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Fire alarms are tricky things. Meant to keep you safe, most of the time they end up being so irritating that you beg for the sweet hand of death to take you just so you don’t have to listen to their infernal chirping any more.

And frankly, the fire alarm situation is a long-standing problem at The Mom’s. I’m not sure if I actually did remove the batteries – the smoke alarm is one of those things I’m rather keen on, especially at The Mom’s because frankly I don’t trust the rest of my family around the new-ish gas stove. I believe I would have been rather firm about the smoke alarm having batteries, and may have also mentioned that a CO2 detector would be a good choice. I assume that if I did mention any of this, The Mom would’ve rolled her eyes and worked herself into a proper lather about ‘one more thing meant to protect me that instead drives me mad.’

The thing is, my family likes to do things fast, faster, and fastest. This isn’t because we’re particularly efficient, mind, but rather the opposite: we know something’s bound to screw up along the way so the quicker we get going, the sooner we’ll find out what that is, and then we can get moving on what we’re really good at, which is moaning and complaining. The other thing is that this method of approaching a task also applies to cooking.

So, L’il Sis might come downstairs one morning, bleary-eyed, back a bit creaky, dog nipping at her heels, birds tweeting to have fresh food and bath water, all the while she can think only as far as coffee. This is of course a universal trait with our lot – unless Crazy D has decided he’s off coffee but that’s often more hassle than it’s worth. And The Mom who doesn’t drink coffee because of her ‘heart problems’ which really means she’s been shamed too many times by us and now will not admit to liking her own – shitty – coffee.

Nevertheless, I digress.

So there might L’il Sis be, in the bleary half-light of morning, desperate for coffee. She is not used to a gas stove and so will put the stovetop espresso maker on as usual. She will be careful to avoid letting the plastic handle hang too far over the side so as to actually melt. She will begin waiting for her coffee to brew, but will be called away by any number of other things. At some point in the next two to three minutes, the esperesso will be finished and she will be nowhere in sight. The espresso maker does not know this and so will continue to bubble away. The handle which hasn’t burst into flames will begin to soften, working its way towards something akin to a small lava flow. The steam coming from the thing will be whistling up a storm, but there will also be dogs barking and The Mom blethering away about some other affront to human dignity Mr. Trump has undertaken and so no one will hear the espresso machine’s ‘please to be taken off the fire’. There will come a point when the espresso maker cannot contain itself any longer and it will explode. This will cause a huge mess and a noise loud enough for people to take notice. But unfortunately everyone will have forgotten somebody wanted a coffee. So the metal pot and its plastic handle will lie there, being devoured by flames, as life continues apace upstairs.

At some point, The Mom will come out of her room and ask no one in particular: “What is that burning smell?”

This is such a frequent question that no one bothers replying anymore.

The Mom will wait patiently for a few moments for an answer that is not forthcoming. Then she will repeat herself.

L’il Sis might poke her head out of her room and say, “What?”

The Mom will reply: “Burning smell.”

A look of pain and horror will pass over my sister’s face before she tears off downstairs to what is now a smoldering mess of burning plastic that hasn’t quite become hot enough to burst into actual flames.

“Why did I not know this is happening?” will go the cry from the kitchen.

The Mom will rush in, following L’il Sis in hot pursuit. She will do any number of less than helpful actions (including but not limited to): ask questions to which no one knows the answer, flap her hands, and finally get a tea towel in hand to remove the offending espresso machine. She will do this before L’il Sis has turned off the gas. The tea towel will obviously catch on fire, and The Mom will shriek and drop it, and neither of them will be wearing shoes so they won’t be able to stamp it out.

At this point the dog will come over and be greeted by a foot in the face and stern language. The Mom will be told – shouted at if we’re being honest – to ‘Go get some goddamned shoes and stomp on this fucking thing’. She will go to the back door for her bird feeding shoes and return with footwear made entirely of plastic. There will be a brief and terse exchange wherein the relative merits of “A Thing on Fire’ are debated with ‘Using Plastic To Put Out The Thing On Fire’.

By the time the issue is resolved, the thing will not be on fire anymore.

To my mind, this scene lacks depth, the sort of depth that only an irritating chirping fire alarm can provide. Which is why I tend to put the batteries in the things. My own personal amusement, pure and simple.

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