Laughter filled the dining room of George and Bunny Gutierrez’s home. The late afternoon sun flowed across the back wall with Bunny’s grandmother’s pinewood china hutch making the crystal glow.
George held his sides as his body shook. “Darlin’ you can’t be serious?” he asked. His soft spoken Texas accent a contrast to the bass voice emanating from his lineman’s frame. A pencil thin black mustache and goatee framing his mouth.
“George, didn’t you know that ChapStick and duct tape will fix anything?” I asked, laughing.
Richard, turning a light pink, said, “It’s not as bad as it sounds.”
“Richard, honey,” Bunny said, with her refined Texas accent, her long blond hair swept back into a pony tail behind her head crowning her statuesque figure. Taking a deep breath, she asked “Exactly what is not as bad as it sounds?” Her blue eyes dancing after dangling the bait.
“Bunny,” I said, wiping the tear off my cheek, “it would never have happened if we hadn’t been saving for our house at the time.”
* * *
A weak sun fought through the clouds as it set over the Olympic Mountains. The evening commute backing up the westbound traffic on the West Seattle Bridge. “What’re you gonna do this evening to celebrate Hump Night Seattle? We’re expecting localized showers this evening. Traffic is backing up on northbound I-5. . .”
Richard changed stations, “. . .as a result, John Wayne Bobbitt is sentenced to 120 days of house arrest in Las Vegas. We’ll be reviewing Hillary Rodham Clinton’s new book, ‘It Takes a Village’ in the next hour. . .”
“Fannie, we can’t afford the storage unit any more if we’re gonna save for our house,” Richard said, “we could be putting that money into savings and have our down payment that much sooner.”
“Richard, we have a 15 by 20 storage unit filled to the rafters. Where’re we gonna put all that stuff?” I asked, running my fingers through my long brown hair. “Our apartment isn’t that large.”
“I’ve got it figured out,” he said, his blue eyes shining, “we merge the office into the bedroom, we turn the old office into a temporary storage area and all the overflow boxes line the rest of the apartment.” Waving one hand in the air for emphasis, he said, “Then we’ll go through all the boxes, get rid of everything we’re not using, which should be most of it,” he said, staring at me for emphasis, “ then we’ll repack the rest.”
“Richard Cranium, you’re a neat freak, how long are you gonna last with a Dorian Gray room?” I asked, rubbing my hands together, “and even if we rent a truck it will take more than a weekend for us to move all of that stuff out of the storage unit. We only have one day of vacation left between us and it’s not mine.”
“You’re gonna call and get rates for movers,” he said nodding his head, “we’ll save our backs and get the whole shootin’ match done in one day.”
The next day I called the movers.
“We’re busiest on the weekends. Our weekend rates to move a 15 by 20 storage unit would be $1,000,” the woman said, “however, if you move on a weekday, it will only cost you $450. Our next available date is Tuesday, April 30th.”
“I’ll take it,” I said, smiling.
Richard walked into the kitchen. “So what did they say?”
“I booked us for Tuesday, the 30th,” I said, smiling like the Cheshire Cat, “they said for a weekday they’d give it to us for $450. Otherwise it’ll be a grand.”
A wave of expressions played across Richard’s face like the reader board of Times Square. It ended when he crossed his eyes at me.
“Hey, it was your idea,” I said, laughing, “we’re trying to save money for the house. Remember?”
Tuesday evening I passed the Starving Student moving van as I pulled into the driveway. Richard sat on the bottom step of the stairwell leaning against the white quartz chip wall.
“You just finished?” I asked, walking up to him.
“It took five hours, Fannie,” he said, dark circles under his eyes. “We still have to unload the Explorer,” he said, using the handrail to pull himself up.
The clock struck seven by the time we finished unloading. We needed food. I tripped over boxes, two orange tabbies, and a back pack on the way to the kitchen. Two boxes buried the phone on the kitchen counter. I found the Domino’s menu in the junk draw.
I lifted the hand set. Visions of thick crust, mozzarella, tomato sauce, garlic, onions, black olives and steaming sausage flashed before my eyes.
I pressed the first number on the keypad. Hmmm, garlic.
Thud. Crack. Boom. Followed by the sound of rushing water.
“Fannie, help. Quick, I need as many towels as you can find, pronto,” Richard yelled, from the office.
Grabbing all the kitchen towels out of the drawer, I rushed to the office.
Steaming water boiled from the closet like the mighty Columbia River, cascading across the linoleum floor onto the carpeting pooling near the outside wall.
Richard ripped open boxes searching for something.
“Oh my god,” I said, staring at the flood, “what happened?”
“The drain valve got sheared off,” he said, ripping open another box, “help me find something to plug the hole.”
Before I could begin searching Richard said, “Perfect. I’ve got it.” He pulled a half burned black tapered candle from the box. “It’s even the exact size I need.”
Grabbing one of the dish towels from my hand he shoved the butt of the candle into the rushing water. The water stopped.
“Richard,” I said, shaking my head, “that’s not gonna last very long, we have to find something else before the wax melts.”
“Do we have any corks left?” Richard asked, looking hopeful.
“No,” I said, licking my lips. Reaching into my pocket I pulled out my tube of cherry flavored ChapStick. “So how did the drain valve get sheared off exactly?”
“I wanted to get that speaker in the closet,” he said, pointing to his vintage two foot tall wood panel speaker, which now sported a dent on one side. “I guess I didn’t have enough room to store it on the top shelf.”
Richard reached over the top of the tank and turned off the hot water valve. He took the dish towels and spread them over Lake Cranium. Stepping onto the towels he used his feet to wipe the floor. He resembled a duck in a shooting gallery shuffling back and forth over the linoleum.
The sight was too much for the hot water tank. It spit the candle at him with what sounded like a burbling snort. The projectile nailed him on the thigh. It rebounded onto the floor and continued to melt in the hot water pooled in front of the tank.
Richard jumped up and down clutching his leg.
I grabbed all the towels out of the bathroom and threw them in front of the tank. Richard glared at the tank. The color rose in his cheeks.
“Do you still have that tube of ChapStick,” he asked, his voice deepening.
“Give it to me,” he said, holding out his hand.
He picked up one of the wet towels, wrapped it around his hand and shoved the ChapStick into the hole. He took the ten pounds of wet towels and pushed them up against the tank. He dried his hands on his jeans.
Leaning back, he said, “That should hold it.”
“I’ll call Building Maintenance and see how soon they can be here to help us,” I said, leaving the room. Nature’s call detoured me to the bathroom. A quick flush. I washed my hands.
A muffled popping noise followed by a splat and a dull thud. Richard let loose a primal scream. I rushed back into the office.
“What happened?” I asked.
“You’ve never heard of back pressure have you?” Richard asked, gasping for breath, bent over, and drenched from the waist down. The color drained from his face.
“Richard, I’m so sorry. I didn’t know,” I said.
“Help me find the ChapStick tube, we need to get this water stopped.”
We found the tube buried six inches deep in the wad of wet towels. He shoved the tube back into the hole.
“I know how to fix this,” he said, “I’ll be right back.”
One minute later he returned with duct tape and a hammer. Exacting his revenge on the hot water tank, he pounded the ChapStick tube so far into the tank only the white knurl on the end stuck out. Taking the two inch wide roll of duct tape, he ripped off a six inch section and taped it over the tube. He put three more successively longer pieces of tape over the ChapStick.
He kicked the tank. “Let’s see you get out of that one.”
* * *
George snorted wine out his nose.
“So what happened?” Bunny asked, handing George a napkin.
“The maintenance guy refused to come until morning and told me to attach a hose to the tank and drain it into the bathtub. He didn’t want to believe me the drain valve was gone.
“I spent the entire night doing laundry while Richard mopped. The maintenance guy showed up at 11 after our downstairs neighbor called about the waterfall pouring through her bathroom light. The carpet extraction crew showed up at 1:00 a.m.. So our little party lasted until almost 4 a.m..
“But get this, the best part is I realized one of my life long decorating dreams, to have an indoor water fall. Only it wasn’t exactly how I planned it,” I said, wiping the tears from my eyes.
“Fannie, honey, that’s because the moral of the story is be careful what you with for,” Bunny said, laughing.
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