Monday, January 10, 2011

Fire in the Hole

"You did what?"

My youngest son and I were in the checkout line at Kmart. He was confessing.

I was trying to look cool and unfazed, while choking on my own horror spit.

Youngest son was telling me that he and a couple of his buddies had been experimenting with an incendiary device of the low cost, high flammability variety—also illegal, probably, most likely . . . sweet Mother McCrea. I won’t bore you with the details, and that way you won’t have to testify at the trial.

“But don’t worry, Mom,” he assured me, “we couldn’t get it to blow up.”

Sweet Mother McCrea.

Beyond shocked, but still trying to play it cool, I looked to the gentleman behind the register and appealed to him for some kind of mature adult support. I was hoping he would roundly condemn the mercenary actions of my son and his gang of four.

The male cashier said, “Ah lady, that ain’t nothing. Me and my buddies burned down a bridge once, a big one.”

The elderly man behind us in line started to chuckle gently. The cashier joined in, giving us a conspiratorial wink and looking wistful.

“They still don’t know who did it, but that was in New York.”

Another man in line sighed—nostalgically.

I am ever puzzled by maleness.

I have never, ever had the overpowering desire to ignite, blowup, or dynamite anything. I do, occasionally, burn some lemon-scented candles when I soak in the tub—but not the same thing, I’m thinking. I have never heard my daughters chortle and exult with triumph because they can (and did) urinate on a fire. I have never had one of my female type friends confess a bridge, barn or hay wagon burning to me.

I have never heard any women of my association rejoice in their penchant for mayhem by saying, “Come on girls, let’s get some rags, a bottle and some gasoline, light it up and see what happens next.”

Let me think . . . nope . . . don’t remember any sleepovers like that.

Men are such a puzzle. If men aren’t from Mars then where are they from?

They’re from a place a lot farther away and hotter than Mars. That’s where. Burning down bridges, indeed, and if you don’t put that sharpened stick, chunk of rock, or spear down this minute, mister, you’re going to lose an eye, and then how are you going to see to light up all those Molotov cocktail fuses?

My tips on raising boys include setting up checkpoints for full body searches and always assuming that where there’s smoke, there is fire, or there’s going to be fire, or urine.  Always be ready to remind your boy child that burning down a bridge may sound like fun now, but does he really want to be working in the garden department at Kmart when he’s thirty-seven.

Pssssst . . . I have no idea how bridge burning and garden department cashiering are related, but that’s one of my strengths—verbal gymnastics and convoluted reasoning.

Linda (Fire Marshall) Zern      

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