2:50 a.m.

by Erik Dolson

Told myself when I stepped foot on the boat last night that I was NOT (all caps, plus italics) going to work on the fireplace. There’s a list of projects from finger tip to elbow and the damn fireplace was NOT (all caps, plus italics) on it.

Sleep comes and goes. I could identify a half dozen reasons on any one night why I’m lying there awake at 2:50 in the morning after falling asleep some time after 12:10 (the last time I looked). We’re not going there. Suffice it to say that I turned on the propane and heated water for coffee.

“Wouldn’t you like a nice warm fire?” the fireplace said, wearing a smirk.

“Nope. Not on the list.”

“Oh, c’mon. That was last time. Good chance I’ll work just fine after you’ve been gone for a week. Give me a chance.”

“Uh uh. I’ll get sucked back into an awful, sooty, diesel fuel coated frustrating job. In fact, I think I’ll get rid of you. There’s a lot of heaters on the market that would be more efficient and a whole hell of a lot less trouble.”

“You wouldn’t!” the fireplace said in cold contempt. “You like the way I brighten the cabin.”

“Nope. I think it might be time to look at other options. I think I saw one online.” I grabbed my computer.

“But, we’ve been together to Alaska and back!”

“”Before you started acting up. I spent more than eight hours spread over the last four days on the boat to get you to burn clean without dripping diesel into the catch tray. I think I’m done.”

“You have a new float bowl! The factory sent it to you for free!”

“They also sent me a new fan control that I paid $35 bucks for and it didn’t work any better than the one I threw away after taking you half apart to get to two lousy contacts.”

“That’s a voltage issue! Talk to the inverter!”

“No, that’s you being too damn sensitive to atmospherice conditions. Weather happens.  You need to adjust.”

“Unfair! Unfair!”

“See? Tempermental. Exactly my point. Hey, look, here’s a nice little forced air unit. Made in Russia.”

“Cheap crap and will burn the boat down. Ever seen fiberglass burn, Charlie?”

“Oooh, look at the attitude.”

“Okay. I’m sorry. But just open the new float bowl they sent. Okay?” the fireplace sounded almost plaintive. “Two screws and three lines to install, that’s all. Dont even calibrate it. I’m sure it came just right from the factory.”

“You forgot the four screws for the name plate.”

“That’s external to function. I don’t count that.”

“Has to come off, and youi keep spitting that difficult to get to screw down behind the cushions. Almost every time.”

“Yeah. That’s a good one. For me.” The smirk had returned.

I went back to my laptop. “Hey, heres another fireplace style. Looks to be a better quality.”

“You wouldn’t dare!”

“No, but that was a good one. For me.”

“Yeah, okay. I deserved it. C’mon, just turn me on. Let’s see what happens.”

“Alright, ” I relented. It was early enought I could actually work on the fireplace “pre-list” anyway. List doesn’t really start until 6 a.m.

“Diesel! Diesel! Diesel!”

Sure enough, a steady stream of diesel fuel was running down into the catch pan below the fireplace. I turned off the fuel at the valve beneath the seats, leaped back to the control panel to kill the pump, and looked at the little fireplace in disgust.

“You tricked me. You knew that was going to happen.”

“I don’t like this any better than you do! Just fix me! Try the new float bowl. Half hour, tops. I won’t spit the screw down into the cushions this time!”

“Okay,” I sighed. The thermos of coffee on the stove would stay hot until I finished. I mopped up the little bit of diesel and took out the first four screws, undid the three compression fittings and the two little bolts holding the old float bowl to the frame. I noticed the new float bowl had the slightest bit of what looked like sealant around the fittings, whereas the old one had some teflon tape. Probably my doing, but I’ve learned since then that compression fittings don’t like tape that much. The metering valve felt a little different, too.

Putting the new bowl on was easy enough. I decided to leave the name plate off until I’d fired it back up.

“Diesel! Deiesel! Diesel!” Again, or still, there was a leak of diesel fuel into the catch pan beneath the fireplace. I traced it to the supply line that I thought I’d been very careful to get tight. I took it apart, and put it back together, and noticed that when screwing the tightening nut, the flanged fitting pushed to one side with a click. Took it apart again, and this time held the flange tightly in position while tightening the nut as far as I could with my fingers. I also found a real wrench instead of the adjustable I’d been using in too tight a space.

Pump on. Valve on. Full fuel flow for two minutes.

No leaks.

“Oh yeah. You got it this time. I can FEEL it!” (All caps, no italic). I suppose a fireplace is entitield to warm enthusiasm.

At two minutes, fuel off, a little piece of burning paper into the fire box, and the flame … grew just like it was supposed to.

“That was the leak and that’s recent. You’ve been burning dirty and inconsistently for months.”

“It’s the float bowl. You fixed that too! Boy you’re good …”

“Quiet. At eight minutes I’m turning the valve on to the first position. Nothing is known at this point.”

Eight minutes later, first postion. Success. Second position, success. Third, success as well, and third required the snarky fan, just like the factory said.

“Okay. You win,” I said. “It looks like the problems are solved.”

I grabbed the screw driver and put in the first three screws of the nameplate cover. The fourth one sprung loose and settled into some invisible place in the cushions.

“You piece of …”

“Uh uh uuhhh … ” the fireplace threatened, smirk returned. “One more word and I’ll tell the world you talk to inanimate objects.”




About Erik Dolson

Erik Dolson is a writer living in Oregon
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