True Winter Tales: Today's pick
Heating Costs by Lisa Woolman
The devil drives a Propane truck. He seemed so friendly in the spring, when he kindly recommended the fixed price program. So, quick as a dipping thermometer, I sold my soul to the propane man. It all started in September. My husband and I argued about the kind of garbage couples argue about when they are cooped up together too long. Shamelessly, I rolled up mats to cover the cold that snuck in under the doors. Always, the argument would be about keeping the heat in. He wanted to use a big garbage can on the porch, where the door had to be opened, which let out the heat. I asked him to use the small one, in the kitchen where the door wouldn't need to be opened. He blew his nose 666 times a day and opened the door to put his toilet paper tissue in the garbage: 666 times. It drove me mad. I squeezed the hanky in my pocket and went to bed.
Every time I closed my eyes I saw him opening the door again. Floating between consciousness and nightmare, a limbo between propane invoice and exhausted bank account, I swore that if hell was a fiery inferno it might warm my feet. Such licentious thoughts usually promise to involk Lucifer himself. But in the north, the furnace just keeps kicking in.
In the morning, there was a heat bill tucked into the mail box, just like in my dream. Of course, this is impossible; like keeping heat in an uninsulated home or a leaky husband. Perhaps, if I don't open it it'll disappear. After several weeks husband and heat bill are right where I left them.
At the kitchen table, my husband sits in his sweater and wool socks with a roll of toilet paper and an unopened propane bill. I forsake the refuge of a hot cup of coffee to help the kids search for missing mittens and touques in the rush for the school bus. Noses are running faster than the slobber of a seven headed beast. My husband has finished a sudoko, a hot cup of coffee and a roll of TP. All are instructed in the fine art of door closure; the morning ritual for passing through the underworld. Nevertheless, one of them gets through without performing the holy rites. The door hangs open all day.
I make no apology for my pact with the devil. In winter heaven stands on its head. In a tone more venemous than the original sin, I might still be heard in the wind yelling "And close the God damned door!"
Lisa Woolman is from Courtenay, BC