Monday, December 22, 2008

Snow on fire

Timmy Tyrole's trick would have been a neat one if his grandmother hadn't put the kabosh on his scheme. The hands of idle boys are the Devil's insturments.

Timmy is a student at Everett Elementary School on Pleasant Street. He lives on Cushing Avenue in N'orchester, but with school being cancelled due to inclement weather, Timmy spent the weekend with his grandparents in Lower Mills, a few miles south and expected to stay until after X-mas. In history class, Timmy has been studying the Eastern Roman Empire and he's been quite taken with the notion of 'Greek fire.' This was a weapon the crafty Byzantines deployed against invading navies, an unknown, petroleum-based product (hypothetically) that set the waves themselves aflame around foreign armadas that couldn't be extinguished. Timmy, though overall a good boy, likes to play with matches. He is like a moth when he is around fire.

Timmy's grandparents live on Old Morton Street in Lower Mills, a few blocks from the Walter Baker Chocolate Factory that has been converted to apartments. Faced with spending a few days exiled in Lower Mills, Timmy brought his history book to pass the time and get ahead on homework. During the recent snowstorm he was puttering around in his grandfather's workshop located in the cinder block garage detached from the main house. He was eyeing the jars and cans of mysterious liquids his grandfather has collected over the decades, and Timmy decided to see if he could replicate Greek fire.

He took an empty spackle bucket and mixed gasoline and kerosene and stirred in a pint of old turpentine that had congealed into jelly. He splashed in a dash of cadmium-based acrylic paint because red is the color of fire. His original thought was to toss the whole load into the Neponset River, the way the Byzantines would, but like a good scientist he considered the consequences and didn't want to see his experiment wash out to sea. Figuring snow, which was everywhere, is also water, he trucked his bucket into his grandmother's back yard and poured it over the snow drifts.

Luckily, Hattie Tyrole was washing the breakfast dishes while Timmy was going about his preparations. She rushed out the kitchen door and said, "What do you think you're doing, young man?" Timmy answered, "I'm making Greek fire."

Even with the wind blowing snowflakes and frigid sea breeze off Dorchester Bay, Hattie Tyrole could smell the fumes off Timmy's concoction. "No you're not,"she scolded, "You're getting yourself inside where I can keep my eye on you."

Hattie made hot cocoa and lectured Timmy while he stirred the marshmallows in his cup. "What sort of fool thing were you up to? Do you want to set the whole neighborhood on fire?" Timmy was sullen. He said, "I wanted to make Greek fire. I wanted to see if it really worked." His grandmother said, "What do you know about Greeks? All they're good for is running diners not setting fires. Why don't you be good and dry these dishes? That will be enough fun for both of us."

Timmy wasn't convinced. While he dried the dishes and handed them to his grandmother to put in the cabinets, he looked out the window at the snowdrift he had stained with his imitation Greek fire. He knew he wasn't going to get to put a match to it, the snowfall was burying it at a rate of two inches an hour. His grandmother said, "You're a smart boy, when you grow up you can experiment all you want. Just don't do it now and don't do it in my back yard."

2 comments:

muser said...

Whalehead or Mr. King, if I am too presumptuous, am I correct in assuming that you and young Timmy are one and the same? I only ask this because in the photo posted on your homepage, I see a man with a look of great curiosity superimposed over one of piercing intelligence that many might find intimidating if it were not for his eyes, both of which twinkle with the kind of mischief a boy like Timmy would have! In addition to your delightful story about Timmy, which elicited several bursts of laughing out loud, I read with interest of your stoplight to stoplight mode of transport upon the little Ninja, through Boston rush hour traffic. I look forward to reading of the adventures of the Bard of New London, as well as more of his wonderful short stories, should he survive long enough the sheer insanity, my opinion, of driving through Boston traffic, rush hour or otherwise, to do so. Please convey my thanks to your staff for making your website such a pleasure to visit.
Cynthia Allison,tNBW

Although I had good intentions of blogging under "muser", I have yet to set up my Blog.

'Whalehead' King said...

Ms. Allison,
The staff here at Whalehead Enterprises appreciates your kind words and concern for the founder. I do not live on Cushing Avenue, so no, Timmy and I are not one and the same. I am also considerably older. Also, I checked in the mirror and only the left eye twinkles with mischief. The right one twinkles with mayhem. I get that from my father's side.

With a handshake and best wishes for the upcoming New Year.....
WK & co.

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