In the annals of bad gift choices, few can compare to giving a young boy a Zippo- as a 12th birthday gift. I’ve given some bad gifts in my time- letting Steve-o get one small earring stud in his left ear lobe morphed into him and his friends gauging the ear lobes on both sides of their heads to 7/8″- lesson learned there- but none of the many gifts Steve-o has received over the years have proven to be more inappropriate than the Zippo.
I thought Jerry had reached the apex of unsuitable gift choices when he gave Steve-o a BB gun for his ninth birthday. I must have picked a thousand BBs out of the walls the last time we painted, and I suspect (but can’t prove) that he shot out the back glass on some old bitty’s Honda that was sitting on the shop lot. But the BB gun was only a warm up round for the main event.
A Zippo and a flashlight both emit light. Steve-o remembered this fact when he was looking under his bed but did not want to go in the other room to get the flashlight. Unfortunately old box spring frames are highly susceptible to combustion when exposed to an open flame. His old box spring was probably constructed back in the 1970’s, before it was common practice to use fire-retarding agents on bedding.
That rude dude lit up like a Christmas tree.
Now Jerry was in a particularly foul mood that day- someone had pissed in his Post Toasties, at least in a figurative way, or he was just being a weenie because he can, which is more likely. He was taking a nap in the other bedroom and I didn’t want to break the glorious whine-free silence by waking him up. So I closed that bedroom door and ran to Steve-o’s room with the dry chemical fire extinguisher. That put the fire out for the most part, but released an acrid cloud of soot and chemical dust that went straight up my already chronically inflamed sinus passages and burned my throat all the way down to my lungs. Even so I yanked the mattress off the bed (it was singed and full of dry chemical, but not on fire) so I could toss it out the front door and then fight with the box spring. Apparently the door was not enough to shield His Crankiness from the noise or the smell and he bursts out of the other bedroom, swearing that I was trying to set the house on fire so I could collect on his life insurance. Rant on, Whine Puppy, but at that time I was pissed and running on adrenaline, so I just shoved him aside, tossed the mattress out the front door and then wrestled the still-smoldering box spring (remember this is a full size bed) out the front door as well. Jerry just stood back and whined while I took care of the dirty work. As usual. I’m only 5’4″ and I’m doing good most days just to drag my own sorry carcass around, but adrenaline enables one to do amazing things, although you pay for it later.
I paid royally for inhaling all that dry chemical. I’m not going to say that was the only reason I ended up having to have sinus surgery- my horrible sinuses have been a life long curse and still are to some degree- but it certainly didn’t help. I completely lost my sense of smell for about a year and a half after that, and only regained a slight ability to smell some things about three months after the surgery, much to my Dr.’s surprise. He didn’t think I would ever regain any ability to smell anything.
Throughout the whole ordeal of removing the bed and attempting to clean up all that dry chemical (please note- don’t ever set off a dry chemical fire extinguisher unless it is a matter of life and death, because that dust gets everywhere and is virtually impossible to clean up) Steve-o was hiding out in the bathroom where I had told him to go to escape the bulk of the fumes. I thought Jerry was going to rip his face off, until I reminded him:
“Who bought the damned Zippo in the first place? Who was the dumb ass who gave it to a 12 year old?”
Jerry still thinks I was trying to kill him. If that had been my aim I’d never set off the fire extinguisher. I’d never wrestled a smoldering mattress and box springs out to the front yard. I would simply have gotten the kid, dead bolted the doors, and took off for Tijuana.
Jerry doesn’t know how lucky he is.
Poor Steve-o had to sleep on an air mattress until we got enough scratch to replace the bed- this time with a new mattress and new box spring that was duly treated with fire-retardant. The moral of the story? Try to keep the male of the species away from fire as much as possible.