Saturday, June 10, 2006

Smoooooke On The Paaaaapers (Fire In The Sky)

This post might be too long and detailed, but I was talking with my brother the other day about one of our hilarious childhood adventures (okay, maybe adventure is too strong a word) and thought I'd share the story..... (okay, maybe hilarious is also too strong a word)

My brother and I, along with some neighborhood friends, had decided one summer to collect and recycle old newspapers (instead of the usual - aluminum cans) to earn some money. We were keeping the papers behind our apartment building - stacked up between a wooden fence and a wooden storage shed (* foreshadowing *). We didn't know it when we started, but soon realized that it takes a LOT of newspaper to weigh enough to sell for enough money to split between several people. Anyway, at this point we had a pile of newspapers about 3 feet high, 3 feet wide and maybe 5 feet long stashed away behind our shed. Next to the wooden fence.

Around this same time in our innocent youth, we had all been having some kind of major fascination with fire: we started fires in the local sandbox, in the creeks where we played, on the playground after school, in our forts, etc. Not like the crazy arsonist kind of fires - we weren't trying to burn anything down, it was more like we were making miniature campfires everywhere and we always made sure to put them out and cover up the evidence (mostly because we knew our parents would kill us if they ever found out).

One of the more plentiful household items that were easy to come by for us kids back then were the little tin pans from pot pies.....we soon found they were quite useful for burning little fires in as well. You'd put some paper and sticks in the pan, then presto! within minutes you had yourself a little fire.....

Anyway, one night when me and my brother were taking out the garbage after supper I decided it would be a great time to just make a real quick little fire - just a small one, real quick, ya know. Heck, if we were gonna have to do chores, we might as well get some fun in at the same time, right? So, with our stepdad sitting inside the house at the kitchen table and our mother gone at work, we hid in the backyard right next to the shed and started our tiny little fire in a pot-pie pan. (Who knows, maybe I saw some of the tin pans in the trash we were throwing out and just couldn't resist.....) I remember, after we started getting some small flames going, looking over at the pile of newspapers and telling myself, "We need to make sure we don't accidentally let that catch on fire...".

We knew we only had a few minutes to watch the fire ignite and then burn itself out - our stepdad would know we were up to something if we were outside for too long (we used to always have races to the dumpster and back, so it normally didn't take us long to get back in the house), so we didn't want to give him any excuse to come outside looking for us. Wouldn't you know it - we're standing there staring at our little orange blaze like two kids who'd never seen fire before, when all of a sudden a gust of wind comes up from out of nowhere and blows the tin pan (along with, of course, the fire) right into the pile of newspapers.

I'll tell you what - I had noooooooo idea how flammable newspapers were until that very moment! It seemed like the whole pile just poof! went up in flames like magic. Seriously, in less than five seconds we couldn't even stand next to the fire it was getting so big and hot. Our first thought and only concern was "Oh no, we've got to get this put out before Cliff (our stepdad) sees it!" We ran over to the neighbor's sandbox and filled up every little plastic pail and toy that could hold sand. By the time we got back to the fire we were stunned - the flames were now like 10 feet high!?! Talk about having to do some quick thinking on our feet - wow. Looking back on this it's all quite comedic, but it sure was scary at the time..... We both kind of looked at each other and helplessly threw our little buckets-full of sand into the flames, which of course did nothing. We knew water was our only hope, but we knew if anybody heard the outside water spicket come on at this time of the night they'd come to see who was using the hose and what for.....

We had no choice, though, so we started running back and forth between the fire and the spicket with our tiny little pails half empty from all the sloshing around by the time we made it back to the fire each time. At one point, I had filled up my little bucket and turned around towards the fire and noticed that now the flames were at least a good twenty feet in the air - and keep in mind this is at night in a residential neighborhood. I stood there for a second, staring at these HUGE FLAMES towering at least 10 feet into the night sky high above the roof of the shed. When I made it back to the shed on that trip I quickly discovered why the fire was getting so much bigger - both the shed and the fence had caught on fire, too. (d'oh!)

Luckily, a friend of ours happened to be walking by on his way home and saw the flames behind our house so he came running over to help. He knew we'd all get in trouble over this if anybody else saw, but he stayed and helped us anyway. We made a 3 man chain from the spicket to the fire, doing all this as quietly as possible, and believe it or not we actually got the fire put out! Whew! We tried to kick away as many ashes as we could to hide any evidence of an actual fire until we could figure out some way to explain all this - our friend went home and we headed back into the house as if nothing unusual had happened. (I still don't know to this day if our stepdad ever knew what was going on the whole time or not - knowing him, I bet he did...and just wanted us to sweat it out for ourselves, but he never did rat us out for it).

The next day we went outside to see just how bad it looked - it couldn't be that bad, could it? Yikes! It just reeked of smoke outside - there were ashes all over the backyard - every single scrap of newspaper was gone - the back wall of the shed was completely black - the tiles on the roof of the shed were actually melted - the part of the fence that was burned was all shiny black and charred like the way logs look after they've been burned in one of those giant pit fires. We decided we'd just act like we never noticed it at all and maybe the adults would think someone else did it..... Naturally, a few hours later my family is having a talk with the landlord who'd come knocking see if we knew anything about "the fire". (?) The one in our backyard. (Wha!?!?!?!) Behind our shed. The one that looks like it started last night in our pile of newspapers that aren't there anymore because they've burned up. Ha! We actually tried to convince everyone that it must have been some neighborhood kids playing with matches or something - but IT WASN'T US!!! Turns out, the landlord told us the reason he was so concerned was because he had 3 gallons of gasoline for his lawnmowers stored inside the shed right next to the wall that was burning. Whoever started the fire, he informed us, got real lucky..... (whew!)

We never did confess, either. Ever. As for the friend that helped us - we talked to him later that day and (poor guy!) he told us that when he got home (he'd only gone to the grocery store on an errand for his mother) his parents were demanding to know why he smelled like smoke! I guess he smelled so badly that his parents knew he'd been around a fire somewhere and even he admitted his clothes still smelled like a fire the next day.....I'm sure his parents thought that he had started some kind of major inferno somewhere, but he refused to snitch on us, so guess what he ended up trying to tell his parents? This is funny - he said he "admitted" to his parents that he'd disobediently stopped by our house just to say hello and the reason he must smell like smoke is because my mother is a really heavy smoker. Ha, ha. He said he got smacked for that one.....


Anonymous melanie said...

heh, that is funny. i have a cousin that burned down a vacant field once (nobody hurt) from a cigarette she flicked

2:03 AM  
Blogger Jimena said...

haha that sucks!

1:20 PM  
Blogger Elevation Goddess said...

i set my bedroom on fire. it was an accident. But i had an accelerant. oopsie.

12:49 PM  

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