BELL, BOOK, AND CANDLE • by Charlie Jacobson

Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house.

—King James Bible, 1611, Matthew, 5:15.

Inasmuch as the recent events surrounding the Lady Arlene (if indeed, that is her real name) are not widely known, I have attempted a rude and hasty account from marginal notes, eyewitness accounts and a late edition of the Creve Coeur Crier.

The first indication of something amiss was a no-show for a four o’clock showing of The Favourite, a film illuminated by candles, for it seems that on the previous night, she had been resting under a canopy in her handsome bed after the day’s entertainments.

The Crier did not state if she had recently drawn unknown persons to her baits or excited any passions, but one thing is certain — as of late, she had been much taken by a new cleansing ritual, touted by a talk show host with Axis pretensions, utilizing a regimen of pulverized kale enemas (not recommended). When she wasn’t running to the bathroom, she was reading Madame Bovary from a Steegmuller translation, endeavouring to recapture the glow she had long sought since her commonly courted youth and stroking Jack, her portly black cat, who took delight nesting in the crook of her belly.

The last thing anyone wants to hear when in bed is an unfamiliar noise. Most of the time it would be nothing, but at what point should she trust her instincts when a sharp pop interrupted her erstwhile peaceful evening with Jack? Currents of unease began rippling through her until she sought fit to cast Jack from her bed and arise to see what, if anything, was the matter.

“Lamentations!” A candle that she had left unattended in a bell jar had exploded, setting the TV over the fireplace ablaze in a shroud of flame. Naturally, she was undone by the mayhem: “What have I done to my house?” Not given to panic, she ran into the kitchen to fetch a pail of water and splashed it onto the lusty flames, which only encouraged them more. Was she not cognizant of EPA Regulation 103.45A.2?

Whosoever shall throw water on a fire of an electrical nature shall be shocked or electrocuted, for water is a conductor of electricity, and an excellent substance to do so, that it may encourage fire to course freely and ignite flammable materials attendant thereof.

Seeing that her house was filling with smoke and her living room was fast becoming Nebuchadnezzar’s fiery furnace, she dialed in haste and spake thus unto the receiver, “9-0-4-1-0 Midrash Terrace.”

“Thank you for calling the J. We are closed at the present time and will reopen tomorrow morning at eight o’clock. At the tone, please leave your message. Anti-Semitic calls are presently taken by the Chicago FBI at 303-225-2324. Others may choose to donate to Christians United for Israel.”

At that, she came to her senses and realized that she had dialed wrong, and again beheld the fire. Though it was exceedingly hot, she sought out her cat in a vain attempt which was likely to be her greatest danger. “Jack-Jack, where are you? You gotta get outta here!”

Taking heed unto herself once more, she this time dialed correctly and saith unto the emergency dispatcher, “Jack has not come hither, what shall I do?”

The dispatcher severely chastised her, “Ye must immediately go forth or ye shall be a dead woman! Forsake Jack and start running!! I shall bring forth the fire department.”

Forthwith and thinly clad on a cold January night, she bolted from the ravishing flames and stood shivering and alone on the tarmac of her driveway, for her neighbors were afraid and kept their own counsel. Before she could comprehend the trauma and plot her next move, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego arrived in a red truck, bells clanging and sirens wailing.

After pleading with them to rescue Jack, the burly men in boots, hats and hoses slew the raging inferno and handed the feline unto her saying, “Regard us, for did we not rescue Jack from the conflagration? For he was wise beyond his years, hiding under a box, that neither soot nor ash would blemish his coat.”

Alas, the living room had been made into a dunghill, but the burly men had not a hair of their head singed, neither were their coats changed, nor had the smell of fire passed onto them.

Soon servants of the Chaldeans issued forth to assess the damage and discover what it would cost them in moneys. The Lady Arlene was cast into exile (without a remote) to a hotel of suites at an undisclosed location, until the Chaldeans could restore her house to its original, unkempt condition.

As always, the lessons drawn from a singular event are all too common, but one can at least search for something, a grain of wisdom or a morsel of wit:

“Ring the bell, close the book and quench the candle.”

Charlie Jacobson has an abiding interest in philosophy and the arts, and lives in Alton, Illinois with a cat who doesn’t like him. He is published in Proud to Be, Fleas on the Dog, Military Experience and the Arts, Poets Choice, Drunk Monkeys, Wingless Dreamer, Kallisto Gaia Press, Gabby & Min, Free Spirit, and six more.

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