Don’t Worry, Dear, It Was Only a Small Fire

I wrote this several years ago and included it in my collection of short stories entitled Grandpa, Lions and Kitty Cats. I wanted to share it again because it saves me from writing a new blog for whatever day it is published. Actually, someone suggested I add some of my older stories. Thank you, Phineas.

Last week my sisters and I spent some time visiting our mother. I brought a copy of my latest story and let everyone read it. They laughed, at the appropriate lines, I hope. My favorite sister Barb, as opposed to my favorite sister Bev, suggested I write about something that happened a long time ago in our first house. I promised to give it a shot.

After living in apartments for two years, Sheila and I purchased a small house in Crest Hill. For dinner one evening, we made tacos. Sheila was expecting our son Kevin. (Not for dinner, he wasn’t born yet.) She would brown the hamburger and chop the veggies. My only responsibility was to heat the oil and cook the tortilla shells. I would heat the oil until it was rather hot, then dip the corn shells into the pan for a few seconds. Just long enough to get them good and greasy. I accomplished my job without any trouble and we ate dinner.

Thirty minutes later, I was hungry again. I guess that happened a lot in my younger days. We had some of the taco fixings left, so I turned on the stove to reheat the cooking oil. Can you guess by now what happened? I’ll explain just in case you haven’t. I got distracted. It happened so long ago that I can’t remember exactly what diverted my attention, but I’ll blame it on Sheila. She discombobulated me somehow and I forgot about the oil. (Another big word crossed off my list.) When I did remember, I ambled into the kitchen from our living room. I could tell immediately that something was amiss. My powers of observation were more acute in my twenties. I was almost positive we didn’t usually have a fire shooting from the stove to the ceiling.

Within a few seconds, or a couple of minutes, I can’t recall, my brain processed all the facts. Grease fires could not be extinguished with water. Right. Don’t throw water on the fire. Got it. I thought of salt and grabbed the salt shaker from the table. I looked at the fire. The half-filled, or was it half-empty, salt shaker wouldn’t be of any use, so I carefully placed it back on the table next to the pepper shaker. I can’t remember if the pepper shaker was full or not. What else could I use? I scratched my head like Stan Laurel would do when Oliver Hardy would confound him. Then out of the corner of my eye, I spotted a blue coat. Aha! I can use this coat to smother the fire. Smart thinking, right? Not exactly. I grabbed the coat and covered the pan of burning oil. I can’t remember if it was Wesson oil, or what brand. These days Sheila tries to use healthy cooking oils like coconut, or whatever else is the latest health-fad. Oh, yeah, the fire. I soon discovered nylon coats melt easily, but I did manage to smother the flames.

Good, the flames were out. I grabbed the handle of the pan, with the melting coat still on top, and raced out the back door while being careful not to spill any of the the oil on the faded, worn carpet. I paused to wave hi to my neighbors, then dumped everything in the grass. Luckily, the grass didn’t catch on fire. I sauntered back inside and into the living room where Sheila sat on the couch reading a romance novel.

“Don’t worry, dear, it was only a small fire, and I put it out already,” I said as if small fires were as commonplace as taking out the garbage.

She smiled at me and said, “That’s sweet.” Then turned her attention back to her book.

I chose that moment to look at my hand. I suppose the brain takes a few minutes to process the info because I had suffered a second degree burn. It didn’t hurt, yet.

“I think maybe you should take me to the hospital,” I mentioned in a calm, matter-of-fact voice.

“Why? I just got to the good part,” she replied. (I’m making that up just to add some hilarity to the situation.)

I waved my hand, which now hurt like… well… like a hand that had been burned. “The small fire, remember?”

She realized I was serious for perhaps the first time in my life. I think she drove to the hospital. Unless it sounds better to have her reading her romance novel while I drove. You can choose which version you like better and let me know.

We arrived at the ER and I walked up to the desk while Sheila continued to read.

“Can I help you?” the young volunteer asked as I noticed the same romance novel in her hand.

I thought, but didn’t say, “Nah, I’m just browsing.” I explained about my burned hand, and she told me to take a seat. I looked at the 268 other people waiting, including one skeleton, who I’m sure had been there a while. I turned back in time to hear an older nurse explain to the young volunteer, who was working her first shift in the ER, “We take burn victims in immediately.”

By this time my hand hurt like… you know. The experienced nurse had me stick my hand in a pan of ice water. I thought about dumping it on my head, but didn’t. They had to cut off my wedding band, which bothered Sheila for a second, but then she picked up her book again. I left the ER with my hand wrapped up in about five yards of gauze. I couldn’t get my coat on over my hand. I obviously couldn’t drive, so Sheila grudgingly set her book on the seat and drove me home. She pulled into the driveway, grabbed her book, hopped out and spotted a lump of melted blue nylon by the back door.

“Is that my new coat?” she asked as she frowned.

I nodded and said, “Maybe we should buy more salt the next time I go to the store.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *