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ralph robert moore


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ralph robert moore

Copyright © 2010 by Ralph Robert Moore.

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water sustains life, but destroys everything else
april 1, 2010

I woke up one morning a while ago, quietly got out of bed, so as not to wake Mary, went out through the short hall of our master bedroom to our kitchen.

The cats followed, even though they knew they wouldn't get fed until I went upstairs, checked my email, came back downstairs and first, made coffee.

As I was walking across the wooden planks of our kitchen, I heard a horrible cry.

Not from a human, nor even another mammal. It sounded like it came out of the throat of a reptile, or an unusually large insect.

I admit, I swung my shoulders around in alarm. I was ready to kill whatever it was, even though the only weapon in my hand at that moment was a cigarette, and even then, unlit.

But I didn't see anything.

Snooped around in the darkness of the kitchen.


When I came back downstairs, trailed by the cats, I went from the bottom step through to the living room, planning to recheck the breakfast nook before rounding back to the kitchen proper.

As I was crossing the living room carpet, my bare feet stepped in cold moistness. I stomped the soles of my feet around, as if they were palms. A lot of moistness.

After Mary was awake, the sleep leaving her beautiful green eyes, I showed her the big wet spot on our living room carpet.

I found the wooden plank in the kitchen where I heard the horrible cry. Looking down, I saw my foot could duplicate the sound by pressing down on that wooden plank. Each time my foot pressed down, moisture, and that horrible cry, bubbled up between the adjoining planks.

Water sustains life, but destroys everything else. The Grand Canyon was caused by a leak nobody bothered to fix.

So where was the leak coming from?

I got it in my head it must be a slab leak.

Like most houses in Texas, we have a concrete slab under our home (Texas homes don't have cellars. There's no need for them. The winters don't get that cold, and out here serial killers prefer hiding in attics.)

Pipes are often buried beneath, or within, the concrete slab. Sometimes, those pipes can shift or break, which causes a leak under your house.

Since there's no cellar, there are only two ways to access the leak, to fix it.

One is to dig a large tunnel from the outside of the house nearest the leak. So for example, if the slab leak originated under our living room, the treatment would be to start a tunnel in our backyard, digging under our concrete slab to reach the pipes beneath the living room portion of our slab, replace or repair those pipes that were leaking, then back fill the tunnel with the shoveled-out dirt, hoping the procedure didn't undermine the structural integrity of the slab.

A second approach is to dig directly down into the floor of the room where the leak occurs. In that case, plumbers would peel back our living room carpet, jackhammer through the concrete slab in our living room to gain access to the pipes, then repair or replace those pipes. Plumbers don't fix the damage they've caused. You have to contract separately to have a concrete specialist come out and pour concrete to reseal the slab, then have a carpeting company come out to replace your living room carpet.

In other words, there's a lot more to slab repair than replacing a rubber washer.

We noticed the leak problem on the weekend, so had to wait until Monday to call anyone.

Sunday morning I went on the Internet, searching slab repair companies in our area, just to get a general sense of the process and cost.

One company's website had testimonials from happy customers. "Using [Blank[ company, we saved thousands of dollars getting our slab leak repaired!"

My glum thought: If you saved thousands of dollars, how much did the slab repair cost?

The company that advertised most prominently identified itself as a Christian slab repair company. They had the fish icon on their site.

If this company was saying, We're Christian, therefore we have high ethical standards, we won't cheat you, that was definitely something we'd be interested in. But as I started reading through their website, that didn't seem to be the case.

For one thing, they declared several times that most slab repair companies are dishonest. But not them. To me, when you start running down your competitors, it makes me a wee bit suspicious. Talk about how good you are. Not how bad everyone else is. They also told their potential customers to lie to their home insurance policy holders when inquiring to see if slab repair is covered under their policy. Don't tell your home insurance company you yourself have a leak. Because that may cause them to review your policy for a possible premium hike. Instead, say you have a friend who has a slab leak, and you're just curious to know if slab leaks are covered under your own policy.

Not very honest. And to me, not very Christian.

You've heard the expression, Sleep on it?

One of the greatest pieces of advice.

Monday morning, I decided, What if I'm just jumping to the conclusion we have a slab leak problem, but we really don't? Didn't it make more sense to start by having a regular plumber come out and assess the situation, rather than immediately calling in the Green Berets, beds of their pick-up trucks atilt with augurs and jack hammers?

So that's what we did. We have a reliable plumbing contractor, so we called them.

A few hours later, they were in our kitchen, poking around. They ended up pulling our dishwasher all the way out from under our kitchen counter, laying it on its plumbing-complicated back on our wooden floor.

It turns out a plastic outtake pipe underneath the dishwasher had gotten pinched. To the point over the years where it eventually burst, so that each time we ran the dishwasher, the hot water, instead of draining, spewed out under the wooden planks in our kitchen, carpet in our living room.

Once they replaced the tubes and heavily slid the dishwasher back in place, the lead plumber (there were two of them, one was an apprentice) gave me a nod.

Specialists have problems thinking outside their specialty. Surgeons think the solution to everything is surgery. Plumbers think every home design decision should be optimized for leak detection.

"People really shouldn't have wood, vinyl or tile in their kitchens. Because it takes longer to realize there's a leak seeping under the materials. All kitchens should have carpeted floors."

Okay. Thank you.

I've been editing the footage I shot of my father-in-law Joe over the holidays, to turn that footage into a feature-length documentary.

I've now come up with a rough cut of approximately 50 minutes, covering his childhood and war years.

Since I want this to top out at about two hours, I realize I'm going to have to cut some of the aspects of his later life.

For example, I have quite a few hours of Joe talking about his career at AeroJet, where he helped with a number of significant rocket launches, but I think the intended audience for this documentary, his children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren, probably aren't going to be that interested in a great deal of detail about what he did for a living, other than a general sense that he worked on rockets.

So I'll probably compress that area of the documentary to about ten minutes.

The nice thing is more detailed footage about his AeroJet years can be put in a separate bonus feature, where it doesn't impede the flow of the documentary proper.

One thing I learned, in starting to write my autobiography, is that it is amazing how many stories you have to leave out. I thought that when I did write my autobiography, I'd be able to include all the stories comprising my life. Once I started the actual process, I realized there just isn't enough room. You have to reject ten or twenty stories for each one you select.

Things I've learned about editing since starting this project:

Music really adds a lot. David Lynch said once a movie is half video, half audio, and I believe him. Also, wherever you start a background music clip, it automatically fits in. Your viewer's ear is so used to hearing background music in movies, it automatically assigns an appropriateness to its inclusion. I've tried starting a background music clip at four or five different places in a video timeline, and it feels completely appropriate wherever I put it.

The viewer is trained to accept abrupt cuts. Sometimes, working on the documentary, I felt I needed to provide a softer transition between two scenes, but when I do an abrupt cut from one scene to another, or even within a scene, it's not a problem. We've seen so many movies by now that use abrupt cuts, our movie-going consciousness knows how to immediately connect two disparate images.

You really have to spell out things in movies. I'm used to prose narrative, where the reader can raise his or her eyes to the paragraph above to put everything in context. Video, on the other hand, because of its relentless forward movement, requires that you establish information right away. You can't be too subtle. So I've used title cards a couple of times, just to make sure the viewer has a frame to understand what the next section of the video is about.

The British Fantasy Society (BFS) each year accepts nominations for the best work in horror, fantasy and science fiction from the previous year for the British Fantasy Awards, which is a big deal in the genre world.

I'm proud to say my short story collection, Remove the Eyes, is on the BFS's long list of best short story collections of 2009 (22 collections were long-listed.)

In June the short list of the top five collections will be announced, after which a winner will be voted on.

You can learn more about Remove the Eyes, or purchase it, by going here.

For the video Lately this month, I bring you an absolutely delicious sandwich.