Toni Margarita Plummer
Toni Margarita Plummer was born and raised in the San Gabriel Valley of Los Angeles, the daughter of a Mexican immigrant mother and white father. She is the author of the story collection The Bolero of Andi Rowe and contributor to the forthcoming anthologies A Night of Screams: Latino Horror Stories and Indomitable/Indomables: A Multigenre Chicanx/Latinx Women's Anthology. A Macondo Fellow and board member of Latinx in Publishing, Plummer lives in the Hudson Valley. Visit her Web site at www.tonimargaritaplummer.wordpress.com or find her on Twitter @tmargaritaplum.
Oscar and Pedro Fix the Plumbing
Drawing by Orlando Consuegra
Oscar Isaac clasps my hands over my head, but his eyes are what really hold me. I cry out, and he burrows his face into my neck, his stubble grazing my skin. The blood is still thumping in my head when I hear a movement beside me and open my eyes. “Good morning, mi amor.” I hug my son one-handed, kissing his impossibly soft cheek. Jack is wearing his Stormtrooper pajamas and holding his Jedi reference book which tells me more than I ever wanted to know about the prequels. “What style of Jedi combat do you like the best?” he asks, holding out the spread of Forms. “I’ll get up soon, baby. Give me a few minutes, okay?” I turn over and stretch into Child’s Pose, the one thing I will do for my back all day.
Washing our hands in the bathroom’s twin sinks, Jack asks, “What are you doing, Daniel?”
“Oh, just gonna eat,” I say.
At Jack’s behest, I play the role of Daniel Tiger. Every. Day. I find this strange, because while Jack used to enjoy “Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood,” he now seems to despise Daniel and all his imaginative friends. That is--if the nature of our role play is any indication. Jack despises Margaret, Daniel’s little sister, the most. In fact, Daniel’s bird army enemies have changed her into a wood chime and, for good measure, thrown her through a portal. Now Daniel is doomed to search the continents and oceans of the earth, and even planets in the Star Wars universe, for his inanimate sister. Although I am uneasy about this storyline (and perhaps a tad concerned I am feeding into his worst impulses), I don’t have the heart to put an end to this fantasy adventure that continues to entertain him, day in and day out. And although Daniel’s impassioned pleas for a reunion go unheard, and he is exceedingly unlucky, I admit I keep playing in the hope he will find his sister one day.
After breakfast, Mark says he wants to show me something in the garage. Now, Mark would never get roped into playing Daniel Tiger or any other pathetic character, at least not one he didn’t create himself. Nor would he find himself taking dictation or playing jump rope with the laundry line in the backyard. He has always been the one to set the terms of his play with Jack, not the other way around.
Mark is not in any kind of playful mood at the moment, however. He stands toward the back of the garage, in front of the haggard wooden door which inexplicably has an aluminum tube feeding through it to vent the dryer in the second bathroom. “Were those there before?” He’s looking up at dark spots on the ceiling.
I don’t remember seeing the spots, but it’s possible I just didn’t notice. I do not go looking for projects the way he does since we bought this place and moved here last fall. I have enough on my hands. “I don’t know,” I say.
“It looks like mold, doesn’t it?”
He nods and stares at the spots with his arms folded across his chest, as if challenging them to grow on his watch. The dishes are waiting, and the laundry, and Jack. I leave him to it.
In the midst of the celebrating crowd, I lock eyes with Oscar. He mouths, “Sanchez,” and makes massaging motions with his fingers. I remove my helmet and flip my hair. Hell yes.
Mostly, I just go with it. But sometimes I have questions.
Like, what are the chances of me ever even meeting Oscar Isaac? Admittedly slim. But they’re still better than the chances of me ever having an orgasm during vaginal sex, and I’ve imagined that plenty of times.
Another question is why does a glance at Jack’s Poe Dameron Lego figure get me all hot and bothered all of a sudden? I don’t think I was even this bad as a teenager, when I lustily collaged photos of Jordan Catalano and Joey Russo.
Sitting on the toilet, awkwardly winding out paper from one of the industrial rolls we still have from when we couldn’t find anything else, I ponder one theory. Last night I pulled away a clear, stretching line, and here is another one. This goo was what I was always on the lookout for when I was trying to get pregnant. A sign I was ovulating.
I’m over forty now, nearing the end of my childbearing years. My body must be telling me to get a move on. But this is not the time for a baby. And Jack, who runs from the room whenever he catches sight of his baby cousin on Facetime, would probably zap any younger sibling into another dimension anyways.
No, this vaginal mucus is no longer necessary, and I wipe till the sliminess is gone.
I never liked the word “mucus.” Or “boogers,” “snot,” or “slime.” When Jack has a runny nose, I tell him to blow out his “mocos.” At least it sounds kind of cute.
I’ll take it.
I am working in the city. I sneak off to Taco Chulo in Williamsburg to edit a manuscript while I have lunch. As I prepare to leave, I notice Oscar taking a seat. In a stunning act of daring, I approach his table and tell him I wrote a story about him. He expresses polite confusion, and I hurriedly place the magazine on his table and rush out. I’m on Havemeyer when I hear him calling, “Wait! That’s some first line.” He inverts his mouth, playing nonchalant. “You wanna have lunch sometime?” He smiles.
It’s groceries day, which both excites and exhausts me. Pain shoots through my back as I bathe Jack’s gallon of milk in the colander in the sink. After I wash everything that’s in a hard plastic container, I will open the boxes of frozen food and dump out the contents, and hopefully this time I will remember to memorize the cooking instructions for the fish before I throw them out. Then I will repackage the bread and produce, my least favorite of the tasks, before going over the sink with vinegar and baking soda.
Once I read this thing stayed on surfaces, that was it. Everything from the outside must be sanitized or set aside. One reassuring thing is that the danger doesn’t last. Given enough time, everything becomes safe.
So, along with my fantasy of eating a meal I didn’t prepare myself, I sometimes indulge in a non-perishables fantasy. Non-perishables are easy. I dump them in the pantry and leave them there for three days. If not for Jack and Mark, I’d probably be subsisting entirely on a diet of these foods. I’d have high blood pressure, yes. But less stress and hunching over the sink would even things out.
Once I finish with the groceries, I self-soothe with an entire pint of ice cream. My shorts are decidedly tight these days, but if I were to get serious about losing weight, I’d need to forego drinking as well. And if I have to abstain from my nightly beer or wine while I make dinner, you may as well cough in my face right now.
One day I will quit carbs and alcohol, and I will wear a bra with an underwire and Nair my mustache. One day.
Later, bathing Jack, I hear Mark doing the dishes in the kitchen. Though skeptical, I let him continue. Grocery days are especially hard on my hands. They are at the point now where running them under warm water feels like the pricks of tiny needles. Lotion stings. Even on a good day, my hands look thirty years older than I am. It seems an unfair distribution of moisture in my body when I’ve got the T-zone of a teenager and the hands of a bisabuela. But things could be so much worse.
Once Jack is in bed, I return to the kitchen and see a mountain of pots and pans stacked precariously in the dish rack, the blue sponge lying in the sink.
The blue sponge. The one I deliberately put behind the dish rack, out of the way. The one I was just washing groceries with.
I regard the rack of dishes, threatening to crash down. Can I pretend I didn’t see?
No. No, I cannot.
Oscar and I meet at Taco Chulo. I order a burrito with chipotle-rubbed chicken, black beans, potatoes, and medium salsa. To drink, I order my usual Vuelve a la Vida, which arrives like a spicy margarita in a pint. Oscar orders the tacos al pastor and a shot of mezcal. We eat with our hands, mostly in silence, stealing glances at each other as we satisfy our appetites.
The plumbers arrive to take a look at the garage and the toilet, which we suspect is above the alleged mold. I sit in the corner of the living room, double-masked, to monitor and be on hand for questions. All the windows and the door to the deck are open to ventilate, the room already heavy with humidity. Mark and Jack stay ensconced in Mark’s office watching PBS Kids.
I have forgotten the men’s names, but I already like them much better than the first electrician we had. That guy refused to wear a mask and proclaimed, “I’m 71 years old!” before storming out the door.
The lead plumber is a white man who looks younger than me but possesses the stoic air of someone who’s seen it all, and he probably has. The other, who appears to be more of an assistant and looks Latino, goes silently about the work, taking directions. I want to ask where his family is from—I don’t know any other Latinos here. But the effort feels too great, my small talk rusty, like my Spanish. The lead guy asks permission to cut into the sheetrock in the garage and shows me the wood is wet and rotting. He says it looks like there was a leak under the toilet in the past and the previous owner never replaced the rotten wood.
The previous owner. She was a divorced woman with grown children, and even though I know she just moved to Texas and didn’t die, my imagination sometimes summons her ghost, walking about the house, tsking our lack of furniture. The idea of divorce used to reek of failure. Now it holds a whiff of possibility, like when your parents told you they were going away for the weekend and you’d have the house to yourself.
Back in the kitchen, the plumbers cut into the sheetrock under the sink and identify a leak. They patch it up with something smelly, but they’re so booked with emergency jobs like broken boilers, that they’ll have to come back another day to do a permanent fix.
I had no idea this would take multiple visits, and I become chatty now, ignoring the lead plumber’s proverbial crack. My questions sound anxious to my own ears, but soon this man will vanish, along with any chance I have of understanding our current predicament. How long will this fix last? He can’t say exactly. But it should hold until they come back? It should. And they might have to cut into the wall? Yes, but they won’t know for sure until they cut into the pipes.
When we bought the house, we didn’t accompany the inspector, reluctant to expose ourselves and thinking we could trust him to handle it. He noted the toilet was loose and suggested we have someone come screw it on better. He did not say the toilet was about to fall through the floor and into the fucking garage.
The plumber is ready to bill me, and he places his clipboard on the dining table. I try not to wince, and not to stare at his mask slipping dangerously close to his nostrils. “Can we use the toilet?” I ask the final, crucial question.
I make my way across the vast room where the long-awaited vaccine is being doled out, people seated at tables, their shoulders exposed, to the partition in the corner.
Dr. Isaac appears looking at a clipboard, his eyelashes lush above his perfectly-fitted N95 mask. “So I hear you want it in the butt, is that right?”
“Yes, please. I don’t want a sore arm.”
“I can take care of that.” He pulls out an alcohol wipe. “Please pull down your panties and bend over.”
My hand goes to my side. I don’t feel a panty line. “Oh, I forgot to wear any.”
I turn away from him and bend over, placing my hand on the wall to steady myself. I flip my skirt up with my other hand.
“Right or left?”
Dr. Isaac chuckles. “Just kidding. You’ll feel a slight pinch.”
I feel the wet wipe on my right cheek, then a sharp sting.
"You’re all set.” He throws out the syringe and makes out my vaccine card. “You know, I never wanted to be a doctor.”
“No?” I reach behind to discreetly rub the spreading ache in my ass.
I wanted to be a musician.” He hands me the card. “You gotta hang out for 15 minutes. Can I play you something?”
He pulls down his mask and pulls out a guitar and starts playing “Chimes of Freedom.” I pull a harmonica out of my skirt pocket and accompany him, singing in my best imitation of Joan Baez. Lightning flashes and bells toll and the partition blows away to reveal us to the entire room, listening in naked wonder.
Jack tucked in bed, I go downstairs to work. I don’t have time for this work and yet it’s not enough.
In my inbox there’s a message from an agent I know, asking if she can refer her client to me. The author made the New York Times bestseller list back in the day and still looks to have a fan base. I don’t know when I would have the time to edit a novel, but we could use the cash, and it would be nice if I could say I worked with her. I ask for more details.
I open up another article on Facebook about how this has been such a hard time for women. One of the women interviewed laments, “Will I ever get to go on another date night?” How many people have died and who knows how many more are about to die, and this is what this woman is complaining about? But I am trying to be more compassionate. I “like” the article and comment, “This!”
After I finish paying bills, I pull up my go-to photo of Oscar and drag it next to a photo of myself. We don’t look so preposterous together. I search his name on YouTube and watch videos of him and Pedro Pascal. Then I search for photos of Pedro. I find one that makes me want to drag my lips down his nose and philtrum, over his mouth and chin, to the bulge in his neck and the hollow of his throat. I can’t, so I just move the cursor down and up, down and up.
When I go upstairs, the lights in the bedroom are off.
I lie down and the bed feels good against my back. My feet throb faintly, grateful to be up. My hands are lathered in cream and spared soap and warm water for several hours.
My right hand dips into my underwear, navigating the unruly fullness of my bush, and slides into the wetness that’s already there. All day long I am a hard, creaking, hobbling husk. But this place, this place here is always soft, and warm. An infinite well. Here I can expand. Ignite.
I am riding Pedro Pascal slowly. No, fast! No. Slowly.
The toilet in the half bathroom downstairs is smaller and lower, which makes it easier for Jack to use. But it’s older and doesn’t flush as well. On the first day of depending on it, it clogs. The plunger the previous owner left behind is useless, and we don’t have another. Mark slices his finger using an auger.
I’m lost in a forest. I spin around, searching for a trail, but everything looks the same. Someone behind me says, “This is the way.” I turn to see Pedro walk past me. He winks and disappears behind the trunk of a tree.
Jack and I wait in the car in the parking lot of the doctor’s office, while Mark gets a tetanus shot.
“Okay, which book do you want to read first?” I ask, nodding to the two books Jack chose to bring.
“Elmo and Mickey are reading them, so we’ll have to watch something on your phone.”
“Now wait a minute. We brought those books so that we could read them.”
“I know, but Elmo and Mickey want to read them.”
“Well, can’t they share one book and we can read the other one?”
“No, they each want their own book.”
I allow myself a look at the camera. “Okay. How about we play I Spy then?”
“But I want to watch a show.”
I rest my head on the seat and squeeze my eyes shut. “We can count en español then.”
“No!” Jack does not say this in a Spanish accent.
It’s hot out and we’re in the far corner of the big parking lot, on purpose, with the windows rolled down. A car pulls up right beside us, smoke billowing. I sniff. “Is that weed?”
“Where’s a weed?” Jack asks, probably thinking of the weeds we like to pull in the driveway.
“Motherfucker…” I turn on the car and pull up our windows, then scramble into the backseat, banging my knee. I have to strap Jack back into his car seat before I can move us into another spot. Then I pull out and back us into a space farther up the row so that Mark will see us when he walks by. “I’m sorry, baby,” I tell Jack, putting the car back in Park. “I had to get us away from that man. He was smoking!”
“People shouldn’t smoke.” Jack is very serious about what adults should and shouldn’t do.
The smoker gets out of his car and walks toward the building. Crossing in front of us, he gives me a look. I don’t like it. I give him the finger. He stops and starts saying something. I lay on my horn. Now he’s gesturing and yelling and I’m yelling back. I pick up my phone, and he finally walks away. I watch him until he enters the building, putting a mask on at the last second.
Fuck, I could use a smoke.
“Hey, Daniel,” Jack says. “I see Margaret.”
“Really?” We hardly ever spot the missing sister, and I get excited. “Where?”
“The bobolink army took her to their spaceship.”
“Quick, let’s follow them!”
“Uh oh, they went into hyperspace, and we don’t have a hyperdrive. Sorry.”
Pedro and I share a bottle of Casillero del Diablo and curl up on an oversized chair. I tell him about how I studied abroad in Santiago my junior year of college and went to folk rock concerts perfumed by weed. I tell him the guy I had a crush on took charango lessons from a member of Illapu and grew out the nails of one hand for his playing. When I got stuck with the long needle of some plant in the Atacama Desert, he’d use his long nails to withdraw it. I tell Pedro how I found it very lonely and first started touching myself to fruition in my bed at night. Pedro reads to me from a novel in Spanish, and I drift off to sleep, his voice wrapping around me like an alpaca blanket.
The handyman the plumbers recommended comes to disconnect the toilet so he can replace the rotten wood underneath and fix the bathroom tiles. He’s extremely tall. His face mask covers his nose and mouth, but just barely, like he is wearing a child-sized one. When he enters the narrow bathroom, he says, “This is right out of the 70s! You thinking of remodeling?”
“Maybe someday,” I admit. Who in their right mind would want to remodel now?
“It's pretty tight. Does your husband have trouble getting in?” He grins, at least I think he does.
“He has to ease himself in at first but once he’s all in, we’re good to go.”
What? I can make a joke too.
I huddle in my corner as the tall, barely-masked man goes in and out of the house, the door slamming behind him each time, and watch the rain form puddles in the grass. I’ve heard that once you buy a house, water becomes your enemy, and it’s true. Rain starts to infiltrate the open windows and I run around the house with paper towels, trying to keep out the elements.
Oscar lies beside me, propping up his head with one hand, two fingers of his other in my mouth. Pedro’s mustache brushes the smooth sides of my lips as his tongue moves over my plump clit.
You can imagine where it goes from here.
Today I’ve a double header of communication with the outside world, so I put on makeup and a nice shirt. First, I am on a virtual panel at a writers’ conference for Latinx writers. The panelists sign on early and the host greets me. “Last time we saw each other you had a different name. Now you’re O’Donnell!”
“Macdonald,” I correct her.
“Same difference!” She swats the air and zeroes in on her keyboard, typing furiously.
“Actually, it’s a completely different popu—,” I start, but she’s turned my mic off.
Afterward, I have a call with the former New York Times bestselling author. At least this isn’t on Zoom.
“What a crazy time!” the author exclaims. “How have you been holding up?”
“Okay, I guess. Just staying at home, you know.”
“I saw your picture online. You must be married!”
I’m not sure I heard her right. “Yes. Yes, I am.”
“I mean that can’t be your real last name.”
“…No…my maiden name is Sanchez.”
“Well, that explains it!”
“Yes.” I force myself to smile, hoping she can’t detect the annoyance in my voice. I could tell her Sanchez only “explains” half of me, that my mother is white. But her mind would probably combust. So instead, I try to explain to her, in the least confrontational way possible, how a novel about a white female police officer who is accused of murdering a Black man but then turns out to be framed by a rival gang member might not be the best idea for a thriller. When I am finished, the author says, “I work best with people who give me the benefit of the doubt. I don’t think this is going to work.”
Oscar, Pedro, and I walk into a Taco Bell. A starstruck white woman asks for their autographs and while they graciously sign a napkin for her, she asks where they learned to speak English so well. I come up from behind her and pour my Baja Blast®Freeze over her head. While it oozes down her shocked face, Pedro lifts me onto the counter and yanks my sleeve down my shoulder. “Bad girl,” he murmurs. Oscar gives the signed napkin to the dripping woman. “It looks like you could use this.”
My inbox has a response from a literary journal about a flash fiction piece I submitted. “This was fun and cute! It would be cool to see it animated! We liked it but it's not for us.” I copy and paste the note into a document named “Rejections,” which is further divided into two types: creative and job. One of the best quotes in the job section is, “You have a young child…” A close second is, “You’re definitely not a twenty-something.”
As usual, I check on Jack before I go to bed. His blanket is down by his feet, and I pull it up to his chest. His eyelids flutter open. “I want water.”
“Okay, baby.” I grab his empty cup and go fill it.
He gulps the water down. “Could you sing me a song?”
“Sure, baby.” I launch into my Ella Fitzgerald repertoire, fingering his curls as his eyes close. I continue singing, even after it looks like he’s fallen asleep. When he’s sleeping, he looks more like me. Like a Sanchez.
I should go to sleep too, but at night is when I get my second wind, and the house is quiet, the time my own. In the living room, I look through an old photo album my mother sent me. We had to skip our regular trip to California, and I’ve not seen her in over a year. I love the photos of my young grandmother in England. I admire the dresses she wears and wish I could see the colors. I’m sure she would not admire what I am currently wearing: cut-off shorts and a big, red T-shirt I got for free at an Indiebound party in Brooklyn that miraculously still says, “This is the part where I save the day.”
The photos that intrigue me the most are the ones taken in a large, carpeted living room with mid-century furniture and curved beams coming down from the ceiling. My grandparents and their friends are smiling and smoking and holding drinks. It looks like daytime, but there are no children or signs of children. The women are sitting on different men’s laps. Sometimes three people are crammed onto one chair. In one photo, my grandfather smiles goofily while sprawled across a blonde. I guess this was their version of swapping, or an orgy.
I have won a fellowship for emerging screenwriters of color, and I am on the set where Oscar and Pedro are filming their new movie. The costume designer, a Colombiana named Grisel, delights in my hour-glass figure and dresses me each day in one of her original creations. She loves to gossip, and I’ve got tons of chisme that’s probably worth something to someone. But I would never betray Grisel’s trust. One day she dresses me in a too-small, white crochet romper and takes off, leaving me sporting serious cleavage and camel toe, all my other clothes in the laundry. Oscar and Pedro and the other men try hard not to notice. Oscar takes pity on me and loans me his jacket, which makes the other men mad dog him. When Grisel returns, I chide her, but Pedro gives her a high-five behind my back.
Jack and I drive home from our only outing these days—a nearby park where Jack enlists me to chase him over the playground equipment. “Thirty speed limit!” he calls from the backseat whenever he sees a sign. On this curvy road, we are surrounded by trees, and a stream runs alongside us. I always turn my headlights on, because the trees shade us the entire way, and there are frequently walkers and runners. Our house is just up ahead, and from our windows we’ll see two tall, thin men in helmets and spandex riding on skateboard-like contraptions and holding poles like they’re skiing. Our favorites to watch by far are the dogs on their walks.
When I met Mark, I was living in a run-down Brooklyn brownstone with three other people. The only window in my room looked out into a brick-laden shaft in the middle of the building. So, I didn’t spy on my neighbors so much as hear them move furniture and have sex. After buying this house, Mark asked if I ever thought I’d end up living in the country. I told him we were going to need a screen door with dead moths behind it.
Jack and I near the house, and I see the back of our neighbors’ car edge out from behind their forsythia bushes. The bushes are green and full now and on the verge of spreading into the street. Theirs is the only house on the block that has a row of these lining their lawn, and I used to wonder if they planted them for privacy. Now that I’ve been a homeowner for a while, I know better. So many things come with a house, things you don’t necessarily want or even like. But sometimes you don’t have the time or the money or the energy to change them.
Mark has programmed the “90s on 9” station on our Sirius radio, and Mariah Carey sings “Emotions” as we pull into the driveway. I leave the car on to listen.
“This is from one of the first cassette tapes I ever bought!”
“What’s a cassette tape?” Jack asks.
I tell him. “Listen, she’s gonna go high here. You hear how she does that? Pretty cool, huh?”
“She kinda sounds like a bird.”
Jack is really into birds. He likes to remind me that birds are flying dinosaurs, and I like to think how the echoes of something so huge and terrifying chatter and flit around us every day, benign and familiar.
Tension has been high on the set and the guys decide a friendly game of softball could boost morale. They invite me to play. Ben Affleck throws a pitch and hits me in the leg. I stumble. “What the fuck are you doing!” Oscar yells and gets in Ben’s face. The guys all crowd around, arguing. Oscar tells Pedro, “Get her out of here,” and Pedro hoists me over his shoulder and runs me back to my trailer. He plops me on my bed, grabs me an ice pack, and kisses me on the mouth before reluctantly rushing back. I can hear the commotion outside. “I thought we said not in the face!” Ben yells.
The plumbers text early. They had a cancellation and can come today. I rush Jack through breakfast and fix a drink and snack for him because I don’t know how long this will all take. I place dishes and bowls strategically around the dining table so that nothing else will fit there. I entirely clear the kitchen counters. At least I can Lysol them.
They find the pipes are not rusted, so thankfully they will not have to cut into the wall. That night using the bathroom, I notice the toilet paper is tinged pink. This will postpone certain nighttime activities, and I am not pleased. I open the cabinet under the sink to get a pad and find a big puddle of soapy water. “Mark!”
Oscar and Pedro are on Conan O’Brien, where Conan questions them about the mysterious Latina writer on set that everyone was in love with. When Conan announces me as a surprise guest, Pedro and Oscar laugh good-naturedly and stand to hug me and kiss me on the cheek. “Who put red lipstick on this woman?” Pedro demands. “Who did it?” We all sit, and Conan asks how I liked being on the set. “Everyone was so friendly!” I say. “And were you at all suspicious about why everyone was so friendly?” he asks. “Suspicious?” I laugh. “No, I mean, I guess I just figured they were all hard up.”
Anthony, the owner of the plumbing company, arrives the next morning. It’s his first time here, but I recognize his voice from the phone. He was sarcastic when I tried to pin him down on a time, saying he could tell the other people with broken boilers they could wait a day to have hot water. I didn’t tell Mark that part because there was no time.
“Okay,” he tells me after looking under the sinks. “My guys fixed the drainage pipes. It’s not the drainage pipes that are leaking. It looks like you need a new water supply. It looks corroded.”
I expect him to schedule something, but he just stands there. “So, you can stop the leaking?” I ask.
“I’m telling you it’s not anything my guys did. It’s a coincidence.”
“Yeah, but we have a leak. You’re our plumber, right?” My period is always heavy at the beginning, and I feel the slow, peeling tickle of release between my legs, then a warm gush. It probably contains one of those dark, gelatinous blobs. I want to blot, but this man would think I badly need to pee, or worse, that I’m coming onto him. I settle for crossing one leg in front of the other and squeezing tight.
“Okay, let me get this straight,” Anthony says. “My guys come out to fix your drainage pipes. Something else goes wrong, and now you expect me to gift you a new water supply. Is that what you’re telling me?”
“I’m not telling you anything. I just…”
Mark comes out wearing a mask and Anthony repeats his assessment.
“How long has it been corroded?” Mark asks.
“Probably a long time.”
“So, your guys would have seen it when they first came?”
“We’re not gonna comment on every little thing we see.”
“But you guys are the professionals. How are we supposed to know what’s needed if you don’t tell us?” We’ve got the man triangulated, Mark standing between him and the door. Though not as fit as the handyman, Anthony towers over the both of us, and I feel like part of a hyena pack looking to take down an elephant.
“Which sink did you guys work on?” I ask, breaking the silence. “Was it the one on the right?” I didn’t mean it to sound accusatory, but it must have been the right thing to say because Anthony lowers his head, as if in defeat.
“I don’t have time to explain this to you. I will send my guys back,” he says, “and we will put in a new water supply, on us, and that will be that. But then, I am done.” He raises his hands and looks at us as if we’ve held him over a barrel and fucked him with a pipe.
I wait until his truck has left the driveway. “What a dick.”
“Yeah, I heard how he was talking to you,” Mark says.
“I don’t want them back here.”
Mark shakes his head in agreement. “No.”
Mark finds the pipes under the bathroom sink are really loose. He tightens a knob, and we don’t get any more leaking. We take turns sticking our heads under the kitchen sink and spot a clear blob stretching from underneath the faucet. It drips onto the new pipe they put in. It’s very small. I place the lid of an ice cream container under it. We can live with it for now.
When I close the cabinet, Mark asks, “Is the beer out of quarantine?”
“Why, yes, it is.”
“S-A-T-U-R-D-A-Y Night! S-A-T-U-R-D-A-Y Night!” The Bay City Rollers blare on the record player, and the three of us dance around the living room. Mark sees me shimmying. “All right, Sanchez.” He takes my hand and spins me, and I collide into his chest. Jack hugs our legs. “Oh, you want to get in on this too?” Mark asks him, and we form a circle. Jack is so excited to be dancing. His footwork is frantic, but somehow, he doesn’t slip. “Why are you crying, Mommy?” he asks. “Oh, I’m okay, mi amor.” I do my best to smile for him and pump up my dancing. Probably the whole neighborhood can hear, we are home.