Take Me Back Tuesday - Installment #4

I found a piece of paper on the kitchen table, a small, torn piece, part of an envelope or letter.  A burner was going, the one on the front right-hand side. We didn't have a gas stove at home.  Electric was all I knew, what my mother and I had in our small, homey apartment, what my grandparents had a few towns over. That's what I thought everyone used - the black, circular coils that glowed when hot, sucking down bits of food into its center at every meal.  Until I stayed at Lola's. 

I'd been at the babysitter's house for months, during the summer and when the bus dropped me off there after school, yet I'd never seen the flame peeking around the pot like that before, coming up from the bottom, surrounding it like  wiggling blue fingers.  

I looked around. Lola was gone, in the bathroom putting her hair into a bun, messing with the old radio (she didn't have a TV), or downstairs in the den.  I knew it was hot, it was fire, knew I shouldn't be playing with it.  But I did it anyway.  

The paper curled, its corner turning black as the orange flame crawled toward my fingers.  I stared at it, not knowing what to do.  I hadn't thought that part through, thought past the initial fascination, where to put the paper once it was enveloped with finger-seeking fire, and turned to the screen door behind me, the door leading to Lola's back porch where I'd spent many days dancing, singing into Lola's broom with Janet Jackson.  

I was almost out of time.  The heat was beginning to sting, I couldn't open the door before orange scorched the ends of my fingernails.

The ash fell, down to the linoleum, still burning.  It melted into the white floor, turning it light, then dark yellow, then gray.  I stomped my foot.  I could smell the burnt linoleum, the smoke from what used to be Lola's paper, and stared at the floor, clean and new, one warped dark blob in front of the stove.   

I rushed to the doorway leading into the living room, grabbed the floor mat, and threw it over the melted spot.  Its rainbow-colored weave stood out on the flawless linoleum, shouting silently that it didn't belong there on the kitchen floor. 

Lola walked in, her hair in a bun, long skirt gracing across the tops of her ankles. 

I stared at her, my eyes never leaving her unmade-up face, and pushed the mat into position with my shoe.  

"Would you like soup for lunch?  What's that smell? Do you smell something burning?"

I said I would, that I wasn't sure.  And then, with my foot planted on the mat, raised up slightly by a flaw that wasn't there two minutes before, I told her that I didn't.

6 comments:

Anita said...

I like one of your descriptions of the fire as "finger seeking."
As I was reading, I could picture the whole scene, and the various expressons on your face.
Been there, done that. :)

I think we all have one of those quilty arsonist incidents. I've had a couple. At 11 years old, I found a beautiful match; the kind that came in a box. Had to strike it. As I leaned over the flame, my long unbraided hair, hanging over my face got singed. Of course, I thought my whole head was on fire, and commenced to SCREAMING. Mom came running, calmed me down and decided that my hysteria was punishment enough - along with the "don't play with matches" lecture.

Nicole Ducleroir said...

This was well-written and engaging. I, too, savored the finger seeking line. It jumped right out of the narration at me, like all perfect descriptions!

So, "Take Me Back Tuesday" is memoir writing, right? What a wonderful idea :))

Jen Chandler said...

Isn't it funny the things we do and then we have to "fling the rug over it" so the speak? Finger seeking flames, ah the imagry is delightful :) This brought back some memories.

Happy Tuesday!
Jen

coffeelvnmom said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
coffeelvnmom said...

Anita - holy crap, I can't imagine how scary that must have been! I don't think I would have punished my kid after that either!

Nicole, I guess it is, I hadn't thought about it that way, to be honest! I was just trying to find something to blog about that I wouldn't have to research, and thought every Tuesday I could write about things that happened when I was a kid... as practice for me, and hopefully entertainment for everyone else;)

Jen, it is, I still have to "fling the rug" over things once in a while;) Tee hee.

Thanks for your compliments guys!

Susie Talbot said...

Good writing again! Loved it and could picture the whole scenario...you have a WAY about you J!