Sunday, November 17, 2013

This girl is on fire!

Once upon a time, there was a little girl named Firebug. Oooh, that's me! That's me! She liked to play with matches and start fires. And from there, it all went down the crapper...

My great-granddaddy, Papa Duncan, used to keep me and my brother during the summers when Momma was working. I don’t mean to brag, but I could do no wrong in his eyes, and God knows I tested that theory. I was second oldest of the great-grandkids, but he called me “the baby” till the day he died. Papa Duncan’s house was like my magic castle. A castle where I could jump on the beds, drink Co-Colas till my kidneys fell out, watch soap operas and Phil Donahue, and even read old issues of the National Enquirer. I think that's where I feel in love with reading.

Papa Duncan, did you know they found Jesus on a grilled cheese sandwich in St. Louis? Papa, do you have a Jesus sandwich? Papa, did they have grilled cheeses in the Bible? Papa, can I skin a ferret? Build a still in your basement? Microwave your shaving cream? Paint smiley faces on your boots? Take your Nova for a spin?”  No matter what I asked to do, he let me.

I once started a fire in his house while making a snack, and do you know what he did? He put it out, opened up the doors and windows, and laughed the hardest I ever saw him laugh. It was an honest mistake, I promise. I wanted to make some cheese straws for all of us to share, and my culinary vocabulary had yet to reach puberty. To me, the logical way to cream ingredients was to fire up the gas burners and throw all the stuff in a frying pan.

 Now I don’t know which ingredient started the fire, but once they ignited, they burned hot and they burned fast. Momma arrived a few minutes later to see her 80-year-old granddaddy stumbling around the house, smoke boiling out the windows, and my brother and I standing there with our jaws on the ground, perplexed by the sheer square footage of the smoke. Momma ran over to Papa like her head was on fire. He's doubled over, consumed by smoke, tremors and....laughter?  I told you my Papa was awesome! He wasn't concerned about smoke damage or anything; he was trying not to piss his pants from laughing.

Next, we sat fire to my Granny’s house. The room with the Nintendo and the pool table? Yeah, we burnt it slap up for New Years. We’d gone out and shot a few fireworks, and they put the kids in charge of picking up the trash, which was mistake number one. They brought us out a big paper grocery bag to put the garbage in, which was mistake number two. Then they went inside to warm up by the fire while the kids braved the elements and, in all actuality, could have contracted hypothermia and died. I bet they would’ve felt bad about that one. That was mistake number three.

But in temperatures that I heard measured 150 below zero and F-5 winds, we loving children did what we were asked to do…and brought a large, paper bag full of not-yet-extinguished corpses into the playroom. It didn’t take as long as I’d thought it would for the whole room to go up in flames.

From the time smoke started pouring under the door till the fire investigators got there couldn’t have lasted longer than a round of Ralph Macchio catching flies with chopsticks. The son-in-laws got to live out their dreams of being firefighters, and the fire was gone by the time our 911 buddies got there. But other than the whole fire damage thing, that New Years wasn’t that memorable.

But the time the flying squirrel, also on fire, came running out of the chimney and through Granny’s house, now that was a memorable occasion. It was freezing outside, and we were over at Granny's house watching TV. She had a fireplace with a huge brick hearth you could sit on to toast your buns. Well, Momma was sitting there getting warmed up when the smell of burning hair perfumed the air. 

We thought Momma’s hair was on fire since she was sitting on the hearth. But when this flaming rodent of doom sailed off the hearth, scalded a trail across the rug, and shot down the hall like a lightning bug on crack, we knew it wasn’t Momma. Granny got all twerked up, Momma screamed, and this poor blazing squirrel was just thanking his lucky stars he wasn’t Catholic for time was a luxury he did not have.

Now my granny was scared of a lot of stuff, and apparently that list of culprits included flammable rodents. But being the steel magnolias they were, she and my mama followed the smell of charred hair back to her bedroom and froze, terrified that they’d either find him or not find him; one was not necessarily worse than the other. 

They finally got a broom and ushered the little guy outside. Once his toasty buns were out of the house, their compassion returned and they tried to find him to take him to the vet, but they never did.  I’m thinking he probably committed squirrelicide in the creek.

We also had a cat catch on fire one time. Being rednecks, we always have a spot to burn trash out back. Since they went up on the fees at the dump, it gets used pretty often. But when we were kids, one of our chores was burning trash. (And they say kids are hard-headed! You’d a thought our parents would’ve learned their lesson by now.) So my brother is out there piling up some boxes and stuff to burn, and he strikes it up.

Princess, our kitten, was about as friendly as a hemorrhoidal cowboy on a cattle drive, like most cats. I just don’t get crazy cat people. You feed them, give them water, give them toys to play with, and a place to live, and what do you get in return? A box full of kitty terds, some noxious fumes, and a dresser full of confetti pants.  Princess was no different. We’d get home from school, and she’d launch herself off the firewood rack like a spider monkey and sink her teeth into the nearest piece of flesh. I hated that cat.

So I’m in the kitchen cooking with Momma when my brother casually strolls in. “Hey, Mom, can I get a cup of water?” She tells him sure, but wants to know what it’s for. “Ah, the cat’s on fire.” Well, isn’t that grand? Would you like to have some milk and cookies while I prepare your extinguisher? There’s no rush. Apparently the little heifer was crawling around the boxes when one of them gave way and fell around her. Her backdoor got a little toasty and her tail looked like a millipede on steroids, but she was fine. She didn’t get anywhere near medium-rare.  

At last, this little girl grew up to have three beautiful of which also has the firebug gene. He hasn't done any structural damage yet, but he did rid himself of that duplicate eyebrow he'd grown tired of. As the holidays grow nearer by the day, I'll be checking to make sure the fire hydrant is fresh and the matches are put up...  at least until the trash needs burning. 

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