I answered the front door. “Yes?”
A man stood there, clipboard in hand and tool belt on waist. “I’m here to fix your water heater.”
Hallelujah. I immediately worshipped this man and all he stood for, nearly dropping to my knees and kissing his booted feet for finally showing up. We had been without hot water for two solid days. Not the end of the world, but by no means a good time. I practically ripped the screen door off and threw it to the side. “Come in.”
We clomped through the maze of a hallway in our house, eventually reaching the door to the water heater closet (otherwise known as That Door We Only Open About Every Five Years). The man immediately set to work, professionally fiddling with this and that, snatching implements out of his pouch as needed, and clearly not requiring my assistance at the moment.
This is the part that unnerves about having maintenance people in my house and touching my things. Are you supposed to just stand around in case these people need you in some way? Or do you just pretend that they aren’t really there and go about your business as if a strange man didn’t have his arm shoved in your plumbing?
So I cleared my throat and announced “I’ll just be in the office, other end of the hallway, if you need anything.”
He just grunted, intent on making a lug-nut do something it didn’t really feel like doing. I guess in Plumber-ese, a grunt can be taken as “That arrangement suits me perfectly. Thank you for your thoughtfulness and consideration. Please enjoy your time in the other room.” I wandered into the office, listening carefully during my journey in case there were sudden pleas for urgent assistance from the water heater closet, accompanied by unsettling mutterings like “why is there so much blood?”
I sat down at my desk and checked to see what was going on in Facebook, something I used to do with the regularity of breathing. Not much was happening, so I did a status update, some bit about unknown men in my house sporting tools and banging on my pipes.
Within seconds, there were 47 comments, all of them concerning lusty things one could do with maintenance men who were already in your house, since getting them there was half the battle. Wow, I had no idea that so many people had fantasies on hand concerning plumbers. Which proves that most of my friends are perverts. And apparently none of them have jobs if they were updating Facebook at 3pm.
But it did get me to thinking, which is usually an ill-advised and dangerous thing, leading to surprise arrests and people named Buck wanting to live in your car. How does one go about seduction these days? I’ve been in my current relationship for over a decade, and we all know how that goes. I haven’t had to be sexy for years. Done got the milk, people. But really, what was considered hawt these days? Did I still have the goods to elicit “that look”? It’s all I wanted, a look, nothing more.
I headed back into the kitchen, home of that Door We Never Open, which was now open, and the man who usually wasn’t there, but now was. Plumber Man was still fiddling with whatever, standing inside the closet, his back to me. Well, my plan to allure was already falling apart. It’s hard to be seductive when people aren’t looking at you. It’s hard to be anything when people aren’t looking at you.
Just then, Plumber Man backed out of the closet, turned around, noticed me standing there, briefly nodded, fished something long out of a box I hadn’t noticed before, then re-entered the closet. Okay, then. This was still doable. I just had to wait until the next time he came out of the closet, and then make sure I was staged correctly.
I glanced around for the optimal position for highlighting my assets. For some reason, my eyes were drawn to the sink, sensing that the smooth porcelain was subliminally sensual. I approached the double-sink and took stock. Perhaps I could use the sprayer hose in a naughty manner, pretending to somehow get it caught between my legs. But nope, it didn’t stretch far enough.
Maybe run the hot water, creating clouds of billowy steam that would make me look dewy, fresh, and consumed with dripping passion? Ixnay on that as well. There wasn’t any hot water. That’s why the damn plumber was here in the first place.
Were giant butcher knives sexy? Probably not, or at least only for a certain segment of the population that watches slasher movies for all the wrong reasons. A rolling pin? No, might come across as too demanding. A spatula might work, wanting to be “flipped over” and all that. The coffee grinder could be intriguing. But I really didn’t know which props I should use. Being sultry takes a lot of planning.
Plumber Man stepped out of the closet again, digging in his box of goodies once more, lingering a bit longer this time and actually sustaining eye contact when he noticed me still standing there. Then he smiled. (Oh? Did I have him already? Just with my mere appearance? I still had it!)
Then things went back in limbo when he said “Not any fun taking cold showers, is it?” (What the hell did he mean by that? Was I being too forward and he was telling me to tone it down by mentioning “cold showers”? Or was he encouraging me by saying it was a negative thing to splash cold water on the smoking heat that was building between us?)
Love was so complicated. Lust was even worse.
Plumber Man went back into the sacred closet, twisted something, unlatched something else, then popped off the cover of the water heater (it’s tank-less, for those keeping score), and then he walked backwards carrying the cover and trying to keep from gouging the 60-year-old wood on either side of the doorframe. (This was a wise decision. Lust object or not, there would have been a very frank discussion if scratching had taken place) He bent over (oh my!) to lean the cover against the wall and his booty gently bumped the kitchen table.
And that’s when it hit me. The kitchen table! That’s where our moment of wild abandon should take place. It seemed so naughty but oh so right. I had visions of Jack Nicholson nailing Jessica Lange in the remake of The Postman Always Rings Twice, right there on that creaky table while Jessica was just trying to make a nice potato salad or whatever it was. We would grovel and flounder, with me sexily wiping flour out of my hair as eggs smashed to the floor and homemade mayonnaise splattered the linoleum. “Take me!” I would moan to Jack, as a jar of pickles rolled under the stove and livestock mooed through the open window over the sink. “Make me one of your Five Easy Pieces!”
My eyes blinked open. How had I drifted off while sitting in front of the PC?
“Sir? Could you come in here for a second?” It was the Plumber Man, off yonder in the kitchen! Aw hell, had I let my mind wander at a critical moment, and now he was trapped under the water heater because I hadn’t been standing at attention? I raced down the hallway.
He was standing outside the heater closet, throwing things back into his mystery box. “Can you check the heat?”
I just stood there. Why did everything sound deliciously tawdry to me?
He glanced up. “The sink. Can you check the hot water?”
Oh. Damn. “Okay.” I stepped over to the sink and slapped at the faucet. Water began gushing, which did nothing to alleviate my inability to stop turning every innocent phrase into a hormone-dripping invitation to bang a gong. I shoved my hand into the stream of water, waiting for things to reach a boil.
Plumber Man absently scratched at his chest. Underneath the shirt he was casually caressing, nipples could be found, manly hotspots that could satisfy a well-trained tongue. He picked something up off the table and took a few steps closer. His voice deep and gravelly, he queried: “Is it getting hot?”
I think I made a yelping noise. I couldn’t help it. “Yes. It is. Very Hot. Burning.” I tried to lean provocatively against the sink, lips moist, my reddened hand becoming numb as nerve endings were seared by the scalding water.
“Great!” said Plumber Man, shoving a clipboard at me. “That’ll be 180 bucks. Sign here on this line and I’m outta here.”
I shut off the faucet, the last of my libido swirling down the drain…
(Originally published in “The Sound and the Fury” on 12/30/10, revised and updated with extra flair for this post.)
Categories: The Stories