I mentioned in a previous post (here) that I lived in an apartment in a 3-family house in the city with some friends for a couple of years back in the day. In that same post, I briefly mentioned that the house had a bit of a mouse issue. After throwing out countless boxes of cereal, crackers, Ramen noodles and Mac and Cheese, we finally learned our lesson and started to take defensive measures.
Looking back, it was probably for the best that the Ramen and Easy Mac found their home in the trash rather than in our bellies, but it’s the principle of the thing, you know?
We needed some mouse-proof food storage, and quick. Luckily we didn’t have to go far. I don’t know if I ever told you guys about our stove, the Frigidaire Flair Custom Imperial…? Oh wait, of course I did, because it was awesome.
Well evidently in addition to being the housewife’s dream, it was also the 20-something-ladies-with-a-rodent-situation’s dream. One of its many features was the double ovens. I’m sure that in days of yore they were used to dominate dinner and dessert in half the time, but we used it to store our goods. Problem solved, right?
Well yes, for a time.
One night I was preheating the oven (probably to make something delicious and nutritious like tater tots, because we were adults and that’s what adults eat) and lounging around in the living room with my roommates, watching TV. I kind of forgot about the oven and when I moseyed into the kitchen awhile later and looked through the little window, I was surprised to see a small fire roaring away. I had also forgotten that there was banana bread on a plastic platter being stored in there-you know, to keep it out of the reach of those greedy, rude mice-and it had succumbed to the heat and burst into a neat little flame.
I should interject here to point out that our apartment that we loved so much was housed in a very old building. Estimates indicate that it would have taken approximately negative 3 seconds for the place to be reduced to a smoking pile of ashes, disturbed only by the mice crawling out, coughing dramatically and glaring at us for burning down their frat house.
Back to the fire. I have heard that during frightening and dangerous situations, folks are usually driven to action by either a fight or flight instinct. It worries me that I was driven by neither. I looked the fire through the glass door for a few seconds and then figured that I should probably get the roomies involved, so I called down the hallway:
“Hey guys? Could you come in here? We’ve got a situation.”
They strolled in and I pointed to the oven. It worries me more that neither one of them gave into a fight or flight instinct either. They also looked at the fire (which had gotten a little bigger) and we started discussing our options:
“Should we throw some water on it?”
“Hmm. I don’t think so. Remember chemistry class? You’re not supposed to put water on an electrical fire.”
“Oh yeah, good point. What about salt or baking soda?”
“That could work. Do we have any?”
While they were looking for a solution, I got antsy and opened the oven door. It wasn’t the best move since the oxygen just made the flame bigger. I was nervous that my roommates were going to be mad at me for not remembering a chemistry class basic like ‘fire+oxygen=bigger fire’ so I decided to take matters into my own hands and blow it out. I admit, it took some time and some lung power, but eventually that silly fire was extinguished. Of course the whole kitchen was coated with soot and the apartment was full of smoke, but glass half full-the fire was no more. We high-fived and then decided that we should open the windows and back stairway door and air the place out.
We went back to the living room, shut the glass-paned living room door to keep the smoke out, and flipped on 30 Rock.
A few minutes later, I thought I saw something out of the corner of my eye. I was staring through the glass panes of the living room door and sure enough, there was something in the next room. I sat up slowly, as to not startle the thing or my friends.
“Guys, I think there’s something in the den.”
We all looked over and if my memory serves me right, that’s when the screaming started. Because there was something in the next room, and it looked big.
I don’t know where the courage came from, but my friend Laurel went over to the door, which was open a crack, and went to pull it shut. Whatever was in the other room wasn’t having that, though, and stuck its paw through the crack and started wiggling it around frantically.
At this point we were all screaming so hard that I’m surprised none of us passed out or threw up.
It’s hard to say how long this went on but eventually Laurel stopped screaming, looked through the door, and reported that the thing in the other room was a cat. And that it looked like the cat that belonged to our upstairs neighbors. He must have gotten in through the stairway door! Silly cat!
We all felt terrible for screaming so hard at the cat, for surely it must have been startling, so we followed it around with open arms and coaxed it to us until we got close enough to pat and hug it. One of us had it in our arms, nuzzling its fur with our face, when another one brought up a good point:
“I mean, it looks like the cat from upstairs, but what if its not?”
If my memory serves me right, that’s when the gagging started. Because there was a very real chance that we were hugging a stray cat.
Luckily the upstairs neighbor showed up and claimed the cat because I would have hated to have to tell her that we had heaved it out onto the street. Oh, and also, that we almost burned down the house.
Well, we did tell her that last part; I mean, we had to. How else would we explain her soot-covered cat?
Photos courtesy of Laurel, who sent them in an email titled “We didn’t start the fire” with a body that read “Yes, we did.” See what I mean about my friends being funny?