Thursday, February 21, 2013

A Tale of Smoking Okra

Can I just say how much I love y'all? I mean, honestly. Most days I feel straight up crazy-pants, and I read you posts, or tweets, or what have you, and I realize I am not the only crazy one out there. (I'm still adamant that it's all these damn kids making us crazy, but whatever.)

Today I turned in the final draft of my first college paper. Yes, I started college eight years ago. Funny how I always managed to avoid doing any actual work before. Ahem. Anywhoodles, we had to write a memoir featuring an event that reflected a significant thing about us. I kind of just ran with the first idea I had, and after writing and re-writing the same story over and over, I really wish I had picked something with a little more depth. Oh well, you live you learn. Seeing as how I haven't been putting much up around here, I figured I'd share it with you guys. Feel free to tell me how much it sucks (or not). Oh, and we just got our next writing assignment. A profile of someone in our community. I really am seriously considering interviewing the Gibson's Donut guy and writing about him. Let's be real, I see him at least once a week, and he's funny. AND?! I bet I could score a free donut out of the deal. Bam.

Oh yeah. The memoir.

(This is long.)

(Also? I think I like the title of this post better than what I titled the paper. Damn.)

So Much for Dinner
I came through the back door and dropped everything- purse, coat, backpack- and ran into the kitchen. I set the grocery sack on the kitchen counter while giving myself a mental pep-talk. “People cook all the time,” I thought to myself. “It cannot be that hard.” You see, I lived with The Nana back then, and while she is an amazing lady- cooking? Well, let’s just say that her idea of a “real” dinner was a Banquet chicken pot pie. Nana was a single mom of three who worked three jobs back when my mom was a kid, so she didn’t really have time to cook grand four course meals. If it could be nuked, it was a real dinner. This particular night, she was at the Club for a board meeting, which typically meant she wouldn’t be home till late. Being sixteen years old, I didn’t mind that a bit. Not that I was going to do anything to get into trouble (I was way too chicken for any of that), but I just liked being able to do my own thing without anyone around trying to tell me what to do. Her being gone till late also meant that I was on my own for dinner. I had gone to Kroger after school and decided that I would feast upon a heart healthy meal of fried okra that night. (This was back when I was blessed with the metabolism of a sixteen year old cross country runner, mind you.) I dug around in the cabinet looking for a skillet, clanging every pot together until I unearthed the giant cast iron one that has been in our family for a million years. I plopped the skillet down on the stove and filled it up with oil. “Surely that’ll take a while to get hot,” I thought. Now on to more important things!
I walked through the den, found the remote and hit “power”. Meh- nothing good was on the television, so I continued back to my room. I powered up my desktop computer and plugged the phone cord into it. As soon as I hit the “Sign In” button on my AOL screen, the phone rang. Dang it! (Back then, our dial-up operated off of our phone line. If someone was on the phone, that meant no internet for me.) Of course, as soon as I ran to the kitchen to answer the phone, whoever was calling had hung up. I glanced over to the stove, and the oil was still there, not bubbling or anything. I figured I’d give it a few more minutes and headed back to my room.
After I finally got the internet to connect, almost immediately an instant message from my best friend, Michelle, popped up. She had been a basketcase all afternoon. At school, she had seen her boyfriend walk some other girl to class. While normally that would not be a big deal, to Michelle everything was a big deal. (Can we say “drama queen”?) I settled in for a long diatribe about how much she “hated him”, and responded with “Oh yeah”s and “What a jerk”s as needed. David (the boyfriend) absolutely made my stomach turn every time I was near him, and he knew that I was not oblivious to his player ways. On the same hand, though, I also knew she’d never believe me until she came to the realization on her own. Sitting back and watching this disaster was pure hell and made me feel like a terrible friend. While I made a half-assed attempt to talk her down from her anxiety, I started working on my biology homework for the night, of which I had plenty. You see, we had finally gotten around to most people’s favorite part of biology class- the dissecting. Owl pellets (yuck!) and frogs had been no big deal at all. But then came the pig fetuses. I don’t know what it was- the unescaping stench of formaldehyde or the visual horror of the Babes and Wilbers lying on the specimen trays, but before I’d known it, I had flat out refused to participate. Crazy old Mrs. Davis was less than amused by my refusal, but she definitely got her jab in with my alternative assignment. Let’s just say that  a small forest was murdered to produce all the worksheets and printouts I was stuck doing.
I was up to my ears in drama and mitochondria when I smelled it- the burning. I jumped up and ran through the bathroom into the den, and then I could see that everything in the kitchen was glowing. Once I got through the doorway to the kitchen, the smoke was everywhere. I could see the skillet on the stove engulfed in flames, the oil just feeding the fire. I grabbed the phone and called Nana. When she answered I was screaming and freaking out, and was barely able to relay to her that the kitchen was on fire. She immediately yelled, “Well hang up and call 911!”. I hung up with her, and the light bulb in my head went off as I remembered the fire extinguisher we kept in the cabinet under the oven. I grabbed it from the cabinet, pulled the pin, and began spraying. “I’ve got this” I kept saying to myself. (Typical. I will call Nana in a heartbeat, but when it comes to asking other people for help? I’d rather not. Pride or stubbornness, I’m not sure.) I am not sure what I was expecting, but a whoosh of yellow powder came flying out of the hose. Between the smoke and the yellow powder, it was really hard to see and breathe, but I kept spraying the extinguisher until I was certain the fire was out.
Once the extinguisher was empty, I dropped it on the floor, shut the kitchen doors behind me, and grabbed the cordless phone. I walked out onto the front porch, and called Nana to tell her that
everything was okay. Just when I was about to leave a message on her voicemail, her car came barreling around the corner and screeched to a halt in our driveway. As she was getting out of the
car, I saw the flashing red lights coming from the other end of the street. “What the hell? I never called
them! The fire is out!” I said to myself. Nana ran up the front steps and practically tackled me in a hug, so thankful I was okay. I just stood there shell-shocked as the firemen jumped off of their rig and ran into the house. The lieutenant started asking me questions about the fire and my adrenaline was pumping so fast, all I could say was “The fire’s out! It’s out!”. The firemen looked around in the kitchen for what seemed like a small eternity to double check everything while the neighbors came out in droves. Nothing like a fire truck to bring out all the neighbors. Mr. & Mrs. Williams came from across the street in their pajamas and bathrobes, glasses of wine in hand. The single lady from two houses over came down, too, with her giant sheepdog. (And just so you know, that sheepdog howled like a damn coyote the entire time the fire truck was on our street.) Finally our next door neighbor, Ms. Bertie, joined us. She was talking to Nana about how she had seen the smoke coming out of our kitchen window (that faces her kitchen window), and she had called 911. “OH!” I thought to myself. “That’s how the fire truck got called!”
Once the lieutenant concluded that the fire was out, I got some stern instructions to not use the stove, especially when it came to heating oil. The firemen also let me know that the yellow powder was sodium bicarbonate, which I deemed enough of a science lesson to forego the rest of my biology homework for the night. (What biology homework? Exactly.)
The neighbors finally went back to their respective homes, and Nana and I went in to survey the damage. Oh boy, was there ever some damage. Our entire kitchen was still a cloud of yellow. Sodium bicarbonate powder was everywhere. The cabinets above the stove were covered in black soot. Every inch of the walls were an awesome grey color (which is a trendy home decor color now, but back then, notsomuch), and the curtains were ruined. Nana kept saying how blessed she was that I was okay, and that it would just be a lot of cleanup, thankfully no real damage to the house. She suddenly stopped,  looked at me, and said “Wait just a damn minute! The kitchen was on fire and you never called the fire department? Could you possibly be more stubborn?”

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