“Hey, George, how’s it going?” I asked joining he and Richard at the edge of his driveway.
“Hey, darling, I’m fine, but like I was just telling Richard, we need to talk.”
“That sounds serious, what about?” I asked worried something terrible happened.
“You and Bunny are banned from having any more coffee klatches,” he said with a twinkle in his eye. “Every time you do, it cost me more money.”
“Okay, what did I say this time?” I asked, relieved no one was dying.
“You told Bunny about your septic tank fiasco, then you told her you were having your leach field serviced and now, not only is she having ours done, she’s taking it one step further. She wants me to redesign a toilet paper dispenser so it will only give out four squares at a time.”
“Four squares, you didn’t tell me that,” said Richard. “How can anyone live on four squares? You’ll get junk on your fingers.” Richard shuddered at the thought.
“Uh oh, that may be my fault as well. I told Bunny the story about when I was in school and one of my friends moved off campus. To save money, she imposed a four-square rule unless we brought our own.”
“Darling, Bunny decided last week to get her massage license here and re-open the business we ran in Houston,” said George. “I’m not so sure how people are going to react to the toilet paper issue.”
“Why not invest in Rid-X once a month instead?” I asked.
“Oh, we’ve already invested,” said George pointing to the garage. If you look, you will see an entire case on the shelf next to the door.”
“I see it. So what’s your next move?” I asked.
“You got me into this mess, you’re going to help get me out of it. I will design the dispenser test models. You and Richard are going to come over for dinner and we will give it a trial run. She needs to see first hand this is not going to work.”
“No way, George, I am not coming over and being forced to use only four squares of toilet paper, it’s not happening,” said Richard crossing his arms.
“Richard, come on, we can bring our own toilet paper. It’s not like she’s the TSA and is going to search us when we walk in the door,” I said laughing at the image. “So, George, exactly how are you going to prevent someone from overriding your system for the toilet paper?”
“I haven’t figured that out yet. I researched the different types of dispensers and ordered a couple of the more sturdy units. Once they arrive I will take them apart and see what I can do. I have a couple of ideas, but not sure how they will work yet.”
“Good luck with that,” said Richard still recovering.
“When its ready, I’ll have Bunny give you a call,” said George.
“Okay, see you later,” I said.
Two seconds after we entered the house Richard cornered me and said, “Fannie, I am not going. You know she will give us a pat down.”
“Richard, how about this, I will wrap toilet tissue around my waist and legs. If I go to the bathroom ahead of you and stash it behind the toilet in a zip-lock bag, will that work?”
“Fannie that’s ridiculous. If you want to go, you can go, but I am not going.”
“Richard, I am not going by myself. Besides, wouldn’t you enjoy helping George, trying to defeat the engineering and showing Bunny it should be usage based on need?”
“Well, there is that,” said Richard sighing. “Okay, I’ll go, but I am not wearing toilet paper.”
“Deal,” I said, “you just have to figure out how to get a screw driver passed Bunny.”
“No problem,” said Richard, “that I can do.”
Two weeks later Bunny invited us to dinner.
“Now, you two, I just want to be clear about the rules for our little test. One person in the bathroom at a time. No outside toilet paper. No tools and I will be using a metal wand when you come over to make sure you don’t cheat.”
“Yes, ma’am,” said Richard looking as casual as possible while I stood at attention and saluted.
“Okay, see you in a couple hours,” said Bunny looking us over once more before heading for home.
We raced into the house. Richard pulled his money belt from the back of the closet and inserted a ceramic screw driver and a plastic dental mirror. Richard put on the belt checking for any tell tale lumps.
“Fannie, how does it look?” he asked turning around.
“It looks fine, I don’t see anything suspicious,” I said. “What do you think of this?” I modeled the toilet paper mummy wrap.
“Wow, where did you learn to do that?” asked Richard impressed.
“It only takes a game or two of toilet paper bridal gown to get the technique down.”
“Toilet paper what?”
“Toilet paper bridal gown, it’s a game that’s played at bridal showers.”
“You do that?”
“Richard, we do all sorts of things at bridal showers that make no sense to men.”
“Yeah, I bet yah do,” he said rolling his eyes. “Whatever you do, don’t invite me.”
“Trust me, I won’t,” I said winking. “Now help me get dressed so I don’t rip any of the toilet paper.”
Bunny greeted us at the door, metal wand in hand. Richard’s new hip and his belt buckle set it off. She let us enter the house.
Richard handed her the bottle of petite Sirrah we bought for the occasion.
“George, will you show our guest to the bathroom while I get this bottle opened?” asked Bunny walking toward the kitchen.
“This way folks. By the way, welcome to our home,” said George with a huge grin.
We walked down the hall to the second door on the left. George turned on the light, lowered the lid and sat down. Two dispensers hung on a terrazzo facade. Waving his hand under the paper dispensers, one piece of toilet paper advanced from each unit.
“We wanted to see which one we liked better, so I mounted them both,” he said.
“What’s with the terrazzo?” I asked. “It seems a little out of place.”
“I got a couple of pieces from the Habitat Store, I didn’t want any permanent damage to the wall, in case someone did something crazy,” he said eying us.
“Good plan,” said Richard admiring the craftsmanship but ignoring the remark. “So does each unit provide two or four total pieces.”
“Four each, I didn’t have the heart to force you to use only four squares on our test run. Bunny did have me put a counter in each unit to keep track of the usage though.”
“Got it,” said Richard putting his arm around my waist squeezing his back-up plan.
“George, how does it work?” I asked.
“Once you pull out the first piece, the next one will dispense until all four pieces are removed. Then the unit locks down until the next user come into the bathroom.”
“Really? How can it tell if it’s another person?” I asked scratching my head.
“There are a couple of different sensors connected to a small card. It sends wireless signals to my PC which runs an algorithm differentiating size, temperature, color variations and motion activation, there is also a time variable programmed in. The computer stores the data for twelve hours,” said George grinning from ear to ear.
“I’m sorry I asked.”
George laughed. Sniffing the air he said, “Let’s rejoin Bunny in the kitchen, something is smelling mighty good right now.”
Dinner went off without a hitch. Per our plan I excused myself to the bathroom first. Pulling out a small zip-lock from my pocket, I put the contraband toilet paper into the bag.
Looking behind the toilet I noticed a small space between the tank and the wall. Wedging the bag into the space held it.
I admired George’s handy work. He altered the back of the dispenser by a quarter inch to add the electronics. I leaned closer to view the sensors. Both units activated dispensing their precious cargo. Startled, I jumped backwards smacking my rear end on the vanity.
I rejoined the group in time for dessert. I squeezed Richard’s hand, mission accomplished. Richard gave me a quick peck on the cheek then excused himself to the bathroom.
Removing his belt, he extracted the mirror and screwdriver. Toilet paper hung from the unit on the left. Using the mirror, he examined each unit. The hand holding the mirror activated the right-hand unit.
Further examination revealed no visible screws and a tiny key hole on the top of each unit, to small for the screw driver.
Richard removed the eight squares from the dispensers. Using the mirror and a piece of toilet paper he tricked the right-hand unit to activate. The second unit would not respond.
Looking around the bathroom for available materials, he noticed a black rubber garbage can next to the sink. He grabbed the can. Turning to face his adversaries, his elbow caught on the vanity. The can catapulted from his hand following the arc of his arm skimming the faces of the dispensers leaving black streaks as it careened toward the wall. Clipping the top of the toilet tank the can bounced off the wall thumping to the floor.
We heard a series of thuds from the bathroom. George and Bunny exchanged looks then continued with the conversation as though nothing happened.
Richard picked up the garbage can, swore a silent blue streak and put it back where it belonged. The evidence glowed like graffiti. He searched under the sink for any cleansers. An empty cabinet greeted him. His only choices, water, hand soap and contraband toilet paper.
The marks on the toilet bowl and terrazzo disappeared with some judicious elbow grease. No matter how hard he scrubbed, he could not get the streaks off the dispensers. Shaking his head, he flushed the evidence down the toilet and returned to the dining room.
No one mentioned his extended absence.
Taking one more trip to the bathroom before we left, everything looked in order until I saw the dispensers. Laughing, I pulled out my cell phone and snapped a photo.
“Thank you for inviting us, it was a lovely meal as usual, Bunny,” I said giving her a quick hug by way of apology.
“Thank you, Fannie, always a pleasure,” she said giving Richard a sidelong look over my shoulder.
Three weeks passed before we saw George again.
“Hey you two, thanks for your help with the four-square experiment,” said George wearing his usual smile. “Bunny was able to get the black streaks off the dispenser with a little 409, in case you were wondering.”
“Is she still speaking to me?” asked Richard.
“Yes, we had a good laugh over the whole incident,” said George.
“So you are moving forward with the four squares then?” I asked.
“Actually, no,” he said the twinkle returning to his eyes.
“You aren’t?” I asked.
“Why not?” asked Richard over the top of me.
“Well, Bunny passed her test and got her massage license,” he said.
Interrupting I said, “Congratulations, what’s that got to do with the toilet paper?”
“Thank you, darling. As I was saying, one of her old clients was in town and looked us up. He is a recently retired professional football player. Played center for twelve seasons, a giant of a man. Anyway, he needed to use the bathroom, as he sat down on the toilet, his elbow landed on the dispensers knocking them off the wall shattering them.”
“Was he all right?” I asked.
“He was fine, just embarrassed. Bunny, on the other hand, realized there was not enough room in there for her dispensers and any larger clients. So I removed the terrazzo, fixed the walls and put in recessed toilet paper rolls. Problem solved.”
“And the coffee klatches?” I asked.
“If you promise not to speak of anything that will cost me money, you have my blessings,” said George with a wink.