The Firecracker House and the Terrible Bitter Winter

Once there was a rough and tumble, rattle-trap, loud and lively house, and everyone said it looked like a fire-cracker. It was true that its perfectly cylindrical shape, bright blue color, and red-checkered cone-shaped roof made it look like it could shoot into the air at any moment, but in reality it was firmly attached to the earth.

That didn’t mean what was inside it wasn’t explosive, though. Indeed, inside its rounded walls, lived four of the brightest, fieriest, most intense children the world had ever seen (and their parents). Their sparking brains teemed with ideas which their active bodies were quick to carry out, and of course, every one of their multiplying ideas was combustible.

Not content to built forts out of blankets and chairs like most kiddies, these children invented ways to hang sheets from the ceiling and tie ropes to the chandeliers, creating a super fort that covered two levels of the house and could be navigated by swinging like monkeys from room to room.

Simple games such as Monopoly and Clue were too boring for this crew, so instead they combined all the boards and pieces into one massive new game with rules so complex that no one could keep them straight, and every round ended in a knock-down drag-out fight.

Soap on the floor for ice skating, leaping from the bannisters onto enormous piles of stuffed animals, Lego towers that reached to the ceiling and caused serious injury when toppled, massive science experiments that involved baking soda and vinegar filling the bathtub. The house trembled with the sounds of their shouts and laughter and glowed with the heat of their incessant activity.

With such constant friction inside, you can imagine that the house needed some form of release, and like any clever house it eventually found the perfect solution. Late at night, when the little power-houses were finally asleep in their beds, storing energy for the next adventure, the house opened up the chimney on its tippy top and sent up all the sparks and steam that had been gathering in its attics all day. No doubt the neighbors would have been quite alarmed if any of them had seen it, but they were so thankful that the round blue house was finally quiet that they were always fast asleep themselves, and if any passing strangers happened to notice the strange sight, they always imagined that someone was celebrating an important occasion with a particularly sparkly bonfire.

All was well, then, until the year of the terrible bitter winter. Temperatures all over the country reached unheard of lows. Mounds of snow piled up everywhere. People both old and young were forced to stay indoors, huddled around a fire and frantically boiling water for the gallons and gallons of hot tea necessary to survive. Except of course, for those who generated their own heat by the sheer force of their existence. For example, the occupants of the fire-cracker house, who scarcely noticed the cold outside their frosty windows, so busy were they with sparkling schemes of all sorts.

Such heat indoors while the world outside is frozen may seem like a tremendous blessing, and in many ways it was, but it also brought unforeseen problems. After a full day of brilliant, crackling, wall-bouncing activity, the little house was quite filled with sparks and smoke. It waited patiently for midnight as usual, but then, to its utter dismay, when it went to open its little chimney, it discovered that it was frozen quite solid. Several inches of ice covered over with a thick blanket of snow and wrapped in a world of frigid air were too much for the huffing, puffing little house. After a great struggle, it was forced to give up and settle down to a slow all-night simmer.

Several days passed in this fashion, the heat building by day and banking up by night. Slowly the house filled with the tension of pent up energy and unreleased heat. The air was thick with steam and the temperatures reached unbearable levels. At last, the pressure became simply too much. It started as a tremble, then a squeak, as tiny cracks around the ceiling began to let out bits of super-charged air. At last, with a terrific CRACK, the ice burst away as the entire cone of the roof burst away from the house and flew up into the air.

The column of steam could be seen for miles around, and no one can say exactly how high up the roof was blasted before it began its descent. The neighbors were all drawn to their frozen windows in awe as the steam spread out, melting snow in its path. As the first heat they had felt in weeks touched their own walls, the surrounding families breathed a collective sigh of relief. Then they all watched in fascination as the odd, round roof slowly drifted back down and settled into place.

The terrible bitter winter didn’t relent, of course. Months of frozen bleakness still had to be endured. But now the whole neighborhood knew that every few days a new explosion of steam would come to break the monotony and remind them of what warmth felt like. And no one ever complained of the noise from the fire-cracker house again.

At least, not until the summer.

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One Response to The Firecracker House and the Terrible Bitter Winter

  1. so much inspiration for this one, tonight I’ll be looking your way for an explosion of steam.

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