Tuesday, February 28, 2012


I’ve never had appendicitis, but I did have tonsillitis a number of times, at least up until my folks finally had them removed. Itis, itis, itis. An inflammation. A sore swelling.

This is the story of a sore swelling of a set of roommates…in a fun sort of way.

In the fall of 1984, I wasn’t exactly inexperienced in the realm of roommates. I’d had two during my days in Bible College in Williamstown, West Virginia. (That’s another story, or series of stories.) However, I’d just become engaged to the girl who is now the wife who puts up with me, and Sheridan, the campus minister at my church felt I should have a bit more understanding of what it meant to live responsibly with someone other than my mom or dad. As a result, for about three months I moved in with a couple of guys in the campus/young pro ministry.

Three very interesting months.

There were three of us in the little, two-bedroom bungalow on west Abbott Street. Walter had the front bedroom to himself, and I had to share the back bedroom with Tom. I moved my folding, hide-away bed into the northwest corner, and Tom had his twin in the northeast corner. There was one bathroom and an extra shower in the basement. It was a cool little place to live; close to campus and a pleasant neighborhood…despite the occasional drunken party down the street.

The stories began on my first night in my new pad. At bedtime, I crawled into my bed just a few minutes after Tom jumped into his and he was asleep by the time my head hit my pillow. About twenty minutes after falling asleep, I learned that Tom can be very animated in his slumber.

I was shocked awake by:

“WHAT IS THIS MESS?” shouted Tom!

“Huh? What?” I said.

“What is that?” he asked.

“What is what?”

“It’s right over my bed!” he explained.

“What is?”

“That’s okay. It’s over your bed now.”

And then, Tom was back to snoozing. Sometime later, the adrenaline finally drained from my system and I went back to sleep too. The next day, when I asked him about it, he said he was seeing some sort of light that was just dangling there in mid-air over his bed. Then he said it floated over to my bed and then was gone.

Just a bit creepy.

You never really knew what any given night was going to hold. One night Tom took me on a tour of his office. Of course, only he could see it.

One other interesting night, he woke me with an urgent whispering request:

“Mike. Mike. Hey Mike.” He said in a hushed tone.

Groggily, I replied: “Uhhhh, yeah. What’s the matter?”

“Quick! Turn on the light!”

“Why? What’s wrong?” I asked.

“There’s a snake in the room!”

I was no dummy, so I answered with: “Ummm, you turn on the light.”

“I can’t.”

“Why not?” I replied.

“It’s riiiight by my side.” He stammered.

So, I carefully crawled out of bed and made my way across the bedroom to the light switch and flipped on the bright ceiling light. Looking over to Tom, I watched as he reached across his body with his left hand and jerked the blanket off.

Nothing there.

“Whew! I guess I was dreaming.”

“Yeah, I guess so.” Back to bed I went, again waiting for the adrenaline to drain from my system.

Now, I don’t want you to think that Tom was the only creative entertainment in the house. Walter made his own special mark on my psyche. He was a cool guy, and I say that with deep affection. I also say that with some sadness because he passed away this last fall. He was a friend. He was sharp. He was smart. He was professional. He had a spiritual mind.

He also had one key bad habit.

I preferred the stand up shower in the basement. That was Tom’s choice too. However, Walter preferred the bathtub in the main bath on the main floor. His bad habit revolved around that bathtub. He would wake up and turn on the hot water to fill the tub, and then lay back down to snooze while it filled. A fine plan most of the time. One day, though, he fell completely back to sleep.

The tub filled. The tub overflowed. Gratefully, he caught it quickly, before it got too bad. Also gratefully, his brother owns a carpet care company in Muncie, and he recruited him to come by and suck up the water.

Ultimately though, there was the special day in December. A day of disaster. A day when Walter struck fear in the hearts of Tom and Mike.

It was a nice day. Sunny. Cool, but not cold. A Saturday. A day off. A day to play.

About noon, Walter did two things simultaneously that interacted to create one near disaster and one real, albeit minor disaster.

First, he liked to deep fry french fries, so he put a pot of cooking oil on a flame on the stove, and he covered the oil with a lid. Secondly, he was planning to take a bath, so he turned on the water to fill the tub. While he was in the bathroom turning on the water, the oil on the stove boiled over and began to flame on the stove. Tom, Walter, and I converged on the kitchen to deal with the tiny fire that was threatening to become a big fire. None of us were clear on what to do. I knew we shouldn’t use water and that we needed to smother it, but I wasn’t sure what to use. I suggested flour, so we threw flour on it. Nope still burning. More flour. Apparently the wrong choice. Still burning. Getting desperate, I took a deep breath and blew it on the flame as hard as I could.

I blew it out!

What a relief! We were standing around the kitchen laughing at our own ineptness. What idiots we were. Hahahahahaha! Tom heard something down the back stairs. He trotted down a few steps to look in the basement.

“Walter!!!!!! The baaatthhhroooom!”

“Oh, no!” cried Walter as he sprung down the hall.

The tub had overflowed while we were putting out the fire. This time the water had completely soaked the floor, then had drained down the air ducts into the furnace. Water was all over the bathroom floor, the hallway floor, and the basement floor.

Time for Walter’s brother Carl to come to the rescue again. It was so convenient that day to have Kizer’s Carpet Care a simple call away.  http://kizercarpetcare.com/home.nxg
Now, if those two things weren’t enough, my friend Walter was not done that day. The messes were cleared up, and later that night Walter was entertaining a couple visiting from out of town. They came over to our place while Tom and I were away. It was a cool evening, and Walter thought it would be great to build a fire in the little fireplace in our living room.

Of course, a fire in the fireplace works better AFTER you open the flue.

He lit the fire. The smoke started to billow. He said they fled the house, and he kept crawling back in and using the poker to try to open the vent several times before he finally succeeded. Thankfully, he was finally successful, and a serious house fire was averted for the second time that day.

The smoke cleared out…and, so did I a few days later. It was safer back home with my folks. Great stories. I don’t know if I really learned anything that ultimately helped in my marriage, but I do enjoy the memories. I guess I did learn three or four things: Showers are safer than tubs, don’t put a lid on hot oil, use baking soda on stove fires, and make sure you open the flue BEFORE you light the fire.

This story is written in a spirit of fondness for both of my friends, Tom and Walter. Especially, I want to dedicate this post to the memory of my friend Walter Kizer. He will be missed by both his family and his friends.

You can run the tub all you want now, my friend.

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