After a few minutes Jimmy sat up again. In his bravest voice, he said, “I’m going to go get a candle.” Then in a quieter voice, “Do you want to come with me?”
“I guess so,” Janet replied. The twins got out of Jimmy’s bed and tiptoed across the hall to the bathroom. Jimmy groped in the dark for the matches and a candle.
“Got them!” he exclaimed in a whisper.
“Good, let’s go! I’m cold!” said Janet. She turned and ran softly back to their room and jumped back onto Jimmy’s bed, diving under the warm covers. Jimmy followed more slowly, carrying the candle and box of matches.
“Where are you going to put it, Jimmy?” asked Janet. He stopped and looked around the room for a moment.
“Hmm. I guess I’ll put it over here on your dresser.” He set the candle down on Janet’s dresser that sat beneath the window. The curtains hanging over the window fluttered lightly from the draft and the movement startled Jimmy. He jumped, dropping the match he had been about to light, and Janet let out a giggle, then quickly muffled the sound with her pillow.
“Did you think it was a ghost?” she asked, still laughing quietly.
“No,” said Jimmy defensively. He squared his shoulders and went back to his work of lighting the match. He held the red tip of the match against the box and slid it quickly along the rough side, just as he had seen his parents do. But he pressed too hard and the match broke. He set it down and picked up another one and tried it again, this time pressing a little more gently. The tip of the match flared with bright fire, and Jimmy was so surprised that it worked that he almost dropped the match. But he kept a hold of it and held it to the wick of the candle. Soon the candle was lit, and a warm glow filled the room. Jimmy got back into bed with Janet, and they watched the flame dance in the air that seeped through the window, making funny shapes on the walls and ceiling. Jimmy yawned and laid his head on the pillow.
“I think I can go back to sleep now.” he said.
“Me too,” said Janet. “I’m glad we have a light now.” The two children closed their eyes and drifted to sleep, while the candle danced and the curtain fluttered.
Something was tickling Jimmy’s nose. He rubbed it and rolled over, trying to go back to sleep, but it wouldn’t go away. It smelled funny, too. He tried to stick his head under the pillow, but Janet was pinning down the other half. He pulled the blankets up over his nose and coughed a little. It was getting worse. Finally, he opened his eyes. The room was very bright. Was it morning? He lifted his head and looked toward the window. He couldn’t believe what he saw. Was he dreaming?
“Janet! Janet, wake up!” he shook his sister. She rubbed her eyes and sat up.
“What is it, Jimmy?” she said, blinking against the bright light that was glaring at them.
“Look!” he pointed toward the window. Bright flames of fire had eaten almost all of the curtain and were climbing up the wall towards the ceiling. Janet screamed, and Jimmy realized he wasn’t dreaming. Their room was on fire.
“We’ve got to get out of here!” he shouted. “Dad! Mom!” They both started yelling as they scrambled out of bed and ran down the stairs as fast as they could, calling their parents. Daddy was just coming out of the bedroom as they got there.
“What’s wrong?” he asked them.
“There’s a fire in our room!” They told him.
“What?” he started running up the stairs. He reached the hallway and saw the bright light and smoke coming out of their room and yelled back down to their mother, “Call the fire department!” Then he turned to Jimmy and Janet. “Kids, you go outside with your mother and stand under the big tree. Don’t go anywhere else, do you understand?” They both nodded, wide-eyed, and got into their coats and boots and went outside with their mother, who was on the phone with the firemen. She sounded scared, and Jimmy and Janet were scared, too. The next few minutes went by slowly, as they watched the smoke start coming out of more windows of the house.
“Is Daddy coming out soon?” Janet asked, crying.
“I hope so, honey,” Mommy said, putting an arm around each of them. Before long they could hear the loud sirens of the fire truck, and the big red truck was soon in their yard. Mommy left them and went to talk to the firemen, telling them that Daddy was still inside. A few of the men in their grayish yellow uniforms unwound a big hose from the truck and started spraying the house with water, while some of the others went into house. Jimmy and Janet huddled close together, watching the door, hoping to see Daddy come out. Finally, there he was. He was coughing a lot, and one of the firemen held up something over his nose so he could breathe into it. After a minute he came over to them.
“They should have the fire out soon,” he told Mommy. Then he got down on his knees and looked at Jimmy and Janet. “Do you know how this happened?” he asked them. Jimmy explained that they were scared of the dark and had gotten the candle out. Daddy got a serious look on his face as he listened. “Didn’t you two remember that I told you that you were not to touch those candles? They were only for Mommy or I to use, not for either of you.” Jimmy and Janet shook their heads.
“I guess we weren’t listening,” said Janet.
“Do you realize that our house almost burned down because you two didn’t listen to me and obey me?” Daddy asked in a sad voice. The twins nodded and hung their heads.
“We’re really sorry,” Jimmy said.
“I forgive you, but I hope you realize how serious this is. We could have all been hurt very badly or even killed, and we could have had no home to live in anymore. As it is, we’re not going to be able to live in our house for a while until it gets fixed and the smoke smell goes away. I hope this teaches you both how important it is to listen very carefully when Mommy or I or your teachers give you instructions. You need to listen and obey, no matter how important or little what we are telling you is, because things like this can happen if you don’t practice listening all the time.” Jimmy and Janet nodded solemnly. “We’ll remember, Daddy.”
I wrote this for use in our children’s ministries at church to try to get across to the children how important it is to listen – not just in church, but in everyday life. Things like what happened in this story (and much worse!) have happened because of children (and adults) not listening to instructions that have been given them. I was just told a story today about a man who lost his right arm as a child because he didn’t listen to his father and stuck it in a piece of machinery that he wasn’t supposed to be fooling around with. Sad, but true. If we tell things like this to children, it is not to scare them, but to protect them from making similar mistakes with equally tragic consequences. Children need to realize and fear the consequences of sin, and it’s our job as the ones teaching them to do just that – teach them! Anyway, I hope you enjoyed the story! 🙂