I woke up this morning like I do most Saturdays, with a bed full of girls. We talked and laughed and before getting up for the day, I said something like, “I don’t want this to be just another Saturday filled with routines, ok?”

Twenty minutes later I was enjoying a coffee and watching a video of Paulo Coelho talking about ‘seeking adventure’ as a writer, when my wife yelled OH MY GOD from the kitchen.

I can see the kitchen from my desk and when I looked over, I caught flames leaping out of the oven toward the ceiling, and my wife reaching in for a pizza box that had ignited. I jumped from my seat to the kitchen. EVERYBODY OUT, I shouted. My wife didn’t run out. The kids rushed in from the living room and started screaming. I straddled the front of the oven, GET OUT, I commanded again as I grabbed the flaming pizza box and flung it toward the middle of the kitchen directly into the heart of the route out of the house – right at our kids. More screams. I rushed to the box. My wife had opened the kitchen door and was standing at the porch door fumbling with the lock. I kicked the flames toward her. UNLOCK IT, I said. I CAN’T, she said. YOU MUST, I said.

The flaming box was now roasting the rug on our back porch – a foot away from where my wife struggled with the deadbolt. I’LL CALL 911, I heard one of the girls yell from behind me. I jumped to to the flaming box and stomped it with my socked foot. My wife managed to unlock the door and I kicked the box onto the concrete patio. I looked down, surprised to find that my pants were not on fire. I looked back, there were still flames in the house. Spreading. I CAN’T RUN PAST IT DADDY.

We moved into our house in 2000. It was my first house. I was pretty proud. Because I was in the military, I’m a fairly safe guy. Protocols, contingencies and all that. So one of the first things I bought from Home Depot when we moved in was a fire extinguisher. And for twelve years that fire extinguisher has sat in the same spot on a shelf on the back porch, unused.

Inside the house, smoke reached the hallway and set off the fire alarm. More screaming. I grabbed the fire extinguisher, familiarized myself with the concept of how it works, pulled the red plug, detached the rubber hose, and pulled the trigger. There was dust. I pointed the hose at the flame on the porch. The dust worked. I ran inside. It worked on the kitchen floor. I went over to the oven. Poof – flames gone.

The whole event lasted less than two minutes.

Safely together on the driveway, we watched as smoke and dust billowed out of the back door and kitchen window. It looked like our house was on fire.

Suddenly, all of the plans we’d talked about earlier, changed. I never felt like we were ever in danger of dying, but I’ll tell you what – loose flames in your house will sober your ass up real quick.

Check your fire extinguishers. Be grateful for moments. And be careful what you wish for.


Jim Mitchem


Jim Mitchem

Writer. Father to daughters. Husband. Ad man. Raised by wolves. @jmitchem on twitter. First novel, Minor King, out now.