The flare-up at the fireplace

Kevin Cowherd

December 21, 1990|By Kevin Cowherd

IF A HUSBAND and wife only use their imaginations, there is no limit to the amount of things they can fight over.

My wife and I have fought about every subject under the sun. We have fought about money. We have fought about whose mother drives who crazier. We have fought about how to raise kids, what to watch on TV, what to wear to a party, even about who should take out the garbage, if you can believe that.

That whole tastes great-less filling deal with Lite beer? Oh, we fought about that for months.

In fact, we have fought about so many subjects over the years I was afraid we'd reached the point where there was nothing left to fight about.

This was a chilling prospect indeed, as I envisioned the two of us nodding amiably to one another in the hallways and having many hours of pleasant conversation.

Obviously this would create a huge morale problem. Without an occasional dust-up where one spouse stomps out of the room and slams the door, things get dreadfully dull and the relationship begins to take on an eerie, Brady Bunch-like atmosphere that is unhealthy for all concerned.

Then a few months ago, we moved into a new house with a fireplace, and suddenly there was a whole new reason to lace on the Everlast gloves.

In fact, as we gazed at the fireplace on our very first visit to the house, you could almost hear the bell for Round 1.

And now that the cold weather is here, I find myself jumping rope, hitting the heavy bag and doing lots of roadwork in anticipation of the many spectacular bouts that are upcoming.

The problem essentially is this: The building and maintenance of the fire has apparently become my job. And my job alone. I don't know how I got that lucky, but there it is.

My wife, on the other hand, wants nothing to do with the fireplace. No, that's not completely true. On the days and nights in which there is a chill in the air, she wants to see a roaring fire in the fireplace.

Then she wants to sit in front of this roaring fire and admire its cheery beauty and drink in its warmth.

But ask her to actually start the fire and she bolts from the room as if someone just lobbed a hand grenade through the window.

So the other day, hoping to avoid another 12-rounder right there in the living room, we sat down for a little chat about the fireplace.

As delicately as possible, I pointed out that of the dozen or so fires we've had since moving into the new house, I had started . . . let's see, 1, 2 . . . carry the 4 . . . all 12.

"Starting the fire is a man's job," my wife said.

"What do you mean 'a man's job?'" I said. "We're all equal in the eyes of God."

"Not when it comes to fires," she said.

Then she signaled the conversation to a close with some flimsy excuse about having to do the laundry or cleaning or pick up the kids, I forget.

Well. Leaving aside the obvious sexism of her remarks, it still doesn't explain another of her odd, um, philosophies.

Because not only won't she start the fire, she won't even throw another log on it when it starts to die down.

Understand, no one is suggesting that the woman traipse out into the woods with a chain saw and actually chop the wood herself (although I wouldn't have a problem with that sort of energy and determination.)

I'm not even asking her to walk out to the woodpile (which, by the way, is a whole 15 feet from the house) to fetch the wood.

All I ask is that she occasionally reach into the woodbox near the fireplace, pick up a log and toss it on the fire.

The woodbox is exactly two feet from the fireplace, in case you're wondering. Two feet. I measured it myself the other day to make a point, the point being that there is little risk of anyone collapsing from exhaustion over this chore.

"Unless throwing another log on the fire is a man's job, too," I sneered.

"No," she said. "I just don't ever think about it."

Then she signaled the conversation to a close with some lame excuse about cooking dinner or ironing or something, I didn't catch the whole thing.

Anyway, as we have had a few dandy go-rounds over the fireplace already, I am sure that with the onset of winter, the action will heat up even further.

In fact, I see where the weatherman says we're in for a cold spell over the next few days. Something about a low pressure system coming down from Canada.

Better get back to that heavy bag.

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