Do you remember learning about fire as a kid? “Don’t play with matches!” say the concerned adults shaking their finger in the air. The first time I heard this I thought “It must be too much fun and they just don’t want me to waste them, but I’ll just burn one to see what it’s like”. I had learned about the importance of fire being a “tool” within the previous few months of my sixth grade year. At home we used a wood burning stove to heat, a book of matches or a box of strike anywhere matches were the tool of choice on cold mornings. On one particular morning I stuffed one of my pockets full of the strike anywhere matches. I brought the matches with me to school. Not to burn the school down. Not to cause anyone harm. No bad intentions. Honest.
Like I said, it was my sixth grade year and I sat several desks away from our teacher Mrs. Brower. I’m sitting in class bored out of my skull and I remember my pocket full of fun. I grab two of the matches, with my hands poised on the metal lip of the desk opening I start rubbing them together. I didn’t know this at the time but when you rub the tips together in a slow circular motion it makes these great “SNAP” sounds. Every time the snap would go off, I’d pretend to be busy and inconspicuously look around like everybody else. It’s all I could do to keep from breaking up or peeing my pants! It’s important at this point in the story to mention that my desk was never neat and never organized. My desk looked similar to images in the media following hurricane Katrina. Papers crumpled here and there with some actually protruding from the desk. Anyway, on the third attempt at a perfect “snap!” the dammed things lit! I stuffed the matches in my desk in hopes of snuffing them out! I could feel the still scorching match tips on my fingertips! Once extinguished I immediately put plan B into action and played stupid. (I later noticed one piece of paper had ignited, evidenced by the black ash and sooty edge.) Hoping nobody would catch on I folded my arms and covered the desk opening with my body. No luck, Mrs. Brower and every other student was up and smelling heaters and garbage cans in a panic. The damage had been done, smoke now escaped my desk, and unfortunately I couldn’t see it as it wafted up around my armpits. I considered telling Mrs. Brower to look in the hallway to buy some time when I heard a loud voice behind me call out.
“Mrs. Brower his desk is on fire!”
Caleb was his name. He yelled with such vigor it made me want to start looking for the fire. Mr. Brower snatched me out of my desk with a well deserved yank that made me see double. As she drags me down the hall I keep thinking to myself “I’m never doing this again”. Then it quickly changed to “I should have only rubbed until the second snap”. Ritalin-free kids of the 80’s will understand why I had those thoughts and everyone else is still wondering why I took a pocket full of matches to school. Perspective I guess. This was a sixth grade snap shot of things to come, so this is absolutely continued.
Remember, always explore, evolve and question.
Note: A special thanks to Mrs. Brower for being tough and not giving up on students.
Painting: Zdzisław Beksiński: title unknown
Check out his official website for more info.