Posted 05-05-2004 at 15:47:42
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Everybody kept asking me...why's your light bill so high? Our bill was running anywhere from two hundred and fifty to three hundred dollars a month. We thought we found the culprit when we replaced the well water tank. The bladder was leaking and the pump was coming on every five minutes. That had to be the cause.
Well, it was. To a degree. The bill went down, but still seemed too high. It was one of those things that you felt you should do something about, but just didn't know what to do. At least not until the cat was born into the kitchen. Then everything became crystal clear.
One morning I was sitting at the computer and I heard a rattling sound. At first I didn't pay any mind. Living in a mobile home with questionable underpinning, and with all the animals we have, we often hear strange noises under the house. When the rattle became a thump it got my undivided attention. I swiveled around in my chair, trying to pinpoint the sound. It didn't take long to find it. It was coming from the floor vent that supplies the air conditioning to the kitchen.
I watched with a mixture of anxiety and morbid fascination as the vent cover began to move around. It would come up out of the hole and then drop back down again. By this time I had climbed into my chair and was standing, teetering dangerously, on a rolling desk chair. I didn't know what was coming out of that hole, but by now it was apparent that something was.
The third time the vent came up it stayed up, due to a small black paw that was holding it there. That little paw flipped that vent cover over like it was the most natural thing in the world, and following the paw came a black fuzzy leg, and then the rest of Jenny's cat, Salem. It was truly like watching a birth, as he writhed and moaned and hissed and when he saw me staring at him...purred.
"What in the world do you think you're doing?"
I was offended. I don't have much pull around here, but at least I get to say when and if the cat comes in and when he goes out. Now I didn't even have that anymore, as Salem was calling the shots himself. I got even by chunking him none too delicately out the front door. I replaced the vent cover and then I got on the phone to Fred. Told him what happened. We discussed the fact that we had a hole in our a/c venting somewhere and concluded that we had found the source of our high light bill.
"Somebody is going to have to crawl under there and find it and fix it." Fred said.
"Well, let me know when you want to get under there, and I'll try to help as best I can." I said, and then held my breath. I had no plans to go under there. Shudder.
"I can't get under there." He replied.
"I'm a fat man. I won't fit."
"Well I'm a fat...ummm, lady." I responded desperately.
"Not as fat as me."
Any other time I would have taken that as a compliment. Now it just sounded like a death sentence.
"I don't wanna go under there!" I whined.
"There's spiders and snakes and God knows what all! Besides I'm claustrophobic and it's so small, and...and dark!!"
"Well, we could send Jake."
I got a mental picture of Jake wallowing around under there for five minutes or so and coming out and claiming he could find no hole. No. This had to be done by someone who had more than a passing interest in bringing down that light bill, and since Oliver Hardy wouldn't fit, that left it up to me. Tsk. For once in my life I was disappointed that I wasn't fat enough. About that time the vent cover began to rattle again.
So I donned my old ugly overalls, grabbed a roll of duct tape and the spot light and under the house I went. It was cold, and dank and damp and smelled of mold. Spider webs were strewn hither and yon, but I didn't run into anything alive until I came face to face with Elvis.
"Hey! What are you doing under here?" His eyes wanted to know, tail thumping the ground, stirring up a cloud of dust.
"You need to move. I'm not in the mood for conversation."
He backed up, and when he did, I felt it. A blast of frigid air. I crawled a few more feet, the air getting colder and more forceful the further I went. The next thing I found was a writhing mass of dog bodies. Sugar, Girl and William Wallace were all spraddled out, taking advantage of the twelve-inch round hole in the a/c duct. At some point a duct had been removed leaving a hole that had at one time been patched with a piece of useless something-or-other and taped into place. The glue on the tape had failed and the patch had simply fallen off. There was no way to know how long we had been pumping air and heat out onto the ground.
I rapidly ran about fifteen courses of tape over the hole, all the time knowing that the tape would fail again at some point which meant yet another trip under the house with more durable materials that would make a permanent fix. I crawled back out, weaving my way past disappointed dogs, feeling phantom bugs crawling all over me, went back into the house, replaced the vent cover and tossed Salem back out on his ear. Then I let him back in to feed him. I had to reestablish the proper order of things. I was once again in charge of the whole cat going in and out business, which gave me some satisfaction.
I have since replaced the duct tape with a heavy piece of rigid plastic held in place with silicone caulking and I am waiting with bated breath to view the resultant light bill. No more cats have been born into the kitchen so I feel confident that the hole is well and amply sealed. Now the only thing left to do is put Fred on a strict diet, because the next time the light bill goes up, he's the one that's going hole hunting.