Where There’s Smoke…There’s Smoke

The best laid schemes o’ Mice an’ Men
          Gang aft agley,…”
-Robert Burns
In my defense, I couldn’t exactly say my “plan” was among the “best-laid.
After a fall drive that was filled with more exurban sprawl than countryside (sigh) we filled ourselves up with greasy, drive-through Asian fast food, because Mike and Angelic Daughter used to eat it a lot more than we do now, and yesterday would have been Mike’s 60th birthday. 
Then I decided that it was time to try out the little fire bowl I bought on sale last winter and hadn’t used at all yet, to make S’Mores.
Mike hated S’Mores. Thought they were disgusting. Maybe what happened next had something to do with that.
First, note that for more than 20 years, I’ve been bitching about how my neighbors like to burn stuff, although less than making fire, they’ve been really good at making smoke: lots of smoke. They’d burn wet, green yard waste, sending dense plumes of smoke blowing thickly through the bushes and evergreens into our yard, reliably ruining any chance of enjoying many a fine summer day on our deck.
Last night, I was determined that I’d show everyone why I was known as the camper who could always build a fire, even in a rain shower, and that I could make a fire that would be a fire, not just a smoke-bomb.
Well, ain’t karma a bitch.
We had two solid days of torrential rain at the beginning of last week, and all the wood was soaked. But it had been several days, and I thought I could find enough downed twigs and small sticks and branches to give it a go.
There’s no such things as newspaper anymore, so I used junk mail as tinder. It was slow going, but I got a fire going. It burned for a minute or two, and then I realized I had to feed this fire, and I didn’t have anything to use to remove the spark cover. The little forked stick that had come with the fire bowl was so laughably tiny and short that I threw it away without ever using it.
I used a longer stick to poke through the handle at the top of the spark cover to lift it off, to allow me to add some more sticks and twigs.
In the process, I managed to let my little fire collapse.
I tried to revive it with fresh small twigs, and by blowing on it a little, which only made me paranoid that despite the heavy rains, I’d send a spark onto my or my neighbor’s roof and set something on fire. So I hastily replaced the spark screen, and watched my fire devolve into a smoldering mess of ashy stick pieces.
Rummaging around for the driest sticks I could find, I gave it one more try – and only succeeded in creating more smoke. A lot of smoke. Eyes burning, we tried to roast marshmallows over this smoky mess of faintly glowing ash, but to no avail. Angelic Daughter wisely gave up first, and headed into the house talking about making the S’Mores using the stove.
I stood in the dense miasma of my own creation, cursing myself and my stupid cheap little fire bowl even more, for being too small to make a real fire anyway and for whatever toxic substance was burning off it and sending a weird smell over me and my daughter, and out into the neighborhood.
I dumped a bucket of water into the bowl to douse the embers, and went inside to roast marshmallows over a gas flame.
I felt like a total ass, and my OCD will make sure I worry about that weird smell for a long time.

Although he wasn’t a drinker, Mike liked another stanza from a different Burns poem, Scotch Drink, better:

Food fills the wame, and keeps us livin’;
Tho’ life’s a gift no worth receivin’,
When heavy-dragg’d wi pine and grievin’;
But oiled by thee,
The wheels o’ life gae down-hill, scrievin’,
Wi’ rattlin’ glee.

I wish I could have some of that “oil,” or something like it, to ease my embarrassment and anxiety, but I got my booster a week ago yesterday, and the all-knowing internet says it takes about two weeks to fully kick in. It also says that such “oil” could weaken the immune response. So I’m not going to mess with that by “goin’ downhill wi’ rattlin’ glee”- not yet, anyway.
Glad the cheap, tiny, probably toxic fire bowl (the stand, grills, and cover anyway – I kept the bowl in case my OCD needs to get it tested someday) went with the trash collection this morning, I remain,

your chastened, humiliated, and S’Mores deprived,


Image by Pete Linforth from Pixabay

2 thoughts on “Where There’s Smoke…There’s Smoke

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