Toasty by the Fireplace

When the season’s chilly air nips at you, there’s nothing like a fire in the fireplace to create a warm and cozy atmosphere in your home . . .

For a few weeks this fall, I was honored by a visit from my cousin Seamus, who hails from Ireland. Seamus enjoys the outdoors, and he spent a good deal of his time in the woods behind my house. I’d see him mainly at supper time. He always seemed happy, sporting a big smile and talking and laughing as if he hadn’t a care in the world. I felt good knowing my cousin was enjoying his stay.

On a Saturday afternoon in late October, two men dressed in suits and carrying axes went into the woods. A loud commotion commenced, as if Thor and Iron Man were to duke it out. When the men in suits departed, I hiked in and investigated. Near the base of a tall oak I found shattered glass, crumpled steel, and a wad of twisted copper tubing. The ground around the tree was a muddy splotch from which emanated an odor akin to Seamus’s always-medicated breath.

I looked for my cousin’s beaming face at supper, but he never showed. I hoped he was okay and told myself his absence was probably for the best.

That night, a fierce storm blew in. Sometime after midnight, my room flashed intensely white. A second later, kra-boom! A loud crack followed, then splintering, and crash! I rushed to the window to look. A torrent of rain flooded the glass, blurring my view.

Early the next morning I went back into the woods. The tall oak had sustained a fatal strike and now rested right over the spot where cousin Seamus’s happy factory had stood. I thought nothing more of this until a couple of weeks ago when I used up my last stick of firewood. Recalling the wisdom of Lincoln, I took axe in hand. He who chops his own wood is warmed twice.

That evening, after supper, I went to the fireplace and set a starter briquet on the grate. I stacked three freshly cut oak logs and struck a match. As I moved to light the stack, flames of blue, green, and yellow instantly engulfed it—like charcoal that has been doused with kerosene.

I settled into my overstuffed chair beside the fireplace. The colorful flames entranced me as they licked and danced about the wood. Even better was the atmosphere in the room. I sat there in the glow and soaked up the feeling, tingling from head to toe in mild euphoria.

A neighbor couple from down the street stopped in to deliver a fruitcake. I had always found the wife to be quite talkative and the husband just the opposite. However, in the aura of my fire, the mister opened up like a hydrant at a three-alarm blaze. The longer we sat there, the more talkative he became. In fact, we all became quite chatty. And a little boisterous. It seemed I was especially witty. And smart. Everything I said was either laugh-out-loud funny or deeply profound.

It was after midnight when I noticed the time. “My giddiness, I mean goodness,” I announced, looking at my watch. “We’ll have to continue this another time.” I stood and yawned. My guests were tiring as well, for they stumbled a little as they headed for the door. I’m glad they had walked to my house—they were in no shape to drive.

With the fire yet a full blaze, I closed the doors on the fire box and went off to bed. The next morning, amazingly, the fire was still burning. I suffered a slight headache. But as I stood there warming myself, the throbbing disappeared.

The fire burned all day and was still burning that evening when the doorbell began to ring repeatedly, heralding a steady stream of visitors from up and down the street. Word had gotten around about my special atmosphere. I was delighted to share it and to see my neighbors “lit up” in the warmth of my home.

The fire burned all night, all the next day, and it’s still burning. I suppose it will go right on into the new year.

Yesterday, I finally heard from cousin Seamus. He says he plans to stop in sometime over the Christmas holiday. He wants to tell me about how well he’s doing “on the wagon.” I’m glad for him. I won’t dare add anything in his eggnog.

But I may throw an extra log on the fire.

What do you think?