The Smoking Log tells the funny story about the time author Michael R Dougherty found himself in the backyard at midnight.
By Michael R Dougherty
Have you ever found yourself in the middle of an emergency and realized that what you were doing might look a bit strange?
My family and I had just moved into a new townhome and were enjoying a nice evening in our family room in front of the fireplace.
I had put a big log on the fire that would continue to burn well into the night.
Before heading off to bed, I made sure the fire was out and I positioned the big log, with it's still glowing embers, in the middle of the fireplace just to be safe.
But long about midnight I woke up and discovered that our house smelled very strongly of smoke.
I woke up my wife Mary to let her know what was going on. Then I quickly stumbled out of bed and hurried down the stairs.
Even in my sleepy midnight state-of-mind, I could tell that the smoke seemed to be coming from the family room.
Moments later I was looking at the fireplace and smoke billowing from the big log I had left there. Apparently our new chimney wasn't venting very well and now our new home smelled like a smokehouse.
My sleepy mind raced as I stood there coughing from the smoke-filled air. Our house wasn't on fire but we couldn't sleep in a house filled with smoke.
Suddenly, through the fog of my sleepy mind and smoky vision, a brilliant idea was born.
I quickly grabbed the fireplace tongs and used them to get a good hold on the smoking log. I then picked up the log and headed for the back door of our townhouse.
At the door I tightened my grip on the fireplace tongs with my right hand and used my left hand to open the door.
During this clumsy process I kept worrying that I would end up dropping the still hot and smoking log on my bare foot or brush the hot coals up against the curtains and set the house on fire.
But with a click of the lock and a turn of my right wrist, I managed to get the back door open and I headed for the yard and our vegetable garden.
After setting the glowing, smoking log on the moist dirt in our garden, I ran over to our shed and got a shovel. A moment later I was back in the garden digging a hole in the dirt so I could bury the log.
Then, as I was digging the hole, it suddenly occurred to me that when you live in a townhouse, your neighbors homes are right next to yours. So if someone heard the noises coming from our backyard at that ghastly midnight hour, they might look out their window to see what was going on.
Then it hit me -
I had sprung out of bed in nothing but my underwear. No t-shirt, just my briefs.
There I was, out in my backyard at midnight under the glow of a full moon, burying a smoking log in my garden. A very strange site indeed.
This was the stuff TV crime shows were made of.
I laughed out loud at what my adventure must have looked like. That is until I realized that the sound of manic laughter would only make things look worse. So I got busy with the task at hand. Get the smoking log buried as fast as I could.
I would explain my strange midnight in the garden underwear behavior in the morning.
When the hole in the dirt was big enough, I picked up the still smoking log with the fireplace tongs and lowered it into the waiting ground. Then I picked up the shovel and buried the log with moist dirt from the garden.
There I stood in nothing but my underwear shorts, shivering in the moon light while looking down at my midnight garden excavation project. No smoke was coming up from the ground, so my brilliant idea had been a success.
Back in our townhouse I cleaned the dirt off my bare feet while Mary opened the front door to help vent out the remaining smoke.
Then Mary took a look at me and gasp in horror. "You weren't out in the back yard in your underwear were you?" Mary hoped I was going to say "no" but she already knew the truth.
Surely we were now officially social outcasts.
The next morning I told the story to our teenage daughter Nikki and our son Christopher. They looked at me with wide eyes and insisted that I take them to the garden and dig up the log so they could see it with their own eyes.
When I unearthed the log, Nikki and Christopher broke into gales of hysterical laughter as they pictured their dad standing outside in his underwear, burying a smoking log at midnight.
Much to my relief and especially the relief of my family, not so much as one of our neighbors had seen or heard me walking around our backyard in my briefs at midnight with the smoking log. So I had nothing to explain.
Now here's the lesson from this story -
If you ever find yourself in a situation like this... for Heaven's sake, put on a pair of pants before you go outside.
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