Or, My Family Vacation to Hell.
That Hell lies underground is just a myth. It actually is a three bedroom/four bath duplex in Grand Lake, Colorado, at the lofty altitude of 8400 feet.
Our ascent began Friday Night. I drank beer while the husband drove. We had just passed a jackknifed truck on 70 and had embarked on 40, which to you non-Coloradoans, leads you to the outer gates of Hell, more widely known as Berthoud Pass. The husband mentioned the tuna he'd had for lunch wasn't sitting right.
Should I drive? Oh, damn, I've had a beer. Well, I'm OK to drive. You want I should drive?
No. I'll be OK. It's nothing.
We had that conversation at least three times. Good intentions? Shit, those pavers just crack in the winter. Stubborn male pride. That's your frost-free alternative right there.
So he drove on and I opened another beer.
We got stuck behind a church group, of all things, driving ten miles an hour over the pass. I endured some Heavy Sighs and some shifting around and complaining from the driver's seat. A twenty minute drive stretched to an hour as the wind started to blow the fresh snow around into ice wraiths guarding the road. The Christians slowed to 8 mph. They had a van and a trailor and a pastor at the wheel who is going to take an eternity to drive anybody to Heaven, much less Hell.
The roads bad? It seems like it's mostly a visibility problem at this point. Maybe once we get lower--
They fucking suck! I feel like shit!
Well, stop at the McDonalds, I guess.
Fuck yeah! If we ever fucking get there! Fucking church group! Fucking drive your fucking van!!
(In case you're worried about virgin ears, the 8 year old's were plugged with an Ipod and the 5 year old was asleep. But don't worry, this is nothing compared to the shit-talk I spew if a sales guy comes within five feet of me. There's a restraining order for a reason, you know.)
We stop at the McDonalds. Word to the wise, don't eat there. I've eaten there twice in three days and now I'm half-sick. A half-hour later I'd had some fries to soak up the beer and we went on, me at the wheel.
The winds worsened. The snow worsened. Visibility fucking sucks, I'm pretty sure I'm gonna die, and I'm not even losing years off my life from stomach cramps. So much for the storms: a two hour trip became a four hour white-out and the husband somehow managed to hold in his torrent of sickness.
As he ran up the stairs at the house (for our purposes here, we'll refer to it from now on as Hell) he spouts something...
(See, now this is a perfect example of why "he said, she said" is golden, especially in speculative fiction)
...about water in the basement!
Sure as shit. I stood and stared. The carpet was soaked down the hall. The drain wasn't draining. I slipped a bit on the wet tile. The drip line was dripping (as drip lines are wont to do.) We had to turn off the water.
I said it aloud to make sure we were all in agreement, and we were: That's water in the basement of Hell. (There, I've just coined a new phrase. I'm pretty sure it means something along the lines of "that's no bullshit." C'mon. All the cool kids are sayin' it.)
To sum up what the short line to Hell looks like: Guests on the way to a house with stomach flu and no water. I made phone calls to warn them off, shooed them toward a hotel I know. Very welcoming of me, I realize.
Skip to Sunday and my seventieth phone call to the plumber.
Gum cracking. Is this an emergency?
Uh, I think so. It was an emergency on Friday night when I called you. It was still an emergency all day yesterday when I called you. (How is that gout, btw? Yeah, the cold's a bitch on that.) This morning, Bush is doing flyovers in a helicopter and Anderson someone from CNN keeps calling. YES. IT'S A FUCKING EMERGENCY!
The conclusion to our little sad tale, labeled just like the Comp 101 teachers like: When Dan from Three Lakes Water and (more importantly) Sewer came out after they'd back-hoed off the snow from the street and cro-barred up the manhole cover, they found a manhole-shaped ice cube (or rather, ice tube), approximately four million feet long. It rose to the level of the street and, apparently, right to our drain. It took Dan approximately twenty hours of labor and a lake's worth of hot water to melt it. At nine-thirty-three pm, right about the time the Bears lost the Superbowl, the husband got to flush the toilets and have a shower. The rest of the family had deserted him sometime that Sunday. Never fear, though, we're going back up there tomorrow to pick him up.
editorial note: the author's critique group always says one of the author's strengths as a writer is that the author's prose effectively invokes all the senses. The author restrained this skill here. You really don't want your senses invoked on this one.