(Photo stolen from these guys)
A couple of years ago I took a leap of faith that only a parent can understand: I spent a weekend away from my children.
In fact, Chas wasn't even with me; he was home with the girls. I went to visit one of my brothers for two nights.
When I returned, I walked into the living room to find it neat, clean, and totally rearranged. I had to check that I was indeed in my own hovel. Yes, I was, and the person responsible for the metamorphosis was my own sweet husband.
The most noticeable change was that the wood stove was completely gone. (To be honest, I knew this before I walked into the house, since the stove was outside on the lawn. Okay, so the story isn't exactly a fairy tale.) Chas had removed the stove without any help, stove pipe and all, and managed to hoist it out of the house -- no easy feat since those suckers are made of cast iron -- but couldn't get it any farther than the yard by his lonesome. At least he cleaned up the soot afterwards.
We hadn't used the wood stove that much, and since we had to keep the wood in our garage to keep it dry, and the garage is something like ten miles from our house, it took an act of Congress to get either of us off the couch to light a fire. We wouldn't miss the stove too badly.
So the living room was suddenly spacious, just waiting for one of my furniture-moving seizures to hit me. It's been great without the stove; there's only one thing wrong: we still have a stove pipe going up through the attic and out through our roof, and no money to pay a contractor to remove it (especially on a day's notice while, ahem, Chas's wife was out of town). So Chas did the next best thing to having a professional seal up the hole: he covered it with a piece of shopping bag and some electrical tape.
Yes, you read that right. Shopping bag and electrical tape.
And it has stayed that way for a year and a half now, and it would still be that way this minute . . .
that we had a big-ass storm blow through here the other day (you may have read about it?) and our chimney cap blew off. We didn't realize that the chimney cap had blown off, being creatures who don't like to get wet and wouldn't really know what to do about it during a 60-mile-an-hour wind storm, anyway.
So there we were last Friday afternoon, in the semi-gloom without electricity, curled up on the couch under a blanket in the 50˚ living room, reading books and shivering until it was time to go back to my parents' warm house for dinner.
Read read read. Look up. Sniff, sniff. "What's that smell?" I asked Chas, who didn't smell anything.
Read read read. Look up again. Sniff, sniff. "It smells like something burning -- no, something burned," I said, and Chas still didn't know.
Read read read. Look over at the lamp table behind the couch -- wow, it sure is dusty. Hey, I just dusted that! What the -- SOOT?! Look up at ceiling -- no, look up at the black iron box where the stove pipe used to be -- OH NO!
The Better Homes And Gardens-approved brown paper bag hole covering was WET -- and dripping! It appeared to be pregnant, but it was, of course, full of rain water. And, since the hole led straight up through Santa's entrance, the water was also sooty. And it was dripping sooty rain water onto my lampshade, and my grandmother's maple drop-leaf table, and some photo albums, and The Biggest Dictionary In The World, and -- the burned smell. It was all becoming clear to me.
The Biggest Dictionary In The World. This massive tome is reference material. I know of no better size reference than a Sierra Nevada beer bottle, do you?
A bucket, a towel, and some quick action saved all but the lamp shade, unless I get really lucky. This is how Chas solved it:
You are looking straight up -- well, wobbly straight up, at my ceiling and the cast iron box that is permanently installed there, mourning the departure of the wood stove and its raison d'etre. I'm sure you can't tell from my terrible photography, but this used to be the plastic packaging around some Ace Hardware weed whacker trimmer line. And a whole lotta electrical tape. Chas has no design sense, but he's like MacGyver with electrical tape. I guess he got up onto the roof and put a plastic bag or something over the exposed chimney pipe? I'm grateful for his efforts, believe me. Please ignore the spider web; we often do.
And I hear the rain again -- super. At least, I hope that's rain, and not Martha coming down my chimney to smack me.