What's the worst that can happen when you need to bleed your radiator? This!
The house was freezing, despite Des having the heating up full blast. He had the boiler right up to ten, the most it would go, and the same went for the knobs on the radiators. But the radiators just didn’t seem to be making a dent. They were warm, but that was about it. They weren’t like his mate Benny’s radiators, you could iron your clothes on them, they were roasting. But these? These were fucking useless. He wondered if it was because the knobs on his radiators only went up to five. That was the most they would go, but maybe that was why they only felt half as hot as Benny’s, because half of ten is five. He didn’t know, so he gave Benny a phone.
Benny told Des that it doesn’t make any difference what the numbers are on the knobs, as long as they’re up to the max. ‘You stupid bastard,’ said Benny, in a nice way. But Benny did have one idea about what might be the problem. He asked Des to tell him if the radiators were as cold down the bottom as they were up the top. Des asked what he was on about, Benny told him to just do it. So Des pressed his hand against the bottom of the hall radiator, and yelped. It was hot as fuck. Des asked Benny what the story was there, and Benny told him that his radiators needed to be bled.
‘They needed to be what?’
Benny sighed, and explained what needed to be done. All Des had to do was unscrew the wee thing at the top left of the radiator, and that would let out all the excess air. That’s why the hot water wasn’t getting up to the top, there was a big air bubble inside. Des asked Benny how it got there, but Benny told him it was late and he was tired and he really didn’t want to get into all that. He just told Des to unscrew that thing and let out the air, but make sure there was a pot handy, because at some point all the air would be out, then you’d get water skooshing out the hole. When that happens, turn the wee screw tight again, and that’ll be it done. The radiator will be boiling hot, from top to toe. Easy. Easy as pie.
‘Could you come round and do it?’ asked Des.
‘No, mate,’ said Benny, and hung up.
So Des got on with it himself. He had a look for the wee screw thing on the radiator in the living room, and sure enough, there it was. He had a look at what type of screw hole shape it had, and it was the type he could just use a knife with, which was just as well, because he didn’t have a screwdriver. He went into the kitchen, got a pot out of the cupboard, then went to the drawer to get a knife. Then he brought the knife through to the living room to give this thing a shot.
He slid the knife into the hole of the wee screw and started to turn it. It didn’t budge. He tried harder, closing his eyes slightly in case the end of the knife broke and pinged into his eye, but it still didn’t budge. Then he remembered that he probably needed to turn it the other way, because he was unscrewing, not screwing. He was right, because when he did it, out came that air that Benny was talking about. It sounded good. It felt good as well, like letting down somebody’s tyre. Tssssss. God, he used to do that all the time, him and Benny, back in school. Some laugh, that. If a teacher gave one of them lines, then they’d go to the car park and …
Des felt warm water skoosh onto his forearm, giving him enough of a fright to drop the knife. He saw the manky radiator water land all over the white carpet, and he panicked. He couldn’t make up his mind about whether he should reach for the knife to screw the thing tight, or reach for the pot to catch the water. He decided to go for the pot, then realised that he had forgotten to bring the fucking thing through from the kitchen. But then rather than just quickly grabbing the knife and tightening the wee screw like anybody else would, he ran away to the kitchen to grab the pot. Then, when he was only about two paces away from the pot, he realised he should have just grabbed the knife, and he doubled back. And when he got to the living room, he couldn’t find the knife, even though it was right fucking there in front of him. He was flapping. The white carpet was being ruined, his landlord would take it out his deposit, and it would probably drip down to the neighbour below. Add that to everything else he’d fucked up, and he was definitely getting booted out the building, unless he did something and did it fast. He didn’t know what to do, so he did the first thing that came to mind.
He started drinking the water.
He could have just held it in his mouth to buy him enough time to find the knife and screw the wee thing tight then run to the kitchen and spit it out and brush his teeth and all the rest of it, but the thought never occurred to him. Instead, he just lapped it up frantically like a thirsty dog drinking out a tap. His hands scrambled around underneath, out of vision, and eventually found the knife. He began screwing the wee thing, but it made no difference. He’d broken it! There’s no way he’d be able to keep drinking, the water from the entire central heating thing would flood downstairs and . . . then he realised he was screwing it the wrong way. He screwed it clockwise, the water stopped, and he fell back onto the floor, exhausted.
Des, Des, Des. You silly, silly man.
He lay there for a minute, wondering about how he was going to get the stain out of the carpet. It also dawned on him that he could have just held the water in his mouth instead of drinking it. But it was too late now. He drank it, and it was fucking minging.
Wait a minute.
It wasn’t minging.
It felt minging, aye, and it probably looked minging, drinking water from a radiator. But did it taste minging, Des? Did it?
No, it didn’t. In fact, as he licked his lips and swirled his tongue around his mouth, he concluded that it was far from minging.
It was delicious.
It was perhaps the most delicious thing he had ever tasted. Des couldn’t believe it. Wait till he told Benny about this! Des picked up his phone, but then thought against it. What if he was talking shite? Like, it might not be the manky radiator water that was delicious, maybe it was some delicious food he ate earlier that was trapped between his gum and cheek and the radiator water dislodged it. But it couldn’t have been that, because all he’d had to eat that day was baked beans and a pear. Or maybe the manky radiator water was tasty because he’d just brushed his teeth, and sometimes when you brush your teeth then taste something, it tastes different. But he hadn’t just brushed his teeth; that was a stupid thing to think. Or maybe it was just the whole stressful situation that had just happened, and it was all in his mind, because sometimes stress like that can make people see things that aren’t really there or hear things that aren’t being said, or taste delicious things that are in fact manky. Well, he’d calmed down now, so he thought he should just taste the thing one more time to draw a line under it.
He picked up the knife, put his mouth to the wee hole thing on the radiator, and unscrewed. A jet of manky radiator water sprayed into his mouth. That’s all he wanted, just a sip, and he quickly screwed the thing tight again. He swished the liquid around inside his mouth, then gulped.
Fucking hell, man, it was more delicious than before. He’d never tasted anything like it. He tried comparing it in his head to his favourite drinks, his favourite booze, his favourite juice, but they all seemed like pish water compared to this stuff. Yet it seemed more than just a drink. It was like a meal, it was like a main course and a dessert, stuff that shouldn’t go together, but it did; it was like something out of Willy Wonka. He didn’t think it was possible for anything to be this tasty. He’d seen programmes about top-notch restaurants where it costs you a bomb to get this wee plate of food, and he couldn’t comprehend something being that tasty that it justified skinning yourself that much. But this stuff in his radiators, fuck, he could imagine people selling their house for just another swig.
Des picked up his phone again to tell Benny. Who knew where this was going?
‘Benny, you’ve got to get round here,’ he said, but before Benny even had a chance to reply, Des hung up. He just wanted one more taste. He just wanted to be sure, that’s all. He didn’t want to make a tit of himself, as usual. So he’d have one more taste. He wondered if it would be even tastier the next time. And the time after that. But for now he’d have just one sip, that’s all. Just one. Just one more.
Benny phoned back to see why Des was phoning, but it just rang out. It was probably nothing, but he didn’t like the sound of that. What was it he said? ‘Benny, you’ve got to get round here.’ He tried phoning again, it rang out. He left a message, nothing back. He sent a text, then another. Nothing. He was going to leave it, Des had probably just flooded the place, it could wait till tomorrow. But what if it couldn’t? What if Des was in trouble, and he had to live with that for the rest of his life? He needed a bit of perspective here, so he phoned Des’s dad to get a second opinion. Des’s dad reminded Benny that anything was possible when it came to Des, and Benny agreed. So they got round there as quick as they fucking could.
The pair of them rang the bell and banged the door, shouting for Des to open up. There was no answer, so Benny knew what had to be done. He told Des’s dad to get out the way, before taking a runny up to the door and battering the thing open with his shoulder. They raced into the hall, with Des’s dad heading to the living room and Benny sprinting off to the kitchen. When Benny heard Des’s dad wailing, he knew that Des had been found. Benny ran into the living room, and there he saw it.
Des was lying conked out next to the radiator, his face wet with some kind of murky brown liquid around his mouth, and he’d urinated himself. Des’s dad was in bits.
That was six months ago. And since then, a lot has changed. Des has changed. When he got out of hospital, the first thing he did was to get counselling. It wasn’t something he was talked into by his dad or by Benny, it was his own decision, and he attends meetings almost every day. He got up himself to talk at one last week, to inspire and warn others. His dad and Benny were there to lend their support. He said that even to this day, six months on, he still can’t be sure if the manky radiator water really was as delicious as he thought it was, or if it was indeed only in his imagination due to stress. But one thing was for sure, he wasn’t going to find out. If he hadn’t got his stomach pumped that night, that would have been him, kaput. He wasn’t going back there just to satisfy his curiosity, and he urged others to do the same.
And then he said something. Something that I hope you will take with you. A word of advice.
He said that if you are thinking of bleeding a radiator, it is vital – absolutely vital – that you have a pot ready. ‘I cannot stress that enough,’ he said.
And when he said that, Benny nodded.