`C' is for Chimney

Author: Jean

Rating: PG

Disclaimer: "Scarecrow & Mrs. King" is the property of Warner Brothers and the Shoot the Moon Enterprises. The story, however, belongs to the author and is for entertainment purposes only. No infringement of rights is intended.

Timeline: 3rd Season

Feedback: Yes, on or off line!

Archive: With the other ABC stories Summary: The mishap occurs several weeks before `Flight To Freedom' when we hear reference made to the chimney. You know, the chimney Amanda doesn't want to talk about.

Author's notes: My thanks to an SMK friend who shared the humorous details of a smoky, ill-timed adventure she had. She set this idea into motion. And special thanks to the `lady in red' for her help.

~~*~~*~~

Reaching the top of the stairs, Amanda stopped and shook her head. "The chimney. Why did Mother and the boys have to bring that up again?"

She quickly marched to her room to change for work. As she put on her gray slacks and sweater, her own sense of humor and innate ability to laugh at herself got the best of her.

It had been a valiant, well thought out attempt to fix the damper in the fireplace. The job was small, but the cost of having a repairman was decidedly not. So she carefully read the section on fireplace dampers in the "Home Repair Encyclopedia" and asked all the right questions at the hardware store.

"Just replace the ratchet pin and the damper will open and close with ease." Those were the exact words the guy had used. "

With ease." Those words had run through her head again and again. "Yeah, right. Too much ease."

She remembered her eyes watering profusely sending tears streaming down her soot-covered cheeks. And the memory of that burning sensation in her throat was enough to make her cough even now. Clearing her throat, she admitted to herself it was rather funny now, but what an ordeal it had been . . .

~~**~~

Amanda and the boys laid the wood in the fireplace that crisp October evening. It had been an unusually busy week at the Agency, and while she liked being more involved in the cases there, it was cutting into her time with the family. They were all looking forward to a Friday evening playing a family game of Scrabble. Even her mother was in for the night.

They'd gotten a small fire started easily and she'd gone upstairs to change her smudged shirt and wash the ashes off her hands. She was relishing the thought of a quiet evening.

That's when she heard her mother's shout from downstairs. "Amanda! A-man-da!" Dotty's voice carried clearly through the closed bedroom door.

Opening her door to ask what was wrong, Amanda was hit in the face by rising smoke and the screech of the smoke detector.

"What in the . . ."

Dotty motioned frantically from the bottom of the stairs. "Something's wrong with the fireplace."

Amanda was already halfway down the steps leaning over the rail trying to see into the living room. To her dismay, what she saw was smoke billowing out of the fireplace.

Watching Dotty run in circles in the entry, Amanda quickly made her way down the rest of the steps. "Where are the --" Amanda's words were cut off by the sound of both boys' voices coming in from the backdoor.

What happened?" Jamie yelled as he and Phillip clattered through the kitchen. "

Mom?" Phillip wailed.

"I'll call the fire department," Dotty shouted. "Where's the phone?" A

manda cut across the living room, yelling over her shoulder. "Don't call them. It's that damper. I just need to get it open."

As she got to the fireplace, she collided with Phillip. "You and your brother get outside. Now!" She reached out turning Phillip around.

"Mother, open the doors and windows." She waved her hand in front of her face in an effort to clear the air.

"Amanda are you sure I shouldn't call . . ."

"Mother, please." Amanda grabbed the hearth bucket that was half full of ashes and threw them onto the fire, all but smothering the blaze. Then reaching for the fireplace poker, she stepped as close as she could and thrust the poker upward to the damper, forcing it to open. Grimacing at the heat and smoke in her face, pushing as hard as she could, she felt it give and heard it fall open against the brick. She hesitated a moment to see if it would stay. Satisfied that it was well open, she laid the poker down and stepped away, her eyes and throat burning.

"Amanda, sweetheart, are you all right?" Dotty took hold of her arm and led her towards the door and out onto the front step. Phillip and Jamie stepped back to give her room.

"I'm fine, Mother." She began to rub her eyes trying to get the tears to stop flowing. "The damper's open now."

"The doors and windows are all open down stairs. I think this smoke will clear out eventually." Dotty waved her hand in front of her face, emphasizing her point.

"I'm just glad we didn't call the -" The wail of sirens stopped Amanda's next words. "Mother, I --"

"Dotty, Dotty, are you all okay?" They looked around to see Edna Gilstrap moving her short, chunky legs as fast as she could up the walk. "I called the fire department." She motioned frantically toward the sound of the sirens. "What happened? What's burning?"

"Oh, no." Dotty moaned. Amanda shook her head. "Everything's okay, Mrs. Gilstrap. The fireplace, uh, malfunctioned."

"Huh?" Edna furrowed her brow. "Well, if there's no fire why do you have smoke coming out of your house?"

The roar of two engines pulling up in front of 4247 Maplewood diverted her attention.

Two firemen ran up the front walk shouting, "Is everyone out of the house?"

"Yes, we're all out and the problem with the fireplace has been -" Amanda's next words were cut off.

"Check the fireplace, Roy. Get someone up on the roof now."

She took a deep breath trying to clear her throat. "But sir, there's really no need."

"Ma'am, please just let us do our job here." He began to direct the group away from the house and to the street.

"But that's just it. There's really no job to do." Amanda spoke as she watched three burley firemen run back up the driveway carrying large axes. They were followed by two more pulling a length of hose.

"Amanda, those men have axes." Dotty motioned up the driveway and then turned to the fireman who seemed to be giving directions. "Sir, you can't really think you'll need axes. I mean those things could damage something, you know!"

"Lady, please." He called for a ladder and motioned to the side of the house.

"Now, you listen to me." Dotty began to waggle her finger in the chief's face.

"Sir, the damper in the fireplace shut after we built a fire." Amanda calmly tried to explain. "Well, lady we'll need to check the fireplace and chimney out." He spoke into his walkie-talkie. "Please, stay right here. All of you." He looked directly at Dotty. "Just let us do our job."

"Woo, isn't this exciting?" Edna Gilstrap followed him with her eyes as he walked from the group.

Amanda took a deep breath, rolling her eyes, and coughed slightly. She shook her head and then let it sag. " I should'a called a repairman."

"Ah, Mom, it's okay." Jamie stood at her side speaking softly. "It is kinda exciting, you know."

"Yeah, cool." Phillip replied as he strained to see what was happening in the driveway.

Dotty called out, cautioning two of the men, "Stay out of those flowers. And take it easy on those roses on the trellis."

Amanda watched the surreal scene, as firemen ran in and out of the house. After several minutes, she looked at her mother. "I saw the chief go around back. I'm gonna go find him and get some answers."

"Good. I'll come with you, Amanda." Dotty squared her shoulders. "This whole thing is a bit much."

"Mother, please stay here with the boys. I'll be right back." Dotty nodded her head slowly. "If that's what you want, dear."

Amanda moved down the driveway to see one fireman coming back down the ladder, which was clearly up against the trellis. She shook her head. As she rounded the back corner of the house, she looked down at her shirt and hands for the first time, to see them covered with soot. She figured her face must be a mess as well.

"All clear." She heard someone yell. "They can come back in now."

Stepping over a fire hose, she sighed. "Well, so much for a quiet evening at home." Then she muttered under her breath, "I'm just glad Lee wasn't here to see . . ." In that instant, a fireman reached out of the shadows and grabbed her, pulling her back into the darkness.

"Amanda, are you okay?" Not giving her a chance to reply, he pulled her into a bear hug.

She recognized the voice instantly, even if it was wrapped in a fireman's coat. "When I pulled up and saw the smoke and fire equipment. . ." Lee seemed unable to relax his hold on her and she offered no resistance. Somehow it seemed right that he would be here and she relished the feel of warmth and safety in his arms.

"I'm fine. We're all fine." She let out a long sigh and felt him move back a bit. He looked at her carefully, then reached out and gently touched her smudged cheek.

"What happened?"

"Don't ask." She ran her hand across her cheekbone. "I'm a mess."

He shook his head at her, smiling softly. "I'm just glad you're everyone's okay." He gave her arm a squeeze. "The chief said there was a problem with the damper in your fireplace. You'll need to get that checked out."

Amanda closed her eyes a moment and shook her head.

Lee released her arm. "They've opened the windows upstairs and most of the smoke has cleared."

"What're you doing here?" She furrowed her brow. "Have you been inside the . . .? How'd you do that?" Her eyes widened.

He smiled gently. "What's a good partner for anyway, huh?"

"Thanks!" She pulled him to her, giving him a quick, heartfelt hug.

"Amanda, is that you?" The sound of the back door opening and her mother's voice caused her to jump. "What are you doing out there?"

"I'm right here, Mother." Amanda moved quickly into the light from the backdoor as she heard Lee disappear around the back of the garage.

"Amanda, it looked like you were hugging a fireman. Now I know we appreciate -"

"Mother, you must be seeing things." Amanda moved through the doorway into the kitchen, glancing out into the yard one last time before shutting the door behind her. "It's probably just all the smoke."

The End