The Day the Light Fell Down

by Mary Reed

It happened over a decade ago but the horror lingers on.

Imagine, if you will (shades of Rocky Horror) we Innocent Scribblers
sitting in the basement, steaming mugs of coffee in hand, mulling over
the next bits of golden mysterious prose to write, when…

… without so much as a by-your-leave or a warning creak, the light
fixture drops off the ceiling, swinging in a graceful Pit-and-Pendulum
arc, reaching less than a foot away from my arm in a budget recreation
of the famous chandelier scene in Phantom of the Opera — with the
addition of liberal amounts of coffee distributed around the domestic

The light fixture in question was trough-shaped and sported two light
saber type bulbs. Fortunately neither exploded. But there it was,
swinging gently in the draft from surprised shrieks, as visions of the
entire ceiling coming down began to dance through our heads. Swift
remedial action was needed. So while one party held the thing up at
arm’s length, the other raced off for the stepladder. Soon the rogue
light was precariously propped up on a stack of reference books piled
precariously on the top step of the ladder, thus keeping its not
inconsiderable weight off its wiring and terminating its graceful

Upon closer examination, the reason the light fell was discovered.
The thick wooden board to which it had been attached had been fixed to the
ceiling material, not an actual beam. Much sage nodding of heads and
agreement it was amazing it stayed up there as long as it had. A
handy relative spent an hour or two re-installing the light but
unfortunately the necessary measuring and drilling and hammering upset
the cat, whose conniption at the rapid descent of the light had caused
it to take cover under the sideboard. After a noisy few moments, it took
itself off upstairs in a huff, arriving at the upper floor just as
dinner guests arrived. With their young and rather excitable Pomeranian.
So the cat fled back downstairs and hid in the false ceiling, to emerge
some hours later looking very disgruntled and not a little dusty.

Not surprisingly after all the excitement, dinner was served a little
late, but at least it was available to be eaten, since fortunately it
was not until the following day when the water supply was lost for
several hours. But we could see quite well to look for it, as by then
the light fixture was firmly attached to a beam, with several extra screws added for additional security. In fact, said its re-installer, it was now so well attached that we could hang an elephant from it and it wouldn’t fall down.

We never tested the fixture in that way — you can’t get the elephants, you know — but as a result of the contretemps our advice is when shopping for new light fixtures make certain you check its technical information to ensure it sports an “elephant-safe” rating.

Mary Reed is the co-author of the John the Lord Chamberlain mysteries set in sixth century Byzantium. The current entry is Nine for the Devil. Ten for Dying will be published in March, 2014.

You can also follow Mary on Twitter.

3 Responses to The Day the Light Fell Down

  1. I had a friend who was innocently reading in a book in her home of 30 years when an entire bank of her kitchen cabinets fell off the wall and onto the floor with a great crash and plume of dust. It just goes to show. I don’t know what it goes to show. Maybe that you never know? You can’t count on anything?

  2. I always wondered why you’re considered a fixture at Poisoned Pen, Mary. Now I know. No, it’s not because you have a screw loose. Au contraire, it’s because of how you carry the elephantine burden of supporting we scribbler-ratties as you shine the light upon us all.

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