Author : Glenn Blakeslee
At four in the morning the alarms went off. Lois hardly stirred, but I went downstairs to the kitchen, started a pot of coffee, and then slogged my sorry ass to the control console, next to the laundry room.
Red lights glared from the temperature control panel. The needles showed an overtemp in the secondary thermocouple but normal temperatures in the primary, so I couldn’t tell if the relay was actually over-heating or if the secondary had failed again. I dialed down the master motor-control rheostat a couple of notches —losing precious speed— but the warning light didn’t go out, so instead of doing anything more I went to the kitchen, poured a cup of coffee, and waited until dawn.
I spent most of the day under the home. Replacing the thermocouple dimmed the warning light but I could feel, just by a touch on its titanium casing, that the number three stepper motor was running much too hot. I took the motor offline and spent a few hours tightening and replacing coolant lines. I inspected the narrow yard-tall wheels on the rear outboard truck assembly and ended up replacing the bearings on two of the twelve wheels.
Around noon Lois came down the stairs, shook her head and grinned at me. “Come on up for lunch, Herb,” she said. It was a nice day, cool for summer, so we ate sandwiches and watermelon on the veranda.
After lunch I climbed to the roof, and in the strong midday sun I dusted off the solar panels and checked the alignment on the control linkage. I stood for a while admiring our new cupola, built a few weeks ago toward the front of the house. It was expensive, but Lois and I both believed the cupola completed our home.
Lois invited the Smiths from next-door over for supper. I grilled steaks on the patio while Bill Smith drank my beer and Lois and Dorothy Smith sat gossiping. “Nice cupola, Herb,” Bill said, gloating.
“Yeah?” I said.
“Sure,” Bill said. “That thing must weigh a couple tons.” Bill’s home had been inching past mine for the last year. He’d gained nearly half a house on me.
“Lois and I love the cupola,” I said.
“You should have gotten the high-performance relays instead. Like I did,” Bill said.
“I think the cupola is beautiful!” Dorothy said with a smile.
After the Smiths left we cleaned up, and I went to the control console and moved the master rheostat up a notch. No warning lights came on. The indicators showed that we’d moved a little less than thirty-three inches that day.
At dusk Lois and I climbed the stairs to the cupola. We opened the windows, let the breeze in. “Bill isn’t racing you, you know,” Lois said.
I put my arm around her shoulders. “The hell he isn’t,” I replied, and I kissed her.
From the cupola we could see the neighborhood as it stretched toward the horizon, each home moving at its own good speed. We were heading toward the sunset, the sky before us streaked with red and gold and salmon. I was happy.
From the cupola I could see that, from here, it was all down hill.