|Spontaneous Internal Combustion|
|Written by Jeanine Croft|
|Monday, 01 December 2008 16:26|
I swiped irritably at the perspiration forming on my brow and continued scrubbing viciously at the manky dirt stains on the little boat's interior. Despite my aggressive scrubbing, the mould and muck remained stubbornly within the corners and crevices - my muscles had been abused!
In a moment of pique, I jumped up and chucked my cloth across the boat, almost slapping Chrissie in the face with it! "Hey! Wot's your problem?!" She was scowling at me with those huge blue, piercing eyes and immediately I felt contrite! I was acting the petulant child while Chrissie's composure was calmly intact - despite her hands being red, raw and sore! "Throwing a hissy-fit won't solve a bloody thing, Girlie!"
"But, this is impossible, Chrissie"! When had I become such a whiney pessimist?! "My fingers are stiff and my arms are numb. Can we just stop faffing around and get some industrial chemicals in here or something"? Chrissie seemed to mull this over for a minute before she answered, "wait here. I might know exactly what we need, but I have to find a Hardware store". That said, she flung her leg over the boat's pontoons, manoeuvred herself onto the floating dock and trudged up the road.
It couldn't have been more than fifteen minutes before Chrissie awkwardly climbed back into the boat with a metal canister. I studied the label, 'M.E.K. Methyl Ethyl Ketone', it read. I glanced up at Chrissie with what must have been a blank look for she warned me not to get any of it on my skin - very corrosive - and not to wipe it on the paint - it would strip it! I darted a wary look back at the M.E.K. as she handed over a pair of gloves for me to wear; thick, rubber, heavy-duty gloves!
She unscrewed the lid and, in doing so, released the most potently offensive fume into the air! She soaked her rag with the noxious liquid and began rubbing away the grime and muck, which - to my utter delight - came off easily and without any elbow-grease! It stripped the mouldy gunk right off…probably stripped a layer of plastic too!
I gagged as the choking fumes went wafting up my nostrils; with every whiff of the vapours, I could feel my lung tissues disintegrating! I peered over at Chrissie to see that she too was coughing and spluttering! We must have been high or something for neither of us complained - quite the contrary, actually. We giggled and chortled like a pair of weed-wielding junkies! Although, I was developing a slight headache which I attributed to the poisonous, M.E.K. gasses pumping through my blood!
We were finished in a matter of minutes and stood proudly surveying the thorough cleaning job we'd done. I bent down and, non too gently, slammed the cap back on the Canister before briskly screwing it on - tight! I heard Chrissie chuckling and peeked over my shoulder at her. She acknowledged my inquiring gaze by stretching her gloved palms out for me to see. "Look, I've got no fingerprints left", she joked. The M.E.K. had eaten right through the rubber gloves and transformed her finger tips to white, wrinkly digits! I surreptitiously glanced down at my own gloves and found, to my utter relief, the rubber (just barely) still intact! We continued clearing up and packing away until every last item had been stowed away - it was definitely time for a cool drink or, in Chrissie's case, a cigarette. We were completely knackered, but I could feel my sense of humour returning. "So", I said as I lazily read the M.E.K. warning label. "It's sort of like thinners, right"? She chuckled and drawled, in that perfect British accent, "More like thinners on steroids"! I smiled and focused my attention back on the warning label: DANGER! FLAMMABLE. KEEP AWAY FROM HEAT…Blah, blah, blah.
I leaned back onto my elbows and pensively took a long swig of lemonade before I turned to look at Chrissie. She was puffing contentedly on what was left of her second cigarette when she caught me staring at her with bulging eyes! I was transfixed with horror! Her skin had turned an ugly puce and a faint smoke seemed to be emanating from her skin! She began convulsing in agony before her entire body gave a violent jolt and the unthinkable happened right before my eyes: Flames! Blue and red flames burst all around her and lapped hungrily at her hair and skin! She screamed; a haunting scream so excruciating and piercing as to split your nerves into a million tiny threads! I was shocked out of my paralysis and acted on pure adrenalin - I shoved her off the dock and into the water!
The flames seemed unaffected by the water and continued to blaze and hiss angrily. I stared in morbid fascination as Chrissies charred remains seethed and sizzled on the surface. And, there, floating next to her was the half-smoked cigarette butt…I glanced down at the warning label on the empty cigarette box, lying on the dock, “DANGER. SMOKING KILLS”.