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Meet the Columnist

Columnist, Sheila Moss, is humor writer from  Tennessee. She writes  a weekly human interest column about daily life and the funny things that happen to everyone.

   She has written for  the Daily News of Kingsport,   Griffin Journal, Oakridge Now, Atlanta Woman Magazine, Aberdeen Examiner, Angleton Advocate,  and Smyrna AM, a supplement of the Murfreesboro Daily News Journal. She has been published by Voyageur Press, McGraw Hill, and the good folks at Guidepost Books.  Her articles have appeared in numerous anthologies and other publications, both in print and online.

    She is a former board member and past  Editor of  the, website of  the National Society of Newspaper Columnists, the oldest and largest professional organization for columnists. She is the Web Editor of Southern  and  a founder of the Southern Humorists writers' organization. She is writer, editor, and webmaster of

    To carry her weekly column in your newspaper, or to republish an article, please contact her. It's that easy. 

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Where There's Smoke...

Where There's Smoke...

It was a dark and stormy night. At least I think it was a dark and stormy night when it all began. At this point I canít be sure. The only thing I can be sure of is that I am lucky to be alive.

It was a close call, you see. I woke up in the middle of night to the smell of smoke. In my sleepy haze, I thought to myself, "Whoís smoking?" Then I woke up a bit more. Wait a minute, nobody smokes here!!?? "Must be a burglar," I thought, still half asleep. But, burglars donít take smoke breaks??? Suddenly I was awake!

Stumbling around in my nightgown, I checked the entire house for the source of the smoke. I looked in the attic. I opened the closets. Nothing. I looked outside Ė still nothing. I decided the smell must be a back draft from the chimney. The next morning, still puzzled, I decided I might as well go to work. No reason not to go Ö I thought.

When I came home from work that evening, the unmistakable, smell of smoke hit me as soon as I walked in the door. And I know the thermostat was set at 65, "Why is it so hot in here? Itís 80 degrees!" I tried to turn off the furnace and nothing happened. "My gosh, the furnace is malfunctioning, I need to call the furnace company - FAST!"

Naturally, the company was closed for the day. "If this is an emergency, press 0 says the recorded voice." I pressed 0 and waited. Twenty rings later, an answering service picked up. "What is the problem?"

"My furnace wonít turn off!! Itís 80 degrees in here!!! I smell smoke!!!"

"Is this an emergency?"

Is this an emergency? Are they nuts? "YES!!!" Should I just hang up and call 911, I wondered?

"Someone will call you back," said the answering service.

Again I tried to turn off the furnace, again with no luck. The phone rang, and I explained the problem to the repairman as calmly as I could.

"Can it wait till tomorrow? You will have to pay overtime if I come now."

Overtime? What did that matter? The furnace was going to blow up! "I need somebody NOW!"

"Why donít you pull the breaker?" he persisted.

"Whatís that?"

"Okay," he finally agreed, "Iíll come."

It occurred to me about that time to go outside and have a look. I donít know why I hadnít thought of this before. The exterior type unit is located on the far side of the house where it canít be readily seen. As I rounded the corner, I was horrified! A bale of charred and blackened straw was lying against the unitís exhaust! I begin tugging at it in a panic. It disintegrated as I pulled away handfuls of burned straw.

I decide to get help. My honey, was on the phone. "I need your help!!" I yelled. He continued to talk. "I NEED YOUR HELP!! How he could sit there calmly talking on the phone when the house was 80 degrees, full of smoke, and ready to burn down is beyond me.

"Iím talking to the income tax accountant," he says, as if that should explain everything.

Who cares?? "HANG UP!!!" Finally, it sunk in.

I grabbed shovels and we finished getting the smoldering straw away from the furnace. A night or two prior, there was a windstorm. It was very gusty all night. It must have blown the bale of straw against the furnace. Who would have figured?

We were filthy and must have looked like a couple of forest fire fighters by the time the furnace company finally showed up.

"I think we found the problem," I told the repair person.

It could be worse. MUCH worse! If the hay had ignited instead of smoldering or if carbon monoxide had backed up inside. And the natural gas line was blackened. Well, Iíd just rather not think about it. The furnace was saved with minor repairs and a major cleaning. My entire house now smells like a smokehouse or a pit barbecue, Iím not sure which..

"You were lucky," said the repairman. Never keep anything flammable anywhere near a furnace."

Yes, I knew that. Funny, I donít feel very lucky.

After this little episode, I'll never need to be reminded to be careful about how I store stuff. I also won't ever need to be reminded that where there's smoke there's fire.

Copyright 2001 Sheila Moss

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