The fire alarms in our house have gone off almost two dozen times in the four years we have lived there.
Not once was there a fire. On one occasion, there was smoke. The rest of the times, nothing.
To make matters worse, the alarms prefer waiting until everyone in our house is asleep. At least three-quarters of these false alarms have occurred between 1 - 5:30 a.m.
We have trained ourselves, through no fault of our own, to believe our fire alarm means nothing. It is an electronically-implemented Boy Who Cries Wolf, wired into our living space. We are now Pavlov’s dogs, and if God forbid a fire is ever creeping its way into our home, we’re so trained for false alarms we’ll be doomed.
In a twist of bitter irony, the single greatest threat to our surviving a house fire is our screwed-up fire alarm system.
Well, and me, the dad who keeps saying he oughtta do something about that but instead just writes about it.
DON’T LOOK UP
"Don't look up," I heard her say.
I'd stopped in a Walgreens to pick up a few sundries on the way to a social gathering. Generally, the faster I can get in and out of drug stores in Chattanooga, the happier I am.
Unlike, say, Target, where it's easy to let your feet and eyes wander into purchasing considerations that can delay even the most urgent traveler, most of the drug stores here are Xeroxes of one another. They somehow manage to seem, simultaneously, sterile and seedy.
When I heard this woman's voice, I instinctively looked over and saw her at one of those photo monitors where you pick the prints you want printed from a CD or flash drive. Two small children, in the 5-7 range, sat one on each side of her, on the ground.
"I told you look down," the mom said, loudly. "Don't make me tell you again."
Of course it wasn't my business, but I couldn't help but look. Those two kids looked so sad. Forced to sit next to their mother but not allowed, apparently, to do anything other than state at a boring tiled drug store floor.
I made eye contact with the little girl and winked at her. My unofficial translation of the response her eyes gave me was this: "Strange man, you cannot help me. And this scene you're witnessing is nothing. I will get in more trouble before this day is done; the only questions are when and how."
Walking past them on the way to check out I couldn't help but notice the screen. On it were pictures of this woman, their mom I'm assuming, in a variety of poses on a bed, clad in various states of undress, but mostly in black lingerie. Bra, panties, some kind of hose and garters. There must have been dozens of pics, perhaps hundreds.
Once back in the privacy of my car, I just sat quietly, pondering in park while the A/C hissed. Unfortunately, we don’t always have to read the whole book because we really do know how the story goes.