The Oil Drum Conundrum, story by Séimí Mac Aindreasa at Spillwords.com
Ralph Nas

The Oil Drum Conundrum

The Oil Drum Conundrum

written by: Séimí Mac Aindreasa

 

The morning of the Oil Drum Conundrum dawned cold and bright, as one might expect towards the end of December. The forecast was for rain and a severe dip in temperatures later in the evening, but for now, all was warm and toasty, Chez Moi. Little did I know that this state of affairs, in all its warm toastiness, would soon become but a distant memory.
We were Cleaning The House – an operation which apparently requires a lot of one person doing three things, while another person explains to them, in great detail, how and why they are doing all three things wrong. For example, in my ignorance, I had never realised, in my 52 years on the planet, that there was a wrong way for me to put my own socks in my own drawer.
Just on that point, I feel it is important at this juncture to ask what I believe to be a pertinent question. The socks in question were part of a larger consignment of clothes, recently washed, dried and folded, then transported to the bedroom. Not by me, you understand, but by someone else. Now, I fully appreciate this service. It was thoughtful and considerate. But my question is this: having washed, dried, folded and transported them to the bedroom, why not go the whole hog and put said socks in aforementioned drawer? Why were they decanted from the wash basket onto the bed – neatly – rather than straight into the appropriate drawer? Does the service end at the bed? Do the obligations of the other party end outside the drawer space? Is the other party a member of some union, which prohibits its members from installing socks in drawers? My own personal enquiries into this have been met with the response, “You’re lucky I wash them for you! You think I’m going to put them away too?” Which to me is a very unsatisfactory answer to what I believe to be a not unreasonable question. The response to my voicing this opinion is too colourful to repeat here, but let’s just say that it invites me to decant the socks somewhere other than the appropriate drawer. Somewhere more – organic.
So, we were Cleaning The House – and the capitalisation is fully justified – because we were preparing to receive special company, in the shape of The Grandson. A year and a half old, and apparently a stickler for cleanliness – not that you would guess so from his eating habits. Honestly, the way he eats, you would believe that he thinks the big hole in his face is just for making noise, with the surrounding area, hair included, being the main receptacle through which he gains his nutrients.
The effect a toddler has on household cleanliness is, quite frankly, amazing. The entire house – including areas into which he has never, and probably won’t ever, enter – must be spotless. Cupboards – that he cannot reach – must be wiped down, inside and out. Rooms into which he rarely, if ever, ventures, must be dusted, polished and swept, regardless of whether they were dusted, polished and swept even a day before. The argument for this (and again, I have been foolish enough to ask) is that Herself doesn’t want it said that He came round to a messy house. My counterargument (and again, I believe it to be pertinent, relevant and sensible, which shows just how much I know) is: who’s gonna tell? Will the toddler, on his return to his own mother’s home, tell her that he had a great time, but the cupboard where they store the fancy glasses was a bit dusty looking? His vocabulary so far goes not much further than a few words from Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star; a garbled version of the chorus from Old McDonald and a smattering of other short words and phrases. The idea that he becomes some kind of critic on house cleanliness when he returns home is, quite frankly, ludicrous. He’ll need to work hard on improving his pronunciation of my own name before he starts expressing his thoughts and feelings on an empty toilet roll tube in the bathroom.
But there it was. The Grandson was coming round, so we were Cleaning The House. Floors were swept; surfaces were wiped, dusted, polished, covered, uncovered, scrubbed, bleached, disinfected and generally cleared of anything that could be broken, dropped, thrown, eaten, bitten, smashed, cracked, swept away, chewed or hidden, in a scorched-earth policy that would ensure our own searches for the same items in days to come would prove fruitless. The house was being stripped of all its unnecessary accoutrements, left a pale, bare imitation of itself.
Of course, this isn’t really true. Because, what you’re really doing when you clean a house in preparation for the arrival of a toddler, is clearing away the adult mess, to make room for the toddler mess, which is a much bigger, untidier, sharper mess, filled with hard corners, loud toys and books with ripped pages and chewed corners. Whereas normally, when you clear away the adult mess, you put things in places where you have no hope of finding them for weeks, locating the items in a toddler mess is easy: simply walk into the room in your bare feet. You will immediately find every one of those sharp corners. And, if you really can’t find a particular sharp corner, simply sit down in your favourite chair and hey presto! There it is, lodged between your seventh and eighth vertebrae! The louder toys can be found in the same manner, except you must wait until really late at night, when the house is quiet. At that point, when you sit down, that little squeaky cow (and why would a cow squeak? What are we teaching our children?) which, during daylight hours would give out a weak squeak when squeezed will, in the night-time, give forth a horrendous SQUEAK, as if you’d thrown an entire bagpipe orchestra down a flight of iron steps. But I digress.
At some stage during Operation House Clean, Herself noticed that the house was starting to feel a little chilly. This, in itself, was nothing to be too concerned about. Having been born with only around half the requisite amount of blood needed to keep her body warm, she is in the habit of sitting in the living room wearing a heavy cardigan and woolly hat, whilst shivering inside a blanket, while the rest of us sweat in shorts and T-shirts. But a quick inspection of the nearest radiator did confirm that no heat was forthcoming. Its cold touch sent the first warning shivers down my spine. It was already late in the afternoon and tomorrow was a Bank Holiday, meaning there would be no oil deliveries for at least 48 hours.
My lightning-quick mind immediately went into overdrive, as I contemplated, and quickly dismissed several options, including:
• lighting the fire (no good. One room would be warm, but we would have no hot water)
• bringing lots of blankets downstairs (no good. No rooms would be warm, and again, no hot water)
• turning on the gas stove and oven (no good. Stupid idea, which doesn’t deserve the bullet point it gets here).

There was no other viable alternative: a couple of drums of heating oil from the nearest garage was the only option. This would bring with it its own set of problems, once I had purchased them, but I felt confident that I was up to the challenge. Little did I realise that Fate, that fickle goddess, was bored that night, and would decide to try me as very few others have ever been tried. If I were to commission a poll on arduous, spirit-breaking tasks, I doubt if anyone, with the possible exceptions of Hercules and perhaps Asterix, would have been tried as hard as I that night. Were I to see either of them across the bar in my local, I feel we would have raised a weary pint to each other in recognition of our collective struggles.
I phoned my brother-in-law, to see if he had any spare oil barrels about his person: he was a plumber, and often kept oil barrels, for when he drained customers’ tanks. I knew from prior experience, that buying oil was more expensive without your own barrels, as you paid a deposit on each barrel, which was refunded when you returned the empties. Unfortunately, he had none at hand, so I decided to carry on regardless, physical heat being more important at that point than fiscal discomfort.
As it happened, I was scheduled to leave the house shortly anyway, on what you might call an errand of mercy. Number Two Daughter, blessed with beauty, charm and grace, but sadly deficient in anything remotely resembling a natural immune system, had contrived to contract her second dose of Covid-19 just two days prior, and I had agreed to run across town, in order to furnish her with fruit and medicine. My plan was to call at the local garage first, ascertain the price of two barrels of their finest home heating oil, drive to #2D’s house, stopping along the way to compare other garages’ oil prices, and thence procure the cheapest option on the journey home. A plan so simple, falling off a log sounded devilishly complex in comparison.
The plan went well from the start, and by that I mean it went well from the house until I reached the first garage. There, I was served by a young guy who apparently had never heard of home heating oil. When I asked him how much a barrel of it cost, I put down his initial response of, “huh?” to the fact that I – according to the current guidelines – was wearing a mask (unlike him). I repeated my question and was surprised when he asked me, “What’s that?” I explained that a barrel of home heating oil was, well, oil; in a barrel; for the purpose of heating a home; and that I just wanted a quote on the price. He still seemed confused, saying that he didn’t think they sold such an item. “But you sell it at two pumps outside,” I said, helpfully, pointing towards the forecourt.
“Do we?”, he asked.
“Yes!”, I assured him, wishing I had been served by the more sensible-looking woman at the other till.
“Hang on and I’ll check,” he mumbled, slouching away to speak to another, equally young-looking colleague who was loitering over by the biscuits aisle. “Here, do we sell – what is it you’re lookin’?”
“Home Heating OIL!”
“Oh aye. Heatin’ oil? Home heat- do we? Much is it? Where’s ‘at on the till?”
At this point, conscious of the queue building up behind me, I turned around and smiled apologetically at the people behind me. It didn’t have the desired effect. Try this yourself. Go on. I can wait. First of all, put on your mask. Then, stand in front of a mirror and smile. See what I mean? Basically, what I did, as far as all those people could see, was turn around and grimace at them all. I was met with a line of impassive or openly impatient faces. I turned back round, as my young assistant was back and was mumbling something. “Aye, we do have it. I didn’t know that. How much do you want?”
I quickly explained – again – that I had only wanted to know the price and that I may, or may not (and as thing stood, very probably not) be back with the purpose of purchasing some. He stared at me for a few seconds, then turned his attention to the screen of his till. The stare he had used on me was now focussed on the screen before him. He stared and stared, but did nothing. His hands remained at his sides, and he just stared. Then, one hand lifted, hovered, then fell. At one point, he mumbled something, half raised his arm again, faltered, then let it fall to his side once more. Finally, as the world held its breath, he reached a decision.
“Where’s ‘at home oil again?”, he yelled at his colleague. Having received the answer, he said, “Oh aye,” and pushed a button.
Immediately, the screen changed, showing three icons: one being a little petrol pump; one showing a little blue barrel and a third, which wasn’t important, certainly not to me. And still he wavered. Still, he stalled. Still, he held back, as if the choice was just too great to make. In the end, I had to help him out.
“Try the picture of the barrel,” I suggested. “The blue barrel. The picture,” I prompted, wishing I had remembered to bring a sledgehammer with me.
Somewhere, a penny dropped. Neurons fired; muscles flexed; digits extended; buttons were pressed and lo! – a price appeared!
“It’s £22.50 for a 20-litre barrel. How many do you want?”
I explained yet again that I was only enquiring, and that I might be back in a while. He now looked at me as if I had completely wasted his time – I quite possibly had – and asked,
“Is that everything?” I assured him that it was and, pausing only to apologetically glare ‘sorry’ to the people behind me, left the garage.
A light rain had started to fall by this stage, but I decided that I would stop at another garage on the way down the road, in order to price their oil and, hopefully, conduct my business with someone in possession of a tad more wherewithal. By the time I reached this next garage, the light rain had upgraded to a blustery, freezing cold shower, and I resolved that, depending on price, I would just buy the oil here and be done with it. I put my mask back on and ran into the shop. Before me stood a queue of around a dozen people, but it was warm and dry and I decided to wait it out, grabbing some grapes and oranges and a few bars of chocolate for the Daughter as I joined the queue.
Upon reaching the top of the queue, the young guy behind the counter immediately understood what I meant by ‘home heating oil’ and asked me if I had my own barrels, to which I readily admitted that I didn’t. He explained about the price difference and I in turn explained that I understood. I paid for the fruit and chocolate, and two barrels of oil (which were fortuitously cheaper than the first place) and he invited me to follow him outside to the oil storage locker. The rain was now pouring down, freezing cold and being pushed in every direction by an icy wind, but I had craftily parked just beside the locker upon entering the forecourt, and at this point, I was envisaging the happy end to an irritating, but not impossible journey. Upon reaching the locker however, we were greeted with empty barrel after empty barrel. Not a single drop in a single barrel. Never mind, I thought. I can just fill a couple at the pumps. But no, it wasn’t to be. This particular garage didn’t have home heating oil in their pumps, only in their barrels, and if their barrels didn’t have any in them, then they didn’t have any at all. He brought me back inside and refunded me the money I had paid, explained again that they had no oil, then asked another member of staff to explain it to me again and, even though she was very nice and friendly, I didn’t feel any better.
By this stage, soaked, cold and on the cusp of being thoroughly pissed off, I got back into the car and left. I called to one other garage on the way over to #2 D’s, and they were extremely prompt and definite in telling me they did not stock home heating oil, either in pumps or barrels.
Upon arrival at the house, I was greeted by Number One Daughter, who asked me to stay back, as she had just found out that she had been working for the past two days with someone who had just tested positive for Covid, and she was now waiting for test results herself. So, after a very brief, wet and socially distanced conversation with Daughters 1 and 2, I presented them with gifts of vitamin C and Cocoa-based products, bade them farewell and drove homewards, along a route that would take me past three more garages. I had decided at this point that I would buy the oil at the first one who supplied it, as long as it was cheaper (or the same price) than the first place. The scores were as follows:

1. Didn’t sell it, they didn’t think. The girl at the counter may well have been related to the guy in the first garage, judging by her understanding of what home heating oil was.
2. Did sell it, but price was ludicrously higher than original garage.
3. Closed.

So, there it was. I was left with no choice but to go back to the original garage and buy the oil there. I was cold, wet, tired and my boxers – and I really do apologise for mentioning it – were really starting to chafe. But the young lad was coming round, and we needed heat. So back I went.
I have often wondered where the term to ‘gird your loins’ comes from. Apparently, it’s from the Bible (Proverbs 31:17 to be precise) and it means to prepare yourself for a difficult task, literally to ‘girdle’, or tuck a long robe into your ‘under-clothes’, in order to move more freely. I felt that this was what I did on getting out of the car. I tugged at my chafing, wet boxers to relieve the discomfort, no doubt turning heads and stomachs in equal measure. Then I strode – carefully – into the shop once more.
Joining a fairly long queue, I waited and watched others, as they paid for purchases, and remembered extra things they wanted, and held up the rest of the queue. I felt the impatience rise in me, but squashed it down, reminding myself that, a mere matter of an hour or two before, I had been the one holding up a similar line in the same establishment. As I reached the top of the line, my initial concern about being served by the same young gentleman was tempered by the fact that we both knew what it was I wanted and that we both knew the shop stocked it. Still, I hoped it would be the older woman who served me.
Alas, it was not to be. The girl in front of me, remembering that she hadn’t bought the requisite amount of cigarettes, caused me to be left with a further encounter with the now-familiar empty stare.
“I’m back,” I said, determined to conduct the transaction in as positive a frame of mind as possible. “Can I get two barrels of that home heating oil?”
“What oil?”
My heart, deciding at this point that it needed somewhere more substantial from where to drop, left my body, climbed on top of the garage roof, and stepped off.
“The oil,” I prompted. “The home heating oil. I was in earlier. Barrels. The oil.”
“Oh, the heating oil?”
“YES!”
“How many do you want?”
“TWO!”
He stared at the screen. He lifted his hand. Dropped it. Stared. Stared. I died, a million times over.
Then he pushed a button, and the little petrol pump, the blue barrel and the other thing appeared!
He stared.
“The barrel!? The. Picture. Of. The. Barrel!”
He pressed the picture of the barrel.
“It’s £22.50. How many do you want?”
“TWO!!!!”
He pressed some buttons. “That’s £45.”
I put my card in the machine and paid for my barrels of oil. I planned dinner with them. I intended to take them for a meal, a dance, maybe even a quiet little place I knew afterwards, very discreet.
And then I stood there, taking my cue from him and staring. He stared back. This seemed destined to continue for a while. I cracked first.
“Where are they?” I asked.
“Where are what?” he countered.
In my mind, I loaded my shotgun and aimed.
“Where are the barrels?”
“We don’t have any barrels. You have to bring your own,”
At this point, you should probably know that you are reading the writings of a ghost because, as he spoke those words, I died. My heart – newly-returned from its fall – exploded, my brain imploded, and I disappeared in a horrible, bloody mess. Bits of me were hanging from shelves, counters, and customers around the shop. The top of my head was blown off and became attached to the ceiling fan, where it spun round, rather amusingly.
I could not believe what he had just said.
“What do you mean?” I asked, fighting down the urge to slam his head through the counter.
“You have to bring your own barrels and then fill them at the pump.”
“An hour and a half ago, you didn’t even know you had it at the pumps! I told you I wanted barrels!”
“We don’t do barrels. You have to get it from the pumps.”
“But I don’t have barrels! And I’ve paid you for barrels! You told me they were 20-litre barrels!”
“But we don’t have any.”
“WHAT!?”
At this point, the other guy from before – the biscuit-aisle guy – came over and asked what was happening. My young friend explained – badly – what had happened, and after some deliberation, this second genius announced,
“You have to bring your own barrels and then fill them at the pump.”
“Then why do you have PICTURES of a pump and a barrel?” I asked, angrily but, I think, quite reasonably.
“That’s a good point,” said the second colleague. “Hang on, I’m gonna have to phone the owner.” And off he went.
I offered to step aside at this point, in order to allow other customers to be served, but my young helper insisted that I stay, as my order was in the system but might now need to be cancelled, and he needed me to stick close by him.
After an awkward moment or two, where I considered asking him had he managed to break anyone else’s spirit so far this evening, the other guy came back, still talking on the phone to the owner, and announced that they should actually have some barrels outside. He bade me follow him and outside we went.
One barrel. That’s what they had. One. Barrel.
“We’ve only got one barrel,” he said, just in case there was any confusion on my part as to the number of barrels.
“I can give you one barrel,” he offered, driving home the point.
“But I want two. I bought two.” I was close to crying.
“We only have one.” A strong argument, certainly. But I needed, and had indeed bought, two.
I intimated this to him.
“But we only have one.” He repeated.
“Okay,” I conceded. “I can see that. How about this? I only live up the road. What about – and please, follow me closely here – I go up and put the oil from this barrel in the tank. Then, and here’s the clever part – I bring the barrel back, fill it, and go back up. Would that work?”
I could almost hear the gears turning, as he considered this new paradigm.
“Well, yeah, I suppose. But I’ll need to refund you the original sale first. Then, you’ll need to buy one barrel, then come back and pay for a second barrel.”
“What? Why?” This seemed a step too far, even for the Garage-Attendant de Sade.
“Because it’s a different sale now. You’re not buying two barrels. You’re buying one barrel twice.”
I couldn’t figure this logic out. I still can’t. Sometimes, when I’ve had a few glasses of wine, I think I understand it, but the logic is always replaced the next morning by a hangover and some common sense.
“But if I just, ye know, go up now, then come back, it won’t make any difference. Will it?”
“Yeah, it will. Because the £22.50 is for the oil AND the barrel, but the second barrel will just be for the oil, not the barrel, because you’ve already paid for the barrel. So there’ll be a difference in the price of the second barrel. Not the barrel – the barrel of oil. I mean the oil in the barrel, not the barrel. So you’ll be saving money.”
“Oh. Oh? Well then, you just need to refund me the price of the barrel – the second barrel, not the first barrel, instead of refunding me the full price of the two barrels. That’ll save me and you all that hassle. Yeah?” I was almost begging at this point.
“No, because now the sale is wrong. You paid for two barrels of oil, but you’re only using one barrel, so you have to fill the same barrel twice and we can’t charge you for the second barrel, only the oil in it. But we have to cancel the whole order, because you’re gonna buy a barrel of oil, barrel included, but the second barrel…”
“Okay! Okay! Refund the money and I’ll be back down in half an hour!”
“See, this is why you should bring your own barrels.”
“Or maybe, just maybe, you should have more than one barrel?”
He declined to answer this, but I didn’t care. I just wanted to leave.
We went back into the shop, where there now stood quite a long line of severely annoyed-looking customers – although, under their masks, they could well have been smiling indulgently at me. I doubt it though.
My Tormentor went back to the till to process my refund, and it was at this point that we both discovered something very important: he didn’t know how to process a refund. He stared and stared at the screen, but nothing was forthcoming. Eventually, having stared unblinking for almost a minute and a half, he came to the conclusion that nothing was going to happen, and called the other half of the duo over. After much debate, they decided that they could indeed run the refund, but it could take up to ten working days to appear back on my card. They asked if this would be okay with me. It really wasn’t.
“No! No, it isn’t okay! I want – no! – I NEED this oil tonight! What I don’t need is to pay double for something that I only wanted to pay once for, but now, thanks to you, will have to pay TWICE for and then pay DOUBLE on top of that!? NO!!”
I admit, by this stage, I wasn’t making much sense, even to myself.
“But you’ll get the money back on your card in ten working days, so if you pay again now, you’ll get the rest of the money back in two weeks.”
I admit, he was talking sense, but I was having none of it.
“I said no! You’ve kept me standing here for half an hour now! I’m freezing! I’m soaking wet! My boxers – I’m soaking wet! Just keep the money and give me the barrel and I’ll be back in twenty minutes!”
“But we can’t do that,” explained the second attendant. “Ye see, you’re not buying two barrels. You’re buying one barrel – “
“TWICE! I KNOW! But I don’t care! It’s five pounds! It won’t bankrupt me, but this conversation will end up in death – it’s up to you whether that’s mine or yours!”
“Umm – we could just refund it in cash?” This suggestion came from Attendant #2, displaying a streak of ingenuity I had previously not deemed him capable of.
“Yes! Yes, do that! Give me the cash and I’ll take the barrel and come back in half an hour!”
Refunding the money in cash seemed to me to take almost ten working days, but it was actually only around ten minutes before I was struggling out of the shop with my barrel of oil. And believe me – it was MY barrel of oil. Indiana Jones could have taken lessons from me in acquiring it.
I put the barrel in the boot of the car and drove away, refund in my pocket. As I pulled out of the garage, I felt and heard the barrel shift in the back, but I took my time and drove up to the house. But, when I reached my destination and opened the boot, it was clear that a little bit of oil had spilled out. Badly tightened by whatever idiot had filled it last (I’m betting it was the young guy who didn’t even know they sold it), the boot – and therefore the car – now stank of oil. But I was committed by this stage (or at least felt that I should have been), so I carried the barrel out to the back garden, set it down and went back in to get help in putting it into the oil tank.
This was when I realised that we were now late in picking up the Grandson. Only five minutes or so late, but late nonetheless. The house was cold, but that was nobody’s fault but mine and the young guy in the garage, and I maintain that it was mainly his. Herself was due to go get him, but I said I would drive round, because of the strong smell of oil.
I jumped back in the car, cursing the world in general and my boxers in particular, and drove round to his house. As I got out of the car, I could see him in the living room, coat on already, watching eagerly for the arrival of the car. Seeing him would at least be a bright light in an otherwise dark evening, so far.
As I reached the door, his Mum came out and told me that she had just remembered that her friend still had the car seat in her car.
I forgot to mention earlier, that we had loaned her our car seat, just as I had forgotten until now that we had loaned her our car seat. The young fella had now come out to the door, all ginger curls and smiles, and I knew I was about to make that beautiful wee face cry.
No car seat, no choice. I had to tell him I’d be back in a few minutes. He didn’t take it well, bawling and crying as I ran back to the car and raced home. I knew exactly how he felt.
I parked, ran in to the house, heard Herself say, “I just saw a text. The car seat isn’t …”
“I know, I’m getting the pram! Can’t talk!”
I got the buggy, set it up, and hurried back round. It was a ten-minute run, and my sensitive parts felt every inner-thigh-chafing step.
He had calmed down by that stage and cheered up when he saw that he was going round to see his Nanny and uncle and the dog after all. I pushed him back round, by now visibly limping due to the chafing and handed him over to cleaner, less stinking, oil-less hands.
And so, back to the oil.
I needed some help getting the oil into the tank. Ideally, two people holding the barrel would be best, but under the circumstances, one person would have to do, as long as they could see what they were doing. And so, I enlisted the help of Number One Son, who reluctantly came out to hold the torch. There is a lot of wood piled up beside the oil tank, and even in daylight, it can be treacherous. It was slick and slippery, and I didn’t relish the thought of snapping an ankle whilst carrying a barrel of oil. So, #1 S’s job was to hold the torch at my feet initially, in order to help me negotiate my way across and through a minefield of wet, slippery wood and uneven surfaces, and then point the light at the open lid of the tank, to help avoid spillages.
He chose to interpret the instructions given to him as, ‘use the torch like a lightsaber and wave it around the place, whilst making funny noises.’
Much shouting and curses ensued, but finally, a now grumpy eleven-year-old held the torch in the required areas, and I managed to pour the vast majority of the barrel’s contents into the tank, although a fair amount of home heating oil did combine with the rain already saturating my trousers and therefore my boxers. This was a new and interesting level of stinging discomfort.
But, I was almost there.
I dillied. I also dallied. I procrastinated for as long as I could – around ten minutes, in total. But I knew what had to be done. I was covered in oil. I stank of oil. The car stank of oil. I needed a shower – my over-girded loins demanded it. But I needed to get that second barrel of oil, and though the idea of having to deal with that young fella again filled me with a dread that I couldn’t disguise, I knew that it was an ordeal I would have to risk.
So back into the car I got, and back to the garage I went, empty barrel in stinking boot. There was a queue, yet again. This time, I stood in it with the barrel in my hand. When it came to my turn, I let the man behind me go first, because the only server free was the guy I had been stuck with every time before, and my soul wouldn’t allow me to go through that again.
And so, I ended up with the older woman. And I said, “I need home heating oil.”
And she said, “20 litres?”
And I said, “Yes.”
And she said, “Have you got a barrel?”
I held up the barrel as evidence, and I said, “Yes.”
And she charged me, and I paid her, and I filled up the barrel and I went home. And I poured it into the tank, and I got the heating working again, and I went and got a shower. And I got into clean clothes, and I went down to see the Grandson properly, and I apologised to him for making him think I was leaving him earlier on, and I marvelled at his speech, and I congratulated him on every block he knocked over, and I cheered for every ball he bounced, and I read all his books, and I pulled all the funny faces he likes, and I made all the funny noises that make him laugh, and I smiled, and I was happy. And warm.
And, the following week, we switched to gas heating.

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