Water Wars


“My time to go first!” And so it began. Just after dinner, the declaration uttered by one of our two granddaughters signaled the first volley into the nightly conflict we call Water Wars. But ours wasn’t the first table I’d heard that pronouncement thrown across. A long, long time ago there was another.

Why Water Wars? After fourteen years, our reliable water heater had become not so reliable. For the last three months, less and less hot water and longer recovery time had resulted in an extraordinary thing: arguments about who should be the first to take a bath.

The nightly winner enjoyed a nice long tub time full of hot water for their many colorful boats, plastic dinosaurs, and Barbies to float around in. The nightly loser took a short lukewarm bath full of enough complaints to sink any floating boat or dinosaur, but not Barbie. Barbies, of course, don’t take cold baths.

With baths finished and teeth brushed, the girls collect stuffies they’re going to sleep with and, after climbing into bed, arrange them just so under the warm covers. One night the girls asked, “Papa, did you ever take cold baths when you were a kid?”

After tucking them in and giving each stuffy a goodnight kiss, I turned on the unicorn nightlight. Sinking into the bedroom recliner, I started to rock, “Yes. Just like you, my brothers and I fought every night to see who would have the first bath. But it wasn’t because our hot water tank was failing. With five kids, we were always running out of hot water.”

I told the girls the following story as they slowly drifted off to dreamland where I have it on good authority they never take cold baths.

Back on Flamingo Street, little green army men nightly dove off the high ledge of the tub, joining us during bath time. Many battles were fought and entire campaigns won during those nice long warm baths.

But when the water was like ice, no wars were waged. Little green army men, just like Barbies, don’t take cold baths. Unfortunately, after the first two of us, the rest of us kids had to.

Our constant complaining eventually led Dad to make us take cold showers stating, “Not wasting all that water if you’re not getting into it. ‘Least this way you’ll get wet.”

For those seven years we lived at 110 Flamingo Street, we ran out of hot water every night. If only there had been tank-less water heaters back then, my brothers and I wouldn’t have fought … at least not about who would be taking a cold bath.

Last night I watched as the girls collected stuffies they were going to sleep with and, after climbing into bed, arranged them just so under the warm covers. After switching off the overhead light and switching on the unicorn nightlight, I sank back into the bedroom recliner once again and started to slowly rock. A question floated up in the darkened room. “Papa, when you were a kid did you ever run out of hot and cold water?”

“Yes,” I replied. “When the water tank blew up.” Special note to Reader: Such an answer at bedtime isn’t a good idea. The girls immediately sat up in bed wide-eyed wanting to hear the story. For the next half hour, I recounted the adventure of the hot water tank bursting during our nighttime bath and flooding our basement on Flamingo Street. And how Dad got mad when we tried to float our toy boats across the basement floor.

Tonight, the Water Wars around our house finally came to an end. We just installed a new tank-less water heater. Our two granddaughters, and all the Barbies, couldn’t be happier. Lukewarm baths are now a thing of the past.

Now everyone every night has a full tub of hot water to splash around in — which is gonna create yet another problem: Much higher water bills. Having to explain to The Wife how buying a new tank-less water heater that was supposed to save us money every month is actually going to cost us more money every month? Now I’m the one who’s in hot water!

[Rick Ryckeley has been writing stories since 2001. To read more of Rick’s stories, visit his blog: storiesbyrick.wordpress.com.]