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Getting Burned

by Stephen Lautens


October 6, 2000

It's funny how the little things drive you to behave irrationally.

Take for instance our barbeque at the cottage.

We bought the cottage last year. Or to be more accurate, the bank bought it and allows us to live in it as long as we keep coming up with the payments. We ended up paying too much, but we loved the place. After tough negotiations, we settled on a price. To sweeten the deal, the previous owner threw in the barbeque I saw on the porch.

Now, your basic gas barbeque costs about a hundred bucks, but offering a man a barbeque is almost guaranteed to cinch any deal. It's like offering to throw in a flashlight or new set of tires. Simply irresistible to any red-blooded male.

The day finally came when we took possession, but search as I might ­ no barbeque. After dangling it in front of me, he took it when he left.

Like I said, a new gas barbeque is only about a hundred bucks ­ a drop in the bucket compared to a cottage ­ but never try to take a source of fire away from a man. Besides, it was the principle of the thing.

After a lot of yelling the former owner grudgingly agreed to return it. He dropped it off at his agent's house for me to pick up. We were greeted at the agent's house by a three legged dog. Floyd ­ the agent's husband - explained that the dog had one of those country accidents.

The dog, who looked like he had been stitched together out of old footballs, had apparently been tied to a bumper of a truck and forgotten by Floyd when he drove off. For his part, the dog had a murderous look that said he would have liked nothing better than to get his driver's license and take Floyd out for a drag around the county.

Notwithstanding his dog's homicidal intentions, Floyd had my barbeque. Or at least part of it. I noticed the previous owner had switched the brand new propane tank I had originally seen it with for an old rusted one that looked like it came off the Hindenberg.

Floyd helped me heave the whole thing into the back of my car with pretty much the same care he used in looking after his dog. The greasy lava rocks spilled out on my new upholstery and a sharp edge dug into the back of the car seat.

"It's the principle of the thing", I kept repeating.

Of course, when I got it home I noticed it needed a little work. The burner was shot, so that set me back about twenty-five dollars. And the grill was all rusted out. That was another twenty bucks. And using the previous owner's greasy lava rocks ­ in spite of them already having been wiped thoroughly on my car upholstery ­ didn't exactly thrill me. That was another fifteen dollars.

The outside needed work as well, so a can of black spray paint was added to my shopping list for another ten bucks. Finally, the gas station refused to refill the switched propane tank because of the rust. Another thirty dollars bought me a new one.

By my count, I spent at least $100 on repairs so I could cook my dinner on a second-hand barbeque.

Maybe it's the principle of the thing, but the hamburgers never tasted better.

© Stephen Lautens 2000

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