Sunday, September 09, 2012

I burned my mother-in-law's teeth

We were in Ireland, up in the Galtee Mountains near Clonmel, where my wife's mother grew up. The holiday cottage had its own water supply, whose peat stain got through the filter on our water jug, and in the old fireplace we burned peat brickettes bought from the local garage. I love an open fire, and my motto for anything finished with is "it'll burn".

Peace, sunshine, fresh air. We should have bought a place there before the market went crazy.

I say fresh air, but the farmowner's dog (we called him Fogarty) could be detected going past a high window, by his crusted-cowshit smell. A genial animal, he would roll over when he saw us, displaying the impressive collection of scars on his belly and genitalia earned by jumping over barbed wire fences. Only the threat of sprayed hosewater would send him off on his way.

Morning. Breakfast over, the peat log dying to embers, my wife and her mother getting ready for the car ride into town to get their hair done. I tidied up and grabbed a crumpled paper tissue off the table and flung it on the fire. There's a delicious pause before paper darkens, then blooms into flame.

Only this time it was a blue flame. Wrapped in the tissue was a dental plate for the two false teeth my mother-in-law put on for show, though they weren't very good for the business of eating, which is why she had them out more often than in.

The flame brightened and elongated. It was far too late to save them.

She told the hairdresser, who collapsed, barking with laughter, then staggered across the passageway to the next shop: "Hey Jim, here's a feller burned the Mammy's teeth!"

I felt... accepted.

She passed away some years ago, but my wife says she's forgiven me by now.


Paddington said...

The love of fire is a reflex for some, as it was for my mother.

James Higham said...

Teeth burn?

Sackerson said...

The plate certainly did, quite merrily.