Big Billy – The nuts off the Seal Island Bridge

To tell ya the truth, I knew there was somethin’ wrong with the furnace about two weeks before Minnie did. There was one morning I woke up and went downstairs before everybody else and put the tea on. Of course, it was before seven in the morning, so it’s still completely dark outside, and holy cripes was it ever cold in the house.

I was shufflin’ around in my slippers, bouncin’ from one foot to the other and rubbin’ my Big BIllyhands together. Now, this was only the first week of October and since buyin’ furnace oil is about the worst thing I can think of, we usually try to put off turnin’ the furnace on for as long as we can. I remember some years eatin’ Thanksgiving supper with two pairs of pitt socks on because there was no way we were gonna spend a nickle on oil before we absolutely had to.

But I was freezin’ and half asleep, so I said to hell with it and went to the thermostat and put it up to about 15. Of couse, if Minnie was around I never woulda done it, because that’s one of the few things I can get away with raisin’ a fuss about. Once the heat comes on for the winter, she’s not shy about turnin’ it up. She’ll say – we got two kids here to keep warm (even though they’re not exactly toddlers anymore). And every time she reaches for the dial all I see is beer money goin’ out the chimney.

Anyways, nothin’ happened with the dial on 15, so I moved it right up to 20. At some point, I was expectin’ to hear the familiar click downstairs, then the rumble of the furnace comin’ on, then the curtains on the window over by the chair would start movin’ when the air came up out of the vent.

But there was nothin’ at 20 either. So I kept turnin’ the dial until it was all the way up. No click, no rumble, no curtains movin’. I went and opened the basement door, but there was nothin’ to hear. There wasn’t a kick out of the furnace.

Now if you’re one of them take-charge go-getter types ya might say to yourself, well it’s a good thing I found this out now, since we got a few weeks before we’re gonna need the furnace every day, so I got time to make sure it’s all fixed up in time for the cold weather.

But you know me, eh. My first thought was – oh cripes, if Minnie finds out the furnace won’t come on, I’m gonna have to figure out how to get it fixed. So when I heard her comin’ over the stairs, I shut the basement door, ran over and turned the thermostat back down and went over to the stove to pour my tea like nothin’ ever happened.

Brrrrr! she said, tyin’ up her housecoat, and thankfully that was the end of it.

Now, yis prolly know my buddy Murph as the fella who can get ya things, a specialist in suddenly second-hand re-sales, and the fella who loses his temper and pucks somebody in the face twice a year down the club watchin’ hockey. Anyways, somethin’ ya might not know is that he’s also really good at fixin’ furnaces. He don’t got his papers or anything, but there was a stretch when he lived out in Alberta years ago where he worked for this furnace company. His job was just to drive the trucks around, deliverin’ the furnace parts and that, but sometimes he’d go on a job with one of the furnace guys and he picked up a lot that way.

So, I figured I’d just mention the furnace to Murph and get him to come over and take a look at it some day Minnie’s not home. Of course, I forgot to mention it and sure enough, the other morning there Minnie says somethin’ about how chilly it is and heads for the thermostat. I crossed my fingers and blessed myself hopin’ the damn thing would come on somehow, but there wasn’t a kick out of ‘er. She did the same thing I did, stickin’ her head down the basement doorway. Dead as a nit.

You’re not touchin’ it! Minnie said. Even if we gotta borrow the money, we’re gettin’s somebody to fix it!

I figured I’d just mention it to Murph when I seen him at Tim Horton’s that morning, but I got there late because I was listenin’ to Minnie go on about how we should just pay to get the furnace fixed so we know it’s done right instead of me and my buddies goin’ down there and messin’ it up worse than it already is.

Yeah, yeah, yeah, I said. And by the time I got to the coffee shop, all the fellas were gone except Timmy, and I only met him on the way out the door.

Ya just missed everybody, he said. Ya only caught me because I had to take a leak.

I told him I needed Murph to take a look at my furnace and he reminded me Murph was gone to the mainland for a couple of days to sell some, uh, flea market items. But Timmy said he watch Murph fix his furnace last time it was broken, and he could come over himself and have a look at it.

Minnie shot me the ol’ stink eye when me and Timmy went downstairs with my toolbox, but she was nice and made sandwiches for us. It wasn’t until we accidentally sawed through the line from the oil tank that she blew up, kickin’ him out and cursin’ me up and down while she went through the phone book to find somebody who knows what they’re doin’.

Ya don’t realize how much a quarter of a tank of oil is until it’s all over your basement floor.

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