Thursday, May 20, 2010

“I do not think this was one of your better ideas,”

said Neighbor Bob.

He was right. I am lucky that the EPA did not come charging down and cart me off.

Bob and I were sitting on the back porch contemplating the rusty little love swing there and we decided that maybe it was time to send it off to the big love swing heaven in the sky.

I noticed an extension cord was there and knew it was hot, and that the good old Sawzall was in the garage. We made short work of it and stuffed the steel remains into a trash can knowing it would disappear the following trash day.

To celebrate this fine piece of Old World Sawzall craftsmanship, we built a pretty good fire in the fire pot in the yard, several yards from the porch.

Being responsible adults coupled with the fact that we had just opened a cold beer, we carefully lit the fire using the proscribed charcoal lighting fluid instead of the more efficient gasoline. As the flames slowly grew we reminisced about the good old days when we used to use gasoline and were treated to its satisfying ‘whoosh’ and instant campfire.

Now, there were a few remains of the old love swing on the porch. There were the two pillows and the pad.

I had planned on pulling them around and placing them on the ground next to the trash cans for the trash men to remove them.

The fire grew, and we added wood as necessary to keep it going and growing.

The fire served two purposes, one of which was camaraderie. The other was to get rid of a lot of wood, as I had lost a couple of trees a while back and had bucked them up for firewood. The pile was much too big, so I looked for any reason I could to have a recreational fire to get rid of the growing heap.

By now, the bed of coals was pretty hot and as I added wood it took off at a pretty good rate.

I looked on the porch at the two leftover pillows from the love seat and decided to test burn one of them.

The pillow burned off fairly quickly and cleanly, so when it died down I threw the other one in. It, too, burned off fairly quickly and cleanly.

Figuring that the main pad and backrest was similarly made, I decided to simply burn it off and make the trash guys life just a little easier.

Bob looked at the pad, noticed the small ‘Do not remove under penalty of law’ tag and yanked it off with a grin.

I grinned back. “Now I’m going to have to burn up the evidence to keep you out of jail,” I said to him with a snicker.

I folded the backrest over the seat and folded the entire thing into thirds and unceremoniously dumped the entire thing on the fire and placed a pair of heavy logs atop it to keep it from unfolding as it burned off.
The pad took off fairly slowly, and after short time caught. It burned for a minute or so and then a thin column of greasy black smoke rose straight up, thickening rapidly on a very ominous fashion. I grew a bit concerned.

In seconds, the column thickened and rose straight up, growing in density and speed rapidly. It quickly grew into a three foot in diameter column of a heavy, greasy, nasty looking of ecological planetary insult.

Because it was getting dark, I wasn’t too worried about anyone calling the authorities, but suddenly the column of smoke, heated by the flames and carrying inflammable gases ignited and the flames were now huge tongues of fire, leaping almost thirty feet into the air.

I looked down into the fire pot, three feet in diameter and shaped like a gigantic wok. Whatever materiel the pad was made of had melted down into the pot. The pot was burning like it was full of boiling gasoline.

I grew a tad nervous, and looked at Bob.

He looked back and shrugged. Things didn’t really look too bad, as there were trees behind us and the house itself shielded the inferno from most angles.

My closest neighbors, Mechanic Ralph and Nurse Connie were out of town, and if they were not, I knew they would say nothing to anyone. They’ve had me do worse without so much as raised eyebrows.

Suddenly, a strange odor emitted from the fire and grew in seconds. It was a truly vile, sweet chemical odor of some chemical that I once delivered to a plastic factory several years ago before it was mercifully outlawed by the EPA.

We had worn self-contained breathing apparatus for the entire cargo transfer. The stuff was deadly.

Of course, the evening air was pretty dead, there was no breeze to cart the vile odor off and it started to hang in the area.

Bob and I looked at each other wide eyed for a couple of seconds. I broke the fearful silence first.

“Where are Lem and Phyllis?” I asked.

“Shelly mentioned they were going back to Lake Erie to celebrate her pregnancy with her parents,” Bob replied.

“Thank God for small miracles,” I said. “One whiff of this and she’d be giving birth to a kid with two heads and six toes on each hand!”

The Japanese word ‘Kamikaze’ comes from the storm that kept Japan from being overrun by the Mongols. The word loosely translates to mean ‘Divine Wind’, and it was a divine wind that came out of practically nowhere and blew for several minutes, fanning the flames and dispersing the vile chemical odor.

The chemical odor quickly disappeared, and the smoke had thinned quite a bit. I relaxed and knew that I would hear nothing about this, unless it was on the sly from a neighbor. The flames had dropped to a level on a par of with that of burning pine. There was nothing anymore that could be pinned on us unless the CSI forensic team arrived right then and there and then to take a few last minute samples.

I looked at the remains of the pair of eight inch logs I had put on top of the pad. They were mere cinders. I went to the wood pile and got more wood and added it to the fire.

Just then, out of the darkness, a body appeared. I knew who it was immediately. It was the jerk that had been the sand in the ointment of Neighbor Bob. He is a loud, obnoxious person when he drinks and on top of that he had moved the survey stakes between his and Neighbor Bobs backyard a couple of times. It was Loudmouth Larry.

There is a right of way between our yards allowing the phone company to use the strip if they so desire. It has been misunderstood many times. I misunderstood it until I went to the city office and got the word on it. It is my property, period. The strip behind Neighbor Bobs is his property.

Mechanic Ralph, about 20 years ago had made the previous resident behind him move a shed he built on the right of way. Ralph would have let it stay there, but the guy was a jerk about it so Ralph lowered the boom.

In a way it was a good thing because it clearly defined the lot lines.

Loudmouth Larry, the guy behind Bob has tried to move the survey stakes a couple of times. I came to help Bob by showing up with about a yard of concrete and we had the surveyor set the stake in a cylinder of concrete about two feet in diameter and three feet deep. The pipes the surveyor used were two inch schedule 80 pipe and we painted them, too. They stuck out of the ground about three feet.

Shortly thereafter, they were mysteriously cut down to a couple of inched off the level of the concrete.

Last summer we heard cursing as Larry hit one of them with a new lawnmower.

There is no love lost between the two.

“What are you burning?” demanded Larry.

Bob interrupted before I could formulate a reply.

“Jews,” he shot back. It’s our last one. We’re also out of Gypsies, Poles, Russians, and homosexuals. We’re switching to criminals. You’re next.”

Loudmouth looked to me for defense. I stared back at him from the fire light.

I was surprised, but managed not to show it. Bob is generally a mild mannered soul. On the other hand, when he gets pushed too far, he is capable of snapping back.

I generally don’t get in the middle of things, but Loudmouth Larry has worked hard at being on the very short list of people I would like to see leave the planet in a painful ball of fire.

“Put and egg in your shoe and beat it,” I said.


“Beat it. Now” I snapped.


“Well, nothing. Hit the bricks.”

Loudmouth turned around and left, Neighbor Bob got up and walked away to the front of my yard, and returned and handed me a fresh beer.

Then the two of us drank a cold one and watched the rest of the fire die down.

It had been a pretty eventful fire that evening.

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