Sam Venable 

Department of Irony

Not Likely to Make Hallmark’s Holiday Program LineupIt has ho-ho-happened to all of us.

Christmas is nigh, we’ve acquired gifts for that special someone, and the holidays promise to be blissful.

Then the whole thing goes up in smoke. Or drowns in sewage, as the case may be.

Such a fate befell LeAnn Thompson several Decembers ago.

“I can look back now and laugh about it,” the longtime Knoxvillian was telling me. “But there wasn’t anything funny at the time.”

After hearing her tale of woe, you’ll no doubt agree.

That Christmas, LeAnn’s husband had asked for three specific gifts. She purchased those three specific gifts, wrapped them in pretty paper and hid them in the garage.

Unbeknown to her, a Grinch time bomb was rumbling and gurgling beside those three gifts. Ever so slowly, the sewage pipe leading out of their house was being choked by the kitchen sink disposal.

Finally, it gave up the ghost.

“Our entire sewage system was clogged in those old cast-iron pipes,” she recalled. “We had a home repair warranty, so I called a plumber. When he got there and opened the clean-out, everything exploded.”

We are not talking an eruption of the “boom” ilk. It was more of a “SPLOOSH!”

“Sewage blew out everywhere and covered everything,” she sighed. “Of course, on top of that was all the other flooding.”

Oops, my bad. I’d gotten ahead of myself and failed to tell you that torrential rain had been falling for days. LeAnn expected Noah’s ark to drop anchor at any moment.

“I hadn’t moved the washer or dryer,” she said. “They were flooded, the piled-up laundry was flooded, even some furniture we had stored down there was flooded.”

Plus, the carpet and sheet rock were soaked. When one wall was being torn out, they even found where a nail had punctured the pipe sometime earlier.

“By Christmas Eve, the carpet had been ripped up, and we had dehumidifiers running everywhere.”

“How bad was the smell?” I asked.

“Not pleasant,” she deadpanned. “Then again, I once had two kids in diapers at the same time, so I’ve been exposed to it before.”

Eventually, all ended well. Their warranty covered much of the costs, minus deductible.

As for those three special gifts? Total loss, LeAnn told me, nothing but lumps of wet paper. She had to go out later and buy replacements.

What, pray tell, were they?

Three books by a certain News Sentinel and Slippery Rock Gazette columnist.

How fitting. I’m often accused of producing literature of that caliber. Only never with such drama and direct application.

Sam Venable is an author, comedic entertainer, and humor columnist for the Knoxville (TN) News Sentinel. His latest book is “The Joke’s on YOU! (All I Did Was Clean Out My Files).” He may be reached at