Short Stories

Bobby by Stuart Lloyd-Beavis

Posted on: 10 December 2021

The phone’s ringing and it’s Saturday morning.  Long before mobiles. 

It can only mean one thing. My father, who I work for, is calling. It must be an emergency freeze up or boiler not working, as it has been minus 4 for a week now. 

I pick the phone up reluctantly, as I really do not feel like going to work. “It’s Mr Polanski. They’ve water pouring through the ceiling,” said Dad.  It’s bloody cold and now I’m going to get wet as well. I scrape the ice off the van windows. The heater hardly works, I always had to have the oldest van on the company to nurse it through its dying days!

It was a twenty minute drive but the van was still not warm when I arrived. Mr and Mrs Polanski are Polish and in their late 70’s. I think they arrived in or after the war and stayed.  They lived in a large Victorian house in a lovely little park. When they had bought the house years ago it would have been very cheap and apart from us putting heating in, I don’t think they had ever done any maintenance or improvements, which really showed. Most of the other houses, in what was now a very desirable area, had been upgraded and painted.

Mrs Polanski could not speak any English apart from “ello boys.”  Mr Polanski on the other hand never stoped talking. The house was full of his paintings. Sadly he was not talented by any means, but he loved to show them to us in the hope that we may buy one. 

I banged on the door and realised that it was already open for me. I walked down what could have been a lovely entrance, but was cluttered with pictures and other discarded items, into the breakfast room. Past this was the small scullery or kitchen, all totally original. I think even the white wash on the wall was Victorian.

I was greeted by Mrs Polanski sitting at the table sobbing and muttering “Bobby eseagonnadie.” I could see water pouring out of the cupboard in the corner. As I opened the door I realised why. The hot water cylinder was like a crushed coke tin

There was water still coming out, god knows what it had been like when it first split. I knew straight away that the vent pipe must have frozen in the loft, so when water was run through a tap it could not get any water or air to replace the space so the cylinder imploded thus splitting. 

I immediately turned the water off and connected my hose to drain what was left. “Tea?” called a voice from the kitchen. It was Mr Polanski.

“Er, yes please.” I don’t drink tea but it’s easier to agree. I didn’t know what he was doing out there but I could hear a lot of wiring or humming. I guessed he was cooking something. 

Anyway, back on with the job. Luckily Dad had said that Johnny could come and help, if I needed him. So, I went into the hall and called him from the house phone, normally I would have asked but this just seemed easier.

I called Johnny and told him what size cylinder to get, as I was on the phone I felt the now very cold water running from my wet knees down my legs into my shoes. 

I went back into the breakfast room and  Mrs Polanski was still at the table, sobbing, “Bobbyesagonnadie”  Fortunately, there was my tea and chocolate biscuits. Lovely just what I needed.

I undid all the connections to remove the cylinder and carried it up the hall carefully past all those bloody pictures. I didn’t want to damage them but they were in my way every time I went to my van.  As I opened the door Johnny was walking up the path with the new cylinder. As soon as he saw my now soaking legs he burst out laughing 

I explained that Mrs Polanski was very upset and her husband was in the kitchen so could he go straight to the loft and thaw out any frozen pipes.  Normally Johnny would have put the cylinder in and sent me into the loft, as I was still the apprentice, but at the thought of being shown all those pictures again he was pleased to go 

I also told him that Mrs Polanski was saying, “Bobby is gonna die” but  I wasn’t sure what she was on about. 

Johnny did think they had a grown up son, who they didn’t see very often. How awful if he was in hospital and now a flood!

I carried the cylinder into the kitchen and  was greeted, yet again, with “Bobbyesagonnadie.”  The whirring was still coming from the kitchen and then it stopped. Mr Polanski came out.

“Tea?” he said

“Oh yes please.”

“There’s two of now, ok” He went back into the kitchen and the wiring started again. 

It was easy to replace the cylinder as all the connections lined up.  I walked to the foot of the stairs and shouted toJohnny, “I’m finished. Shall I fill up?” 

“All done,” he replied. “Turn it on.” 

So I opened up the stop cock and walked back wards and forwards, keeping an eye on the cylinder for leaks and trying to hear if Johnny had a problem in the loft.

It took about 10minutes to fill up. Johnny came down from the loft and I warned him again about Mrs Polanski before we went into the breakfast room. “Bobbyesagonnadie,” greeted us as we walked in.  Johnny looked at me as though to say, ‘what can you say she can’t speak English?’ but at least there was more tea and chocolate biscuits. 

The boiler was located in the kitchen. Being now cold and wet I did not fancy a ten minute chat with someone in broken English, so I asked Johnny to go and turn boiler on so that we could get some heat in the house.

As he entered the kitchen, the whirring stopped. I heard Mr Polanski say,“‘alo Johnny, ‘ows it going then?” 

With that, Johnny started laughing loudly, which I thought was not very thoughtful under the circumstances. I kept looking away from Mrs Polanski to stop my embarrassment.

Johnny came back into the breakfast room. “It’s all on, should have some heat in a little while.” He still had a big grin on his face.

At that moment Mr Polanski appeared carrying a cage with a rather plumped up  looking budgie in it.

Immediately the voice from the table sobbed “Bobbyesagonnaliv’”

Mr Polanski had spent the last hour with a hair dryer drying poor old Bobby out. His cage had been next to the cylinder cupboard and had  received the full force of the water.

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