The Humor and Life, in Particular Web site
author:  Margie Culbertson

September/October '98 Humor Writing Contest Winner
Best Short Humor!

So You Think You Want a Fireplace


Michael T. Smith

If you have a fireplace or a wood stove then you'llunderstand. If you don't, but have always wanted one, then read on.
We didn't have a fireplace when I was growing up, but Iused to see television shows where there always seemed to be a fireplace in all the fancy houses. They would show a romantic scene with abeautiful couple curled in front of a roaring fire. I grew up knowing I had to have a fireplace, a place tocuddle with my wife, drink some wine, and set the mood for thoseromantic winter evenings, the ever–present, cozy fireburning in the background. Though the snow would hammer against the windows and the wind would howl through the trees, we would sit, toasty andwarm, staring at the burning logs, holding each other, with thechildren safely asleep in their beds. We would feel comfortableand safe as the fire crackled its music.
I have that fireplace now, but those nights ofcuddling 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 acord of wood, cut to length but round; I was going to do my ownsplitting. 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 byspring I would look like a lumberjack. HA! I ended up being acripple. One day, while happily using that big axe, I missed the wood. The axehit the ground between my feet, a shock wave rippled up my arm,and tears burst from my eyes. Three years and four cortisoneshots 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 theyhad. They switched to oil and electricity for a reason, less mess andwork. Wood heating is not something done in the name of progress; itis a step backward.
There is one good thing I discovered about wood heating. Itkeeps those pesky little hairs from growing on the backs of your hands.

©Michael T. Smith

I'm male, 39, married, and have two kids, three if you count my14–year–oldcat. I live in Saint John, New Brunswick, Canada. I moved here from Halifaxcounty, Nova Scotia, Canada, for a new job. I work in Telecommunications as acircuit designer/bandwidth manager.

I like to write humour, but write things of the heart as well. I've alsobeen working with an internet partner. We've completed the rough draft of aromancenovel over irc, and are now taking a break to learn a bit more about the craftbefore continuing with a revision.

I started writing at the age of 26. My wife belonged to a writinggroup, andthey'd have weekly meetings, varying the location from house to house. I sat inon a few meetings. Many of the members were working on children's books, and Ithought to myself, I can do that, and I did. I did several projects, and had afew positive responses from publishers. I never sold, but it was enough to spurme on.

Two years later the editor of a local free press put out a call forinteresting or funny local stories. I thought of the many stupid things I'vedone 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 anew love.I had a story a month in the free press for a year. I was well accepted, andmany 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 toone publisher. He responded with a wonderful rejection. He liked my storytelling style, but gave me many suggestions on how to improve it. He alsoasked me to resubmit when I had reworked it. Well, that was 3 years ago. I wasside tracked by the loss of a job I'd had for 15 years. I went back to school for a yearand then had to move. I am just now rewriting them for the 4th time,because I keeplearning and have to change everything.

About a year ago I discovered something very valuable; I knewnothing aboutgrammar. My love for writing came at a late age, and when I was in school Ididn'ttake the interest in learning it. In the past year I have studied, boughtbooks,taken every scrap of info I can gather from my writing friends, and lookedfor more.I'm a long way from being perfect, as you can see from this letter, but youshouldhave seen it before.

It seems to be paying off, because in December 1997 I sold my firstpieceto the local newspaper. It was a story about Xmas ornaments. I compared theornamentsto looking through a photo album; each piece I lifted from the box broughtback the memory of an xmas past. I used my own personal memories andtouched many people.

In February 1998 I sold 3 more pieces to a gentleman collecting officehumour for a booked called, "It All Happens At The Zoo." The book will beavailable in May of 1999. In September 1998 I sold a humour piece to a magazine in CT. Mystory wasa humourous piece about a man's love of barbecuing. In December 1998 I edited myChristmas story and resold it twice more.

So, I strive onward: learning, writing, and having a ball doing it. Ihave learned one very valuable lesson: I need to learn more. A few months agoI removed all reading material from my bathroom and replaced it with grammarbooks. I have no choice but to learn as I relieve.

©Michael T. Smith

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