Sunday, July 31, 2011

Burning Down the House

They’d been smelling smoke for a long time. Every once in a while, he’d pull down his reading glasses and look at her over the top of the Wall Street Journal and say “Do you smell something burning?” She’d sniff, briefly, and, as she worked there at the kitchen table on her PTA speech, she’d say “Yeah. I asked you about that last week and you were too busy polishing your guns to pay attention.” He’d pull his glasses back up and bury his nose again in the paper.

Upstairs, the kids had involved themselves in one of those marathon Monopoly games – wheeling and dealing; trying desperately to survive the attempts of their siblings who were determined to score all the multi-colored bank notes and toss the other kids into the abyss of financial ruin. Another house. Another hotel. Rolling the dice. Pass Go; collect $200. Pay your rent! They’d get a whiff of the smoke now and then, but nobody was going to be the first to take their eyes off the board to see what was happening. You can’t trust those other kids to not cheat when you look away. They were busy. Besides, keeping them safe was their parents’ job.

So, the alarm goes off. She slams the greasy frying pan into the sink as he throws down his golf magazine. They run to each other, meeting in the dining room, and scream in unison “I told you something was burning!”

“Well, if you knew there was a fire somewhere, why didn’t you do something about it?” he asks.

“What am I?” is her reply, “The fire marshal? Why didn’t you do something about it?”

As the smoke gets thicker and they feel the heat of the flames about to engulf them they continue to stand toe-to-toe, screaming in each other’s face. There will be a divorce, for sure, and the battle for custody of the kids has begun – here, and now. “No judge would award those kids to you, because you let the house burn down!”

The flames have spread up the curtains, onto the ceiling, exposing the battling parents through the big picture window to the news crews gathering out in the street – arriving even before the fire trucks; even before the sound of the sirens, because these two are so busy fighting over who is to blame that they haven’t bothered to call the fire department. The stairway collapses. Giant, flaming chunks of plaster and timber crash all around the parents, who can be seen through the inferno, each still pointing fingers in the other’s face.

Meantime, upstairs, the kids are rolling the dice; trusting in their parents.

How will this story end? We’re told the answer will come by Tuesday. Who should get custody if the children survive? If the parents survive.

Does either parent deserve to have custody of those children? Would they be better off on their own, having learned everything they know from those self-centered cremains downstairs? Would they be just as well off without them?

Stay tuned. Hopefully, by Tuesday, August 2, you’ll wonder: “What is that crazy Rick rambling about now? They got the fire put out! Everybody’s fine.”

All I’m saying is this: Consider adoption.

© 2011, Rick Baber