Montana Jones

Montana n: A state of the northwest United States bordering on Canada. Admitted as the 41st state in 1889. The fourth largest state in the union, it includes vast prairies and numerous majestic mountain ranges.
Syn: Treasure State, Big Sky Country, Last Best Place.

Jones n: slang. An addiction or very deep craving.

Friday, February 09, 2007

Do not leave candle burning unattended

A little lake of wax had congealed a selection of pens, old receipts and posty notes together. I muttered "Oh Shit" to myself, but the time to do anything about it was long past. My eyes traced the path of drippings from the mass of desktop clutter, up the side of the power strip, dangling stalactites from the desk hutch, puddles molded around the modems feet and a greasy crust covering it's surface. Green LED lights still blinking their connective cheer. Embedded into the plastic top of the modem was a warning label, "Do not leave candle burning unattended", the words slightly obscured by a burn mark scorching a line through the wax, pointing toward a melted hole. The charred rift in the cover of the electronics revealed the spidery little microchips inside, apparently undisturbed.

All the worst case scenarios then flooded my mind. The modem could have caught fire while I was sleeping, taking with it the desk hutch, books, monitor, clutter of papers and eventually the entire apartment. The fact that it didn't happen that way was some consolation. But it could have been much worse. The smoke detector has had the battery removed for some time now. It has a habit of sounding the alarm every time I use the kitchen. Every one of the two dozen fire extinguishers I own was at the office, miles away. Note to self; store some of those extinguishers around here in the off season.

As I chiseled away at the waxy blobs on my desk I flashed back to a conversation with dad not so long ago. "Your mom is getting more like grandma was," he said. "More forgetful." I pictured grandma in my mind, the white haired bundle of energy always flitting from thing to thing, from one idea to the next. Never settling for long, rarely concluding a task. It was a family trait, I could see it in mom and I could see some of it in myself too.

"Uh, huh." I said, not sure if I liked where dad was going with this.

"The other day she went out for her walk after putting the kettle on high. If I hadn't come downstairs when I did it could have been much worse."

I pictured a kettle of water on a hot stove. I'm sure the water would boil away sooner or later but I didn't think it would catch fire any too quickly. Mom would have been back in a half hour, caught it, cursed herself and moved on. I didn't want to push the issue with dad, he was convinced of the imminent doom.

"She still has it together enough, but we use our cell phones a lot. We check in any time we go some place, like when I leave the shop or something. I have to remind her of things she forgets at the store. I am still okay with her driving, I am okay with her going into Missoula, but she is getting older."

"You know that she watches out for you too, right?"

"Yeah, I do. I'm just saying."

It would be pointless to try to explain how we are all a little like grandma. Dad had his "I'm right and the world ain't" ax to grind. Pointing out his own foibles would just make him think I was missing the point and not worrying about mom enough.

Yeah dad, I do worry about mom. And I worry about you too. But you guys are doing just fine leaning on each other. Mostly I am worried about me. Especially since I nearly burnt my place down from my own absentmindedness.

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I can top it. A couple of months ago, I had these nice little tea candles, and I lit one on my nightstand while I was reading a novel. I got sleepy, and put down the book on my nightstand, turned out the light and zonked out.

I woke up about an hour later with an odd tingling at the back of my spine, and the faint smell smoke in my nostrils. I flipped on the light picked up my book which was letting off little tendrils of smoke.

Well that gave oxygen to the fire, the book basically exploded in flame in my hands. For some obscure reason I walked around the bed, instead of over it, ran to the bathroom sink and put out the fire. Little pieces of flaming pages had scorched the bedspread, but not started any new blazes.

Once the windows were all opened and fans started, I collapsed in a knee shaking heap on the couch. It took me hours to get to sleep.

The worst part is, now I have to go buy another copy of the book so I can finish it.
I finally switched to candles in jars only because of leaving them lit for many many hours unattended with similar outcomes. Glad it turned out okay
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