Fire!

The day started quite unprofitably when I agreed to keep Mrs. Stepford and one other friend of hers company during her garage sale. If I was going to sit  four four hours there, I was also going to bring a few things to the fray.  Since it was just next door, it was relatively easy to trot out a few pieces of furniture and the old solid fir door. I brought two ancient and very heavy wooden ladders, the kind one would no longer use because they are deemed much less safe than the new aluminum ones, but they are apparently valuable for garden decor now, or polished up and revarnished for decorative use in front halls with plants hanging from each rung.

I brought three liquor store boxes of books and a wheel barrow full of Irises recently planted in six inch pots. I had a box of bric-a-brac, a kettle and captain’s chair.

I’m getting smart in my middle age:  I like to break up tasks into smaller parts so that I can do these things myself.  I took the ladders and the door across the way on Friday night, then on Saturday, the big things would already be  there. I could just bring the boxes and plants. Nothing would spoil by being out overnight. The day was forecast to be brutally sunny, and so it turned out to be.

We were supposed to start at ten but Mrs. Stepford had advertised it in the newspaper and the dealers were there at eight-thirty before we had really put things out properly.

It was a disinterested parade of potential buyers that came by. Who knows why,  but few stopped to inspect our glorious collection of overly used items. In the first hour, I bought a very kitchy jewel box from Mrs. Stepford and from her friend, I found six interesting books I hadn’t read.  I was now minus ten dollars in my attempt to make a fortune. But I was not intending to tell you so much about the garage sale. I have other more important items to get to.

During our five hour vigil over our desirable, distressed junk, two buyers bought six of my books. In total I had three dollars in my pocket on the profit side and when I compared that to the debit side, I was sadly out of pocket by seven. I contributed three lowly loonies as a share of the advertising and my debit side was back up to ten.  With much grumbling and weariness, I packed the whole lot back home. I got it to the back basement door and left it there to be brought in later.

Once done, I found I was ravenously hungry. There was nothing prepared and I had to invent something. I had no intention of cooking on a day as hot as this.

I rummaged in the  refrigerator and found salad things – a lettuce, some tomato, carrots and onions. It wasn’t appealing, so I rummaged in the freezer, hoping to find a quick meal and found just the thing. At the very back of the freezer, of course. Ice cream. On a hot day, it was perfect.

The cavity was efficiently packed. The only way to get to the ice cream pail out was to efficiently unpack it all off the top shelf, serve myself and pack everything back up again.

While ice cream has a real come-hither taste and the advantage of being very cool and refreshing, it does not have great texture.  I’ve discovered a delightful way to rectify this lack. I ate it with a handful of crispy  Kashi whole grain breakfast cereal, lining the bowl with it, adding in the  ice cream and garnishing it with some pecans and a fistful of fresh blueberries.

Then I succumbed to a fit of exhaustion. The heat, the carrying of heavy objects back and forth in the beating sun and an ice cream sugar slump combined to put me flat out, in seconds.  I slept on the couch for a few hours. This unprofitable mercantile venture had simply done me in.

I awoke with a phone call a few hours later, then spent the evening sorting out a horrible accumulation or office papers whilst watching TV. There were some over due bills, applications if varying states of completion for galleries, offers of all kinds of merchandise  and appeals from charities.

At about eleven, I was getting my last coffee of the day and pilfering a few more candy-like Kashi clusters. I went to the fridge to get some milk and just as I was opening the fridge door, a plastic margarine container started to fall off the top of the freezer compartment. It was full of meat balls in tomato sauce  left from one of the social gatherings I had hosted.

What to do?

Everyone knows that ground meat is dangerous if left in luke warm conditions for any length of time. I’m not exactly a starving artist, but I have been from time to time. I loath throwing good food out. It riles me beyond measure. But was this good food? Had I brought it out two hours earlier after the phone call when I rummaged for some dinner or six hours earlier when I ate the ice cream? It had been frozen solid which was in my favour, but it wasn’t now. How long had it been thawed?

I decided to heat the whole lot, steam it for half an hour. After all, it was a spaghetti and meat balls sauce and could tolerate hours and hours of cooking.

I added a modicum of water so it wouldn’t stick on the bottom and set it to heat on the gas stove. I would have to stay up another half hour at least to watch the pot boil.

I began to tidy away the detritus of the day. I emptied the dishwasher of clean dishes and loaded it back up with the utensils from lunch and dinner. I took some papers from my early-evening sortings into the office and shredded them; I put another small pile into the green recycle bag.  I noticed a light in the basement and went to turn it off.

Down in the basement, I discovered baskets and book boxes from the garage sale that had not been put away. I stacked them in a pile then suddenly remembered I had left a few things outside that still had to come in.

Might as well do this properly, I thought. Lets get rid of some of this volume, and I shifted three book boxes into the back store room and started packing the loose pieces – a few old plates, a vase with long-necked white farm ducks all around the top, a small delftware vase in blue and white, some old – really really old – pant hangers from the ’20s.

All of a sudden the smoke alarms were both going off. I raced up the stairs and into the kitchen. I had forgotten all about the meat balls.  Smoke was pouring from the edges of the lidded pot.  I whipped the pot off the element and shut off the gas. I turned on the hood fan over the stove – after all, there was no fire, just a lot of smoke and an ear splitting alarm.

Everything was safe, and I then leapt up the stairs to de-activate the alarm, then to the hallway to downstairs to deactivate a second one that had just begun to add to the chorus. My adreniline was on fire.

Good Lord! Could I not remember that I had things cooking on the stove? Soon I would be burning the place down, or someone would decide I had to be packed off to a residential care unit because of my forgetfulness!

I opened both front and back door and turned the upright fan on full force. I took a towel and waved the smoke down from the ceiling and out the front door.  Now I would have to stay up another hour while the house aired out.

When the visible smoke was gone, I sat at the piano and played a Bach Prelude and Fugue to calm myself. I  sat and puzzled out a Sudoku. I turned on the television and watched the end of Inspector Morse in a play where women priests of the Anglican persuasion were banding together to elect a woman as headmaster of an Oxford College of Theology.  I polished some silverware. I worried about the recent news of a home invasion not six blocks from where I lived – and here I had both front and back door open, welcoming moths of the night, mosquitoes and fresh air into my my main floor. Why not home invaders too?

What would I say to one?  “Oh, thank goodness you are here. I’ve been expecting you. I’m just waiting for the fire department. I thought I had a fire. ”

“I had a bit of a catastrophe  here with a pot of spaghetti sauce and meat balls. It’s only burned on the bottom.  I tasted them and they are even more delicious than before I burnt them.  Would you like to try them?”

Do you think that would confound a home invader? Make him back out as fast as possible if the fire department might actually be coming? Or would he be a poor soul, so happy to have a meal, even a burnt one, that he would gobble them up, and in gratitude just leave me and my poor possessions alone?

I know. I know. I have an over active imagination. All of a sudden, I felt tired. I locked the front and back doors.  Had I locked the basement door?

This time, I checked the stove before I went down. It was off. All was in order. I checked the basement door. It was locked.  I turned off all the lights but the one that lit the passage to upstairs and went to bed.

By the way, if I don’t post in the next few days or forever more, you can tell the coroner that it most likely was the meatballs.

Yes, I tasted them, and they are so-oooooo good.

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2 Responses to “Fire!”

  1. wrjones Says:

    What a fruitful day you had. You had to live it to have a story to tell so well.

  2. lookingforbeauty Says:

    Hey, Bill!
    Fruitful?
    It was a kind of Creme Brulée day . A Chateaubriand day. A Crepe Suzette day, don’t you think?
    Thanks for coming by.
    K

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