All Stories, General Fiction

Smoke from the Chimney by Tom Sheehan

Diagonally, out my back window, pal Buzz Chadsy’s house sits like a white peppermint on the side lane, one house between us. In winter’s Christmas snow, it celebrates life and color, at Easter the calm is newly evident, at night a single bulb lights the living edifice. Many late evenings, it is the last sign of life as I trod to bed, to a deep sleep, or a night full of dreams on the run.

Buzz, for all the calmness exposed from his house, is a collector of trinkets from the past, some worth thousands of dollars, obviously the lone one collector one of the last ones left. He finds trinkets anywhere and everywhere, old barns, deep cellars, crumbled closets in centuries old houses. I swear they leap up for his gentle touch, their ages on the bitter edge of ultimate failure, falling to dust or remnants if not handled properly, with absolute care, the kind Buzz allows.

The trinkets are like his children, for there are no kids allowed, in or around the collection, unless Buzz takes them on a guided and guarded tour. Last evening, the dreaded happened as I passed my window and saw smoke rising from Buzz’s chimney, a no-no for years, especially in June warmth; it cast a sense or trouble, a dire warning that something inside was amiss.

His house is like my house, built in the 1740; a fireplace in each room unless they’ve been blocked off, bricked up, except for a working show, like one of his trinkets, for see, not to touch, not to use.

I climbed over a fence between us, walked to his front door, rapped on the door, opened it a bit, and yelled out, “Buzz, I’m going around to your back door, you left the lawn sprinkler on and I’ll shut it off, Have a good night,”

Then I slammed the front door, and stood to one side, waiting: hoping I had stirred any unwanted visitor or visitors to scramble from the front door.

I’m a pretty husky guy and have handled a few tough guys in my time. So, I was prepared for a breakout if one came, somebody on he run with stolen goods, and my hope that Buzz was not hurt.

It did. The front door opened and a tall, thin gent in a rush was locked in my arms, and I could feel his pockets crammed with his takings, a thief at work suddenly stiff in my arms, as I yelled out to Buzz and anybody in the neighborhood, “Call the police! Call the police! House break at Buzz’s house! Call the police!” The stranger struggled to get away. I would not let go even as we heard a siren coming on the main road, blaring out its hurry.

I handed the thief over to the police after we unloaded his loot. We found Buzz tied up in his feature room, a fire in one fireplace where I haven’t seen a fire in a dozen years, fragments of paper and cardboard debris on fire, and more torn pieces piled up in front of the fireplace, from Buzz’s obvious packing, as if the thief had to make sure of what was what, if some pieces were selected by Buzz for trade or sale, the thief knowing what he wanted, knowing what he was looking for, what special item or items worth his break-in. the thousands of dollars that possession paid off.

What kind of surprise came in the making the fireplace a working one, a little smoke signal for an alert neighbor, for me, saying something was wrong and I was the lone hope?

Buzz and I shared a few drinks when he was untied, when the cops had toted off the break-in thief, who had signaled his own demise. And Buzz not having a pellet stove in a working fireplace like I do, his fear of fire on the loose, his valuable trinket collection going up in smoke.

A charitable deed, and strong arms, paying off for a good neighbor; nothing like friendship on the line.

Tom Sheehan

Image by analogicus from Pixabay 

5 thoughts on “Smoke from the Chimney by Tom Sheehan”

  1. I love the consistency of style I’ve read in your pieces. Your writing really transports the reader to a particular place and this vignette is a great example of that.


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