When a Sure Thing Isn’t

You’ve done it several times before. You read the instructions several times. You follows the instructions to the letter. You work hard, and do it right.

And it blows up. And it wasn’t suppose to.

That describes my weekend.

I need to get rid of a block of concrete. It’s 3 feet by 3 feet and extents 4 feet into the ground. A jack hammer is too noisy and a very expensive piece of equipment to rent. It also very hard on the body. So we used a compound called Dexpan (Expansive Demolition Grout for Concrete and Rock Breaking). You can buy the stuff at the big box hardware store.

All you have to do is drill a one and one half inch diameter hole in the concrete. Then mix the Dexpan powder with water and pour the slurry into the hole. We’ve done this several times.

A roto-hammer-drill with a one and one-half inch eighteen inch long drill is much cheaper to rent and a whole lot easier on the body than a double action jack hammer and the compressor to run it. An electric jack hammer isn’t that cheap either.

Five eighteen inch deep holes will hold a packet of Dexpan slurry. In the first set of holes we used an unused left over packet of Dexpan. After it expanded and cracked the concrete we drilled five new holes, mixed up a new packet of Dexpan to form a slurry and poured it in the new holes.

Approximately ten minutes later the Dexpan exploded out of one of the holes. Seconds later harden pieces of Dexpan fell on the roof. Every one tool shelter. The Dexpan kept exploding out of the five holes.

Thank goodness it is close to the Fourth of July. There are so many illegal fireworks going off that no one complained. Dexpan is not made to explode. It has never exploded before when we used it.

What does this have to do with writing steampunk. Everything. In real life things don’t always work like they’re suppose to. Your hero researches the books. Imagine a hero that doesn’t know everything, but has the smarts to look it up. Or he asks the experts. Then he does everything by the book and it doesn’t work. It’s the wrong time of year, the wrong phase of the moon, the wrong brand of stuff.

The hero hires a consultant. That doesn’t work so he hires an expert to do the job and it still doesn’t work. Been there, done that. These are ready made plot points. The consultant was a fake. The expert was on the take of the antagonist.

When the invention that is going to save the day it blow up and damages the town. The town folks run the hero out of town. They pursue the hero to stop him from doing it again, even when it’s their only hope to be saved.

The hero has to fail before he can succeed.

Stay strong, write on, and have a safe Fourth of July.

Professor Hyram Voltage.

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