The Plumber

Years ago we had some issues with our plumbing, and because we didn’t have any specific company that we worked with that’d come our house, I simply looked in the yellow pages, found a local service, and phoned them. Whereby a young guy and his dad came over, fixed the problem, and have foreversince been the guys who are at the ready to fix our backed-up pipes.

This weekend, after almost three years of happy water flow, the Jones’ (to protect the innocent, names have been changed) were called and John, the dad, came by as soon as he had an open time frame. Friendly guy. Talkative. And interested in how our family was doing.

“How is everyone? How’re the kids?” he asked Rudy, while shoving a camera into the main pipeline.

“Kids are good, thanks. Every day is a new start, to begin again. You return home at the end of the day hopefully with everything intact…,” he commented. Then added, “…everyone’s fine, thanks for asking.”

John’s son Joe was the usual plumber that came by. A young man, working alongside his dad, learning how to work and run the family business. He always showed up with a smile, a readiness, polite conversation, and the determination to leave our home in better shape than before he showed up.

“How’s Joe?” Rudy asked.

“He’s fine, thanks.”

“Is he still working the business with you?” he wondered. “I haven’t seen him around town lately.”

John lowered his head. He didn’t say anything. Rudy wasn’t sure but he thought he saw John wipe away a tear. He pondered if he should say anything, or just wait.

“No,” John started. “About a year and a half ago, Joe went with some friends to a bar and somehow ended up in a fight. He was repeatedly kicked in the head, leaving him, to this day, with brain damage. He’s unable to work, or do most things on his own.”

Rudy was speechless. An image of Joe’s blue eyes and friendly face zoomed across his mind. He lowered his head, feeling John’s pain.

“I’m so sorry,” he managed to say.

His heart hurt, felt heavy when he realized how his previous statement is so true, that every day is a new start… with the hope of returning home at the end of the day.

La Habra, CA

IMG_3666Earthquakes are nothing new. Something experienced through the years. A shift here. A  jolt there. A rock. And a roll. Everywhere. But not often. They come and go. Spend years hibernating. Then one day, or another, they jerk. Wake up whatever location the epicenter is in and its surrounding areas. Put people on the alert. Scare them. Mix up their emotions.

FRIDAY, MARCH 28

When I felt the house move, unexpectedly, as if something sharp jabbed into its side and from below, something like an aggressive child playing a rough game of Hide-and-Seek, sticking his pointy edged stick into the solid confines of the cardboard box, suspecting a hider hidden within, my heart did a quick-step and my voice squeaked surprise.

Cupboards flew open. Glass shattered. Pictures fell off the wall.

From our bedroom, I leaped from my side of the bed, ran to the door frame, and stationed myself there, hollering to Rudy to do the same. He stood in the frame by the kitchen and waited for the earth to stop rolling, hollering back, “I’m good!”

The electricity suddenly turned off just as the house stopped moving, making one last loud creak of its wooden bones. Dark. And. Silent. Until I heard Rudy stomping through the kitchen, the glare of flashlights bending around walls, eventually coming into full view. “Here,” he said, handing me a light source. Then he walked away, returning a mere minute or two later with candles, saying we should conserve the batteries on the flashlights. (Which, by the way, we learned that candles are a no-no. Wicks mean matches, matches make fire, and fire can cause an explosion if there is a gas leak.)

Curious about where the actual earthquake hit, I tried my phone. Googled Earthquakes Today. La Habra, 5.1 it said. Confused that my location was getting in the way of facts, I tried again. La Habra, 5.1 Magnitude. I re-Googled my request with something about Earthquakes in CA Today. La Habra, 5.1. Just then lights flashed back on. And I heard the newscast relaying  the information that, yes indeed, La Habra had been hit. Interestingly, I thought, Cool, we have never been the epicenter of an earthquake! But then I thought, What! We are the epicenter! Yikes!.

Not much damage. A few things scattered about. Some shards of glass spread on the floor. Framed pictures faced down. A single wine bottle, hurdled off its rack, leaving its large family behind, landed, unbroken, under the kitchen table.

SATURDAY, MARCH 29

The day was filled with aftershocks, most notably in the evening. Large jolts, as if we’d been smacked hourly by an out-of-control car, veering into our home’s structure. Though my heart jolted right along with the quake, I knew there wasn’t much I could do except be prepared to duck-for-cover, if necessary. Our floors are scattered with mementos, some antiques, most not. It matters not whether we put these things back up today or next week. Earthquakes are unpredictable. Random.

SUNDAY, MARCH 30

Just before I planned to drag myself to the kitchen to start brewing a cup of coffee, another precursor to The Big One, or just an aftershock, hit. My body tensed. Toes pointed. Calves tightened. My stomach was sucked in, pressing my back into the bed’s mattress. Shoulders froze. Arms wrapped around my head. It took me a minute to realize I was under some form of duress, until I took a deep breath. And felt my body slowly loosen. Relax. Return to normal.

Not long after, with coffee in hand, while looking out the living room windows, gazing at puffy clouds, blue skies, and swaying tree branches I felt the floor roll, something like sitting in a row boat, gentle waves rocking it back and forth. Quietly. Peacefully. And yet, not knowing if danger lies beneath.