So there I was, minding my own business, not bothering anyone. The front door and all the porch windows were flung wide, being one of those rare autumn days where New England had forgotten that Old Man Winter was lurking ‘round the corner.
The cat lounged on the welcome mat, waiting to take a swipe at the mailman. A maddening, ceaseless thumping of a basketball on pavement, accompanied by shrieking children filled the air. Across the street, a middle-aged couple engaged in a verbal joust over whose turn it was to mow the lawn. In the next driveway over, a whistling neighbor hosed down his car, hairy beer gut sagging above his shorts.
The mediocrity of the ‘burbs at its finest.
In a fit of domestic bliss, I’d decided to ignore the beautiful weather and spend the day canning. Slaving over a hot stove, like a dutiful Stepford wife, in effort to impress. Dozens of jars filled with wild grape jelly and spicy dilly beans cooled on the counter. I lined up my jewel toned soldiers, drunk on the accomplishment―the epitome of trendy suburban homesteading. Bonus: when the apocalypse arrived, we’d keep our privileged, rotund figures, thanks to my preservation skills.
Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall. ―Proverbs 16:18
Next on the docket―pumpkin butter. Cinnamon, nutmeg, and sugar rose in a fragrant cloud. I sneezed into my elbow, as taught by the demanding Husband-Chef, to avoid contaminating the silky orange puree that bubbled on the stovetop.
Unlike the salsas and pacadillies, this recipe required a bit more culinary panache. For the first time that season, I dragged out our trusty cast aluminum pressure canner. It had been a hand-me-down from my monster-in-law, who no longer had the wrist strength to wrestle the 16-quart behemoth.
Thunking it down on the counter, I eyed the old contraption. The co-op extension service recommended an annual professional check-up, but the seals looked ok to me. What would it hurt to forego the trouble? Just this once.
A learned fool is more a fool than an ignorant fool. ―Moliere
Jars loaded, lid clamped down, I settled in to wait for the tell-tale rattle of steam before I started the timer.
Ten minutes later, the damn thing exploded.
Plates clattered in the cupboard. Heart thudding, I flung a hand in front of my face. Tinkling shrapnel and orange lava rained down. The cat yowled and disappeared under the rosebush, not to reappear until suppertime. The next day.
It took a sliver of eternity to catch my breath and assess the damages.
Shiny red burns peppered my forearms. A gouge marred the plaster where the canner’s lid had ricochet off the vaulted ceiling, then shot out the front door. Out on the porch it slowly revolved like a spun penny. Sparkling glass sequins embedded themselves in the walls and shards crunched underfoot. Superheated pumpkin butter dripped everywhere, making the wallpaper peel.
Stunned, I looked around. The laughing children in the street had disappeared. The car washing neighbor had stepped inside, oblivious to the excitement. Ears ringing from the concussion, I expected sirens. At the very least, the clomp of frantic feet as passersby flocked to investigate. Nothing. In the aftermath, the silence felt surreal.
The worst cruelty that can be inflicted on a human being is isolation. ―Sukarno
A lead ball dropped in my stomach. Suddenly suburbia didn’t feel that safe anymore. No one had noticed I’d set a bomb off in my kitchen.
I wondered if anyone would come running if I screamed.