Suburban Mysteries 4: Taken at the Flood

“Reginald!” Chad bellowed, picking up a broom and pounding the bristles against the basement floor for emphasis.  “You have two litter boxes!”

Chad was irritated.  Every morning that week he’d gone into the basement to do a load of laundry, and every morning he’d found a wet puddle right in the middle of the floor.  Ever since they’d moved their furniture closer to the outlets to prevent Reginald from unplugging the appliances, Reginald had looked for other avenues in which to vent his frustration with being a bored, clever, under-appreciated cat.  Chad hurled the broom in the general direction of the stairs, knowing that Reginald was probably curled up underneath them, not using his litter box.  

“Stop throwing that broom!”  Kendall shouted from somewhere upstairs.  “Don’t think I can’t hear you!”  Chad had broken three brooms that year, and Kendall was threatening to move the new broom closet directly into Chad’s backside if he broke another.

Chad responded by shaking the broom in a threatening and manly manner towards the ceiling.  He poured white vinegar on the puddle and cleaned it up without further comment.

“I think we should take that cat to the vet” Chad told Kendall, scooping up an uncooperative Reginald and thrusting him at Kendall.

“CAREFUL, Chad, I just got this suit dry cleaned!”  Kendall brushed a wad of Reginald’s fur off her shoulder.  “Besides, he’s fine.  He just had a checkup last month.”

“Then I suppose there’s some other reason that YOUR cat is peeing in the basement every morning.”

“Maybe YOU’RE not doing the best job of cleaning the box.” Kendall was not going to let Chad’s inability to perform a simple chore correctly trick her into taking on another household duty.  She had vowed to abide by the judgment of the chore wheel, and she would stand by those chores assigned to her:  buying toothpaste, cleaning the toilets, and pulling weeds.  

Actually, the chore wheel had also assigned Kendall the task of hauling in the recycle bins, but after an incident involving some disabled Girl Scouts, Chad had taken that chore from her, rightly assuming that she wasn’t up to the responsibility.  

“Fine. I’ll clean the box.  Again.  But this isn’t right.”  Chad dutifully scooped the litter box again, noting with some pride that it was really very clean, for a litter box.  He vowed to catch Reginald in the act and prove Kendall wrong.  He’d catch Reginald in the act even if he had to stay up all night!

*****

That evening, Chad crept stealthily out of the bedroom.  He made it to the hallway with complete silence, but a loud crack of thunder caused him to shriek like a teenaged girl.  Worried, he peeked back into the bedroom.  Kendall had slept through the noise.  Chad made his way downstairs without turning on any lights.  He was going to try to think and act like Reginald, and Reginald had built in night vision.  

The dark basement was scarier than Chad remembered.  Once his eyes adjusted to the dimness he could see that the floor was dry, with no puddle marring the center.  He sat down on the carpeted steps and propped his head up against the banister, prepared to play the waiting game.

Unfortunately for Chad, it was stormy outside.  The sound of the rain bouncing off the aluminum awning over the door was rhythmic and soothing, and Chad was tired.  He soon fell asleep, lulled by the sounds of the wind and water, and the occasional roll of thunder.

*****

“Chad? CHAD!”  Chad’s head snapped forward as he was prodded from behind by what felt like a slippered foot.  He craned his neck backwards to see Kendall, looming over him with her hair wrapped up in a pink towel turban, wearing her old terry cloth bathrobe.  “Were you down here all night?”

“I had to catch Reginald.  I had to prove it was him.”  Chad’s blurry eyes focused on the floor in front of him.  There!  There in front of him was a huge puddle, so large it had spread across the floor and under the partition leading to the laundry room.  “I told you!”

“Riiight.  Unless you’ve been giving Reginald water from a hose, I fail to see how he could have drank enough to made that big of a puddle.  Are you keeping an elephant down here?”  Kendall started down the steps to investigate.  Chad stood up and halted her with a hand held palm up, like a traffic cop.

“Stop, woman.  This is Man’s domain.  Obviously this was caused by something else.  THIS TIME.”  Chad walked down the stairs and poked his head into the laundry room.  “AH HA!”

“What is it?”  Despite her desire to be sarcastic to a man who thought a cat had a two gallon bladder, Kendall was curious.  

“Remember that storm last night?”  Chad asked, holding a finger up in the air like Sherlock Holmes.

“No.  I was sleeping last night, not creeping around the basement to spy on our cat.”

“Well, there was one.  And it was big.  I heard it when I fell asleep…er…when I was doing sentry duty on the stairs.  What I didn’t hear was the sump pump.  I don’t think it kicked on.  And this water trail goes directly to the pump.  I think we’ve got a backed up reservoir down here.”

This was certainly possible.  The only thing either of them knew about sump pumps was what they’d learned from the Home and Garden network, and they watched that for entertainment and not for household tips.  

“I’ll call Roto Rooter” Kendall said, gathering up her robe and turning, prepared to go back upstairs.

“Not so fast!” Chad called out to her.  “The chore wheel assigned me the basement.  I’m going to figure this out myself.  I’m too invested now.”

“Sweet Jesus” Kendall muttered to herself.  Chad was too busy pulling up YouTube on his phone to hear her.  He had some home improvement videos to watch, and a work day to cancel.

*****

Kendall arrived home from work feeling unusually anxious.  She noticed that her driveway was free of fire trucks and assumed that was a good sign, but couldn’t allow herself to really relax until she let herself inside and heard Chad cursing loudly.  At least he was still alive.  Kendall didn’t have much confidence in Chad’s DIY skills.  Chad was the one who’d insisted they hire painters, rather than paint their rooms themselves.  She found it interesting that Chad had turned into Bob Vila over one problem with the basement.  Obviously he’d watched too many shows featuring some kind of Man Cave and had gotten the idea that the basement was his project.  She’d have to keep an eye on his Home and Garden Network consumption in the future.

“Hello?”  Kendall shouted down the stairs, afraid to descend after Chad’s insistence that the basement was “man space” earlier that day.  

“Stay out!”  Chad shouted, popping his head around the door leading to the laundry room.  “I’m not done yet!”  Chad was soaking wet, and the parts that were visible were covered in rusty smears.  His knuckles looked raw.

“Right.”  Kendall said.  “Do you need a bandage?”  

Chad looked down at his hand, which had started to bleed freely on the floor.  “I scraped it.  On a rusty piece of the old sump pump.”

“Do you need a tetanus shot?”  Kendall asked, wondering how bad lockjaw really was and whether it might come as a relief to her if he acquired it for a few days.  

“I don’t think so.  The bilge water keeps washing the blood off, so I think I’m OK.”

Kendall shuddered and went back into the kitchen, trying not to think about the mess Chad was creating in the basement.  She began to prepare dinner, which was a gluten free, dairy free stew made with kale and quinoa.  She’d found the recipe on a blog online, and figured that the health benefits of dinner might cancel out Chad’s possible tetanus.

Chad came upstairs an hour later, grinning widely.  “I think I fixed it!  I’m like Bob Vila, but not all grey haired.  And I’m not wearing relaxed fit jeans.”  This was true.  Chad was wearing a pair of soaking wet swim trunks, crocs, and a golf shirt with barbecue stains on it.  

“So did that puddle go away?”  Kendall asked?

“No…not exactly” Chad said, his eyes shifting to the left and right and avoiding hers.  

“What does that mean?”  Kendall asked.  “It either got smaller or it didn’t.”

“Well, you know, the problem with installing a sump pump is that you have to remove the old one and then you have to remove the water.  And if you forget to turn the power off, while you’re doing that, water can spray from the pipes all over the basement.  And when you’re installing the new one, if you don’t secure the pipe properly, it can spray more water all over the basement.”

“Is that why you didn’t want me to come downstairs?”  Kendall asked.

“Not at all.  I didn’t want  you to come downstairs because I told you this was my problem and that I’d fix it.  I’m sure the water will evaporate.  Trust me.”  Chad sat down at the table in his filthy, dripping clothes.  “Now, what’s up with this kale?  Was it locally grown?”

*****

The next morning, Kendall woke before Chad and sneaked down into the basement to take a look at the damage.  Old pump parts were strewn everywhere, and there were sharp pieces of cut up PVC piping littering the floor, but to Chad’s credit, the floor around the sump pump was dry.  Kendall filled a small bucket with water from the sink and knelt next to the reservoir, lifting the lid and slowly pouring the water in.  The pump clicked on with a loud whoosh, causing her to rock back on her heels and shield her face with her hands.  Miraculously, the water stayed in the pipes.  Chad had managed to fix something by watching YouTube.  

Kendall was already finished with her shower when Chad got out of bed.  “I worked so hard yesterday I feel like I need to take another day off to relax” he said, grabbing a carton of orange juice from the fridge and drinking straight from the opening.  “All that plumbing was hard work.”

“You should go check it out” Kendall said, nonchalantly checking her Flipboard page on her iPhone while Reginald wound himself around her ankles.  “You know, make sure it’s working and that there’s no puddle.”

“I will do just that” Chad said, wiping away his orange juice mustache with the back of his hands, in what he thought was a manly gesture.  

Chad was only halfway down the stairs before letting out a loud “AAAARRRGGGH!” sound.  “Why does this keep happening?!”

Kendall wasn’t sure what Chad was talking about.  She joined Chad on the stairs.  In the middle of the floor was a large puddle.  

“I swear that wasn’t there…I mean…you did a really good job on that sump pump, honey, maybe that’s not the problem?”

“I know that it’s not the problem” Chad said.  “I tested that pump myself.  It eventually stopped spraying me after I let the cement set.”  Chad gently elbowed Kendall aside and ran up the stairs, stopping in front of the sink.  He threw open the doors underneath.

“Oh no”  Kendall said.  “That can’t be the problem.”

“Well, it’s the closest plumbing”  Chad said.  “I think maybe this is our culprit.”

“Well we can order one of those sink trap thingeys from the internet”  Kendall said.  “No need to go overboard.  I bet it’s just leaking a little.”

Chad gave her a frightening look.  “I’m not going to half do this project, Kendall.  I don’t want to be cleaning up puddles for the rest of my life.  This sink has to go.”

“We don’t even know that this is the problem!”  Kendall said.  “Can’t we test it?”

Chad pulled the garbage can out from under the sink and felt around.  “It’s a little damp back here.  This has to be it.  You were doing the dishes this morning, weren’t you?  Weren’t you?

“Look, Chaderick, if you don’t want me to do the dishes you’re welcome to start doing them yourself.  I’ll change that stupid chore wheel.”

“THE CHORE WHEEL STAYS PUT UNTIL THIS PROBLEM IS FIXED!” Chad yelled.  

“Soooorrrrry” Kendall said, stomping away from the kitchen.  She could hear Chad calling off work again from the other room.

*****

The kitchen sink replacement took Chad all day.  Four trips to the hardware store, six YouTube videos, one breakdown where he curled in the fetal position and cried, and a quick call to the EMS when he glued his forehead to the trap.  

Unfortunately, the ambulance was still in the driveway when Kendall arrived home.

“Oh my God, are you OK?”  Kendall entered the house screaming, but stopped short when she saw an amused looking paramedic using cotton balls to apply epoxy thinner to Chad’s face.  “Really?”  She asked.  “You called the paramedics?”

“I was high on cement fumes!”  Chad protested.  “And I thought I was going to get a chemical burn.  The package said I might.”

The paramedic gently pulled Chad’s head away from the pipe.  Kendall winced as she watched the skin on Chad’s forehead pulling and peeling a little.  Chad didn’t seem to notice, which gave credibility to his statement about the cement fumes.

The police officer who had accompanied the ambulance took Kendall aside to speak with her privately.  “Your husband probably shouldn’t attempt home repair projects without another person, or a helmet.  Does he have a chemical dependency?”

“He didn’t until today” Kendall said.  “And I think he’s probably learned his lesson.”  They looked over at Chad, who was having his head bandaged so that he looked like a toothache sufferer from a vintage dentistry advertisement.  

Chad waited until the EMTs had left the house before he turned on the sink to test out his plumbing skills.  Kendall crossed her arms and stood in the kitchen, looking disapproving, while Chad ran downstairs, the water still running in the sink.

“IT WORKED!”  Chad yelled.  “NO PUDDLE!  NO DRIPPING!”

 

“Thank God” Kendall muttered under her breath.  She reached into her purse and pulled out a bottle of DoTerra Lavender essential oil, opening it and passing it beneath her nostrils like smelling salts.

Chad came back upstairs and lifted Kendall into a big hug, spilling her oil.  “I did it!  I fixed the basement!  Let’s order a pizza!  And some burritos!  And ice cream!”

*****

The following morning was a Saturday.  Kendall arose to discover that Chad had not put away any of his plumbing equipment from the previous day.  Furthermore, Reginald had knocked over the bottle of plumbing cement, and had tracked it through the kitchen.  Kendall found Reginald curled up on his cat bed, paws fuzzy with pieces of the fabric which had stuck to him as the cement became tacky.  She sighed.  Reginald related chores were hers until midnight, thanks to the wretched chore wheel.  She decided to do it later.

The mess in the kitchen was making her feel stressed out.  She was glad that Chad was happy, but he’d spent about a thousand dollars on home repairs and hadn’t bothered to clean up his mess.  Kendall assumed this was because the mess was made in the kitchen, and kitchen chores were also hers until Midnight.  

She decided to take a bath.  Nine o’clock wasn’t too early for wine, right?  Probably not if it was delivered in the form of a mimosa.  She splashed some sparkling wine and orange juice in a glass, and picked up the bottle of lavender essential oil, and headed to the tub.

Half an hour later Kendall was soaking happily in a tub filled with lavender scented bubbles, sipping from the last of her mimosa.  Chad knocked twice and entered to brush his teeth.

“Your silly old husband was a real man yesterday” he began, swishing with blue plaque detecting rinse.  “I made Bob Vila look like a little girl!”

“You sure did, honey”  Kendall said, very glad that this puddle drama was behind them.  She crossed her legs and some water splashed up over the drain line.  “Oops!”

Chad turned around and noticed her glass.  “Are you drinking at nine thirty in the morning?”  he asked.  “Because unless you’re at brunch or on vacation, that’s a problem.”

“The only problem is my kitchen”  Kendall said haughtily.  “It’s too messy for me to cook breakfast, so I decided to drink it.”

“Kitchen chores are yours this week” he reminded her gently, not wanting to start an argument.

“Pfffft”  she said, kicking some bubbles at him.  “Don’t harsh my buzz.”  

Chad grabbed her glass and took a swig, then paused, his head cocked to the side.  He was still wearing his bandage, and he looked deranged.  “Do you hear that?”

“I hear you criticizing my life choices”  she said, grabbing at the glass, but not succeeding in stealing it back, because her hands were too slippery.  

“I’ll be right back”  Chad said, walking out of the bathroom and taking the glass with him.  

Kendall could hear his heavy footsteps on the basement stairs, then silence.  After a few seconds, she heard him start to laugh.  And laugh.  And laugh.  

“Kendall!  Splash some water!”  He shouted up through the floor. Kendall complied by standing up and kicking the water in the tub around.  As soon as the water splashed over the drain line she heard the sound of water splashing somewhere beneath her.  

Chad came pounding back up the stairs and back into the bathroom.  “It’s the bathtub.  There’s a leaky pipe connecting the drain to the rest of the plumbing.  There’s water dripping off it and everything.  It’s even rusty!”

“You’re going to call a real plumber this time, right?”  Kendall asked.  “You’ve already suffered one head injury.”  

“Oh, no.”  Chad said.  “I’m pretty confident that after replacing the pump and the sink, I can do this myself, too!”

Kendall had her doubts about Chad working to close to the sewage line.  Fortunately, time was on her side.  She wrapped herself in her big fluffy bathrobe and dragged Chad into the kitchen by his hand.  

“You deserve a day off”  she said, reaching into the fridge and pulling out the rest of the champagne.  “Relax.  We’ll have our own brunch party.”

“Really?”  Chad asked, drinking straight from the champagne, then straight from the orange juice, and swishing them together in his mouth.  

“Really.”  Kendall said, looking at the chore wheel attached to the fridge with magnets.  “Because tomorrow, basement chores are mine, and I’m calling a real plumber!”

THE END

 

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