Jewish World Review Nov. 30, 1999 /21 Kislev, 5760
http://www.jewishworldreview.com -- IT WAS JUST ANOTHER quiet Sunday afternoon at home. Jane was in her sitting room looking through her cookbooks, I was out in my studio doing nothing in particular and deriving even less pleasure in it than usual. Finally I gave up, left the studio and walked across the yard back to the house.
The air was turning downright chilly. It was one of those rare times in Southern California when the weather felt like something other than August. A welcome and refreshing change. In the breezeway our outdoor thermometer registered 59 degrees. The sky was overcast and a slight gust of wind actually brought a shiver to my spine. Okay -- THIS is what autumn is like in the real world, I thought.
Once inside, I gathered up the Sunday papers and brought them into the living room and drew open the curtains on the bay window to reveal falling Sycamore leaves gently gliding along in the breeze. This was like a scene out of a forties movie. The perfect fall day on the perfect residential street in the perfect American small town. What a wonderfully cozy afternoon -- and all of it as if directed by Frank Capra.
I had put logs in the fireplace a few days before, in the hopes that it might turn cold enough to light for Thanksgiving -- but there wouldn’t be a better time than now. This lazy, chilly afternoon definitely called for the crackling comfort of a fire.
Locating the matches and the key to the gas jet starter, I knelt down at the hearth, opened the flue and lit the starter. The logs would catch in a few moments. As I sat down on the couch with my newspapers, Moose, my golden retriever, walked in right on cue to complete the picture. He made himself comfortable at my feet and I started the crossword puzzle as I listened to the wind intensify outside.
Soon the logs caught and I shut off the gas jet. I went back to my puzzle, but not for long. Moose was at my elbow letting me know that he needed to go out. I put my puzzle down and out we went into the backyard. It was as cold as ever and now the wind was really kicking up. As Moose went about his business, I stood looking up wistfully at the white puffs of smoke coming out of the chimney.
It wasn’t more than five minutes or so when I heard my wife calling my name in a way that could only be described as “seriously annoyed.” She’d smelled smoke on the other side of the house and when she investigated she found the fireplace going and a smoky haze gradually filling up the room.
In the short time that it took to make my cozy little fire and take Moose out into the yard, the gentle autumn breeze turned into a 40 mile per hour gale. Although I didn’t realize it at the time, the strong winds outside were causing the smoke to blow back down through the chimney and into the house. All I knew was my nostalgic Frank Capra afternoon had instantly turned into some horrible Chevy Chase National Lampoon movie.
We had to act fast. Jane quickly opened a window. I cursed the moronic chimney sweep guys. Jane turned on the exhaust fan in the kitchen. I cursed the idiots who built the fireplace. Jane opened the front door. I cursed the imbecile who sold me the house in the first place. It’s so nice when a husband and wife can pull together and work as a team in time of crisis.
Smoke was continuing to fill the house in spite of all our efforts. “We’ve got to put those logs out,” Jane shouted. “Right! What do you want me to do -- make a wish and BLOW?” I shot back in that typically sarcastic tone of mine which always manages to surface during times of panic.
In the end it was decided that the best course of action would be to get the logs out of the house entirely. Wearing heavy insulated fire gloves, I put the smoldering logs into a large roasting pan and carried them outside where they quickly flared up and continued to burn nicely for the next two and a half hours -- about the same length of time that my wife and I didn’t speak.
Just another quiet Sunday afternoon at
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JWR contributor Greg Crosby, former creative head for Walt Disney publications, has written thousands of comics, hundreds of children's books, dozens of essays, and a letter to his congressman. You may contact him by clicking here.
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