"What did you do that for?" he asked, in disbelief about what had happened to the Boston butts he had painstakingly coddled for the last three hours.
"I don't know. I panicked," I meekly explained, hoping he would just let it go.
He acted like running a quick errand and returning home 10 minutes later to see smoke rolling out and a fire truck with lights flashing and firemen in full gear unrolling hoses was something he shouldn't let go. "What happened?"
"Well I was upstairs," I began, "and I heard the kids yelling and they sounded really, really scared, not their normal yelling, but the kind when their voices sound strange and I knew this time they meant it." Earnestly, I looked my husband in the face.
In his absence, my spouse put our 11-year-old son in charge of the Boston butts cooking on the gas grill on our screened porch. He armed the child with a few instructions and a cup of water with which to treat mild flame-ups.
Of course, the lad took the assignment seriously and watched the meat like a salivating dog obeying a sit and stay command. Of course, a small flame licked up between the grates. Of course, he flicked water on it.
The flame angrily roiled, a little bigger, so he threw the whole cup of water on the fire, which then blazed toward the ceiling in a great fury. That's when he sent the desperate message from sibling to sibling that he needed me to come quickly.
"What, what, what," I called, pounding down the stairs in my sock feet. "Are you okay?"
"We've got a fire," my traumatized, wild-eyed son panted. "I tried to put it out but it got bigger and bigger." His hands waved dramatically. "I'm scared. Our house is going to burn down."
Assessing the situation, I said, "No, it's not," but my children could sense I lacked conviction. A nervous nine-year-old waylaid me from my mission to extinguish the flames when his feet broke out in a rapid Flashdance move and he mindlessly, hysterically quavered, "Where's Daddy?" over and again. My hands grabbed his small shoulders and I firmly commanded him to calm down, that I could handle things.
In the pantry, however, I wracked my brain to remember exactly what white, powdery stuff I was supposed to throw on a fire to put it out. Spying a full bag of flour on the top shelf, I grabbed it down, ripping it open as I sprinted through the house back out to the screened porch, leaving a dusty trail. I emptied the remaining contents of the sack onto the ever increasing blaze.
"Oh, no," I gasped. Flour was not the white powdery stuff I sought. Flour burns like a mother. The freshly fueled fire curled around the lid, gripping it in an orange claw.
"Call 911," I told the 11 year-old.
Standing in the pantry for a second time, scouring the shelves, I could hear his muffled, "Yes ma'am. Yes ma'am. She threw flour on it. Oh." Then he came around the corner and asked, "Do we have any baking soda?"
I poked my head out of the pantry, all composure lost. "Our box of baking soda is this big," I twittered, making a rectangle with my fingers. "I couldn't put out a flaming deck of cards with it!" My feet started flashdancing. "Tell her to send a fire truck."
I gave up on handling things and huddled in the rain with the children to wait for the emergency responders. Thank you Thomson Fire Department, you saved all our butts.
(Lucy Adams is a syndicated columnist, freelance writer, and author of If Mama Don't Laugh, It Ain't Funny. She lives in Thomson. Lucy invites readers to e-mail her at email@example.com and to visit her web site, www.IfMama.com.)