Flaming Tarts

The sun had come up over an hour ago and, due to my lack of foresight to shut tight the blinds during the prior evening, insisted that I join the rest of the world. I held out long enough thinking that I might yet spurn the intentions of that obstinate gassy fireball and return to a peaceful slumber. But alas, this was not to be. The birds outside made short work of what resistance I had left. Stumbling from bed, I poured myself into the shower and began my ritualistic awakening.

Just out of the shower I wandered into the kitchen with a damp towel wrapped around my waist and began foraging for something that would pass for breakfast. I was nineteen and at this time of my life had little in my cupboards. I searched halfheartedly with the feeling that I might have to skip breakfast altogether.

Pushing past the empty box of microwave popcorn I found a bag of tortilla chips containing an equal mix of salt and miniature fragments. I held the salty chips briefly in my hand, but decided that an empty stomach would probably feel better. Pushing past the chips as well, I was delighted to discover a box of brown sugar cinnamon pop tarts hiding far in the back of the cupboard. A multi-layered pastry surrounding a sweet cinnamon-sugar filling and covered with a layer of sugar-glaze frosting on top. How long had they been in there? No matter! I pulled a thin mylar package from the box, stripped it eagerly, and plopped the pastries into the toaster.

The elements in the toaster grew orange quickly. My stomach growled impatiently. Kellogg was a cruel man to come up with an instant breakfast that took five minutes to prepare. Toasting tarts and watched water were definitely kin.

Biding time I wandered in to the den to catch the days events. On television a gray-haired anchor blathered on about the NASDAQ and inflation rates boring me to near to death. Mindlessly I watched the stock ticker race across the bottom of the screen. Blah, blah, blah. I was very near to a hypnotic state when an odd sound caught my ear. It sounded as if a wooden stick was being dragged along a stucco wall, yet there was a mechanical nature to the sound as well.

I rushed into the kitchen to find a thick column of smoke curling from the toaster as it buzzed in alarm. I quickly pulled the plug, but the smoke continued to billow from both slots. I tipped the toaster to look around the columns of smoke and noticed the frosting had glued the pop tarts to the grill inside the toaster. The pop tarts had become so fixed to the grill that the ejection mechanism was jammed and failed to eject the pastries, which in turn prevented the heating elements from turning off.

There are some things in life you look back on with hindsight and regret. One of those moments was precisely when I came up with the idea to blow into toaster and try to cool the elements. Instead, the rush of oxygen heated the elements above a critical level and caused the tarts to burst into flame. My mind stalled. Somewhere behind me the smoke detector reached its threshold and screamed its alert. Startled back to my senses, I decided to pick up the toaster, run to the front porch, and toss the flaming contraption outside.

This too was another of those regrettable actions.

Before I illustrate the stupidity of this action let me describe the physical nature of the front porch. The entrance of the house is about six feet above the front yard. Stairs run up from the driveway to the large deck, which in turn leads to the entrance. Flower gardens line the yard just in front of the deck, and trellises, covered with ivies and flowers, are attached to the front of the deck. Behind the trellises and beneath the deck was a large space where firewood was stored. The only access was from a short, narrow walkway between the stairs and the house.

Perhaps the worst feature of the deck was that it was constructed from two by six planks of wood spaced by thin gaps just a little wider than the thickness of a smoldering pop tart.

When I tossed the smoking and flaming toaster on the front deck, the impact jarred loose its occupants and launched the crisp pastries across the deck. The edge of one pastry delight caught a gap between the planks and slid like a coin in a slot machine to the tinderbox below. I was momentarily stunned as my eyes followed intermittent glimpses that flickered through the gaps in the deck of the flaming tart bouncing among the stacks of split wood below.

Only briefly did I consider the damp bath towel wrapped around my waist. Modesty cast aside, I ran to the first tart and kicked it off the deck to the green lawn below. The fire alarm continued to holler, and a glance back to the toaster revealed two psychologically contrasting events. The first was an uplifting event; the flames within the toaster had died. The other event was the front door had swung closed with an ominous click.

With three quick strides I crossed the deck, two hops and I made it to the bottom of the stairs. I wheeled around and dashed under the deck simultaneously ducking my head to avoid the joists and trying to walk on air above the wood splinters and sharp rocks, but I did not stop until I stooped above the offending tart. The fire had died. The fire alarm wailed. The door was locked. My towel slipped a little on my hips.

I had to laugh.