The Monday after Spring Break, the day after Easter—trying to get my sea legs back. After slamming lunch, I donned my earbuds and ran a vacuum. I may be the world’s greatest vacuumer, and I’m certain it’s one of the reasons Tina married me. I work out of my home, have multiple animals, two kids, and lots of trees. I’m also OCD. Things need to be kinda in the right spot for me to feel comfortable enough to sit down and open up the box to work. Which is fine, as I may also be the world’s most efficient writer—banging out things in 30 minutes that might take other writers all day. (There’s some privilege with age. Knowing what works and doesn’t is one of them.)

Anyway, so I’m listening to Bishop Briggs at Coachella, finish vacuuming the back porch, and return inside to put the machine away—when I smell smoke.

I stop. Take a deep breath through my nose.

Yes, something is burning. In the house.

I burst into my office where a thin layer of gray smoke hangs in the air. But no sign of fire.

Holy. Holy. Holy.

I’ve got to get the hard drives.

My heart races. Don’t panic. Don’t panic. I run to the living room. The kitchen. The front porch.

No sign of fire.

Where will we live? When should I stop to call 911? Where’s the extinguisher?

I run to the back porch and retrieve the extinguisher. A dog rushes in, I scream for him to leave and he runs farther into the house. I grab him by the collar and yank him outside.

My hands are trembling as I remove the safety pin from the fire extinguisher.

I think about having a heart attack.

The basement. Maybe it’s an electrical fire from the basement. Maybe the AC. What if it’s the attic?

I run through the house again with wide eyes trying to spot a flame.

Fuck fuck fuck. My house is going to burn down.

Don’t panic. Think.

I leap down the back steps. No smell of smoke outside. Meaning it’s definitely in the house. FUCK.

I fumble with the lock to the basement door and fly downstairs. Nothing. No smoke or anything.

I rush back inside. The air rancid with electrical smoke.

Definitely electrical. Not fabric or wood.

I check outlets in the office unplugging them as I go. Nothing. Living room. Nothing. Kitchen. Bedrooms.

I turn on fans and throw open windows. Why the fuck isn’t the smoke alarm going off?

I go up in the attic. Nothing. Think, Jim, think.

I follow my nose and the soft gray smoke back to my office.

And as I’m standing there holding a primed fire extinguisher with my heart beating out of my chest and my eyes bugging, I notice my laptop bag leaning against the wall where I charge camera batteries. I had moved it there moments before to vacuum.


I grab the  bag, it’s stuck to the charging port, the battery melted to its leather and is eating away with a thin line of orange fire.

I grab the charging port and yank and wonder whether that’s protocol.

I rush outside and throw the bag, battery, and charging port on the ground then return inside to assess the damage.

Nothing. No marks on the wall above the electrical outlet or anything.

The smoke begins to clear. The whole ordeal lasts about four minutes.

I return outside where I put the fire extinguisher down and write this note.

In five minutes.

Jim Mitchem Jim Mitchem


Jim Mitchem


Jim Mitchem

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