Tuesday, November 8, 2011

The famous flaming deodorant story.

     Everyone has their favorite family stories, and I've never met a family that didn't have at least one funny recounting of a time when they were younger.  Not everyone, however, has a story that pushes the boundary between a family owning it and it becoming Urban Legend, but my family does.  It's the story of how my brother Ace almost set his room on fire with a flaming roll-on deodorant.  I would wager that this tale has been told equally by as many non-family, as family members.   Apologies up front for any distorted facts or circumstances, but I think I got it mostly right, and that's what happens with Urban Legends, after all.

     It all started with a nice gesture by my brother Ace to his twin sister, Meter Maid.  It was circa 1978 and my brother had attended a pep rally or a school bonfire, after a dance.  Meter Maid was ill and could not attend.  Ace saw some other students that were there, light sticks of roll-on deodorant and use them like torches, held high above their greasy, pimpled faces (Hey, it was high school, everyone had greasy pimpled faces).  We'd all seen this done at concerts with Bic lighters, but this was a new twist.  He thought it was so cool that the next day he called his twin into his bedroom to try and repeat the trick.  It seemed like a good idea at the time, but the show would quickly turn into a fiasco of epic proportions. 

This guy became an Olympian
     You will need to know the layout of the upstairs of our house, to really get the feel of how this went down. At the time this story took place, there were 6 bedrooms and one bathroom on that story of the house.  Ace and his brother Aquaman occupied the bedroom in the Southeast corner of the house, which also happened to be the furthest bedroom from the small bathroom.  In order to reach the bathroom, you had to exit the room, go straight for 6 feet, turn right, go straight for 25 feet along the stairway, turn right and continue another 10 feet into the bathroom.  It was not the best bedroom for a bed-wetter to be in (Wait, wait, I did not say that either Ace or Aquaman were bed-wetters, only that logistically they were placed in the worst room, if you were one) It was a good bedroom to hang your sheets out to dry after you wet the bed though ala Michael Landon in the Loneliest Runner, as it was in the back of the house, so Ace's friends wouldn't see them.  Incidentally it would be wrong for the reader to link the upcoming pyromania of my brother to bed-wetting too, as the scientific basis for that is shaky even if seeming to be proven regularly by anecdotal stories, but I digress, on with this tale...

View from under the bed
     Ace closed the door of his room, and took the top of of his rarely used bottle of Brut roll-on deodorant. 
Ironically, Aquaman was not present at the time when his brother most needed a master of the seven seas (Some of you are trying to tie this back into bed-wetting aren't you?)  He lit it, and sure enough it produced a nice blue flame as the alcohol in it burned off.  It was during one of his ballet style swings of his arm that Ace got his first lesson in the expansion of things when they are heated, and unfortunately the top of the roll-on deodorant expanded faster than the ball, which allowed it to tumble out of it's receptacle onto the floor.
To paint a clearer picture, think of twin 16 year olds, gawking at a flaming ball of alcohol rolling around on a hardwood floor.  Do you know what is worse than one flaming ball of alcohol rolling around on a hardwood floor?  The answer is, many pieces of a flaming ball scattered around the floor, which is exactly what Ace ended up with, after he instinctively tried to stomp out the ball, and it shattered.  I'm told that the ones under the bed were the prettiest, but there is a minority who enjoyed the ones that shot under the curtains.  With a room full of flaming bits, the only thing preventing my brother from being a bed-wetter at that particular moment was .... location. 

An approximation of the long hallway
     Ace sprang into action and raced to the bathroom.  He cupped his small hands under the water, collected some and ran back the 40-some combined feet and went to throw the water on the fire, but all the bouncing, corner taking, leaking (out of the hands), had done an effective job of drying them on route.  I exited my bedroom, which he had to pass on the way to and from the bathroom, and watched him make two more consecutive trips, with similar results.  In my version of the story, it was me who came up with the idea of using the toilet brush holder to effectively carry some water back to extinguish the flames.  Truth be told, the alcohol burned itself out mostly by that time, but I don't get to be a hero often, like my brother, Aquaman, so let me have this one, OK?   Though the fire was now out, the calamity was not, as all the commotion, running, screaming, and the word FIRE, had caused my mother to start to climb the stairway to investigate.  Shit, meet fan. 

What Ace should have gotten
What Ace did get
    My brother only had seconds to think of a story to explain the charred bits and wet patches, and the story he told is what launched this tale into Urban Legend territory.  "Mom", he exclaimed " You wouldn't believe it... the sun came in through the window and hit my open bottle of deodorant, and ignited it".  He continued explaining how it was only his quick thinking of knocking it to the floor, stomping on it, and extinguishing it with water from the toilet brush holder that had stopped us from having to change addresses (Another irony was that, the true hero in this story, the toilet brush holder, would die in a fire, in that very same bathroom just a few years later, and yes it's true, I can't make this kind of stuff up).  My mother, jaded as she was from raising 12 kids, did believe it and bought the story, hook, line and sinker.  She always did have a soft spot for Ace, as the story goes she might have dropped him down the stairs accidentally, when he was much younger. To my recollection, there was no punishment for Ace, and in fact his heroics may have even earned him a cake for his efforts.  I've often wondered if my Dad bought the story like my Mom did, or was he just polite enough to her, to not argue the point, when she related it to him later that night.  After all, he didn't drop Ace down the stairs.

       This story has a great ending already, wouldn't you agree? That's not how it did end though.  My mother was a stay at home Mom, with a little time on her hands, excellent writing skills and with a mission to save other Mother's kids.  Ace should not have been shocked, when a week later, she told him how she had written the Brut company a scathing letter, outlining our experience, and chiding them for not including a warning on the roll-on about direct exposure to sunlight.  I wonder how the cake tasted then.  It was a few months later, when we noticed an actual warning label appear on that product.  We will never know if that was the direct result of my sister missing the bonfire, or not.   Feel free to share this story, after all, it's an Urban Legend now. 

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I don't know how there isn't a comment on this because this is hilarious!