Breaking the Bathtub

‘How is it possible that you’ve managed to break every tile in this room?’ I asked my apprentice with a deep sigh.

‘There were only ten or so in here!’ he protested.

‘Yes, and now they’re all broken,’ I growled. ‘Why is that hard to—never mind,’ I took a calming breath. ‘You’re learning. This is okay.’

‘Should I get the other boxes of tiles?’

No!’ the word ripped its way out of me like a wolf, and I had to quickly stuff the anger back down. ‘No, thank you,’ I said, more calmly. ‘I can send someone else to do that.’

‘Okay,’ the teenager said, smiling nervously. ‘Do you want me to start on the bathtub then?’

‘Sure, kid,’ I sighed wearily. ‘Wait a second ­– what do you mean “start on the bathtub”?’

‘Oh, you know,’ he shrugged, ‘get a head start on that easy step bathtub conversion.’

‘Easy… what?!’

‘The conversion,’ he repeated with a frown. ‘So old people can get in and out of the bath without assistance or danger to themselves.’

‘What, did you read that on the back of your cereal box this morning?’

He gaped at me for a second, before his features settled into a puzzled frown. ‘I had… toast this morning?’

‘We’re not doing that to his bath, you mor—’ I cut myself off.

Deep, calming breaths.

‘Look,’ I said, after I’d finished my breathing. ‘Do you know how much a bathtub remodel costs around Sydney?’

‘No…’ he shook his head. ‘Should I?’

‘Nope,’ I shrugged. ‘It’s above your pay grade, and below mine. We don’t do that kind of work.’

‘Oh,’ he sighed. ‘Then, uh…’

‘What?’ I frowned. ‘You’ve got your “I just broke a room full of tiles” look on your face again.’

‘Well, when I broke the tiles, I felt bad,’ he said, sheepishly. ‘So I kinda… started on the bath already.’

‘You did what?!