It’s been pouring for days. It’s my kind of weather except when it impacts the toilets in my house. That’s where I draw the line. The toilets, the shower, the bathtub and the garage sink went on strike all at once and filled up with water. Grey, dirty water.
That required immediate emergency measures. I called two plumbers who were asleep and couldn’t be bothered with my plight. It was Sunday after all, the day of rest, and crises would have to wait. The third plumber responded and came over in 45 minutes. Meanwhile Alf was filling buckets of water from the shower and dumping them in the backyard. I was pacing the kitchen trying to stay calm. The rain continued. Calvin was on guard with nose quivering.
Finally Juan showed up in an unmarked truck. That sent alarm bells off in my head. Calvin began howling. He introduced himself and smiled with a mouthful of braces and spoke in faltering English. The alarm bells were getting louder. Calvin was grunting. Juan unscrewed the cap to the main pipe to the house and a volcano of water erupted flooding the front lawn. I was convinced we had called a hack and I was ready to phone another plumber, and then the police, if I could find either who wasn’t taking a nap. Calvin was hissing and booing at Juan.
Alf decided to go with it. Juan pulled out a snake and a camera from his truck and did a diagnostic. Sure enough the roots of our bushes were strangling the outflow from the pipe and would need to be replaced. Juan called two buddies who appeared too quickly – were they waiting around the corner? – which confirmed we had hired a gang of thugs to fix our plumbing. This was not looking good. Calvin agreed. He was showing his pearly whites and howling.
The gang worked all day digging and snaking and digging some more. Calvin snarled along with them from the kitchen. The guys took a break to get tacos. We asked where they went and now we have a recommendation for a neighborhood taqueria. Calvin got a gleam in his eye.
The gang continued with the dig. It felt like an archaeological excavation in my front lawn. The chewed up pipe was finally unearthed, and I began to calm down. Maybe these guys knew their job after all. Calvin, exhausted from his protective detail, had curled up in his bed and gone to sleep.
By the end of the day the plumbers had unplugged the back-up, got the water flowing again, and I had my toilets back. They said they’d come back the next day to install the new pipe and eat more tacos.
Calvin says, “I’ve earned at least a dozen tacos. Let’s go!”
Riding the subway sometimes feels like a wildlife journey. This morning as I waited for the train to arrive on the outdoor platform, I heard the quacking of ducks. The sun hadn’t risen yet. It was dark. I couldn’t see the birds, but I heard them quacking to each other incessantly. They had a lot to say and were passionate about it. Finally they took a breath and that’s when the geese started in with their honking. They were loud and vociferous. The ducks couldn’t take it and flew over my head with jet-engine speed.
Yesterday as I boarded the train to go home a woman told me not to sit down. “Why?” I asked. “There’s a rat in here!” she said horrified. I look behind me and sure enough the rodent was zig-sagging across the aisle. The passengers were screaming, men and women alike, jumping out of the way. The rat scampered as fast as his little legs could take him in and out of the rows of seats. Women were lifting their legs. The screams got louder. It ran past me and onto two seats by the door. It found a hole in the back of one of them and disappeared.
We stopped at another station. People got on. The seats were filling up. The only two empty ones had the rat in residence. “Don’t sit there!” a man said to people who wanted to sit down. “There’s a rat in the seat,” he said. The riders walked to another car.
At another stop a woman got on and sat down. The same man warned her, but this time in Spanish. He just knew she was Hispanic. She shrugged her shoulders and said, “No me da miedo.” She was right. There was nothing to be afraid of. The rat was in its hidey-hole with a palpitating heart hoping nobody would rip the seat out and extinguish it. The rodent had nothing to fear. There wasn’t a soul on board with the courage to do that. Even the men, some in hard hats and fluorescent vests, big burly construction guys with tool belts around their middles, might as well have been ballerinas in tutus for all the help they provided.
It showed me I better be my own warrior.
It also occurred to me that the easiest way to hold a group of people hostage would be to unleash a few rats on a subway system. The entire system would be paralyzed in no time.
Calvin says, “You humans. What’s a stupid rat going to do to you? Now snakes, there’s a thought.”
I came out of the restaurant after a farewell luncheon for a co-worker from the office. I heard a voice calling from across the street. I ignored it. It called again. I looked. I didn’t recognize the woman. I assumed she meant someone else. I kept walking. The voice got louder. Then I heard the woman call my name. I stopped. I looked across the street again.
It was my daughter.
Okay, I was wearing dark glasses and that always mutes the colors.
Plus she was in the shadow.
But my own daughter?
Alf tells me when I focus on things, I only see in front of my face.
I guess I’m that bad.
I think it has a lot to do with expectations. I wasn’t expecting to see my daughter, therefore I didn’t recognize her.
Now I know how magicians do it.
It’s all in the focus.
And when they get me looking at something else, out pops the struggling bunny from the top hat.
Meanwhile there’s a snake slithering across my feet.
Calvin says, “For me it’s my nose. The whole world stops while the scent lures me to the wild side.”
sudden breeze –
the dog sniffs the hisses
of a rattle snake
Calvin says, “Hey, that’s me in the poem. I remember that day well. We stood overlooking the creek, in tall grasses, poppies blooming, puffy white clouds in a periwinkle sky, but I wax poetic. It was more rustic than that. All of a sudden I hear a rattle. I freeze. Every nerve in my body is on alert, ready to respond, to sniff the intruder, and then bay my guts out. I have the victim in my sight. Who cares that he’s slithering straight at me, flicking his tongue, and rattling furiously. This is drama. This is adventure. This is what I was made for. You spoiled it by screaming and yanking me away.”
“I saved your life,” I said.
“You killed the joy.”
“You’d be a dead dog,” I said.
“I’d have gone down smiling.”
“I’d have gone home crying,” I said.
“Aw. You do love me.”