For All You Wordsmiths: Indoor Smoke Signals

Last updated on December 4, 2016 by Liza Hawkins

This week, you’ll get to enjoy guest posts from some of my blogger friends – the theme? Summertime childhood food memories. Hope you enjoy them as much as I do!

I met Chad Thomas Johnston at a little place called #DessertIsland (a fictional writers’ island for all you Tweeps out there), and was immediately impressed with his way of wordsmithing a simple 140 characters. “Hashtag King” and proud-papa-to-be, Chad has a keen eye for the arts, and he has his hands emerged elbow deep at his blog and other creative outlets. Here’s an excerpt from his bio, which you should definitely read in full when you have a minute:

Chad Thomas Johnston is an aspiring author, sonuva’ preacha’ man, PhD-dropout, singer/songwriter, daydreaming doodler, cinemaddict, & pop-culture obsessive. He is represented by Seattle, WA-based literary agent Jenée Arthur, who is currently shopping his manuscript, The Stained Glass Kaleidoscope: Essays at Play in the Churchyard of the Mind, to major publishing houses.



My sister and I would’ve noticed the smoke, but we were engaged in a feisty bout of fisticuffs. It was one of those moments where parents are not present, and the children realize they are only a folding chair away from being able to carry out a full-blown wrestling match without any kind of reprimand.

Yes, we would’ve noticed the smoke, but it was Grandma and Grandpa’s house, and not ours. Maybe there was always smoke whenever Grandma cooked Thanksgiving dinner. Thanks to Smokey the Bear, Alyssa and I only knew smoke was in some way related to forest fires, and we were not in a forest, so we were okay.

We were not even in the “woods.” I know most people travel “over the river and through the woods” to visit their grandparents, but as our family drove from Missouri to Indiana, we traveled “over the cornfields and through the cornfields” instead. It was like following the yellow brick road, but without bricks.

Not that I didn’t long to lob massive quantities of bricks at my sister Alyssa, who always fell asleep on the cooler that sat in the middle of the backseat, neatly separating the area we occupied into personal territories. She would lay her little head down on it, and slowly the cooler would edge onto my side of the backseat. She was an unconscious conqueror, attempting to take over my domain without even properly enjoying it. Smug little monkey.

We invaded Indiana in a Relient K. It looked like an oversized Kleenex box with windows. It was robin egg blue, and it had all the horsepower of a flock of robins, if robins do indeed flock together. Somehow, our box on wheels conquered the cornfields, and we made it safely to Grandma Ruthie and Grandpa Jack’s house.
I digress.

The fisticuffs ended when Alyssa and I realized we both had very low thresholds for pain. That, or perhaps we were distracted by Grandma and Grandpa’s poodle. Poodles are very distracting, in case you didn’t know – very anxious and unable to sit still.

That reminds me. There’s something you should know about that poodle. Besides her name, which was Libby. You should know that Libby died. But shortly after her death, Grandma bought an identical poodle and named it Libby, too. If you’re thinking, “That’s weird,” you’re one step ahead of my childhood self. I remember thinking, “Oh good! We get to see Libby again when we visit Grandma!”

Grandma fed Libby hot dogs – which made Libby something of a cannibal, at least from a wordplay perspective. At Thanksgiving, Grandma also fed Libby the parts of the turkey no one else wanted – the neck, the gizzard, the heart, etc.

Once, she put all of these parts in a dish with the intent of microwaving them for three minutes. All would have been well had she not added an extra zero to the time.

Alyssa and I were sitting in the den, watching TV, and we finally noticed the smoke in the den when we could no longer see the picture on the TV. Or so I like to think. We were probably watching Count Duckula on Nickelodeon, which always sounded much more interesting than it really was. As it turned out, indoor smoke signals can make anything more interesting.

No one was able to determine where the smoke was coming from. Was it billowing from the hood of the Relient K? It did prove to be a lemon. A Kleenex-box shaped lemon. Kleenex-box shaped lemons do not grow on lemon trees. Money doesn’t grow on trees either, as all parents are so eager to tell their children. This does not explain, however, why churches sometimes give departing pastors “money trees.” The members of the congregation tape bills of all different denominations to a spindly excuse for an artificial tree, and – “viola” – a money tree is born.

Again, I digress. I love to digress. While I am at it, I would like to make a prediction. Dad is going to write me an email upon reading this, saying, “We didn’t have the Relient K then, Chad. It was the Aries K we got after the Reliant proved to be a lemon, or maybe even the ’93 Dodge Spirit.” My response? “Whatever, Dad. You told me money didn’t grow on trees, and I have seen a money tree. I think we both know you’re capable of being wrong.”

Back to the indoor smoke signals. Alyssa and I walked into the kitchen to see Grandma pulling a bowl filled with blackened turkey innards from the microwave. They had cooked them for the entire thirty minutes. Those turkey innards were blacker than Rasputin’s soul at nighttime in a cave.

Maybe it took Grandma so long to discover the burning turkey innards because she grew up when smoking was cool. Maybe she thought Libby II was lighting up a hot dog in the bathroom, rebelling with smoked meat. In my mind, the whole incident remains shrouded in mystery and smothered in the unholy smell of smoldering turkey guts.

Turkey has seemed a little too dry for my tastes ever since.

Read more from Chad here

Hi, I'm Liza — a self-proclaimed word-nerd who loves getting lost in whimsical stories and epic movies. I have laid-back, practical attitude towards life and am always on the hunt for good eats, easy recipes, binge-worthy shows, relaxing road trip destinations, the perfect fizzy gin cocktail, and time to finish my novel!

One comment on “For All You Wordsmiths: Indoor Smoke Signals

  1. As always, a funny story son. One I’d completely forgotten, as I have also the type of car that we were driving at that point in time. I can’t remember but your dad probably can. He loves to remember weird details like that. Obviously I don’t 🙂

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