2007.04.11 Explosion in my pants

Written by David Green.

By DAVID GREEN

It all started with a missing Easter basket. No, it was earlier than that.

It all started with a missing blink on a smoke detector. Yes, that’s where it begins.

I was standing in the dark looking up at the smoke detector at the top of the stairs.  I was waiting for the blink of the red light that would let me know it was still functioning and would alert us the next time we severely burn some toast.

There was no blink. I could have pushed the test button, but it’s unreachable without a chair to stand on. It was late at night and I wasn’t about to stand on a chair at the top of the stairs in the dark.

So I filed that information away for Easter morning.

That’s when Maddie mentioned that her Easter basket was apparently not hidden. Her first clue was that the candy she bought for herself was still in plain sight on the table. She was right. I never even thought about it.

The oldest kid in a family will quickly tell you how the youngest gets everything. The eldest lived a spartan, disciplined life; the youngest has it easy and has it all.

That’s not entirely true. With two kids off to a job and college and the youngest a senior in high school, the Easter Bunny doesn’t always come knocking.

Maddie did her part. She bought her own candy. What was she supposed to do–fill the basket and hide it for herself?

So after a few minutes, I got up and fetched a basket from across the room. It wasn’t her Easter basket. I don’t think the Bunny ever told me where that one was kept, but this would certainly do.

I started removing the stuff inside and got down to a collection of batteries at the bottom. One was a 9-volt model that fits in a smoke detector. What good fortune. I slipped it into my pocket.

I filled the basket with the candy and a few other strange items and quietly went into what’s still known as the playroom to hide the thing. This was new territory. Easter baskets have always been hidden in the living/dining room. The playroom—now heavily used as a storage room—should prove challenging.

I told my wife the deed was done, but she had a couple of prunes to add. It’s an old family joke from back when the Easter Bunny left prunes stuffed with almonds instead of candy. The eldest child is right—he led a spartan, disciplined life.

Now we fast-forward a couple of hours to the smell in the kitchen. I was pretty sure what was going on. A few weeks ago it sounded as though a bird was caught in the vent of the range hood. I tried to do something about it then, but didn’t see a way in without tearing it apart.

I waited for Colleen to enter the shower and then I went at it. Off came the outer filter. Off came the fan/motor assembly. And then what? A metal flap opened only so far and I was sure that’s where the body lay.

The remains were removed and I went back to work, typing in some stories for this week’s paper.

Suddenly, there was an explosion inside my pants. That’s the only way I can describe it. It was a like a balloon popped in my right pocket. I could feel the impact.

After a moment of sitting there stunned, I reached in and withdrew the items. My lip salve was charred and the cap cracked. The inside of the battery was exposed after the bottom blew off. One of the chambers had exploded. Inside my pants.

It was extra unsettling because that’s exactly where I was sitting the day my left index finger suddenly turned red and went a little numb for a few days. It remained colder than my other fingers all winter.

I turned my pants pocket inside out over the waste basket and went into the bathroom to wash my hands. That’s when I noticed that darn hair brush still sitting on the counter.

When Colleen and Maddie headed out for their college visiting recently, I spotted a hair brush on the back porch. It had a strong plastic smell and I figured that’s why it was out there—to let it air out.

I was pleased to find it since Colleen took hers with her. I used it while they were gone and mentioned it to her on the phone one day.

“Oh, that’s the one we used on the cat.”

That’s how things have been going. Lately, it’s more than just my pants exploding.

    – April 11, 2007 
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