A Modern Day Plungercism
"It's a new bath every day!" I said to my husband who scrunched his eyebrows and stared at me, unblinking.
"What does that even mean?"
"I mean there are more rings 'round the bathtub than on Patriots' fingers." I wanted to put it in terms he would understand.
"So it's not draining? But I just Draino'ed it a couple days ago."
"It didn't work. Obviously." I pointed down at the soap scummy walls and bits of hair that circled the tub. "I can't LIVE like this!"
The cat jumped up on the counter and mrowed up at us. He couldn't live like this either. The bathtub was his warm weather nap hub.
"We'll Draino it again," my husband shrugged and sighed, scratching the cat's ears by way of apology.
"This is not some minor clogage of pipes," I protested. "This is a major monster plumber to the rescue type situation."
My husband groaned. "But I'd have to call Adalberto. My dad'll be pissed if I don't."
"Adalberto is an expert. He has the tools."
"Adalberto is retired for almost as long as I've been able to say his name. He takes forever, does nothing, and charges next to nothing as a favor to my dad."
"Which is bad because?"
"Because I feel bad, that's why it's bad. I have to offer more, he has to refuse, we have to argue about the price and it takes forever. Let's go get some super strength Draino and leave it at that."
The Draino didn't work. Not only did it not work but it unworked. I can only blame said Draino for the horrific squeeching and squealing that followed its application every shower thereafter.
Every day, I bathed my feet in shower scum. Every ring darkened with the growing evil that emerged from the drain. Even the cat was wary of the sounds and now smells that emanated from the bathroom.
"Call the plumber" I implored my husband. "Do it now."
He groaned, his eyes rolling back in his head. But he pulled out his cell phone and dialed. Relief was nigh.
"Adalberto, yeah, yeah, it's Ottavio's son. Yeah. ... Well, we have a major bathtub drain issue. Si, si, impedimento di uhh... scarico della vasca. Si. Yes, today would be great. Ok, sure. Yeah, I'll tell my dad. Thanks. Grazie. We'll see you soon. Ciao."
"Oh thank God," I said, clapping my hands together in prayer.
Squat and slouched, the retired plumber shuffled through our front door half an hour later, bag o' tricks dangling from his grisled claw. My father-in-law followed soon after.
The cat sat in the hall outside the bathroom door flopping his tail and shifting back and forth to get a glimpse through the crack at what work could be done. There were screeches and squinches and whirring and grunting, mumbled Italian phrases my husband couldn't decipher followed by a CRACK! and a HISS! and a "MADONNA MIA! Brutto figlio di puttana bastardo!"
"Well that sounds bad," my husband said, looking up from his phone.
"I got 'ugly' and 'bastard' out of that," I responded. "Which makes me think maybe I was right and you were wrong and that there ugly bastard of a clog can't be tamed by Draino."
Both men soon after trotted out of the bathroom as fast as their arthritis could carry them and slammed the door behind them.
"Che fa?" my husband asked his father. Adalberto mumbled to himself as he packed up his tools.
"Madre de Dio, che Dio ti aiuti, I cannot help you," Adalberto shook a fist at us.
"What? What happened? What should we do?"
My father-in-law shook his head.
"Chiamare un prete. Only a priest can help you now," Adalberto called, closing the front door behind him. We'd never seen him shuffle so fast.
"My son," my father-in-law rubbed the strip of skin the parted the sea of his hair. "You have a problem no plumber can solve."
"What in the hell is that supposed to mean?" I said in a panic. We couldn't afford renovations.
"È un demone dell'acqua. They cannot be killed."
My husband raised an eyebrow at me. I returned the gesture. We smirked in tandem.
"OK, dad, sure. Well, we'll call some other plumbers and see if they know how to deal with a water demon. Thanks for coming by." he said, ushering his father out the door. "Maybe you should call Adalberto and make sure he's ok. Demons are a lot to handle for, you know, retired folk."
Armed with a plunger, a rosary, and my Mary is My Homegirl t-shirt, I reentered the devil's new den. My husband followed behind, his gold crucifix dangling from his neck, with a Costco cannister of salt and the two souvenir bottles of holy water his aunt brought back from her annual trip to the Vatican after we told her we were getting married at a golf course. The cat stayed safely behind in the hall.
"First," I announced in the direction of the tub drain, "the sprinkling of the holy water to loosen the demon's clutches."
My husband unscrewed the decorative caps of the holy water bottles, apologizing to Pope Francis's face for what was about to occur. He whispered an Our Father as he poured each bottle directly down the center of the drain. It gurgled and hissed in response.
"Next," I continued, "the plunging of the faithful. Or... from the faithful? One of those." With one foot on the toilet, I positioned the plunger over the drain, gave it a few swift pumps to create a vacuum, and then heaved it up and down with all my might. Creeks and cracks and screeches and scratches vibrated the bathroom walls as I pushed and pulled, my husband's prayers drowned out by the din.
Murky water pooled underfoot and I grunted a Hail Mary at the offending source. With a squirt and a splish, I yanked back on the plunger to find the cup chock full of nasty. The demon was no bigger than my fist and bore more of a resemblance to my cat's regurgitated furballs than my stomach was comfortable with. I gasped and screamed at the same time, a choked and subtle sound less dramatic than appropriate for the circumstances.
My husband sprang up with a handful of salt, cupping the cup with his salt hand to prevent its escape. I pulled the rosary from my neck, ready to wrap it around our demon friend to bind it to our reality as it screeched and writhed. My husband shouted holy names at it, "John the Baptist! Joseph of Arimathea! Uhh... John, son of Zebedee!", in the absence of any other idea.
"I can't hold it much longer," I cried, struggling to maintain my grip on the plunger handle. "There must be something that'll kill it!"
Scurrying with a fury I'd never seen from a habitually sedate animal, the cat appeared at the door, climbed up over my husband's back and sat on his shoulder hissing. The demon swayed in his perch and screeched in response. The sudden lurch of the plunger cup unbalanced my husband who dropped his hand, revealing the reviling creature. Crusted with salt and fading in color, it locked eyes maliciously with the cat. The cat pulled back, baring its teeth before swiping a paw quicker than my mortal eyes could fathom, ripping a furry chunk of the demon's flesh.
It was the death blow of a defeated foe, a tiger backed in a corner by prayer and salt and vicious plunging. The demon hissed less like a creature of darkness and more like a balloon with the tiniest of holes, not nearly enough to propel it away from its attacker so much as to send it pathetically sinking toward its end.
I dropped the plunger in the tub, horrified by the clump of yuck that fell from its cup. That was it, the battle was over, and now all that was left was the disposal of the body.
Wadded in toilet paper and sprinkled with bath salts, we tipped the defeated demon into the trash can to rest among the waxy q-tips and
speckled floss which frankly was no better than it deserved. For the sake of caution, we took the trash out that night, secured it in the roadside bin for the next morning's pickup, and went to bed with renewed faith and hope that our shower would return to full functionality.
We weren't aware that it had rained overnight. Poured, actually. The deluge fell so fast and furious as to upend our bin, breaking the fastener and spilling our garbage bag out onto the lawn. By the time we left for work, the garbage truck had been by and like a true professional, the garbage man had set our bins upright.
Weeks later, we had heard that the Traviotti's were having some trouble with their sprinkler system. The neighborhood children dared each other to run through the screaming sprinklers at night, the only time they ever turned on despite its digital programming. The landscaper couldn't figure out what was wrong or why his lawncare crew refused to mow. "Chiamare un prete," my father-in-law called to Faustino Traviotti one morning over the unholy screeching that issued from his front lawn. "È un demone dell'acqua and it cannot be killed!"
Copyright © 2016 by Eda J. Vor
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