Norman woke at three in the morning, to the incessant beeping of a smoke detector.
Not the fast, Oh-Dear-God-You’re-Going-To-Burn-To-Death beeping. A slow beep, with long moments of silence between. But it was loud enough, and annoying enough, to demand Norman’s attention, waking him from a lovely dream of his high school crush, a svelte exchange student named Cristobal.
Norman pushed himself out of bed and, with his pajamas tenting, walked to the battery drawer. He groggily found the nine volt battery, pulled a chair over to the smoke alarm, and climbed.
He was balanced precariously, the chair not a good one for climbing. The seat was plastic, and fine for the distributed weight of sitting, but less so for the focused weight of a foot for two. He kept his feet balanced on the edges, hoping the whole thing wouldn’t give way.
Norman reached up and removed the smoke detector’s cover. The chair under him slipped, just a fraction of a millimeter. He looked at it in warning, then reached up again as the smoke detector let off another beep. He pulled out the old battery, and was just sliding the new one in when the chair slipped again. Another millimeter or two. He finished pushing the battery in, pushed the cover on, then got down off the chair. He looked at it, making sure it wouldn’t give out the next time he sat. Then he looked up at the smoke detector, realizing he hadn’t tested it.
Norman climbed back up on the chair, pushed and held the button for a moment while looking down at the chair, hopeful he’d be able to see it’s giving way before it did, and get himself out of harm’s way. The smoke detector beeped three times before he let go, and he got himself down quickly, setting the chair to the side.
All was quiet now, and Norman returned to bed, hopeful he could return to his dream.