We had an outhouse behind the barn. My dad used to complain the peach-pickers were going to light the outhouse on fire because they were always smoking inside. Although it was totally disgusting, I used it myself from time to time when I didn’t want to take time out from play to go into the house. I was just sure even though it had lots of paper down the hole it wouldn’t burn. My dad just had to be wrong. Being sure I was right and wanting to prove it I snuck 5 matches from the kitchen and set out on a quest. I lit the first match and tossed it down the hole. Nothing happened. I lit another and another. No fire. Just for good measure I lit the last match and tossed it in. The entire bottom of the pit burst into an orange-blue flame. I felt my heart jump into my throat.
I bolted back and out of the outhouse slamming the door behind me. I started running down the side of the barn. Just as I neared the corner of the barn that would take me to the safety of the house I peeked back at the outhouse. There was smoke oozing out of every hole and crack in the walls. I felt as if I’d caused the end of the world to begin. Somebody was going to be in big trouble over this and it was going to be me!
I ran to my room. I hid on the floor between my bed and the wall. I pulled the bedspread over myself to hide. I remember actually shaking. I was afraid I was going to vomit but scared to go into the bathroom to do it. I hid there for what seemed hours. I heard the porch door squeak. I heard the kitchen door open and close. I heard the floor pop and groan as dad walked through the kitchen, then the living room, then my bedroom. I heard the bathroom door open and close.
Dad bathed and cleaned up for dinner. When mom called us to the table I went into the kitchen expecting the worst. Not one word was said during dinner or that evening about the outhouse. All I could surmise was that the fire had gone out on its own and dad never knew anything about it. Either that or dad thought one of the peach pickers had tossed a cigarette in the hole and caused the fire.
I know the next morning when I went outside to play I couldn’t wait to peek behind the barn. One of the men came out lighting up a cigarette while a woman went in with one in her mouth. I remember feeling a huge relief. I don’t think I ever went in the outhouse again! After peach season that year dad moved the outhouse to the burn-pile where it finally did go up in flames.
I watched while dad filled in the hole where the outhouse had been. Before he started shoveling in the dirt dad took a second look at the paper in the hole and said, “Looks like someone threw a cigarette down there and caught it on fire, we’re lucky they didn’t burn the outhouse and the barn.” I felt a familiar sick feeling coming over me as he looked in my direction.
A few minutes later dad called to me, “Joyce, go get on your suit, when I’m finished here I’ll be ready for a good swim.” I ran to the house and threw on my swim suit. I coaxed Tina, our dog, to follow me onto the back of the jeep. It was just a few minutes before dad climbed in and the three of us were off for a refreshing dip in the canal.