I was twelve years old when I saw my father catch fire for the first time. It was the summer of 1992 and I was hosting a sleepover for a couple of my grade school chums. My father was also hosting a party, this one for a few bottles of Thunderbird, some cold Schaefer, and a few old Navy friends. It was a party that was destined to go down in flames.
The evening started routinely enough, us kids launching rockets from the end of Thor’s Hammer (an old section of PVC pipe used for fireworks) and watching as they erupted in the distance. Many of the rockets were lost from sight as they traveled over to distant neighborhoods and foreign roads . It wasn’t until we heard the sounds of tires squealing and folks yelling that my father decided it was time for us to check in for the night.
The fellas and I retired to the basement for our regularly scheduled Street Fighter tournament while my father began to prepare us some fresh popcorn on the stove. It was about 30mins later when we began to smell smoke. I was in rare form that night playing as my favorite Street Fighter, E. Honda, killing it with his “hundred hand slaps” and bringing glory back to the Sumo world. I had just finished blasting Zangief back to Siberia when a few of the fellas mentioned that the smell was becoming stronger.
By the time my friends and I began to investigate it was too late. I was climbing up the stairs from the basement when I witnessed my father come barreling in from the back deck. He ran immediately to the stove and grabbed the flaming pot in both hands. He made it just outside the house when the lid gave way and a series of giant flames erupted from inside the large pot.
I still remember that look of pure terror as his body went up in flames like Nakatomi Plaza. At this point it was too late to turn back, he glanced over at me and muttered, “Alea iacta est”, as he pushed onward, pot in hand, flames engulfing his upper body.
Being the resourceful folks that we were, our house had been equipped with an outside shower that my father immediately utilized. It was while under the shower’s cool stream that he instructed all who could hear to start the Batvan and prepare for immediate departure.
While there was no official time keeper, most folks agree that my father’s run from cold shower to the driver’s seat took roughly 4 seconds. After commandeering the helm of his 73 Volkswagon Camper, we set course for the nearest hospital, or at least that’s what we thought.
Ten minutes later we pulled directly to the front entrance of our local 7-11. Clad only in a pair of soaking swim trunks, he barged through the front door and made a bee-line for the cold beer section. After grabbing a 12 pack of heavy Bud, he proceeded to the front of a long, Friday night line and placed his beer on the counter. Slamming down a 20 dollar bill, he then turned to the now hostile crowd and using his outdoor voice, he bellowed, “Listen up folks, we got an emergency situation here and I need these beers for medicinal purposes”. By the time the waiting patrons had any idea what was going on, we were already back on the road, heading towards the hospital.
Some witnesses claim 6, others 10, but nobody knows for sure how many beers it was. What we do know is that a lot of beer got drunk on that short drive to the emergency room. After my father was checked in it marked the end of one highly eventful sleepover. It wasn’t until the next morning at check out, when doctors tried to prescribe Tylenol Three for his third degree burns, that shit would break loose once again.
Things started cordial enough as my father questioned the nurse about the doctors choice of pain medications. After informing him that the doctor’s decision was final and that no changes could be made, he continued to give protest until he was asked to leave the premises immediately. Thats when my father, heavily bandaged in the fashion of King Tut, advised the staff to phone the police because they were about to have a belligerent mummy tearing some shit apart. This comment seemed to strike a chord with the staff as a new prescription was written and everyone parted on good terms.