Do You Hear It?

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Do you hear what I hear? The high-pitched ringing was faint enough to be in my imagination, but loud enough to prove otherwise. Throughout the day, it seemed to fade and disappear altogether. But if I paused, held my breath and cocked my ear skyward, it came back. Was it real or just in my head?

I had read somewhere you can suffer from constant ringing in the ears, but not that it comes and goes. It took almost a week before I found the source. Read on, Dear Reader, you’re not going to believe this one.

This story really doesn’t start with the ringing two weeks ago. It starts a year ago when we had to replace our hot water tank in the basement. What exactly did replacing a hot water tank have to do with constant ringing that almost drove Yours Truly mad?

Actually everything. When our old electric water heater burst, we decided to replace it with a highly efficient, tankless gas heater. It was touted as a source of “endless” hot water. Living in a house with six other people, I thought a source of endless hot water, along with the lower cost of switching over to gas, seemed well worth the higher price unit. Because it ran on gas, we’d always have hot water, even when the power went out as long as the flame ignitor still had power. Herein lay the problem.

Installing a huge battery back-up the size of a toaster oven for the small ignitor was a brilliant idea — and one that should have earned me a pat on the back. What wasn’t so brilliant was installing it on a shelf directly underneath the tankless heater.

Having been a firefighter for twenty-seven years, I’ve been to a lot of house fires caused by such silly mistakes, and ours could’ve been one of them. I should’ve known better.

Day after day, the mysterious noise got louder and louder until finally, after searching for almost a week, I found the source — a water-soaked battery pack. I unplugged it from the electrical outlet. The high-pitched alarm got even louder so I took it outside and dumped it into the safety of the fire pit.

You’d think after a week the battery would’ve done run down. Nope. You’d think after repeatedly smashing it with a ten-pound sledgehammer, the battery would die. Nope. Another day and night went by. The squirrels and I couldn’t take it any longer, so I pulled what was left of the hard plastic case apart. Victory was at hand as I cut the battery’s black and white wires. Nope, didn’t work.

I could smell victory, or at least the battery overheating, as the alarm grew even louder so I did what every bomb disposal unit in every movie suggests never to do. I cut the red wire. Yep, you guessed it. Didn’t work.

Taking a break for lunch and some much needed sweet tea, a new strategy came to light. Returning to the fire pit and battery, I quickly located a large silver diode on the computer board and pulled it out. Nope. I pulled the remaining three diodes. Nope, nope, and nope. That didn’t work either.

The alarm grew so loud, I thought our neighbors were going to complain. The only thing left to do was to cut the green wire, but that never works in any bomb movies. Yep, it worked.

Guess the ending of the story is this: what used to work, now doesn’t. What never worked, now does. And that high-pitched ringing you hear isn’t your imagination … or is it? Welcome to 2021, folks.

[Rick Ryckeley has been writing stories since 2001.]