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Charlie Hatton
Brookline, MA

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Howdy, friendly reading person!
I'm on a bit of a hiatus right now, but only to work on other projects -- one incredibly exciting example being the newly-released kids' science book series Things That Make You Go Yuck!
If you're a science and/or silliness fan, give it a gander! See you soon!

I’m an Excellent Fireplace

Our new condo — which is not so new any more, but was just about to be new on the cusp of my hiatus a while back — has a fireplace.

It’s actually a rather nice fireplace. Nothing fancy, but wide and open and easily viewable from the comfort of the living room couch.

(I’m tempted to make an ‘I like my fireplaces like I like my women…‘ comment here.

This is me refraining, mostly. You’re welcome.)

Our old place had a fireplace, too — if you can call it that. It was a dismal affair, probably designed back when the whole ‘fire thing’ was new and poorly understood. The thing was tiny, for starters — we used to buy those ‘ready-made’ packs of firewood from the grocery store, because between us the missus and I have the ‘outdoors skillz’ of the Hilton sisters on a glue-huffing binge. But even the logs in those ‘Wood for Dummies’ packs were too long; we had to cut them down to cram them in that tiny fireplace.

“We had to look up ‘bark’ on Wikipedia to make sure it wasn’t some skin disease we could catch from handling the stuff.”

(Which was an ordeal unto itself, of course. We don’t cut wood. We’d barely even seen natural wood. We had to look up ‘bark’ on Wikipedia to make sure it wasn’t some skin disease we could catch from handling the stuff.

And just for the record, cutting wood is hard. Nothing in our experience of breaking things in two had prepared us for the wood-cutting experience. You can’t rip it. It won’t crack in two like an egg or an empty beer bottle. Scissors are powerless against it, and I couldn’t even begin to figure out where to apply a can opener. It really had us stumped.

Stumped, son. I say, stumped. That’s a gag, son — a joke, that is. Pay attention down there, boy. I’m pitchin’ ’em, but you ain’t catchin’.)

Also, the front of the old fireplace had two heavy metal pieces interlocking in the front, as though fire was some dangerous prisoner kept under maximum-security lock and key. The teeny little window in front supported that theory; we viewed our fires through a hole better suited for sliding trays of slop or shivving snitches than enjoying a roaring blaze.

So we were quite happy to see the hearth in the new place — four feet wide with a proper screen, and lined all around with smooth black marble. Good viewing angles, low-calorie, high gas mileage, grass-fed organic and whatever the hell else we’re supposed to look for in a fireplace. It fit us well — and requires zero wood surgery to operate, our Ginsus are happy to know — so we’ve used it quite a bit over the last two winters. Even during a chilly spell a couple of weeks ago, when we fired up the (probably) last fire of the season.

And the marble fell off.

Rather unexpectedly, and in the general direction of my wife, who was sitting on the hearth getting ready to light a starter match. Luckily, she was unhurt. For the large heavy slab of marble that once rested above — I can’t say the same. Shattered into dozens of small marbly pieces. The slab — and the fireplace — ain’t pretty no more.

So this weekend, we went shopping for replacement marble. Or tile. Or glass. Or papier mache, for all I know, because I realized quickly that I know nothing about what should go atop — and around, and beneath — a fireplace. My wife had all sorts of clever designery ideas, browsing through the tiles and marbles. I turned into Rain Man — what I knew is what I knew, and all I knew, and that’s what we had. And that’s what I knew.

The salespeople were not a fan.

Tilehawker: Fireplace, you say? How about something over here in sandstone?

Wife: Oooh, that could work. Honey, what do you think?

Me: It’s not black. The last one was black. Yeah. Very black.

Wife: Well, we could change it up. Maybe with some accent tiles?

Tilehawker: Absolutely! We have a wide range over on this wall.

Me: None of these are black. We had black. Black’s an excellent color.

Tilehawker: Well, sir… you wouldn’t accent with black, now, would you?

Wife: Excellent color. Excellent. Black is the new black. Yeah.

Tilehawker: I see. You married this guy, did you?

Wife: It was… uh, arranged. Sort of.

Tilehawker: Quite.

We visited a few stores, with similar results. I rocked in a corner mumbling about how things used to be, and my wife gawked at sandstone and silica, fired glass and shell mixes, and just about every color in the rainbow.

Except for black. Black is out, evidently. Read my lips: no more blackses. My inner Rain Man just convulsed.

I assume my wife is trying to find something less evil over the fireplace, something that won’t lie in wait and collapse on her again when her guard is down. And I’m sure she’ll come up with an attractive combo — stained glass and lobster shells with working neon Christmas lights, for all I know — but it’s not going to be black. We had black. And she’s been (nearly) hurt before. I don’t know what it’ll look like, but I have my reaction to the new look ready:

That’s definitely the right color, dear. Yeah. It’s an excellent color. Yeah. Definitely.

Even Rain Man knows when to (eventually) keep his damned fool opinions to himself.

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