Add a spoon of water to a bucket of oil, mix well and run

Submitted into Contest #161 in response to: Write a story where a character has to take on heavy responsibilities (perhaps beyond their age).... view prompt


Drama Fiction Teens & Young Adult

So. Here I am, 15 years old, sitting at the head of a table which is occupied by 11 men ranging in age from old through elderly and onto tottery old-age. There are also 3 officials from government offices. They are all looking at me and waiting for my answer. They all look nervous, as though there are millions of dollars at stake. Which there are.

It’s a strange story and it will make better reading as a fairy-tale than it will in real life. Except for those dollars, of course.

I read a lot. I’m at the local library twice a week and on each visit I take out 2 books which I devour in a few days. They’re usually books for 15 year olds, except when I disregard the suggestions and go for the adult stuff. A couple of weeks ago I took out a ‘young adult’ book, an adventure novel, and read about how this gang of boys experimented with Dowsing for water. I was fascinated. I went out into the backyard where we have a few fruit trees and searched and found a small branch that looked like the letter ‘Y’ which fits the description in the book.

It’s a branch about two feet long that has forked twigs at one end. You use it with the plain end pointing down at the earth and hold it with both hands, one on each of the forks at the top. Then you walk around slowly, hoping that the branch will start quivering in your hands. That’s the sign that there’s water in the ground under you. Easy huh? Of course I was just playing.

Well, blow me down, as a pirate said in another book, After I had taken about 20 steps, the branch went mad. Twisting and turning in my hands; here, look at the scabs where the twigs tore through my skin. Water! I ran back to the house, grabbed a spade from Dad’s gardening stuff, ran back to where I had dropped the branch and started digging.

A thought crossed my mind. I would find water and run it into a tank and present it to Dad to use in his garden. It’s his hobby and pride and joy, a prize winning flower garden. He plants twice a year, once in spring and once in autumn, so we have flowers throughout the year. He uses huge amounts of water, what with sprinklers that run all night and hosepipes that work overtime. He isn’t so pleased when the accounts from the water department arrived. I would give him free water! So I dug and dug.

The earth was quite soft and the hole grew quickly. I had to widen it so that I could stand in it to dig deeper. Soon I was beneath ground level. Another few spade-fulls and I heard a strange gurgling noise coming up from the ground below me. Is that water? It was, and a minute later it bubbled its way through the bottom of the hole and sent a spout up over my head. What’ll I tell Mom when she sees my mud-caked clothes?

I scrambled out of the collapsing sides of the hole and stood staring at the gushing column of water. It didn’t take long before Dad’s prize garden disappeared into a lake which was starting to drain the water, together with Dad’s carefully selected topsoil, into the street. What to do? What to do?

I ran into the house in a blind panic, not knowing what to do. Help! The answer came as a loud bang and a cloud of black smoke followed by a black liquid column that shot up into the air. What on earth…? I rushed out and stretched my arm so that a few drops of the black stuff fell on my hand. Black, oily stuff. Looked like oil and smelled worse. Oil? Mom rushed out from her bedroom where she had been resting, took one look and ran to the phone. “The fire brigade!” She screamed . “What’s the number for the fire brigade? Quickly! Quick!”

I found it on the back cover of the telephone directory and she dialed it frantically. She tried to tell someone on the other end what was happening. A minute later she blurted out our address, yelled ‘now!’, slammed the phone onto its cradle and two strides later flung the front door open. “They’ll be here in a minute,” she croaked. And they were. The long red fire-truck with ladders and ropes hanging off the sides and firemen hanging onto the safety rails came roaring up and stopped. The firemen jumped off and stood gaping at the scene across the road. One of the men, presumably the chief, pulled out his phone and made his report. 

Soon trucks pulled up and the firemen used their water-hoses to fill barrels with oil. That evening our doorbell rang. I opened the door to see three men standing there: One from the sanitation department, one from the tax department and the third from the department of energy.

“We’re here about your oil find,”

He entered and we sat in the living room. Mom and Dad came in too.

“We have many questions,” the officials began. “Who does that oil well belong to?’

My mother and father both turned to me.

“Stevie found it. We suppose it’s his.”

The Sanitation man spoke. “What you have done is illegal. You cannot operate an oil well in a residential area. In addition, oil wells must be registered and conform to the many laws pertaining to oil wells. Thirdly, you are not a registered taxpayer. The very idea of this matter is crazy. In addition I personally think you are far too young for this business.”

The taxman growled, “You are not even a taxpayer,”

The Energy man said, “Tell us how you are going to transport the empty barrels in and the full barrels out of here. At the rate the barrels are filling with oil there will be an endless line of trucks with barrels coming and going down your street and wrecking the traffic pattern of the entire suburb and maybe even the town. What’s your plan? We must have all these answers urgently! Now in fact!”

My father spoke. “I nominate Stevie Smith as chairman of this group!” He winked at me.

I understood his proposal.

“I resign, gentlemen, due to my age and inexperience. I call for nominations for a new chairman.”

There was a hubbub of conversation and the old guy with the beard emerged as the new chairman.

As for us, we sold the oil which we had collected in the first 2 days, sold the house and moved to the other side of town. The dowser stick? We had it framed and it now hangs in a place of honor in the kitchen. 

September 02, 2022 14:41

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Judith Nusbaum
15:12 Dec 11, 2022

A wonderful story, makes one want to applaud .


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Michelle Konde
13:51 Sep 06, 2022

So heart-warming. What a pleasant read. Thanks!


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