Announcing the publication of a new story – “It Was Mine.”
It Was Mine asks the question, “What would you do if you could change your past?”
In the basement of my childhood home was a furnace. It was an oil-burning monstrosity from the late 1930s or early 1940s that had never been touched except for annual check-ups from the taciturn Sahner Fuel Oil Company repairman. He’d extract the heavy cover off her front, and black soot would cover the canvas dropcloth. The basement stank of oil for days after.
We complained that the upstairs of the house was freezing, especially the front bedroom that I shared with my two sisters. Only first thing in the morning did the heat rise through the old cast iron radiators. The loud BONG as the steam hit the cold iron, causing it to expand and ring like a gong, is one of the sounds of my childhood, along with the hiss from the metal tubes rising to the sides to release extra steam.
When my father moved to act on our complaints, he might change the metal tubes or regulators on the sides of the radiators. Or, he might descend to the basement and peer at the glass tube embedded in the furnace’s side. It was a pressure regulator. There were two gauges, one a cyclopean eye on the front and the other a tube with black lines on the side. The tube required a tap or two or three or six before the water sluggishly moved, indicating the pressure.
I remember when we sold my parents’ house in 1998. The only issue? The furnace. It wasn’t just an antique at that time – it was dangerous. Heat poured from the metal sides and never made it to the first or second floor. The basement felt like an oven or the pits of hell by that time, and we ended up crediting the new homeowners for their first project: replacing the old oil burner with the heater of their choice.
Something about the old furnace always stuck in my mind, and she – yes, it was a she, I have no doubt it was female although we didn’t name her as my protagonist does in “It Was Mine” – forms the backbone around which the story gathers.
What would you do if someone offered you the chance to change your past? What about those regrets we all harbor, the choices never made, the decisions which, with the maturity of age, we realize we should have made back in our youth?
That’s the question posed to our hero, Mr. Stanley Huckle. Mr. Huckle is a retired history teacher who has spent his life in the shadows. Although his former students never forget him, life has passed him by. One cold January night when he phones for the furnace repairman, the man who arrives offers him slightly more than a money-back guarantee. From there, the story unfolds. Our hero is left with the choice of taking the road not taken or accepting the life he has now.
I hope you enjoy It Was Mine. It’s a genre-bender, incorporating elements of supernatural fiction, science fiction and more in a story that reminds me of It’s a Wonderful Life only with a demon instead of an angel. And a furnace grumbling into her next century.
A furnace. Always, a furnace.