Friday, March 6, 2015

If Your House Is Afire -or- I Loved "The Money Pit"

Mr. Goren nearly tore the door from its frame as he exploded into the office.  "Assistant Headmistress!  Assistant Headmistress!"

"Albert, how many times do I have to remind you," Mrs. Tyson sighed, "my title is Vice-Principal, and you should just go ahead and call me Anne, like everyone else does."

"Sorry, Ma'am - I mean, Anne.  Old habits from home, I suppose.  And I apologize for bursting in like this, but the school is on fire!"

"On fire?  Where?  Why isn't the alarm going off?"

"Not sure about the alarm, Ma'am, but I smelled smoke in my room, and when I went into the hall, several teachers told me they could see smoke coming from the old wing."

Anne Tyson sprang from her faux leather Vice-Principal's chair. "Pull the alarm manually, and evacuate the school!  Do it now!"

"Hold on a second, Anne," Mr. Walker said, striding into the office with his gut sucked in as far as it would go. "If we evacuate the kids in the middle of final exams, every test will be voided, and they'll have to start over - and that means a day will have to be added to the academic calendar."

Mrs. Tyson blinked at Walker impatiently.  "And?"

"And, and that will be expensive - and mess with everyone's summer holiday plans."

Miss Saguin, Mr. Williams, and Mrs. Nigh burst through the office door.  "The school's on fire!" they chorused.

"It's not on fire," Walker insisted. "Mr. Williams just wants to buy an extra day of exam prep for his slow kids. Besides, if there was a fire, it would have set off the alarm."

Ms. Maher entered the room. "I think the school's on fire," she declared calmly. "I saw smoke - a lot of it - coming from the old wing. We need to evacuate the children."

"The old wing," Mrs. O'Really scoffed as she joined the group, "that figures. I guarantee you - this fire was set by that wretched Jimmy Humanus. That kid's a damn pyromaniac."

"It's definitely a fire," confirmed Mr. Cooper, following O'Really into the office, "I saw the smoke, and I'm pretty sure I saw flames coming from the art rooms - but there's no way that the Humanus boy started it.  My money's on the crumbling ancient wiring in this old tinderbox."

"That's stupid," sneered Miss Saguin. "The afternoon sun heats those old wing rooms so dramatically in the spring.  I'll bet it was enough to ignite all that paint and turpentine, on its own.  Natural causes, all the way."

"No way - it was Jimmy Humanus, hands-down."

"It's not even a fire, guys.  I didn't see a bit of smoke," Mr. Walker said, rolling his eyes. "You guys need to stop babbling like it's the end of the world."

More teachers entered, and several called in on their room-to-room intercoms.  All of them reported smoke, or fire, or both.

Mrs. Tyson smacked her desk with both hands.  "Hush! If the school is on fire--"

"It's not," Mr. Walker sniffed.

"If it is - if there's a chance that there's even the smallest fire - then we get everyone out, period.  We can argue about whose fault it is, or how much it cost us, or whether there ever was a danger - after the kids are out.  Go! Now!"

That argument never happened. 

White Chapel, VA - Photo by Joseph Scott

This week, I combined two writing prompts. My friends at Studio30Plus wanted some BABBLE, while the Light & Shade Challenge gang wanted an EXTENDED METAPHOR.  The babbling was easy, but I'm not sure how this stacks up as an extended metaphor.  Hopefully, it works.  Thanks for reading!



  1. Great story but I'm confused. The argument didn't happen because there was a fire after all or because there wasn't and there was no evacuation. I'm always a little slow on weekends.

    1. Excellent question. Originally, I had an additional sentence, about them all being dead. I deleted it, because I kind of like leaving that open. The two scenarios you give are both valid, as is one in which they evacuate and there is no fire, but the argument still doesn't happen. It can actually go several ways, and I think I'm okay with that.

  2. Right up to the end I was thinking about all the times we (people in general) run into situations & waste time arguing & assigning blame, before deciding to act.

    I like the open ending. It leaves the brain with a lot of avenues to explore.

    1. Thanks for dropping by, Vinny! I was frustrated for some of these people, even as I was writing this one.

  3. Hmmm ... I'm still contemplating the situation.

    1. Don't think about it too much, Katy! :)