So Terry is back on the horn with the Mob Boss contractor guy. Mob Man is amazed that the singing plumbers would leave without fixing the problem. (Why would we make this up? Did he think we found this amusing?) He promises to have someone out in the morning, and he will come by himself to make sure the job gets done. We accept his words with total faith, just as if some bearded guy walked off a mountain and handed us a stone tablet. Because we’re stupid and we don’t have much of a choice
Morning brings a casting change. The singing duo apparently got a record deal. Now we have a big bald guy, covered with tattoos, stomping around the drive-way in oversized boots, and exuding an attitude that would make a gang of crazed crack-heads drop their weapons and scamper away. I make Terry deal with Mr. Happy (“It’s YOUR turn! I’ve been trapped in this giant outhouse all week. Go!”) whilst I race around the house, hiding valuables in case Baldy decides to kill us for our DVD collection.
As I’m shoving Season 6 of “Angel” under the couch, I hear Papi Muerto ask for a ladder. A ladder? What the hell? How does a ladder figure into this equation at all? But I’m busy, I still have several seasons of “Wings” to lock up, so I race off, throwing an old towel over the XBOX 360.
I am interrupted by the sound of what appears to be a giant metal spear slamming through the roof and into the attic. Did we just time warp to Sparta? The noise continues, with whatever it is working i’s way toward, I’m only speculating at this point, the guest bathroom. My senses are a little off, mainly because I don’t have any mental reference points to apply to the sound and activity I am currently hearing.
I crack open the patio door and motion Terry over. “What the hell is he doing?”
“He’s snaking the toilet through the ventilation pipes. You know, those pipe things sticking out of the roof.”
The concept boggles me. I mean, at random moments over the years, I did sort of wonder about those little pipe things on the roof. What were those for? Where did they come from? Were we supposed to check and make sure things hadn’t gotten stuck in them that shouldn’t? But it was a brief curiosity, I didn’t really care. And now I learn that they are basically transmission points to send our personal aromas out into the universe.
Good gawd. No wonder dead squirrels would occasionally slide off the roof onto the patio during family barbecues. I just took it as a warning sign that maybe the potato salad had been sitting out too long. I hadn’t realized that we were dousing the furry little critters with radioactivity. Very sad.
Still, I had things to do. I slammed the door and wandered away, intent on securing the rest of my dwelling because I have a tendency to not trust strangers on my property, especially when they have just proven that they know about entrances into my house that I don’t. I had roughly fifteen minutes of relative calm, minutes during which I would have made arrangements to leave the country had I known what was about to happen, and then the Apocalypse began.
It seems that, up to this point, Papi had only been positioning his devil equipment, prepping the beast for the upcoming onslaught. I had naively assumed that he was in the midst of doing the deed, as he had already punctured the roof with his Sparta spear, and that action had been violent enough that one would think our pipes were now clear all the way to the Earth’s core. But that had just been foreplay, and now we were ready to get down to business.
Papi hollered something from the roof to a newly-arrived plumber person who had just wandered on to the patio. The newbie, standing next to Terry as Terry stared at him with a “who the hell are you” expression, hollered something back at Papi. This brought another vocal something from Papi, and another response from Newbie. The exact nature of the discussion was unclear, as they were speaking in Spanish, a language I had not bothered to learn, an unfortunate oversight, considering I live in Texas. But based on what happened next, and the way Newbie fled around the corner of the house with amazing speed, I’m guessing that Papi was telling Newbie to evacuate the entire neighborhood.
During this whole bit of no hablo espanol, it did occur to me that we couldn’t actually see Papi, tromping around on the roof as he was and jacking with whatever. We could very well be talking to one of the squirrels, a special bi-lingual one that had somehow managed to survive our toxic butt gases and was taking revenge by messing with our heads. For all we knew, Papi might be tied to the chimney with duct tape across his mouth, holding today’s edition of the newspaper while another squirrel snapped a picture on his cellphone and composed a ransom letter. Probably not, but my mind does wander.
Then Papi, or one of the squirrels, kicked the hell-beast snaking-machine up to full throttle.
The entire house began to shake in a vindictive manner. The walls were vibrating, the wood floors were popping and groaning, and there were agonizing metallic screams coming from the 50-year-old pipes. In desperate terror, convinced that This was It, my life was over and there were so many things I hadn’t accomplished, I began to race through the house in search of anywhere that wasn’t shifting and buckling. (As I thundered through the kitchen, an image of Linda Blair burned into a tortilla I had left on the counter after breakfast.) I made it all the way to the master bedroom before I completely shut down, unable to function.
As I stood there, frozen in an admirable interpretation of those fools in horror movies who don’t understand they should get out of the creepy house before they are eviscerated by the maniacal killer, I was joined by an equally-traumatized companion. Scotch, our cat who was already simple before this mess started, came thundering around the corner, mad foam flying from his snarling lips. He slammed full force into my legs, and then started ripping said legs to shreds because I was in his way. I limped to the side, and he dove toward a two-inch opening under the entertainment center. And he got under there. All the way.
This insanity continued for several hours. After about thirty minutes of bleeding from the shins and weeping openly, it dawned on me that I wasn’t dead and the house hadn’t collapsed. Still, the ungodly noises and vibrations kept me firmly on the edge of insanity. The only thing that got me through it was a vague idea that Dr. Kevorkian had been paroled, and I might be able to find his number if I just googled hard enough.
Days later, possibly weeks, I awoke from my self-absorbed cocoon and stretched out of the fetal position. I couldn’t hear or feel anything that was mind-numbingly annoying. Was it over? I hopped out of bed (not sure how I got there), checked on Scotch who was still under the entertainment center based on the smidge of tail that I could see poking out (he hissed and threw a cat toy at me), and I raced back through the house. I threw open the patio door in a nice melodramatic moment, and I stepped out on to the patio to learn what our fate might be.
I was presented with the tableau of Terry conversing with the three plumbers. (How did we get to three plumbers? Did the noise attract the third one, some type of homing beacon for bored plumbers driving around with nothing else to do?) But at least Papi was one of the three, so he hadn’t been kidnapped after all despite the squirrel-based rumors. And Papi broke the news to me. The assault from above hadn’t worked, despite the Lucifer-inspired attributes of the military-grade snaking machine. We had to go to Plan B, which shifted the possible source of the devil’s lair from the house itself to the discharge line that ran from the house to the alley.
This new crap-fest plan involved digging down to the main exit pipe on the side of the house, busting that puppy open, and then performing a number of exploratory actions. For some reason, my went to that “Operation” game from way back in the day where, if you didn’t use your little tweezers correctly, the patient’s nose would light up and you were banished from the game forever. The potential shame of childhood entertainment probably had nothing to do with the current situation, but I really didn’t have anything else to reference because I’m not a plumber.
Regardless of my general tendency to flash back to personal failures of little relevance, the plumbing team really needed to move forward with this procedure as they didn’t have anything else in their playbook at the moment and the day was waning. So proceed they did, a rather dramatic course of events that involved the enthusiastic violation of my landscaping, and then some strenuous banging away at a critical cast-iron pipe that had been nobly serving sewage needs in our country longer than I had been alive.
Once the pipe had been rudely breached, the cast members then resorted to a sort of tag-team formation. We had one plumber doing the snaking at the invasion point, one plumber standing out in the alley at the manhole opening to the city lines, and one plumber running between them, spewing cryptic code and secret passwords. From all appearances, the three of them were really enjoying this bit of slap and tickle with a relish that I did not understand, further confirming that their profession was one that I wisely had not pursued in my formative years.
For my part, I simply sat on the patio and watched the trio run amuck, regularly reaching down to mop up the blood that was gushing from my legs, a spillage that was courtesy of Scotch the Cat who still did not understand the correlation between “behaving in a decent manner” and “the presentation of delicious treats”. Terry, for his part, stood stoically beside me, since he was not hemorrhaging from the knees and was therefore the most-qualified candidate to race out onto the field of battle should one of the plumbers be felled in action.
Hours later, the plumbing trio suddenly ceased with their revelry and two of them approached the patio with an unsatisfying report. The waterway seems to be flowing in a more acceptable manner, but there’s still a vague obstruction of some kind. They’re gonna have to go find one of them fancy water-proof cameras and shove it down the damn pipe to see what’s what. They won’t be able to locate on until the morning, but hey, in the interim, they can install a trap on the side of the house to help with the situation.
This intrigued me. They are going to install one of these thingies that we should have had in the first place. I hobbled closer to them so I could catch every detail, making sure that I did so in a manner that bespoke of my physical and emotional pain, a manner that everyone promptly ignored. “So, how does this work?” I asked, looking all tragic and pale.
Papi launched. “Well, we’re gonna cut out a chunk of this here pipe, and insert this little piece of PVC that’s gotta screw-top lid. That way, when people need to snake this thing, they already got access, don’t have to go through the toilets or the roof or go out to city entrance.” He turned and waved at the alley, where the startled third plumber, who clearly thought he was on a break and lamely tried to hide the cigarette he was sneaking, waved weakly back. Papi turned back around. “That’s all there is to it.” He was obviously trying to minimize the situation for me, probably because I was clutching my medic-alert bracelet and I had a twitch in my left eye.
“But, how does that help us NOW? We’re still draining slow.”
He smiled, an annoying decision on his part, considering. “Well, until we can get this all worked out, if you start backin up again, you can just run out here and pop the top and let everything gush out. We can throw some lime on it, you won’t smell a thing.”
So I looked at where he was standing, next to the driveway. And I looked at the driveway, which slopes down to the street. A street along which lived hordes of retired people who have nothing better to do than stand at their bay windows and record every detail of every single thing that ever happens. The same people who might see poop floating down our driveway and into a public thoroughfare, find such a vision to be rude and distasteful, and then proceed to call the City Council, because they’ve already got them on speed dial, right under the number for the local pharmacy.
The twitching in my left eye increased to the point that my head was vibrating.
Papi the Plumber took note of my growing dismay and tried to slap a positive spin on the pathetic non-success of the day’s events. “But at least you can still have your party tonight. Just use this trap if you need to. Of course, you might wanna tell them folks to hold off on the toilet paper.”
Aw, hell. The party. I had somehow completely forgotten about that during all the lovely shenanigans, what with the howling pussy and the slashed legs and the neutron bomb through the roof and the odd fact that Papi had changed his dialogue from rapid Spanish to West Texas drawl at some point in the story. We had people coming over. In just a few hours. Not only did we have to race around and tidy things up, now we’ve got to call all the party guests and say “Hey, if you envision a bowel movement in your near future, could you maybe take care of that before you head over? Oh, and you probably shouldn’t walk up the driveway, because you might see something you really don’t want to see.”
I went back into the house to google Dr. Kevorkian again.
To be continued…
(Originally posted in “The Sound and the Fury” on 05/09/09. Revised and edited with extra flair for this post.)