it is I who walk by just as the log crushes through it's cage and comes lumbering towards me. This time it doesn't get as far as the couch, but settles right back into the grooves melted into the floor from the first time it escaped. Luckily, Chris dropped the towels right there and with Kristi's assistance (kicking) it back up onto the bricks, everything is handled with a minimum of issue. We are becoming experts.

Over 12 hours after the fire goes out, uneventfully, I scoop up all the ashes and put them in a paper grocery bag. Kristi walks by as I'm in the other room, up to my elbows in cat litter, scrubbing the floor under the pans, wondering if cats miss the target more or less often than drunken frat boys. It would be a close race.

"Looks like you snagged some live ones from the fireplace. They're burning a hole through the bag."

I rush out to the living room, and there is my bag, going up in smoke, releasing a torrent of ashes onto the floor. Luckily I set the bag on the bricks.

I grab a metal garbage can (yes, I realize this is what I should have been putting them into in the first place) and dump the whole mess in. A pitcher of water follows. I put the entire package out on the patio in the rain.

Kristi is laughing as I step outside into the back yard, and I now know that I should leave all things involving flame to my more evolved monkey family. Thank god I don't smoke.