Take an ounce of good intentions, mix in a little misunderstanding and a fireplace. . .
Mountain Tales: First-hand stories of life in Tehachapi
August 17, 2019
One wintry day in 2005, it was my turn to host our Gourmet Luncheon Group, also known as The Piranhas. We have been getting together for many years. The house was immaculate. I had purposely turned off the furnace because my luncheon theme was Siberia and I wanted the house to feel just right. The invitation was suggested that guests wear long underwear. The house was appropriately freezing! It was 9:30 a.m. and I had allowed about thirty minutes to set the table and prepare drinks. My twelve guests and their potluck dishes were due at 10 a.m.
At that late hour, my husband George decided to improve upon things. I protested when he brought in a dirty ladder, climbed up, and began to replace several burned-out light bulbs in the vaulted ceiling in our living room. He had been meaning to do this for over a year, and he was inspired!
He was up and down, up and down, knocking that horrible white stuff off the ceiling like a madman. When he was done, he vacuumed the carpet. I put the old burned-out bulbs in the empty boxes and put them in a wastebasket. Then I said, "George, it's trash day. Why don't you take this last bag down to the bin and we will be rid of it?"
He picked it up and disappeared. I thought he carried it to the trash bin. I was just starting to make coffee, feeling rushed, when I heard an explosion from the vicinity of the fireplace. Then George shouted, "Get in here, Murtz! (his nickname for me) HELP! MURTZ!" I ran into the living room and saw him frantically trying to pull molten glass off the carpet.
George growled, "Murtz, did you put those old light bulbs in those boxes?" And I snipped, "Yes," reminding him, "I told you to take them out to the trash!" Well, he had decided to take the boxes OUT of the kitchen wastebasket and put them IN the fireplace full of flaming logs, because our trash bin was full of mistletoe prunings. He thought the boxes were empty when he tossed them into the flames.
One box caught fire right away and heated up the burned-out bulb inside. Reaching ignition temperature, it exploded, casting molten glass all over the carpet as far away as the couch on the other side of the coffee table. Glowing glass blobs stuck to the carpet and melted it to black fibers.
The molten glass melted into the carpet and was very difficult to pull off. Glass also flew into shards that were really sharp. We were bleeding all over the place in no time! The house was filled with smoke. The guests were due in ten minutes. The coffee and tea had to be prepared and the table set. And there we were on the floor picking away at the carpet and bleeding. And we were mad at each other, too! Then the doorbell rang, and all the guests arrived at once, early. They took one look at my upset face and my bleeding hands, saw and smelled smoke, and said "What HAPPENED?" I said, "You need to ask George!" He took off for parts unknown.
– Anne Marie Novinger
Anne Marie and George Novinger have had their Tehachapi home since 1983 – George was the principal at Tehachapi High from 1982 to 1992, and together they started the Apple Shed with Shirley Fuller in 1995. Anne Marie wrote her memoir, entitled "Where did MURTZ come from? And how did she end up in Tehachapi?"