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  • Writer's pictureGraham Watkins

Phil The Bath

Pensioner Percy Thomas was sitting on a bar stool, in the Drover's Arms, enjoying his usual lunch-time pint. "A low melting alloy - six letters," he said looking at Dylan.

"Got any letters?" replied the landlord.

"Starts with an 's' and the third letter's an 'l'."

Both men scratched their chins; Percy because he always scratched his chin when he was thinking and Dylan, who wasn't very bright, because he wasn't thinking anything in particular but felt it was the right thing to do.

"Silver, that's a metal and it fits. It's got to be silver," said Percy and pencilled in the answer.

Just then Mr. Jones came down the stairs at the back of the bar. Of course, no one calls him Mr. Jones. His name's Phillip or, Phil and, because of his occupation, everyone knows him as Phil the Bath.

"Is it fixed?" asked the landlord.

Phil put his toolbox on the floor. "The thermostat's buggered. I've fitted a new one." He placed the faulty stat. on the bar. "The boiler's on now. You'll soon have hot water."

Dylan pulled a pint of Cwrw and handed it to the plumber. "On the house."

"Thanks," said Phil and moved around to Percy's side of the bar.

"You busy then?" asked Percy.

"Not really," replied Phil, wiping froth from his lip with the back of his hand and peering at the newspaper Percy was writing in. "It's not an alloy."

"What?" said Percy.

"Silver, it's not an alloy."

"Isn't it?"

"No and the melting point isn't low. Silver melts at 960 degrees Celsius."

Percy sniffed and started to rub out the word.

Now, as well as being clever, being a plumber, in and out of people's houses, Phil knows everyone's business and loves nothing better than sharing a bit of gossip; the juicier the better.

"So what's new?" asked Percy, hoping for some local tit-bit of news.

"Had an interesting job this morning." Phil placed his glass on the counter and gave a knowing look.

Dylan and Percy moved closer.

"Got a call from Dai Jenkins, you know, the tall chap that lives in the big house on the common. Said he wanted a new bath fitted. When I got there, it wasn't a new bath at all."

"What do you mean?" asked Percy.

"Dai's tight as they come. You can't get a rusty nail out of him so I wasn't surprised. He'd bought a bath at the mart; an old iron one. It was sat on a trailer outside his house. He expected me to carry it upstairs and plumb it in for him. I asked him why he'd bought it. 'I'll show you why' he said and took me up to the bathroom. 'That's why.'" Phil pointed at nothing in particular, sipped his beer and went on with his story. "There was a big hole in the bottom of the bath."

"A hole? What sort of hole?" asked Dylan.

"Yeah. It was this big," said Phil made a circle the size of a football with his hands.

"Why was there a hole in the bath?" asked Percy.

"That's what I wondered. What happened? I asked. 'Jamie did it' he said 'and the little sod flooded the kitchen.'"

"Jamie," said Dylan. "Who's Jamie?"

"Jamie's his teenage son," explained Percy. "He's a nice kid but clumsy. Go on Phil. What happened?"

"It was like this," said Phil. "Dai and his wife were in Swansea for the day when Jamie invited Donna to the house."

"You mean that blond girl with a wonky eye and the big..?" Dylan made a weighing motion with both hands.

"Yes Donna with the..." Phil mimicked Dylan's weighing. "And Jamie had only one thing on his mind."

Percy sniggered.

"What?" asked Dylan.

Phil rolled his eyes. "He had it all planned. He'd closed the curtains in his parent's bedroom and filled the room with candles. Dozens of them."

"Why light candles? Silly bugger could have left the curtains open," said Dylan.

Phil grinned and lifted his arm, fist raised, phallic like.

"Oh," said Dylan.

"Imagine it. He invites Donna upstairs. They kiss on the landing. He opens the door. The bedroom's lit like a fairy grotto. Hundred of twinkling candles. The air full of scent."

"Bollocks," said Percy. "You're making it up."

"Suit yourself," said Phil and drained his glass.

"How did the hole get in the bath?" asked Dylan. "Did he - you know?" he added and pumped his fist.

Phil looked down at his empty glass and shrugged.

"What?" said Dylan staring at the glass.

"Get Phil a pint," said Percy and put a tenner' on the bar. "I'll have the same."

"Thanks... No he didn't," said Phil. "It was a candle that stopped him getting his end away." He leaned forward and raised his eyebrows.

Dylan listened as he refreshed the drinks.

"She was willing enough and they were on the bed when it happened." Phil reached for the pint Dylan had poured. "Cheers." He sniffed. "Jamie'd put candles on the bedside table and, what with their bouncing about, one fell over. At first neither of them noticed. I expect they were a bit preoccupied. Then a pillow began to smoulder."

"How d'you know what happened?" asked Percy.

"It's obvious," said Phil. "Listen Percy and I'll tell you... Jamie grabbed the first thing he could and started whacking the pillow. Trouble was, it was the jumper Donna'd just taken it off. Fanned by the jumper, the feather pillow really started to burn. It was Donna who put it in the bathroom."

"If it was ablaze, how'd she do that?" asked Percy. "She wouldn't have been able to carry it."

Phil thought for a moment and came up with a suggestion. "She used Jamie's slippers like a pair of tongs. That's how the hole got there."

"What?" said Dylan. "I don't understand."

"I get it," said Percy and grinned like a Cheshire cat.

Dylan scratched his chin.

"She threw the pillow in the bath and left it to burn," explained Phil.

"Oh," said Dylan. "At least she had a bit of common sense."

Phil shook his head. "They were sat on the bed wondering what story to tell his parents when black smoke started wafting from the bathroom. You see, the acrylic bath was alight. The bottom melted. The pillow was burning through the molten plastic." He paused waiting for a reaction.

Percy shrugged.

"What do you think they did?"

"I dunno," said Dylan.

"They turned the taps on," said Phil triumphantly. "To put out the fire... That's how the kitchen ceiling came down. And the water ruined the new oak floor Mrs. Jenkins was so proud of."

Percy wiped a tear away. "Did you fit the iron bath?"

"Dai sent Jamie to get some friends to help carrying the bath up stairs. We got it up the stairs alright," said Phil. "But his mates kept sniggering and taking the Mickey out of Jamie. Things like, is it true Jamie do nice girls love a candle? You should have used a wick Jamie. Inflame your passion did she Jamie? So you met your match with Donna. It went on and on. Dai was getting cross." He paused... "Things got worse when we got the bath on the landing."

"Why?" asked Percy.

"Dai lost his temper with all the piss taking and told Jamie's friends to bugger off home. After they'd gone, I discovered the iron bath wouldn't fit in the bathroom. The silly sod hadn't measured it. It was too long. When I told Dai I couldn't fit it, the tight bugger really lost it. He started shouting. Said if I didn't sort it he wouldn't pay me. Said it was my fault."

"Miserable fool. So where is it now?" asked Percy.

"The bath?" Phil grinned. "It's in the middle of the landing where I left it. He'll have to climb over it to go to bed tonight. Serves him right." Phil finished his drink and picked up his tool-bag. "Low melting alloy - six letters. The answer's solder, Percy. It melts at 180 degrees. Every plumber knows that."


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