Short Story: Mr. Plumber

I am forever thrown back whence I shot off initially. I am the grain in the same tornado, thrown and twisted round across the same slanted floor. Propelled by the hopes of young men, I zoom amidst the scourges of Achilles and Akkad, climbing the knoll of Cyrus’ sociopolitical pieces de resistance and clanking against the unrest of the Peloponnese. Instructed by the Sun himself, I reach for the conquest of the Romans and spin for the unmatchable mores of Belisarius quickly to turn my one-eighty arc and marvel at the greatness of General Alexander in the wake of his bloody tour, and his pitifulness in the wake of the Jesus of Nazareth, a greater conqueror in comparison to any man. I descend now far and speedily, noticing the vastly numbered guerrillic nomads and the guiles of Constantine’s wretched spirit. I clank along by all Vandals and Goths, and knocked dizzy with each chuckle from benevolent Charlemagne’s lungs I skid many sorts of directions as though my path were mapped by a multitude of strings tied across the inside of an ardent accordion. I shrug at the shock of the Turks; I do not weep for Tripoli; the addition of my tears causes no noticeable alterations to the waters which drown the remains of Malta’s Knights. I wonder at the brilliance and resolve of Oliver Cromwell and the venerable Lawrence himself. What does a mind like that do in a small Illinois town?

In every place I look, it is the linear Machiavellian War of Man and Power or the eternal Melvillian war of Man and Whale or, well perhaps in every place I look, it is both. I frown at the hebel of Napoleon; I shake at the savage revolution which birthed him; I shudder at the cold effectiveness of Rommel, taking comfort in the gutsy Patton’s heroism while witnessing not for the first nor third nor hundredth time what were per the Lockean loves themselves despicable volksgeimeinshaft delicts . The air rushes o’er my dome as I near my takeoff point. O the mystery that is a righteous revolution – I observe the justice of Monroe and the proliferation of Mother Nature’s white crosses. O the mystery that is the hebel of Napoleon and the hebel of Monroe, the hebel of all men and the prize we consider ultimately worthwhile.

I bonk into the playfield glass and settle my compact self behind the lock down bar.

“New high score!” Tommy yelled. He and Johnny were plain obsessed with this pinball machine. I’ve heard that ever since the town put the new elementary school across the street these kids have been launching us all over the place on a daily basis – tiresome work for the pinball community!

“Move I’m gonna go!” Johnny shoved his way in, “I’m aiming for the Sooleeman and the Cry-me-a river Pen’sula this time!”

I’m punished for my competence! Getting thrown around all the time – there are other pinball machines too. The arcade has an orchard-themed machine and a great philanthropists-themed machine and a celebrity-themed machine, but alas, most kids play the war machine. Well, a lot of kids do play the celebrity machine, but I think I’ll allow them to sink into history’s nameless oblivion.

Neverthemore, I’ll return to a deliberation more worthy of your time. Perhaps my sallies up and down the slanted board and consequent interminable experience of the horrors, which arise when mater natura sees herself, whenever the rains have moistened her fronds and exacerbated her thorns as savagery dons a sophisticate costume and rooted ascension carries her shapely burgeoning form across expanses to alight upon the oceans of space & highest void and partake of feculent reflection, having supplanted whatever a boy like me thought was the Good in his heart, perhaps these experiences serve to teach and to humble and to show us –

“Move I’m gonna go!” Another sucker punch; here I go again. Damn kids keep playing the war machine. I shoot along the side quickly by the ancient skirmishes and forgotten conquests, yes! – not to be dilapidated by the secrets of heritage. I manage to dodge that unpleasant slingshot which boasts the rich happiness of Solomon and Croesus, but a punishing Assyrian flipper bat capitalizes upon my distraction, slapping me stupid into a nest of bumpers. I immediately begin to garner increasing familiarity with the pains of Alcibiades as I trace back and forth the line of sight between Achaemenid bumper and Achaean bumper. Remember Thermopylae. Dizzy and somewhat willing to be done with the day’s work, I cruise along the decline toward the Crusades when, stumbling o’er some rocks at the burial of Richard the gangreenehearted, I am spun around to catch behind me a glimpse of Mecca and a long tumultuous history. It’s times like these when the roll is rough that I long to soar with the wings of the birds, to glide comfortably upon the whipping winds. O to know the work of the Nightingale – maybe we only need one wonderful thing to justify the endurance of a suicidal world, this pater esoteric plane.

A man could ask: what is that one thing? Cardigans. These stylish sweaters have both the lining to keep me warm against the chill of the wind and the cushion to render potential broken bones bruises. It seems now the boys have run off finally and I am approaching the out hole, so I will tell you the story of how I came to be a pinball. Oh, you thought I was always a pinball? You were reading this story and thought, “hmm, this pinball is telling me a story – this is nothing strange, since it is likely an every day occurrence for most people.” Pinballs are inanimate objects Oof! – Remember the Alamo! Ok, I’m docked.

I was born an only child in Seattle, WA to a weak father and a sick mother. They called me Gregory Paulus. For awhile there I called them dada and mmum, but eventually I came to understand that their names were Paul and Sierra Simpton. Paul was a humble ornamental horticulturist. Once or twice he managed to worm his way into consulting with some sizable landscaping firms, but, considering his lack of a formal degree and primary reliance upon an innate aesthetic sense, virtually all of his clientele resided in the private sector and contracted him on account of their wilting front yard flower gardens. The domestic beauty garden business was decent money – enough to get by. Paul did his family no favors by offering flexible pricing to customers who professed unmitigated mirement in financial peril. The Simptons had planned to get rich and buy a grand home in Seattle, but Sierra dropped out of medical school when I was two on account of health problems and ensuing frailty. She worked part time at a CVS. We lived simply, and for most of the time, I was alone. When I was eleven, we had to uproot our livelihood in Seattle and move to Cincinnati in order to see a doctor there for Sierra. She passed away sixty-one days later. For the next seven years, we town hopped all over America – Paul couldn’t find anywhere worth staying. We lived in a run-down motel room in Carlinville, Illinois for about six and a half months. That was the longest we stayed anywhere.

By my seventeenth birthday, Paul had filed for unemployment, being completely surly and destitute, and in search of an activity to distract from the crippling bitterness of his own temperament he had recently picked up the hobby of running red lights, well, walking them – he never drove faster than a meandering forty mph pace. Tired of all the random midwest towns, upon my eighteenth birthday I hauled out and got a plumbing apprenticeship on the outskirts of Tallahassee. By twenty-five, I had an apartment and a successful plumbing business in San Antonio.

It was simple living for me, as always. I had my occupation, my food and my books. After a hard day’s work, I might grill some spicy dry rub chicken breasts or order in a pan of cajun-style lasagna. On this particular evening, I made myself mashed potatoes and cooked up a steak. As a finishing touch, I scattered paprika all over the dish, understanding for a moment the thrill of Nebuchadnezzar and the ease of easy power. Then I ate. Eating is an activity in which one should immerse oneself fully while amidst one’s own doing of it. So I had my potatoes, my steak, my paprika, the fork in my left and the knife in my right, and the considerations of mine which rolled beyond my body’s present occupation.

Tomorrow I would be attending a field day at a local elementary school. It’d become something of a habit that I regularly articulate in my neuro-discourse the desire to do some charity work or connect with my community, only always to follow such an idea with a stout someday. Recognizing this, I knew that good work is not to be avoided, but is only put off to the advantage of my complacency; moreover I wished to stretch my hand into the unknown and accomplish the good work on my own time so as not to have to do it at my inconvenience; I could have avoided both, but this I did not wish; nor did that ever please me which is forever in the mouths of the wise ones of our time: – Let us enjoy the benefits of the time – but rather the benefits of our own valor and prudence, for time excepts no element, and for all the good it brings it also drives evil in accompaniment.

So, to the best of my knowledge, tomorrow morning I’ll cycle through the classrooms sharing about my trade, and then the kids and various tradesmen from the San Antonio area will have lunch together in the cafeteria. I’m afraid I was a bit abrupt with the lady I spoke to on the phone so I may not have attained all of the necessary details. I lack any sort of facile charisma with women. Hopefully, I can get in and out, having done my duty to the community without too much trouble – working with kids is not my forte.  Although before you pass negative judgement on my character, please note that I have a prior work-related commitment that same afternoon at a place across the street from the school.

“Hey kids!” I tried to exude excitement and fun. It was the next morning, and the pretty female science teacher had introduced me to her class not five seconds ago, “I’m a plumber. Now, I know what you’re thinking: ‘I don’t wanna have my head in a toilet all day!’ And I just wanna start by saying, that’s only most of the day! hah hah, heh… Ok, Plumbing is just great kids. Now I know that most of you -” Can they tell that I’m gasping for breath? “want to be firemen or superheroes or something.. but I’ll tell ya, the real heroes of this world are the handymen that fix your homes! First of all, plumbing is soo fun! I’ll give you a quick history before we jump in – I love to start with the aqueducts of the Roman Emp-”

“Mr. Plumber,” The teacher cut in politely, “Could you maybe tell the class about some of the things that you fix?”

She caught me off guard, and I swallowed to regain mental momentum – I hate that swallowing makes a guy look weaker and more nervous than he is, “Oh yeah! So as a plumber, I fix sinks and toilets and showers and pipes and- so, actually, I’m heading to the arcade across the street after school today! Which is so cool – to uh to fix up some of their- stuff over there. So, yeah, any questions?”

A boy raised his hand.

“Yes, Tommy?” Heat emanated from everyone’s eyes. I was burning.

“Mr. Plumber,” I heard some snickering I think, “What are you doing at the arcade?”

“Oh, I’m working on the sinks.”

Tommy nodded. Johnny stretched his hand higher than the reach of Abaddon.

“Yes, Johnny.”

“What are you doing at the arcade Mr. Plumber.”

“Oh,” I chuckled. Weird kid. I am definitely ready to get out of this room, “Your friend already asked that.”

“What are you doing at the arcade,” I sensed the teacher’s sizzling breath wreathing round the top of my neck. Why was she asking?

“Oh, I -” Gulped all the air in the room,

“Don’t lie.”

“I’m trying to find my way in an existence that fights to live and fights to die.”

“Join the fight, Mr. Plumber”
“Revel in your savagery!”
“The fight is the way, Mr. Plumber!”

“Why have I been thrown here on this earth to be thrown to the depths and thrown to my knees and-”

“To fight,  Mr.-”
“Revel!”

“thrown to my job-”

“Plumber.”
“You cannot fight-”
“Fight!”

“thrown-”

“because you are-”
“Forget your childhood!

“to desire and shame-”

“delusioned,”
“You are-”
“Mr. Plumber.”

“to suffer to question-”

“Throw away-”
“a coward,”

“only to die.”

“Mr. Plumber.”
“your moral fabrications.”
“You lie to yourself.”

“Why must blood seep into the Earth every time-”

“Blood soaks the foundations of this school!”

“we make something new?”

“Necessary blood, glorious blood!”
“Corporeal struggle is man’s reality!”

“Why is every man familiar with peace in his intellect-”

“We honor the decree-”
“You coward! Thoughts-”

“but intimate with its fragility in his experience?”

“make for weak walls-”
“of nature and destiny through our petty powers-”
“you coward!”

“I will not fight.”

“in the vanity of our squabbles and socio-political ricochets!”
“You cannot fight?!”
“You weak man!”
“You still fight yourself,”

“I still fight mysel-”

“The state of the world grieves you-”
“But only because-”
“The state of the world shows you the state of your soul!”
“You are a hypocrite!”

“I still fight myself.”

“You are-”
“A coward!”
“consumed in the cobwebs of self!”
“You bastard!”

“I still fight.”

“You fight!”
“You coward!”
“You hypocrite!”

“I fight.”

. . .

I am child of mother nature and father reality. I can only hope that the children I leave know better than me.


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