For some reason he had come to harbor an exceptionally strong fear of the hot waterpot, so that, even after it had been unplugged, he would keep it some distance from the other appliances; and so that, even after it had been unplugged for some while, and even after its exterior and interior temperatures had reached equilibrium with the ambient air, he would remove it from direct exposure to sunlight and continue to regard it warily from across the room.

When would it show its true nature? he would think. When would it engulf that whole area in flame? When would the searing temperature of those flames melt the paint from off the doors? When would the searing flames indeed melt, like wedges of cheese, the doors themselves?

When would the house pets, sensing their danger, fly forward to the closed windows (and, with a miraculous adroitness and understanding hitherto unsuspected, tap out the panes with their paws, thus making good their escape?)

When would the firemen, huge men from the country, and agile women with the capacity to get in and out of the smallest spaces, delicately cradle the terrified housepets, overcome with gratitude for the brave humans’ appearance (the brave humans so different from that neglectful man who had caused them to become so threatened)?

When would the firemen turn to the gathered people, their homes now devastated by flames, the neighbors’ homes now smoldering ruins, and say in righteously condemnatory tones, “Who? Who has done this? What person failed to perform their basic obligations and with inevitably catastrophic results?”

And when would I step forward from the crowd and face them (could I step forward and face what I’d done? Would I not simply die for shame and run off?) When would I step forward to face the crowd and say, I, I am the person you seek! I am that careless man who has made you all suffer!”

And so to put off that dreaded day for a time (though could that day be forever held back?) he continued to watch warily the cool and unplugged pot.

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