Step 1: Turn off water supply
My 14-year-old daughter goes to the post office for a copy of New Scientist. The shop worker tells her to look under ‘Men’s Interests’. She finds four remaining copies and [you can do this using the isolator valve] switches them to the Women’s section. She’s already unhappy the BBC ran a feature for ten minutes on the Friends Reunion episode, spending just two minutes and thirteen seconds on the discovery that dark matter is not so clumpy or clustered, but smoother and more dispersed than Einstein’s model predicted.
[it’s a good idea to put the plug in the sink to ensure any small components won’t get lost when you begin to dismantle the tap.]
Step 2: Remove the handles
[Locate the screws fixing the handles to the tap.] Year 10 Physics and she just wants to learn. But going round school is a photo of her friend making out with a sixth former – she’s just fourteen, right? I ask. Yeah, says my daughter – and the boys in class holler at her the whole lesson. Slag, they shout, you’re a slag.
The teacher? I ask.
The same guy who smirked, went red, when Max said he’d douse himself in petrol, set himself alight before kissing a man.
[Unscrew them to dismantle.]
Step 3: Remove the valve cover
[Now the handles are removed, you should see the top of the valve where the handles were.] In Spanish, the teacher shows them a WhatsApp group he’s in with his cousins. ‘Primxs’ they call themselves, resisting the gendered language of primos. Enough. Back to work. He tells them to turn to their books: Come on guys, we haven’t got all day.
[As you take these pieces apart, lay them out on a flat surface.]
Step 4: Replace washer
The kids refer to supply teachers as supplies. A new supply delivers PSHE the following week. He’s decided it would be a neat idea to open the lesson brainstorming words related to sex. One boy slopes to the board, writes TENTACLES.
Spot on, whispers my daughter.
Step 5: Replace valve seat
[If it’s corroded, you’ll see grooves in the metal surface. These are the cause of the tap’s leak.] They watch a slideshow about sexual attraction: women are attracted to men with low voices, and men attracted to women with high voices, they learn.
All straight? I ask.
Yeah, says my daughter. No, wait. There was a kid with a speech bubble on the last slide with: I think about the boys in my rugby team a lot. Does this make me gay?
[You have two options. Either use a grindr to make the surface smooth again or replace it entirely. Whichever method you choose should fix the problem.]
Note: in the event of none of the above working, you can try tearing up the manual.
Kathryn Aldridge-Morris lives in Bristol, England. Her writing appears in Ellipsis Zine, Janus Literary, Lunate Fiction, The Phare, Reflex, the Brilliant Flash Fiction Anthology Vol. 2 amongst others, and she was recently shortlisted for the Bath Flash Fiction Award. @kazbarwrites