the water eater
By WIN MARKS
Illustrated by BALBALIS
Most experiments were dropped because they failed—and some because they worked too well!
just lost a weekend. I ain't too anxious to find it. Instead, I sure wish I had gone fishing with McCarthy and the boys like I'd planned.
I drive a beer truck for a living, but here it is almost noon Monday and I haven't turned a wheel. Sure, I get beer wholesale, and I have been known to take some advantage of my discount. But that wasn't what happened to this weekend.
Instead of fishing or bowling or poker or taking the kids down to the amusement park over Saturday and Sunday, I've been losing sleep over an experiment.
Down at the Elks' Club, the boys say that for a working stiff I have a very inquiring mind. I guess that's because they always see me reading Popular Science and Scientific American and such, instead of heading for the stack of Esquires that are piled a foot deep in the middle of the big table in the reading room, like the rest of them do.
Well, it was my inquiring mind that lost me my wife, the skin of my right hand, a lot of fun and sleep—yeah, not a wink of sleep for two days now! Which is the main reason I'm writing this down now. I've read somewheres that if you wrote down your troubles, you could get them out of your system.
I thought I had troubles Friday night when I pulled into the driveway and Lottie yelled at me from the porch, "The fire's out! And it's flooded. Hurry up!"
Trouble, hah! That was just the beginning.
ottie is as cute a little ex-waitress as ever flipped the suds off a glass of beer, but she just ain't mechanically minded. The day Uncle Alphonse died and left us $2500 and I went out and bought a kitchen and shed full of appliances for her, that was a sad day, all right. She has lived a fearful life ever since, too proud of her dishwasher and automatic this and that to consider selling them, but scared stiff of the noises they make and the vibrations and all the mysterious dials and lights, etc.
So this Friday afternoon when the oil-burner blew out from the high wind, she got terrified, sent the kids over to their grandmother's in a cab and sat for two hours trying to make up her mind whether to call the fire department or the plumber.
Meanwhile, this blasted oil stove was overflowing into the fire pot.
"Well, turn it off!" I yelled. "I'll be in right away!"
I ducked into the garage and got a big handful of rags and a hunk of string and a short stick. This I have been through before. I went in and kissed her pretty white face, and a couple of worry lines disappeared.
"Get me a pan or something," I said and started dismantling the front of the heater.
These gravity-flow oil heaters weren't built to make it easy to drain off excess oil. There's a brass plug at the inlet, but no one in history has been able to stir one, the oil man told me. I weigh 200 pounds stripped, but all I ever did was ruin a tool trying.
The only way to get out the oil was to open the front, stuff rags down through the narrow fire slot, sop up the stuff and fish out the rags with the string tied around one end of the bundle. Then you wring out the rags with your bare hands into a pan.
"Hey, Lottie," I yelled, "this is your roaster! It'll be hard to clean out the oil smell!"
But, of course, it was too late. I had squeezed a half-pint of oil into it already. So I went on dunking and wringing and thinking how lousy my cigarettes were