Sunday, October 25, 2009

Writing Can Be Dangerous

Last Wednesday was, without doubt, the quintessential autumn day. The misty rains of early morning stopped in time for me and Woki to walk to the Lake where the sun was just burning through the clouds enough to make the trees glow in all their brilliant splendor. The streets truly were paved with gold. No sooner had we returned home than I set out again, this time for a run along other roads where the ravines looked like Aladdin's cave of treasure. An hour later, back home again, I dutifully sat down to write. Immersed in a new short story ("Returning"), I took breaks only to refill the tea mug and make a few quick preparations for dinner. At 2:30, when I still had enough time before my first student of the day, I impulsively decided to squeeze in another walk--I'd been working hard.
Ah, it was so lovely! As Woki and I walked along, I congratulated myself on my efficiency. I had done my household chores, written steadily for several hours, and could continue to ponder my story as I enjoyed the lovely weather. Was the tone right? Had I created convincing characters? Did the end come too abruptly?
Twenty-five minutes later, walking up the driveway, I heard a funny sound. It got louder on the deck, and louder still as I came in the back porch. Frantically, I fumbled with the key when I simultaneously realized that the buzzing noise was our smoke detector and I had walked off and left Woki's chicken livers boiling on the stove.
Burnt chicken liver smells really, really bad. Angry gray smoke was wafting through the entire house. I grabbed the pan off the stove and carried the noxious mess to the backyard. Since I gave no more thought to grabbing that pan handle than I had to leaving the house without checking the stove, I was very lucky that the pan had been top quality. Past tense. The thing was absolutely black. Any lesser piece of equipment would likely have started a nasty fire. I repeat--I was very lucky.
I learned some valuable lessons: First,if I am caught up in Fictionland, I should never multi-task with anything involving fire or water. Second, things can go terribly wrong on a beautiful day, which creates a certain tension that is much more pleasant to read about than to experience in real life. Third, all life experiences are fodder for stories. I may use some of this at some point, but relax, Julie Powell, I won't be attempting a blog on cooking.

P.S. Ironically, that morning I had seen a news story advising people to check their smoke detectors. I know mine work. Please check yours.

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