“This place looks dodgy as hell,” says John Frost, a furnace repairman of twenty years, as he pulls up to a remote farm full of rusting machinery, angry dogs, and Edmonton Oilers paraphernalia. “Oh Jesus H. Christ look at that. He keeps pigs. I’m not sure this a very good idea.”
Watching from his kitchen window with equal trepidation to that of his caller is John Smock, a Coquitlam-area pig farmer who, in common with over 65% of Canadians, suffers from a debilitating fear of furnace repairmen (Diablophobia as it’s known to psychologists).
“Holy shit, he’s got a bag. I bet its full of chloroform,” says the pig farmer, reaching for a rolling pin.
Reluctantly John F. climbs out of the van, trying to look like someone whose absence would be noticed immediately were he to go missing. As he approaches the door he takes out his phone and pretends to be on a call to his mother.
“Ok Mom, sorry to hear about that, I’m sure he’ll turn up. You know Dad. Ok, gotta go, I’m on a call, out here at 2233 East Midland Drive. Postal code V3B 032, turn right at the stand of oak trees and just ignore the dogs. Got that? If I don’t call you back in 30 seconds send the RCMP. Hi.”
John S. has opened the door. He’s holding a rolling pin and can’t take his eyes off John F.’s bag.
“Was that your Mom?”
“Sure. Is that a rolling pin?”
The two men stare at each other for a long moment, the tension rising as each envisions exactly how the other will dispose of his body. Then sudddenly they speak, in a mutual stream of excuses and deferrals.
“You know I don’t really need heat.”
“I always wanted to be a cobbler.”
“Could probably just burn the floorboards when the frost comes.”
“Always hated furnaces. More of a ‘just wear an extra sweater’ man myself.'”
“Not sure why I made the appointment.”
“Yeah I quit bye.”
Backing slowly towards his van, John F. pictures kissing his wife, holding his kids, and getting that meatball sub he hasn’t been letting himself have since his heart bypass. Shutting the door behind him, John S. let’s the rolling pin drop to the floor with a clatter, then collapses in a heap of tears, grateful to not be charred beyond recognition.