Laura William's and son Charles had just finished breakfast. Suddenly Charles leaped out of his chair and ran to the window. "What are you looking for?" Laura asked.
"I thought I heard gun shots."
"I didn't hear anything."
"I know. Because your too darn stubborn to wear your Hearing Aid."
"It was probably a car backfiring. And besides, I don't like that thing, it hurts my ear."
Laura was a strong stubborn woman. At eighty five she could out work a man half her age. She and her late husband had lived in this small rural community in New Jersey all their lives. Charles in his early fifties, and still a bachelor, moved in with his mother when his father passed away. Every year Laura ordered a cord of fire wood and piled it by her fence. She insisted on doing everything herself. She would jump on the tractor and plow the garden, mow the two acres of property, plant, and take care of the garden. Whenever Charles offered to help. She would tell him. "Go sit, you're in my way."
After breakfast, Charles went out on the porch to get some air. As he looked toward his neighbors he saw smoke, or steam, coming from under their front door. As he headed towards the house to see what it was, he detected a strong odor of smoke, as he got closer the smell became stronger. He rang the bell and pounded on the door, but got no response. He went around to the side door, still no response. He tried the knob, was surprised to find it unlocked. When entering the living room he was stunned. Ashes and pieces of firewood were scattered all around the room. The fireplace was still smoldering, but there were no signs of a fire. After checking the rest of the house to make sure everything was all right, he returned to the living room. He poked through the ashes, thinking someone may have thrown something into the fireplace that cold have exploded, but found nothing unusual.
When he returned home his mother asked, "What happened over there, I saw you go in the house."
When Charles told her, she suddenly turned pale, and sat down on the sofa.
" Mother, what's wrong? You don't look good."
Charles had lived with his mother long enough to know when something was bothering her. "Why are you so nervous?"
"They wouldn't put an eighty-five year old woman in prison, would they Charles?"
"What are you talking about?"
"We'll I may as well tell you, you won't leave me alone until I do. I knew someone was taking our firewood. And it made me furious. So I decided to teach the culprit a lesson. I picked a few pieces from the top of the pile. Drilled holes into them, then poured some of your fathers old gun powder into the holes." Charles didn't know what to say, he was speechless.
"God mother, why did you do a thing like that. Didn't you realize someone could have gotten hurt?"
"Oh! Don't get so emotional. The powder was so old, who would think it would have any kick left to it. I had no idea it was still strong enough to blow up a fire-place. But I'll bet this will teach them a good lesson. Now maybe they won't be so quick stealing other peoples property, even if it is only firewood."
Charles nervously paced back and forth, thinking about them being sued, and possibly losing everything. The more he thought about it, the worse he felt.
When the door bell rang, he was beginning to get sick to his stomach. "Don't say a word about this to anyone." He told his mother.
"Oh shut up, and answer the door."
Charles wasn't surprised to see his neighbors, Bill and June Larsen standing there.
"Hi, we got your note. Came over to thank you for checking out everything for us this morning. We have no idea what could have happened, the fireplace was almost out when we left this morning."
"It sure made quite a mess," Charles said nervously. Was there much damage?"
"No, just some ashes, and slivers of wood to clean up."
"Laura was sitting on the sofa with her arms folded across her chest, just staring at them. "Where do you get your firewood?" She asked
Charles started to sweat, he felt like he was going to faint. He thought why, oh why, did she have to say anything about the firewood.
Both Bill, and his wife June became very flustered, they stared at each other, waiting for one or the other to come up with an answer. Finally Bill said, "We must confess, we've been taking yours Mrs. William's."
"I knew someone was helping themselves to it. We haven't used ours in months. That's why I put the gun-powder into a few of the pieces. I don't appreciate people helping themselves to my property unless they ask.
"Were sorry, can you ever forgive us?" He said.
"Well I guess I was responsible for blowing up your fireplace, so I have no choice. But I honestly never thought that old powder had any kick left into it, I thought it would make a little "Pop" and that's all."
"I guess we all learned a good lesson today. You, not to take thing's that don't belong to you. And me acting like an old fool over a couple pieces of firewood."
Charles was still quite shaken. But felt much better now that everything was settled quite peacefully.
"I'll come over and help clean up the mess," Charles said.
"Oh! That wont be necessary, it's really not that bad. But you know, "June Larsen said. In a way I'm glad this happened. I never did feel right about taking that dam firewood."
"I never liked the idea myself." Laura said.
Everyone had a good laugh over that.
Charles sat down in his favorite chair, and let out a big sigh of relief. When they left.