I get this craving you see, a boner of an urge really, to get to tinkering in my garage.
About eight last night the crave tore at my gut.
"Better get it out of your system," I said, and jimmied -- quiet-like -- out of the easy-chair, then shimmied -- quieter still -- out the back door. Since the old garage burned down, I kinda kept a low profile.
Against the dusk, the new garage favoured a stark Gothic bastion. My shield from Maggie.
"Tonight'll be different." No sooner had I uttered it than my hand recoiled from the garage door. But not before a bolt of charge crackled across to my fingertips from the round brass knob.
"What a portent!"
At ten the house lights went out. Maggie was in bed.
I gave a husky twist on the screwdriver 'till metal creaked against metal.
The transformer had been extracted from a junked WWII navy vessel in Philly. The bulk cost more to ship than to buy. It weighed twice what Maggie did. Anyway, it looked hefty enough to take the voltage.
I cleared my throat, "Well, Thomas Ancrum, give it life!"
I slip-shod back. I couldn't afford another garage. And Maggie would---
But then there was a way to control ill fortune.
I wired a rheostat after the switch.
I set it to zero.
"Lordy, Lordy," I consoled the craving, and pushed the blades down.
A deep muffled whir.
"Give it juice," I whimpered.
I stepped the voltage up. The multi-vibrator next to the box with the exotic circuits started buzzing while the transformer on the floor began to roar.
Three thousand more volts left. The winding wasn't responding to the Earth's magnetic flux---
Slammed it to ten-thousand volts.
The concrete floor quivered. The light bulb on the wall undulated---
"It's happening," I shouted, "gravity is being nullified!"
I dared not breathe, least it send the massive hunk bursting through the roof.
I hung there by a hairspring, frozen. I dreamed. I lost myself. The riches, the frill, the savoir-faire.
Ebony Rolls's, vast estates, and heaps of menservants scurried through my head. Maggie, she'd stop her weird stares. She'd bow to a husband second-to-none.
"Tommy!" Maggie's voice drilled the night, "Stop talking to yourself. I wanna sleep!"
"Not for long, Dear," I countered, "I'll be talking to the world tomorrow!"
Last night the world was mine.
This morning I'm filthy, behind bars, and have a well in the garage.
The dumb move was to step the voltage up to eleven-thousand volts all at once. That oversized anvil dropped sparking through the floor -- concrete, reinforcement and all -- like hell-fire through butter. The racket woke half the neighbourhood.
If that wasn't enough, Maggie comes a-charging in the garage door and drops dead-bottom into a hole she never suspected. One of her nine lives must've quit on her just then. She moaned a bit, then sobered, grappled, wild-cat like to climb out, all two-hundred-and-fifty pounds of her.
I lowered a step-ladder and left. If anything was hurting it was the navy transformer under Maggie.
It didn't make sense.
The set-up did nullify Earth's gravity. But in reverse. Instead of pushing, it pulled itself into the Earth.
There go the Rolls's, the estates, the menservants. The neighbors are spooked. The garage's ready to cave in. My wife is, I don't know where. And I'm covered in paint.
When I left the garage I went into the house. I was running a hot tub and looking for clean clothes when the door bell caught me.
"Good evening, Sir, Sgt. Dubinsky. This is patrolman Bowes."
As I eat my tasteless stew (or thick soup), sitting on the bare fiberglass bunk in my cocoa-brown, canary-yellow, lizard-green shirt, and pants to match, I get the urge.
Running a new feeder down the pit will be no problem.
These overnight city jails leave a lot to be desired. The light switch is next to the bars. I take my slacks off and use the loose end of the zipper to unscrew the cap. I jump on the bunk, twist the juiced line into a hook, and hang my trousers by the old zip tossing a trouser leg through the bars.
"You all through?" grunts the guard.
"Well, hand me the tray."
"Alright, alright. Toss me my pants."
He spots the trouser leg and reaches for it, "Hey, buddy, you go swimming in paint? Hold on, they're caught---"
A hundred and ten volts is seldom fatal. But it'll jar and juggle you enough to remember it for the rest of you're life. The guard will never know what hit 'im.
In addition to all else, I'm now a wanted man.
Soon as I get to the garage I set to work. I climb down to the transformer, reverse the polarity on the exotic circuits, straighten the copper contacts Maggie fell on, and spot-weld a new feeder. The cable I use is thick gauge wire; don't want the thing to shoot up without some kind of control line tied to it for quick adjustments. I leave ample slack too.
Now, the fine-graded rheostat is at ten-point-seven kilovolts. One more click will raise the voltage to ten-point-eight.
"Must be the impedance of the extra line," I tell myself. A few notches up.
Jupiter! Everything's starting to shake!
The place is rattling, plaster's falling, dust and grit's spraying out of the pit!
Where's the rheostat? -- I can't see a thing with all this smut in my eyes.
The rumble is god-awful. "Jesus!" The whole city'll be leveled.
The breakers trip. Silence and fog. The cable is almost all gone. It must've bored a thousand feet down. Not an inch up.
"Tommy. Oh Tommmmmy."
"Tommy, Dear, this is Mr. Bludodle. He's a lawyer."
"I'm not going to fight it."
"Fight what, Tommy, Hon?"
"You've got the divorce -- just don't expect alimony with me behind bars."
"There's some kind of mis-uh-understanding, Mr. Ancrum. Why, Mrs. Ancrum and I spent all last night trying to locate you. The Missing Persons Bureau told us that you had been `detained' at the city's co-oh-rrectional facilities."
"You mean Maggie didn't call the cops and have me nabbed?"
"Mr. Ancrum! Your wife had nothing but your best interests in mind. A ne-eh-ighbor had called, certainly not your wife."
"You know then by now half the county is looking for me."
"Tommy, Sugar, you underestimate Mr. Bludodle."
"All have been satisfactorily co-oh-mpensated and all cha-ah-rges dropped. As well, thanks to Mrs. Ancrum, you, Sir, are a potentially rich man."
For twenty-three years Maggie turned me over on a spit. Through and done with her, I am.
The lawyer peeks over the dark shaft.
"Mrs. Ancrum info-oh-rmed me that you have invented a device that digs electrically without jigs."
"Mr. Ancrum, I am in patent law. Your invention will re-eh- volutionize the country's -- the world's i-ih-ndustries. Bring in riches beyond your wi-ah-ldest dreams. You will lead lives of royalty -- if you're prudent."
I eye the sputtering dude, "And that's where you come in."
"The apparatus is kaput, Mr. Bluebottle -- "
" -- Mr. Bludodle. I cannot duplicate it -- "
"Destroyed! Can't duplicate it! Couldn't you've drawn it on paper, on your shirt-tails or something! Good for nothing -- all that beautiful cash -- all down a well. I want a divorce this minute! To think I was right on top of the thing last night."
Mr. Bludodle places a consoling hand on Maggie's squat shoulders and both exit through the back door of the garage.
I crouch over what used to be a hole. A joker's grin is splitting
my face in two as I observe the slick black crude mosey right along
© 1999 Vasilis Afxentiou, all rights reserved
appears here by permission
This story also appears in Vasilis's anthology Potpourria.