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Location: marengo, il, United States

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

FIRST PLIGHT

Trixie and her husband Way Bon Adventure decide to have a cookout by the end of the third week. Invited friends will come to visit the new place and enjoy themselves. Naturally the tub backs up the day before the planned event, so a local plumber gets a call.

Gene specializes in unclogging sewer lines for frantic homeowners in Hoohooville.

He shows up promptly in his white van. He parks the vehicle at the curb and walks to the front porch where he rings the door bell. The van sits parked where it idles roughly, loaded with all the latest technology for clearing sewage pipes or blockage problems wiser types like Mr. Bon Adventure refuse to touch.

He comes inside to see where the problem lies. Bon Adventure trails after him down the hall and into the bathroom. The two men then stand quietly as they stare into the tub filled to the rim with foul water.

“Well now, that is one inviting sight, Way. How long has it been like that?”

Way moans and regales Gene with a life history filled with assorted problems as the two men go down to the basement to inspect the chaotic water line system that runs through the ceiling. Mystified by all the visual detail, Gene only shakes his head. So he goes back upstairs and out the front door to his van. Bon Adventure tags along subdued but curious to see how the younger gentleman will find and correct his dilemma.

The tradesman reaches inside the truck and takes out a Y shaped coat hanger. Next he turns and begins to walk back and forth over the lawn, holding on deftly to the handles of his instrument.

He follows the gadget as he crosses over the sidewalk and into the street for some distance until the witching device decides to make a sudden sharp dive. At that point Gene stops.

He looks back at the roof of the house. From there his gaze travels down the front of the house and across the lawn where it comes to a stop out in the street next to his work van.

He gets a most-concerned and puzzled expression on his seasoned face. Next he cocks his head and stands still for a moment, listening. Then his eyes get big. “Do you hear that?”

Bon Adventure swivels his head back and forth to catch some unheard noise.

“Hear what, Gene? I can’t hear a blamed thing.”

Gene returns the dowser to the rear of the van and hastily removes a hooked metal pole. Then he turns around and inserts the hook into a manhole cover several feet away. He hauls on the lid until it flips over. The plate falls and slaps the pavement with a loud clang. As soon as the hole is exposed rushing water noises fills the air. Gene goes on his hands and knees to peers down into the round hole.

“Well, good grief! No wonder your tub is stopped up.”

Bon Adventure leans over next to Gene, and there he peers along side him into the hole. Several feet below the pavement frothing water shoots eastward at a high rate of speed. The end of a six-inch drain pipe sets directly in the path of the flow.

“Oh, man. Is that bad?”

But when he looks up, Gene has a cell phone to his ear and is walking away.

“You guys better get down here real fast. We got a huge problem.”

And he shuts the phone off and lays it on the dashboard of the running van.

He comes back over to the hole where Bon Adventure kneels.

“That’s the City boys I just called. They should be here pretty quick.”

While the two men observe the torrent of water beneath them, two Water Department trucks pull up to a stop. One man stays behind the wheel of a company pickup and shouts out the window.

“What’s going on down there, Gene?”

Two other uniformed men leave a larger truck and walk over to join the circular hole watchers. Everyone appears curious but calm. Only Gene seems concerned. Bon Adventure can only eavesdrop and wonder.

The plumber explains the situation. The man in the pickup listens and then puts the truck in gear as he turns to the two other workers.

“Y’all take care of this, will you? That old lady over on Adams is still waiting.”

As soon as the supervisor drives away the cascade of water down below comes to a sudden stop. Gene looks up and at one of the City workers. The man chuckles at Gene as he points down the street corner to where a cinder block box sets.

“Aw, it isn’t nothing but that lift station kicking on down there. There’s still a lot of ground water here after all that rain we got two weeks back. She‘s probably going to keep doing this for quite a while.”

This news causes Gene to slap his forehead. Everyone except the puzzled Bon Adventure gets a good laugh. But as the mystery of the rushing water is laid to rest among the three men, they next turn to catch up on the local gossip.

An uncle is laid up with a bad back after tripping over his Chihuahua. He should recover and has vowed to quit drinking again. A young and foolish sister left home and now lives with a musician in Stinking Onion. They reckon she will be back in less than a month. A woodstove caught a home on fire last winter. That story still rates a good review. The people all escaped the small blaze but managed to soak their insurance company good.

One of the workers has a fishing trip coming up, and invites Gene to come along. The other can’t come; his wife and he are going out of town to visit the in-laws, he says.

The men recall the last time they were working here, and one points out a fresh patch in the road farther down the street.

The weather gets gone over properly, and then while another lie or two is being told, one man kicks at the manhole cover and rattles it back into place. His co-worker stands close to insure it sets right.

“Can’t have a snow plow catch an edge on one of these bad boys, you know.”

Bon Adventure stands there listening and watching as the second man taps around the metal perimeter.

“Oh, no you can’t, that’s for sure. Why, one flew right through that guy’s picture window last February. Remember that?”

“Yep. About scared him to death, too. I’ll never forget that one.”

After a few more pleasantries the men drive off to leave Gene and the homeowner standing in the quiet street. Gene puts his hands on his hips and watches as they turn the corner. Then he laughs to himself.

“I guess I must have gone off half-cocked. Funny how I forgot all about which way the water flows here.”

“What do you mean?”

The man points to the box at the other end of the street.

“I was thinking backwards, I reckon. See, that lift station down there is the low spot in this area. All it is really is a big sump pump. After it collects water it sends it down to the west end of the street.”

He turns and nods to where the City truck just vanished around the bend.

“And from there it goes on to a water treatment facility before it gets dumped into the Kishawamuckie River.”

He laughs again.

“I guess we proved how fast them City boys respond though.”

His pride still intact, he eyes the roof again.

“I need to go get me a ladder and get up there to that one vent pipe sticking out above your bathroom.”

“You want you can use mine. I got it hanging up in the garage.”

“Sure, that would be great. It’ll save me an extra trip too.”

Way hauls the ladder out and sets it against the house while the plumber calls a helper on his cell phone. The man then takes a huge coiled metal apparatus from inside the van.

“Running this snake will probably cost you about a hundred bucks, if it does the trick.”

“Sounds fair to me, Gene. I need to go inside for a few minutes, so you do what you got to do.”

In the house Bon Adventure asks his wife to hurry down to Ace to pick up some replacement parts for the toilet. The thing has never flushed right since they moved in.

“I’ll see if I can get Gene to install the kit while he’s here.”

Buddy arrives shortly and the two men begin feeding the snake down inside the roof stack. In less than fifteen minutes the standing water in the bathtub drains, leaving behind a coat of discolored slime. Trixie returns from the hardware store as Gene rolls up the snake in the front yard. The smile on his face shows he succeeded. He soon follows her inside the house to catch Way rinsing out the tub. A new package containing the toilet innards lays on the sink.

“You did alright, Gene. How about that?”

Gene grins as clear water swirls down the drain.

“Say, can you do me a big favor while you guys are here?”

Way points to the sink where the unopened package sets.

“Can you install that thing for me? I know for sure that if I do it I am guaranteed to break something.”

Gene picks up the package and looks at it suspiciously.

“I got something even better out in the truck. Hang on to this and return it; I’ll be right back”

After several attempts and a few adjustments, the toilet for the first time flushes correctly. Then as he untangles his legs from around the base of the stool he offers some advice to Bon Adventure as to which brands of tissue are better than others to prevent future clogs. And then when he is done Gene looks up at the pleased Bon Adventure and confides to him.

“Now Way, I’m really not a licensed plumber.”

He stands up tall and stretches his back before he carefully puts the tank lid back in place.

“So if anyone asks, don't say I did it.”

The bill Gene presents later amounts to a little over a hundred dollars, and so far, Way has kept his word.

2 Comments:

Blogger Gone Away said...

Brilliant, Harry. If I may add a tiny after-thought - have you not pointed out the difference between men and women? To a woman, the doctor is god; to a man, the plumber. ;)

7:46 PM  
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