|If you have a fireplace or a wood stove then you'll
understand. If you don't, but have always wanted one, then read on.
We didn't have a fireplace when I was growing up, but I
used to see television shows where there always seemed to be a fireplace in all the fancy houses. They would show a romantic scene with a
beautiful couple curled in front of a roaring fire. I grew up knowing I had to have a fireplace, a place to
cuddle with my wife, drink some wine, and set the mood for those
romantic winter evenings, the ever–present, cozy fire
burning in the background. Though the snow would hammer against the windows and
the wind would howl through the trees, we would sit, toasty and
warm, staring at the burning logs, holding each other, with the
children safely asleep in their beds. We would feel comfortable
and safe as the fire crackled its music.
I have that fireplace now, but those nights of
cuddling are far from reality.
Not once did
those television shows tell you about all the work involved in keeping the fire burning. It took me many years to realize the truth.
Oh yes, I remember when we had it installed. I ordered a
cord of wood, cut to length but round; I was going to do my own
splitting. I was going to save a few dollars, and get my winter
exercise at the same time.
I figured I'd get a big axe, split wood all winter, and by
spring I would look like a lumberjack. HA! I ended up being a
cripple. One day, while happily using that big axe, I missed the wood. The axe
hit the ground between my feet, a shock wave rippled up my arm,
and tears burst from my eyes. Three years and four cortisone
shots later my elbow still causes me pain.
If you want a fireplace, then this is how your winter will go. I call it "The Fireplace Aerobics":
1. Buy one cord of wood.
2. Lug wood to basement.
3. Split kindling.
4. Carry armload up stairs.
5. Light fire.
6. Light fire again.
7. Light fire again.
8. Sit down, enjoy for twenty minutes.
9. Feed fire (repeat thirty times ).
10. Out of wood? Get more from basement.
11. Give fire a big meal and go to bed.
12. Wake up; re–light fire.
13. Re–light again.
14. Clean dust from all household furniture.
15. Repeat steps 4 through 14 for twelve days.
16. Clean ashes from fireplace.
17. Clean chimney.
18. Dust furniture again.
19. Clean fireplace glass... well, do what you can.
20. Repeat steps 4 through 19 till out of wood.
21. Order more wood.
22. Lug wood to basement.
23. Repeat steps 4 through 22.
24. Call fire department (you forgot step 17).
25. Repeat steps 4 through 24 till winter is over.
26. Sell house.
27. Buy propane or electric heated house.
28. Live there for three years.
29. Miss fireplace.
30. Go to step one.
Following this routine, winter quickly passes. There's no time for cozy,
winter evenings, no time for anything.
I have learned people used wood for fuel in the past because it was all they
had. They switched to oil and electricity for a reason, less mess and
work. Wood heating is not something done in the name of progress; it
is a step backward.
There is one good thing I discovered about wood heating. It
keeps those pesky little hairs from growing on the backs of your hands.
©Michael T. Smith
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
I'm male, 39, married, and have two kids, three if you count my
cat. I live in Saint John, New Brunswick, Canada. I moved here from Halifax
county, Nova Scotia, Canada, for a new job. I work in Telecommunications as a
circuit designer/bandwidth manager.
I like to write humour, but write things of the heart as well. I've also
been working with an internet partner. We've completed the rough draft of a
novel over irc, and are now taking a break to learn a bit more about the craft
before continuing with a revision.
I started writing at the age of 26. My wife belonged to a writing
they'd have weekly meetings, varying the location from house to house. I sat in
on a few meetings. Many of the members were working on children's books, and I
thought to myself, I can do that, and I did. I did several projects, and had a
few positive responses from publishers. I never sold, but it was enough to spur
Two years later the editor of a local free press put out a call for
interesting or funny local stories. I thought of the many stupid things I've
done over the years and sat down to write them up.
The "Idiot" was born.
I had so much fun laughing at my follies that I knew I had found a
I had a story a month in the free press for a year. I was well accepted, and
many looked forward to the next issue to see what I'd do next.
I began work on a collection of these pieces, and planned to call it,
"I'm An Idiot, But That's OK". I completed a first draft and mailed it to
one publisher. He responded with a wonderful rejection. He liked my story
telling style, but gave me many suggestions on how to improve it. He also
asked me to resubmit when I had reworked it. Well, that was 3 years ago. I was
side tracked by the loss of a job I'd had for 15 years. I went back to school for a year
and then had to move. I am just now rewriting them for the 4th time,
because I keep
learning and have to change everything.
About a year ago I discovered something very valuable; I knew
grammar. My love for writing came at a late age, and when I was in school I
take the interest in learning it. In the past year I have studied, bought
taken every scrap of info I can gather from my writing friends, and looked
I'm a long way from being perfect, as you can see from this letter, but you
have seen it before.
It seems to be paying off, because in December 1997 I sold my first
to the local newspaper. It was a story about Xmas ornaments. I compared the
to looking through a photo album; each piece I lifted from the box brought
back the memory of an xmas past. I used my own personal memories and
touched many people.
In February 1998 I sold 3 more pieces to a gentleman collecting office
humour for a booked called, "It All Happens At The Zoo." The book will be
available in May of 1999.
In September 1998 I sold a humour piece to a magazine in CT. My
a humourous piece about a man's love of barbecuing. In December 1998 I edited my
Christmas story and resold it twice more.
So, I strive onward: learning, writing, and having a ball doing it. I
have learned one very valuable lesson: I need to learn more. A few months ago
I removed all reading material from my bathroom and replaced it with grammar
books. I have no choice but to learn as I relieve.
©Michael T. Smith
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