Word Count 563
By Sharon Collins
Every autumn we re-enact a Comedy of Errors before the proscenium arch of our propane fireplace. It really does have a proscenium arch, as it’s what’s called a Bed and Breakfast Unit, and sits high on the wall of our comfortable farm kitchen.
After the first year of ownership, when we did not shut off the gas for the summer-season, we discovered a pilot light can burn approximately 30 gallons of propane between the final frost of spring and the first frost of fall. We learned to throw the switch after that. Of course, we do so now with deep trepidation, as we realize that at some point the cold nights of September will require we undo, what we’ve done.
Undoing, that simple flick of a wrist requires the tools of a master mechanic, the skill of a surgeon, and the courage of a Saint George the Dragon Slayer. None of these do I possess merely, so I must request the assistance of my husband. Bull in a China shop. Need I say more? So I usually wait until the wearing of a stylish blanket serape becomes a necessity before asking. Once the plea for help goes out, he leaps into action. Before I can say, “Please don’t get your fingers on the glass fire-plate,” he’s already smudged it beyond easy repair. The specialty cleaner must be procured and utilized. But I get ahead of myself. Before we need to clean and replace, we must actually reignite the pilot.
Our B and B fireplace is not only extremely functional, it’s quite attractive. Said attractiveness requires, ugly inner workings be camouflaged. The itty, bitty, teeny-weeny, impossibly small opening where the propane emerges, is accessible only by reaching under, between, and behind some very realistic looking logs and over some oh-so-light-as-air steel wool artificial embers. As the average adult human hand cannot deliver flame to the gas jet, this maneuver can be accomplished only by taping a long handled wooden match, you know the old-fashioned kind, to a sacrificial chopstick. If we are lucky, re-ignition takes under a dozen attempts, we retain our eyebrows, and we have to open just one window to clear the air of propane and profanity. If we are incredibly lucky, we don’t jostle said realistic looking logs or embers. We are not often lucky and so must consult the iPhone photo I have learned to take for proper placement. Improper placement results in ghostly smoke smudges obscuring the cheery flames. The only thing worse than having to perform this Comedy every September is having to repeat it in October.
Once the pilot is lit and reliably burning, as reliability seems to be a factor of air bubbles in the line, the logs are aligned, the embers artfully arranged, and the glass is sparkling, we begin the final act, the replacement of the face-plate. Together we maneuver the 35 pound wrought iron and tempered glass flush to the wall and hope the fasteners line up. The only way we know is to let go. If they are lined up, the curtain can come down and we can take our bows. If however, they haven’t lined up, the whole thing threatens to crash to the floor and we have to catch it, which of course requires us to start all over. Maybe 30 gallons of propane is cheap price to pay…