Coq Au Dork

by jkatejohnston

30 May 2014

Dear Max,

Last night for dinner I made a small chemical fire. You could also describe it as raw chicken with two kinds of beeswax and plastic flambé. I blame Waldorf.

Enzo bought some beeswax from the office at school: two colors. It smells good, it feels good, you can make stuff with it. He forgot about it immediately, and it sat on his dresser hardening and gathering dust. A few nights ago (the night before the fire) he remembered it. He said that Mr. Larson said you could soften it up in the sun. The sun had already gone down. I said I’d put it in a bowl and put it in the oven, which was warm because of the pilot light. I considered using an ovenproof ceramic bowl, but then decided, “Why bother? It’s not like I’m going to turn the oven on.” That was about twenty-four hours before the fire.

When I roast a chicken, I like to start the oven at 400 degrees, so the skin gets crispy. After about fifteen minutes, I turn it down to 350 and cook it for another forty-five minutes or so. This time, the chicken had only been in the oven for about five minutes when Teresa said, “What’s that smoke?” It was streaming out of the closed oven. I remembered. I opened the oven. There was the bowl, now a blue puddle, on the bottom of the oven. As I opened the door, the waft of oxygen made the puddle pouf into flame.

“TERESA-TERESA-TERESA-TERESA!—Enzo, get out of here! Go!”

I had an oven mitt, but it was too awkward for me grasp the removable bottom panel of the oven. I used a pair of tongs to grip the panel, and somehow, between the oven mitt and the tongs, I lifted the panel out of the oven. I only spilled part of the flaming puddle in the process, but that little burned merrily on the bottom of the oven while I tried to get the back door open to carry the oven panel/torch outside.

Meanwhile, Teresa got the fire extinguisher from under the kitchen sink, tried to deploy it, no-go, read the directions in a flash, pulled out the safety pin and put out the fire in the oven. I set the oven panel down on the pavement behind the house. That fire had burned itself out.

The house was full of thick plastic smoke. We sent Enzo outside, but he wouldn’t stay there, so we sent him to his room, and I don’t think he stayed there either.

Teresa and I spent the next hour or so on mop up operations. This would have been simple if the counters and shelves had been clean in the first place. They were not, however. We had a lot of crap out, and that crap had a lot of dirt on it, and now the dirt had a lot of flame-retardant chemical on it. My grandma always said, “I’d get out of my grave to close the cupboard doors.” We don’t even have cupboard doors. There was a lot to wipe down.

The next morning, I remembered that the raw chicken was still in the oven. I wrapped it in four plastic bags and threw it away, apologizing to the universe. Bye-bye.