Friday, October 26, 2007

The Flames of Creativity

This week’s warm-up prompt for my writing group was inspired by current events.

Have you ever had a fire in your home or vehicle?

At first, a collective moan went up. Sometimes a prompt falls flat, so I suggested, “Think of fire as a starting point for anything. Go with fiction. Or use one of the other prompts.” But being diligent and determined writers (I daresay some of us may even be stubborn), everyone plunged in. When we shared the results from the prompt, we found something interesting.

The more fire stories we shared, the more we remembered. Those people who initially said they had not experienced a fire in their home or vehicle suddenly remembered flaming pot roasts and tea kettles left unattended. To use an overworked but apt cliché, the fire stories spread like wildfire.

When I started thinking about fires, I initially remembered my friend Cindy. She set a package of light bulbs on a hot burner, accidentally causing a small fire that we squelched with baking soda. Cindy’s next fire was in her Firebird. (Yes, I know it’s a pun, but what can I say. That’s the car she had, complete with the bird on the hood.) She was driving down Maryland Parkway when the smoke began rolling out. I think she may have even spotted flames. Her brakes failed, and she careened through a vacant desert lot, smoke belching from her hood, her steering working only partially. When the fire department arrived, she had come to a stop. She had also wet herself. “Were you trying to help put out the fire?” joked the firemen. Cindy broke out bawling, if I remember correctly. Or maybe I just remember what I would have done if my car caught fire and took me on Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride.

Then more fire memories emerged. I remembered my dad pulling a flaming broiler from my oven, shrugging, and shoving the fire-engulfed drawer back in. Baking soda again saved the day. My mind flew to the years one of my nephews developed a fascination with fire, as so many boys do, and managed to scare the bejesus out of everyone in the family. “Arsonist” is a frightening label to consider. Or the dim recollection of the childhood Christmas when a house down the street burned to the ground. The single lady living there fell asleep with a lit cigarette, and never woke up.

How about you? What are your fire memories?
Photo Notes: Once again, as you can see, Blogger has decided that it doesn't want to fully display any pictures I upload. According to their truly auful "help" site, this has something to do with my column width. Personally, I'd think they might want to fix that, but instead you're on your own. To see the whole picture, visit

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