Right now, I can see the way I’m going to die. My torso will be crushed into the linoleum; my head will shatter beneath the three hundred pound man presently trying to reach the ceiling of the utility room. He puts his foot on the dryer and it rocks backwards. Here we go, I think. His hand grips the top of the partition wall; a shower of old sheetrock smashes on the floor around me. I cringe. His grip holds. The dryer rocks back to level with a metallic boom. We’re safe. For now.

Meet the Boss. We’ll call him “Boss” to preserve his anonymity, though not because I have anything disrespectful to say about him. The Boss is awesome. He runs the town: he’s the fire chief; he’s the road commissioner; he’s the solid-waste manager; he’s the oil delivery man. He also repairs furnaces—that’s why he’s standing on the dryer.

The furnace, you see, hangs from the ceiling. It’s a relic from the days when this house was a fire station, installed in the late 70s. It ran fine until a couple of nights ago, when the characteristic, roof-shaking roar of its blower gave way to a droning hum and some clicking.

“See the problem Inmate?” the Boss asks. He’s referred to me as “inmate” since before I moved here. The house I rent from the town serves as its police station in the summer; I therefore, am its inmate.

“I don’t,” I said.

“I do,” says the Boss. “I do. That’s why they pay me sixty bucks an hour.”

He reaches into the blower enclosure and pulls out a belt. Not a whole belt, but a cracked, dried-out, broken belt. Hence, apparently, my lack of blower.

“I’ll be back,” he says. “You’re not going anywhere.”

I hear his diesel truck roar away into the night and then, a few minutes later, roar back. The Boss returns holding a new belt, and proceeds to climb the dryer once again. I step back.

“You’re not scared are you?” he says monotonously. “I’d be pretty scared if I was you.”

After a few minutes of fiddling, he flicks the kill-switch and the burner fires. Moments later, the blower shudders to life. Warm air starts whooshing into the rest of the house. The Boss closes everything up and returns to the floor. But he isn’t satisfied.

“Didn’t do that before,” he says. The blower now emits a repetitive clunking sound. Up he climbs onto the dryer. He re-opens the shaking furnace and peers inside.

“Oh yes,” he says. “You’re going to need a new heating system.”

He closes up again and climbs down. Over the roar, we talk for a minute about where a new furnace would go. He points out possible locations. I notice that the tip of his index finger is missing.

“The best place for it,” he says, “would be right on the ceiling where this one is. All the pipes and everything are right there.”

“Yup,” I agree.

“But,” he says. “See those struts? God knows what they’re into. Looks like they’ve pulled out a little.”

“Oh,” I say. He means the metal rods that hold the furnace to the ceiling.

“You aren’t scared are you?” he asks again. “I think it’s pretty scary.”


4 Responses to “fearnace”

  1. 1 canora November 14, 2006 at 3:19 am


    I love this entry, perhaps more than all the others. Every island has its Boss, ours is the woman who holds 2/3 of all the elective offices and won the island its independence. But then again she’s only the political Boss….

    Anyways, I loved reading this, and I hope things are going well for you!

  2. 2 jenlinnan November 14, 2006 at 4:04 am

    Yes. This is exactly why you should be a writer. 🙂

    Two things:

    1) Is the Boss also in charge of the trash compactor? I hope so.

    2) Dying via plummeting furnace would be clumsy. Try not to do that.

  3. 3 alden November 15, 2006 at 12:53 am

    Jen: Yes, the Boss is in charge of the town trash compactor. No llamas here, however.

    Lucy: I’m flattered, and I hope you’re well too. For reasons of paranoia and google-exposure, I removed the name of your island from your post. I worry that the townspeople will find my blog and vote me off the island. Hope you’re not offended! Look for more island stuff to come…


  4. 4 canora November 16, 2006 at 4:43 am


    Good call, I should be more self-policing..thanks for looking out for me (and your Survivor-like status).


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