Friday the 13th


Yesterday, looking down from the top of my ladder, I saw a black cat with big yellow eyes lying underneath and staring back up at me. Right then, I should have known things were going to go awry. Moments later, everything went dark. The Wife heard a loud THUD and ran upstairs. It was me falling off the ladder after shocking myself and shorting out the lights.

She entered the room and looked down with concern etched in her face; the eight-foot step ladder I was climbing lay next to me. Our black cat with big yellow eyes sat atop my chest and meowed. She was looking down at me too, although I didn’t notice concern etched in her face – too much fur.

This was just the start of my attempt to install a ceiling fan. After eight hours involving two trips to the doctor’s office, one Ace bandage, one ice-pack, and one stern lecture about the dangers of electricity, the ceiling fan was finally installed, but that’s how the story ends. Here’s how it starts.

Sporting giant oak leaf blades and a large, frosted globe light, the new fan we bought at the giant hardware store with the orange roof would lend the perfect ambiance for the writing studio, a.k.a. the bonus room over the garage. Installing it should’ve been a simple enough task. Besides, how hard could it be? If I got into trouble, I could simply read the instructions.

Ms. Newsome, my tenth-grade English teacher, said that the English language can be a very useful tool, especially if you’re one of those people who actually read instructions. And if you are a regular reader of this column, you already know I’m not.

Arriving back home, I lugged the heavy box upstairs, opened it, and pulled out all the pieces. There was so much stuff that it looked like someone had dumped all the parts from three fans into one box. Then I did what any real man would never do: Looked around to make sure The Wife was nowhere near, opened the instructions, and tried to read them.

The instructions were a 20-page book printed in five different languages with excellent illustrations that really would’ve really helped — if one of the five different languages was actually English. Frustrated, I threw the instructions in the corner. Yellow eyes immediately thought this was an invitation to play “shred the instruction booklet into a thousand little pieces.”

With all hope for any kind of instructional help now lost, I removed the old light fixture. I know you’re supposed to cut off the electricity first, but I did cut off the light switch. This, I found out too late, wasn’t the same as cutting off the electricity.

To make sure the heavy fan wouldn’t fall, I used two four-inch screws to secure the bracket holding the fan to the ceiling. The screws went through the ceiling, through the wood 2 x 4 in the attic, and through the wire going to the switch — which was still energized. That’s how I shorted out the lights, fell off the ladder, and landed with a THUD on the floor.

I don’t know if The Wife wanted to make sure the black cat didn’t get hurt or me. But the rest of the day she stayed in the bonus room under the guise of working on the computer.

For the next two hours, we both worked on our tasks. I was installing the ceiling fan, The Wife was working on student loan forms, ready to call 911 for help if I fell again. Finally, I proudly walked over to the light switch and announced, “The fan is now installed.”

In the 12 years of our marriage, some things I’ve done haven’t been too smart. Cutting on that light switch falls into the “not too smart” category. In an instant, the breaker in the basement tripped and all the power to the bonus room cut off — along with all the unsaved government forms The Wife had been working on for the last two hours. Yellow eyes wisely exited the room.

The Wife said, “Please call Mitch for help before you burn down our house.” I’m sure she was mad; I just couldn’t see her because the lights were out.

I started down the steps to make the call, tripped on yellow eyes that was lying in wait for me on the landing, fell the rest of the way, and landed in a crumpled mass at the bottom. The cat then jumped on my chest and started to purr.

After we got back from the doctor the second time, I called Best Friend Mitch. He told me how to fix the fan. Unfortunately he couldn’t do anything about the government forms being wiped out by the electrical shortage, or The Wife being mad.

Today is Friday the 13th, and my black cat is still staring at me with those big yellow eyes. No telling what’ll happen.

[Rick Ryckeley, who lives in Senoia, has been a firefighter for more than two decades and a columnist for The Citizen since 2001. His email is]