|Dangerspouse Rides Again|
Garage - Track
Dec. 04, 2003 - 1:22 p.m.
When I bought DangerHouse a couple of years ago I discovered an odd piece of statuary in the basement. I didn't think much of it, mostly using it as a laundry hamper since it was boxlike and had a door. When NewWifey(tm) moved in, she told me it was something called a "wood burning stove". NewWifey(tm) knows about these things, having grown up in Missouri and Arkansas. Out there in the Ozarks, a house without a wood burning stove is about as rare as dentition among the denizens.
As for me, I grew up in the Plaza Hotel, like Eloise, where we didn't have weather. I spent my days wandering the halls, munching scones and teasing the concierge. Oh, those were happy days! I was never burdened with things like wood burning stoves, or friends, or sunlight.
I was shocked, then, when NewWifey(tm) informed me that my clothes hamper was actually a functional heat generator. She proved it that winter by burning all my old Jenna Jameson posters and saving us almost $400 in heating bills (yes, that's a lot of posters. And there's more this year). I was suddenly very, very pleased that I'd married a bumpkin.
The only thing that keeps me from loving that stove with the same love I reserve for beer and Paris Hilton's low-rise jeans, is the fact that I have never once been able to start a fire in it by myself. You can't believe how frustrating this is for me. I have gone to insane lengths to keep a blaze going for longer than it takes to close the stove door. I've built log piles using only those wax-and-pressed-sawdust starter bricks that will catch fire if you accidentally drop them. Nothing. One time a case - case - of wooden matches on top of a New York Times Sunday Edition soaked in warm rum (Bacardi 151) flared briefly and smelled great, but sputtered to shivvering darkness before even charring the headline. The closest I came was when I went out and purchased a pair of toddler's pajamas made in Sri Lanka - the flamable kind - and marinated it for two days in Klotz 2-stroke racing fuel. I placed it on a pile of shredded Goodyear 225/55/16 radials and tossed in a brick of lit Black Cat cherry bombs. Two minutes later I had no eyebrows and the Vernon PD were responding to calls of a terrorist bombing. But...no fire.
Meanwhile, NewWifey(tm) just has to crinkle her nose like Samantha Stevens, and ten seconds later you could smelt pig iron in the conflagration that erupts. I'd say it was the heat of her PMS that does it, but that wouldn't explain the 6 days a month she's not PMS'ing and still able to draw forth flames from anything, even water.
So I generally bundle up and shake like Michael J. Fox until NewWifey(tm) gets home, nightly bringing the gift of fire she's stolen from the gods.
However, yesterday I thought the curse was finally broken. I'd left work a bit early, getting home in time to find that the stove still had some glowing embers from last night's fire!! Serendipity do-da, zippity yay! Even Mr. Frosty here should be able to set some dry kindling ablaze when the fire is already half started.
Quickly I picked out the driest, slimmest shards of wood in the tinder box, like NewWifey(tm) taught me. I carefully arranged them in a pyramid over the hottest ember, and gently blew at their base to get them to flare. Gradually pitching from warm reds to International Signal Orange to chrome yellow...then white...then...then...
Oh my god, I was so suprised I almost reached out my hand to pick some up in wonderment. Instead, I bolted for the phone to tell NewWifey(tm) the astounding news. She was not impressed.
"It's gonna go out any second now, you know. Why don't you wrap yourself back in your Menudo blankie and wait for Mommy to get home? I'll make it allll better, baby."
Can someone sing me a chorus of Stand By Your Man?
I'd show her.
I raced back down the stairs and flung open the stove door. The fire was still merrily crackling away. But...the little twigs and shards of kindling were almost totally consumed! NewWifey(tm) would have the last laugh again!
I grabbed another fistfull of kindling and tossed it on the pile, adding a splash of Sunoco 93 octane for good measure. The flames rose again, but this time I added larger branches on top, instead of phoning someone to crow about my prowess prematurely. A faint, but discernable, heat was now issuing forth. A sign from the heavens!
I knew that NewWifey(tm) wouldn't be home for another 3 hours, and I wanted to make sure the fire was still going then so I could rub her nose in it - maybe literally. I added more and more kindling to the box until the blaze was really roaring. Then I got the biggest honking log I could find - some old growth redwood stump that I'd been saving to make a pool table out of - and began cramming it into the mouth of the stove. This frikken fire was gonna last til the
I don't know if you've dealt with cast iron stoves much, but let me tell you: they don't exactly expand like Speedos. That log was slightly tapered. The front end went in fine, but about 3 inches from the end it just stopped. I mean, it couldn't have been more than a quarter inch too wide at the base, but that didn't matter. The cast iron opening just was NOT going to relax its Kegels enough to allow my massive log in. DAMMIT. I was NOT gonna give up on this dream.
I sat down square in front of the stump, placed both slippered feet on the exposed end and pushed for all I was worth. Take it, Bitch!
Well, something. Smoke and flying embers, cheery orange and yellow, started wafting out of the stove. Frantic to stem the tide of miniature incendiary bombs, I now tried to yank the log free so I could close the door.
I had pushed just hard enough to wedge Old Man of the Forest in there solid. On top of that, I was singeing my fingers trying to grab it and yank. More and more embers started streaming into my finished basement, threatening to alight on every inflammable naugahyde beanbag chair in the place. There was only one thing to do (I thought). I got down on all fours facing away from the stove, reared up on my forearms and kicked backwards at the log, like a Mule.
Like a Champagne cork, the wood shot free and into the stove.
And my feet too!
My left foot immediately squirmed free, but my right foot...trapped! It was wedged between stump and sidewall, but good. I was trapped lying prostrate, clawing at the rug like a cat in a microwave, trying to break free. I could smell charring wool, feel blisters start welling up on my ankle and sole. The smell changed to roasting pork!
Then with a 'pop' it was all over. Most of my slipper burned away, and a bit of the log shifted from my pulling, and that was just enough to unspring the trap. But the foot was changing colors before my eyes, and scarily, I didn't feel any pain anymore. I had a funny feeling that wouldn't last. I hopped up the stairs on the good leg, filled a bucket with ice water, and sat with my Roast of Sole fully submerged. I had a big grin on my face.
NewWifey(tm) walked through the door 20 minutes later. I was still grinning.
She didn't even say hello, just stood looking at her husband sitting in a recliner, one crisped wool slipper on the floor, one foot in a bucket of ice water and soot all over everything. NewWifey(tm) has learned to be rather sangfroid about odd sights and minor disruptions ever since marrying me, but this time she actually seemed taken aback. It was my smile.
"Ok, what happened. Why is there a layer of volcanic ash over all our furniture. Why do you have one purple foot in a bucket of ice water. What happened to this slipper. And why the fuck are you smiling like that?"
"Honey, I made fire. A big, San Diego style wall of flames that is now contained in our wood burning stove downstairs. Yes, me. Your husband. Mommy's boy. How 'bout that, huh? Waddaya say NOW, Smokey?"
"What do I say now? How about: why the hell is it so cold in here then?"
You know, I'd thought it was rather chilly. But I chalked it up to being knee deep in 30 degree water. Was she kidding?
"But..but..I started a great fire! I really did! And I put this huge log on once it really got going, so it would last til March, easy. I had to kick it in there, it was so huge - that's how I got my foot stuck and the soot all over the place and everything. It can't be cold in here!"
She just looked at me. No expression at all.
She turned and headed towards the stove. I pulled my soaking leg from the pail and stumped after her.
Down the stairs, around the corner, and there it squatted. That black, iron monster. That cold, black, iron motherfucking monster.
The fire had gone out. In less than a half hour.
I tell you, people, I was seriously perplexed. I know I'd made an oven that would have done Bergen-Belzen proud. You should have been able to assay half of the gold in South Africa in that fire for a month. WHAT THE HELL HAPPENED TO MY FIRE??
NewWifey(tm) told me what happened. The log was so fucking big that it covered up the entire flue in the back - the flue that allows for the circulation of oxygen. The same oxygen that is the lifeblood of our friend, fire. I had essentially choked my friend.
Didn't bother NewWifey(tm) though. She went to the garage, got her reciprocating saw and - still in her business suit - cut the log down into manageable slices. Then she grabbed a poker and arranged them in a pyramid, wiggled her nose, and: WHOOSH! A warming glow started spreading throughout the house.
Not a word was said. I slumped up the stairs, stuck my foot back in the frigid waters and downed a Percoset with a tumbler of Ouzo, neat. NewWifey(tm) brought my blankie in and turned on Dexter's Lab for me. She patted me on the head and said "There, there. It's all better now. I won't let the bad old fire go out on you any more." Then she went to call her mom, and anyone else she could think would enjoy a risible story.
Damn that Prometheus, anyway!
I'll let you know if skin grafts really hurt as much as they say.
Later, kids. Stay warm.