My Daughter Has Many Wounds: Fireplay Classes In Norway

(NOTE: Based on time elapsed since the posting of this entry, the BS-o-meter calculates this is 8.442% likely to be something that Ferrett now regrets.)

So I had flown all the way to Norway to teach the art of fireplay, and I had nothing to set on fire.

Oh, I had bodies waiting for the flame; fortunately, my wife (my favorite fire bottom) had come with me. And I had wands, and fire blankets, and fire cups.

What I did not have was fuel. The TSA wouldn’t let me bring that much fluid on the plane with me. And considering a major portion of my presentation revolves around “Don’t use any other fuel but isopropyl alcohol because the others are unsafe,” that posed a major challenge in teaching.

Fortunately, I’d just pop down to the local Norwegian pharmacy and get myself some rubbing alcohol.

…I thought.

So I found myself a chemist and asked for rubbing alcohol.

“…rubbing… alcohol?” they asked. Their English was quite good, but the concept was obviously beyond them. Fortunately, my sweetie – famed International Person Of Mystery Fox – had taught me never to rely on brand names for medications when travelling. It might not be called Advil in another country, but you could always ask for ibuprofen.

“Isopropyl alcohol,” I said.

“What do you want it for?”

Okay, yeah, nobody had ever asked me that before. And I didn’t think they’d much care for the answer of “I’m going to set people on fire with it, but it’s safe, mostly.”

“My wife, she, uh, has a wound,” I said instead. “That needs, uh, disinfecting.” Gini helpfully pointed to her elbow, underneath her coat, miming discomfort.

“Ah!” His face brightened. “You want antibacterial cleanser! We don’t have rubbing alcohol here, but we have this.”

He got out a tragically small bottle of disinfectant that said, tragically, NONFLAMMABLE. Plus, it was $6.80 a bottle, as opposed to the .89 cents for a huge bottle of rubbing alcohol.

I bought it anyway, hoping, and made my excuses. Then I sent a panicked email to my Norwegian handler – THERE’S NO RUBBING ALCOHOL IN NORWAY I GOOGLED IT NOBODY CAN FIND IT I CAN’T TEACH THE CLASS.

She replied, “Oh, we have that! You just have to ask behind the counter for it.”

I went to another pharmacy so the first guy wouldn’t recognize me, feeling like a meth addict trying to buy enough NyQuil. This time, I got a woman with considerably worse English.

“Hello,” I said, flashing her the email. “I need isopropyl alcohol. My friend says you keep it behind the counter.”

“What do you need it for?” she asked.

Now. You might think we would have devised a smarter cover story by now – but in my defense, I’m very stupid. And I wasn’t quite clear why every pharmacist in Norway seemed hell-bent on knowing what I needed this for.

“My, uh, daughter,” I stammered. “She has many wounds. That need… cleaning.”

“Ah!” Her face brightened. “You want antibacterial cleanser!” She started to head towards the $6.80 tiny, inflammable bottle.

“No!” I said, nearly reaching out to stop her. “My daughter, uh, she… she doesn’t like that.”

“Why not? Is she allergic?”

“She’s, um, American. She likes her rubbing alcohol. And she, uh…” I stammered, mind fogged by jetlag. “She has many wounds.”

“Many wounds,” she said suspiciously.


“You need a doctor’s note to get the alcohol,” she snapped.

Now. Later on, several very kind Norwegian convention handlers brought me the right kind of fireplay alcohol – so much I gave some away at the end of class. And they all looked perplexed: “We bought this at the chemist’s easily,” they said. “We just told them we needed disinfectant to clean our counters. Why did you have problems?”

I dunno. Maybe it had something to do with the creepy-ass, haggard American who was sleepily babbling on about his mangled daughter who thirsted to bathe in gallons of rubbing alcohol, and decided this sleazy fucker needed a prescription.

Note for next international fireplay class: prepare my excuses in advance.


  1. Dawn Weirauch
    Mar 15, 2018

    “I dunno. Maybe it had something to do with the creepy-ass, haggard American who was sleepily babbling on about his mangled daughter who thirsted to bathe in gallons of rubbing alcohol, and decided this sleazy fucker needed a prescription.”

    I *barely* managed not to spray smoothie all over my laptop screen reading this. But damn, laughing with a mouthful of smoothie until tears were leaking out of the corners of my eys …. thank you for this!

  2. Yet Another Laura H.
    Mar 15, 2018

    “I am teaching a class in pyrotechnics. It needs to be isopropyl alcohol or it won’t burn properly.”

  3. Liz
    Aug 27, 2018

    Cleaning liquid 3D printing resin from a cured print (on a laser printer, not a filament) also requires isopropyl alcohol, should you ever require an extra excuse to fit a geeky persona. Or a different source than a pharmacy; most places that sell resin and supplies for that market carry big jugs of it.

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