Hot Lava Monster

“We’ll come back on Monday to put the screed down.”

“What’s screed?”

“It’s a levelling agent. This old floor is so buckled it looks like its got waves in it.”

It looked fine to me.

I’d never heard of screed before, but it turns out it was perfect for the “hot lava monster” game.

We’ve been having some flooring done at the manse, which is nearly 100 years old. Laying new flooring is a complicated process that begins with ¼ inch ply-board, then the screed. Screed starts out in life as a powder, but when mixed with water it is more like wet cement. It is poured over an uneven floor to create a flat, even surface upon which to lay new flooring.

“How long does this take to dry?” I asked nervously, explaining that we had six kids who would be coming home from school at 3 PM.

“About three hours; it should be hard before school’s out.”

It wasn’t. And worse, the wet goo covered the entire entry hall and downstairs toilet.

Fortunately, we have a back entrance to the house that leads into the kitchen. There’s also a toilet accessible without going through the entry hall.

Everything was working fine and we were soon experiencing what tenement life was like here in Scotland 50 years ago with families of eight and more living happily in a single-end “close,” no bigger than 12’ X 15’.

Things were going well until the toilet backed up. The plunger was in the other bathroom, on the other side of the hallway.

“Dad, I really have to go to the toilet!”

“Why don’t you go in the back yard?” I said only half jokingly.


I was going to have to make the trek over the hot lava.

We used to play the game as children, imagining that the carpet was actually hot lava. The pillows from the couch were tossed about the floor to serve as rocks to be jumped across to avoid getting burned alive in the lava.

“Your feet touched the lava! You’re out!”

“No they didn’t, they were on the edge of the pillow!” we would scream at each other.

Somehow the kids picked up the same idea over here. I never told them about my childhood play; they just figured it out on their own.

I was not happy about the toilet, nor was I happy about the wet screed. The flooring guys had promised to be at the house by 9 AM, but didn’t make it until 11, so the window for drying out was reduced by two hours, cutting it dangerously close to the 3 o’clock deadline.

How was I going to get across the hot lava without leaving at trail of my size 9 (10 ½ US) footprints?

Fortunately the builders were kind enough to leave behind some decent sized cut-offs from the ply-board. So, I picked them off the scrap heap along with some carpet squares they’d removed earlier in the project.

The kids caught on quick and were soon scampering over the lava themselves, thrilled to find their beloved game making a useful contribution to our family life.

“You touched the hot lava! I can see your footprint!”

“No I didn’t! That’s not my footprint!”

“Look you guys, this is not a hot lava game!” I screamed. “Get off the squares unless you need to use the toilet! Why don’t you go outside and play with the dog?”

I’m pleased to say that when the game was at its hottest the screed was mostly dry and the footprints were only superficial. It wasn’t long before the carpet squares and wood scraps were back in the rubbish pile.

The good news is that somehow the toilet unplugged itself later; don’t ask me how. Maybe it drained away with the hot lava?

Barring further complications the new floor should go down today.

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