Why Men Shouldn’t Do Housework

The two men could hear their own breathing inside their radiation suits. Carefully they picked their way through the debris in the abandoned house that represented the center of the 200 meter dead zone. No one would’ve ever thought that such an event could occur in an American suburb but here they were a month after the incident with Geiger Counters measuring radiation. With floor plan in hand they located the cellar door.

“This is it,” said Steve to Mark.
They exchanged glances knowing the risk they were about to take. Taking a deliberate breath, Steve turned on his flashlight, opened the cellar door and slowly descended the stairs. Their beams moved frantically around to locate the exact site of the event. It wasn’t hard to find. The six foot diameter hole in the floor sported burn marks around its circumference. Carefully approaching, Steve and Mark recognized the top of the hole was funnel shaped before becoming a cylindrical cavity that bottomed out at around eighteen feet. A clothes dryer machine was wedged near the top of the cylinder having fallen into the hole when it formed.
“Can you see the reactor, Mark?”
“Some reactor. But no I can’t see the device. Stuff is in the way.”
With that he put the attaché sized container he was carrying on the floor and opened it. Taking out a reel of fiber-optic cable he fed it down the hole and watched the monitor that showed what the thin camera saw. It went past the dryer and descended to within a few feet of the bottom. Some white metal showed up and surprisingly some parts of the control panel but most of the machine had melted into a ball of slag.
“Okay, that’s some solid evidence but let’s lower the Geiger down to be sure.”
The Geiger Counter was already registering dangerous levels of radioactivity but the clicking went wild as it neared the slag.
“That’s it for sure. I wouldn’t have believed it but there it is. Let’s get out of here,” says Steve.
Mark reels in the Geiger and the fiber-optic cable. He packs them quickly, anxious to leave, but as he gets up he brushes against an exposed nail from a fallen floor board. It rips a six inch gash in his suits thigh and draws blood.
“Oh, shit!” exclaims a frightened Mark.
“Stay calm! We’ll get you out of here. Leave the equipment.”
Mark is not hobbled so he and Steve run as fast as their bulky radiation suits would allow. They exit the house, enter the van and remove their suits whereupon Steve administers some stopgap treatment before heading to the hospital radiation unit.

While Steve waits for an update on Mark at the facility he visits the inadvertent perpetrator of the disaster. The physicist, still recovering from radiation burns, looks somewhat better than the last time Steve saw him.
“Feeling better?” Steve asks sternly.
“I think so,” replies Dr. Newton. “I probably look worse than I feel at this point. But the doctors say my hair will probably grow back and the burns will fade.”
“You were lucky.”
“I guess so.”
“It may interest you to know that my partner is fighting for his life just down the hall.”
“I’m sorry. I know I’ve made a mess of things but how was I to know? The manufacturer said it was a one in a billion chance that I stumbled upon pressing the right sequence of buttons to cause this.”
“And yet somehow you managed it. Why were you operating the machine in the first place? I understood that you never worked it before.”
“My wife got a new job and I was just trying to help. And I admit I may have way underestimated the task. It had settings and sub-settings galore. At the quantum physics lab, where I work, we never had to deal with a system of this complexity.”
“And let me guess. You didn’t read the instructions.”
“Does anyone?”
Steve had to keep himself from grabbing the man by the throat. So instead he just threw the instruction manual for the machine on the man’s bed. It was open to the page that warned of a Critical Mass condition. Dr. Newton noticed that Steve had circled the section in red as well as the prominent symbol of radioactivity.
“What about the warning Klaxon and the automated voice?” persisted Steve.
“I just couldn’t believe it.”
“And the rotating red lights? You ignored them all.”

“Everything had been going so well. The rinse cycle had completed and it was going into spin. I just thought everything would turn out fine in the morning. That’s the last time I volunteer to do the laundry,” said the teary eyed scientist.

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