Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Gas Jets On! On! On! On!

Cousin Roto showed up bright and early. We enjoyed a plate of bacon and eggs and discussed the doings of the day. I confirmed that I was fully prepared to allow a massive blowing of Old Faithful, pronouncing my affirmation that the geyser was good to spew the mother lode of moisture. Roto was happy, nodding as I spoke.

Of course we would be stationed, me above ground, he below ground in the belly of the beast. He is more technically astute about the internal workings of machines and can read gauges and things really, really well. He can react in a flash, let's say, if a knob needs to be twiddled or dialed down quickly.

There would be much give and take through the day, as the water pipes needed inspection, the flow regulated, the heat source ignited, the heating of the mechanism raised to a fever pitch, etc. I'll spare you all the technical stuff, since that's Roto's field of expertise. If he ever figures out the intricacies of blogging maybe he can write about it someday. Assuming he can type, which, I don't know...

We compared the time of day on our cellphones to make sure we were right on. I compared my more advanced LG phone with full Qwerty keyboard and virtually unlimited texting with color photos with his five/six year old Nokia with no features. I hoped his phone was up to the rigors of the day, since we'd be exchanging many calls from underground to the surface and vice versa. And it wasn't long till he was down in the belly of the beast for the final test.

I gave him a call, and wouldn't you know it, the same interference on channel 14! He was able to give me a "Roger" amongst the chattering and we went to channel 5. The static wasn't so bad on 5; thankfully some of the neighbors were doing something else. Of course we had a couple of the expected miscues, like trying to talk over the other with our finger on the button, till we relaxed and regained the discipline proper cellphone use demands, saying "Over," "10-4," and the like.

At one point he called me down to be with him. He was working with the heating elements. He let go with some technical mumbo-jumbo about the central tube needing to be heated before the big steel balls were red hot. He was afraid it could come apart at the seams, I think, or something might rupture right there at the connectors. He flipped a switch and the heat bypassed the steel balls. Then with that accomplished he brought the switch back into place and I could hear the sizzle of water spilling into the cylinders.

At that point, he signaled, and I let out the cry that gives joy to both of us, "Gas jets on! On! On! On!" He pulled down his welder's helmet and twisted the knobs up as far as they would go. The gauges at once went into overdrive. He pointed me toward the surface, which I attained in a matter of seconds. This was going to be it!

After a few minutes my cellphone rang. Pushing the button, my instrument crackled into life, a short burst of static, then Roto's triumphant voice. Fortunately the interference wasn't a problem. "I'm twisting the blow valve! This baby's got a stack it's gonna blow!" I hadn't felt this excited since puberty. I quickly pushed the buttons it takes to take a cellphone picture, thankful beyond words, actually, that I didn't have Roto's crummy old Nokia. With a phone like his, an Etch-a-Sketch would be a step up! But, anyway ... just a few buttons, and ...

Before I could get the camera function up, I heard a rumbling like a freight train about to take a leak; it was a roar with a sizzle. Then for a split second there was a hush, a silence, but only for a second. Next, the central tube seemed to buck right there where it meets the ground. I saw the grass around the hole go brown. Then without further warning, a spray, pure white except for a rainbow hovering in its midst, burst tall into the air, proud but exhausting. I was sincerely reminded of that old Kierkegaardian truism, that love wills its own downfall. The spray couldn't maintain itself. It gave its all and there was cooling spray hitting me from the breeze.

I looked at it awestruck for a moment, then fidgeted with the camera and clicked off the picture you see above. "I got it! I got it!" That was an historic moment. I paused, awash in emotions and literal water.

Then I heard the phone ring. It was Roto. There was a problem below. The water was massively spilling around him somehow, whether by seepage or a leak. Everything needed to be turned off, and so it was. Then he appeared at the door. Disappointed, I said simply, without excitement, "Gas jets off. Off. Off. Off."

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