Liar Liar

Hot stove tops can cause fires and injuries

By Rob Pickle, with an intro by his Mom, Martha Wilcox

Can you tell when your kid is telling you the truth? Our kids have no idea what experts we become in watching their expressions; after all we’ve been doing it since the day they were born. “I didn’t eat the cookie,” may be declared with conviction by a 3-year-old, but the crumbs on the chin tell another story.

Rather than make it a federal case, I found that just playfully invoking, “Liar Liar Pants on Fire,” was enough to get my son to fess up, with no harm, no foul. As he grew up, we evolved to obscure references that let him know I was on to a fib: “Is that smoke rising from your jeans?”

Fast forward several years, and I finally found out the real story behind the time when the oft-teased phrase came to life and my son really did catch his pants on fire. I learned the details when I read this story.

Liar liar pants on fire. I’m not sure whether my high school gym teacher thought this or believed me when I told him why I didn’t have my gym shorts.

The gym teachers at my high school were dress-code sticklers. Everyone had to wear the same blue shorts every day. No excuses. Everyone got a pair, and it was your lifeblood. No shorts? No grade for that class. Considering I always failed the V-Sit-and-Reach stretch exercise, I needed to keep a clean dress-code record to keep up my gym grade. The shorts were very comfortable so the dress code was never an issue. Many students even wore them outside of gym class. I was one of those people.

One day after lacrosse practice, I had a group of friends over for activities that high school guys do: video games, TV, junk food, and detailed discussions around each of these important topics. The basement is where all of these things happen.

Before going downstairs, I threw my school stuff and lacrosse gear onto the kitchen counter. My room was all the way upstairs, and I was in a phase in my life when that seemed too far out of the way to set my things down after school.

A half hour later as I am downstairs with the guys, I start to smell something off – very off. Is that something burning? I didn’t recall putting a pizza in the oven. I looked around at the guys to see if I was imagining the smell. By the look on each of their faces, I could tell my senses weren’t the only ones sensing something bad.

I ran up the stairs to the kitchen and came across a gruesome sight. My beloved gym shorts, which I had worn to lacrosse practice, had caught fire. They lay on the red hot kitchen stove like a mound of burned asparagus. Embers were scattered all across the countertop. Somehow the stove top had been turned on high. I yelped, turned off the stove, grabbed a spatula, and flung the smoldering shorts onto our porch where they sizzled into powder. Later that day, I swept up the remains and held a small ceremony, burying what was left in the backyard.

To this day I have no idea how the stove got turned on high or how the shorts ended up near it. When I asked my friends who committed the crime, they all declared innocence. I should have been more careful with throwing all of my stuff around on the kitchen countertop anywhere close to the stovetop.

I ended up telling my gym teacher the truth about what happened to my gym shorts. He may not have believed me, but he liked the story. I paid for a replacement, and have held onto those shorts ever since. After all, they are incredibly comfortable. I’m wearing them right now.

Hopefully, this will never happen to you but here are some fire safety tips for your family, just in case.