The Water Heater
Jan Fortney had come to hate that water heater. She knew that moving from a 3 bedroom home into a studio apartment would require some major adjustments. The leasing agent had called it a "charming efficiency apartment". Yeah.. sure, call it what you will, it was still just a one room place. Well two rooms if you counted the bathroom.
Yes, there were plenty of adjustments needed. Sleeping in the same room as the living room and the kitchenette (partitioned off only by a counter) made it feel like she was living in a Ramada Inn. And that water heater in the closet -- making all kinds of funny noises.
Jan had never paid much attention to water heaters before. In her previous home, the water heater was in the basement and was out of sight, out of mind. And out of hearing range. Here it was in the closet, just a few feet from where she was trying to get to sleep.
Clacketly Clacketly Clack. Click Click Click. Knock Knock Knock.
Maybe this is the way water heaters always sound, she thought. Or maybe there's something wrong with it. She remembered a few years prior, the water heater went out and flooded the entire basement. Such a mess! She could not understand why they couldn't manage to build a water heater such that when it stopped working, it would just cease functioning and not leak all over the place.
Jim, her ex husband, had tried to explain the reason behind that, but the explanation was lost on her. Jim, the eternal mechanic and her the ultimate non-mechanic who never even lifted the hood of her car.
Her thoughts turn to Jim. Jim, who drained their joint bank account and took off with Gloria, that NASCAR babe. She didn't even know where he was although she had suspicions that he was in West Virginia.
She couldn't sell the house without him. She recalled the conversation with the mortgage company several months earlier.
"But my husband has taken off, I've filed for divorce, and I just want to sell the house," she had said.
"The mortgage is in both your names, Mrs. Fortney" Mr. O'Brian, the mortgage agent explained. "Unless he's deceased we need his release before you can sell the property."
"But I've already said, I don't know where he is."
Mr. O'Brian thought for a minute. "There might be something we can do once the divorce is finalized. I assume if he's AWOL, the divorce will default to uncontested. But until then, I'm sorry, there's just nothing I can legally do".
It didn't take long for the home go in to repossession -- Jan couldn't afford the mortgage payments on her tiny waitress salary. So here she was, lying here in a tiny studio apartment, wide awake tonight. Listening to the maddening noises coming from the water heater.
She finally switched on a light, picked up a book, and began to read hoping it would draw her mind into a state of drowsiness, ready for sleep.
Morning finally came heralded by the repetitious beeping of the alarm clock. Jan had set it for 5 am since she had the early shift today. She stumbled to the bathroom and readied the shower. It seemed as though when she turned on a hot water tap, the noise from the water heater got worse - now it sounded like it was rocking or shaking.
'I must remember to call the maintenance people later today', she thought. 'Surely there must be something wrong with that water heater'.
She stepped into the shower and felt the nice hot water running all over her. She turned her back to the shower to get her hair rinsed and ready to shampoo. The she closed her eyes and began massaging the shampoo in.
If only she hadn't turned her back. If only she hadn't closed her eyes. Then she might have seen the tentacles oozing out of the shower nozzle. Then she might have had a chance to escape. But she realized only after a tentacle wrapped itself tightly around her neck, in a deadly choke hold, why the water heater was making so much noise.
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