“Hmm, that’s strange, it smells a little like something’s burning,” I thought vaguely to myself, then quickly dismissed the fleeting notion as I went back to wiping out kitchen cabinets at our friends’ house, while Kent helped load their moving truck.
Moments later, I really smelled smoke.
What happened next was over and done in mere seconds, but the series of events is indelibly etched in my brain. It happened like this:
- I turned around to seek the source of the acrid odor, and at that instant, the mountain (it seemed) of packing paper which had been sitting on the stove ignited into flames. I wondered, bewildered, how the paper was on fire.
- Then I noticed that the knob for one of the stove burners was boldly set on Hi. For what seemed like eternity, but could have only been a split second, I puzzled over how that could possibly have happened when I was alone in the kitchen and hadn’t touched the stove.
- It felt like impossibly slow, muddled thinking as I finally understood that a flap on the box I had slid out of the way a few minutes earlier must have caught on the burner control. It was a simple act of inattentive carelessness. It was my fault.
- As panic battled with the unfolding confusion for attention in my brain, I picked up a stack of the burning paper and tried to blow out the flames, which was a little like trying to blow out a Duraflame log. It wasn’t happening. Even if it had worked, there was still more paper incinerating itself below.
- Adrenaline pumping, I yelled in full panic mode, “Fire! Fire!” as I dashed back and forth to the sink three or four times to throw every shred of the flaming paper under water.
- Just when I thought I was done, I noticed that a lone sheet had dropped to the floor, still ablaze, and threatened to engulf the dish rag hanging on the front of the stove. I dove to capture the stray offender and save the imperiled dish rag, along with anything else flammable in the vicinity.
- At some point Kent and our friends arrived on the scene, but I already had things under control. Kent patted me on the back saying “good job, ‘Niquey, good thinking.” He told me later that he didn’t think I even knew he was there, so focused was I on dousing the burning paper. But my senses were hyper-aware. I took in everything in more detail than seems possible, just like in the movies when things happen in slow motion. Slow motion is exactly what it felt like.
- Finally, realizing I was shaking, I sank to the step stool I had been standing on when it all began, burying my face in my hands out of sheer relief that I had not actually set my friends’ home on fire, while they consoled, “It’s okay, Mo. It’s okay.”
- As I surveyed the charred paper that littered the floor, I felt simultaneously thankful that no damage had been done (except to my psyche), grateful for incredibly understanding friends, and guilty that the extra time I would now have to spend cleaning up the mess meant that much less I’d get done in the rest of the house. So much for “helping.”
I always knew I was a menace in the kitchen. I just always thought it only pertained to actually cooking. So if I ever offer to help anyone move, you might want to insist that I bring along my own personal fire extinguisher. Just in case.