A Plumber’s Job Is Never Finished

Every so often when I sit down to write, things pop out of my head that I was expecting.  This is one of those.  It’s a short story.  Though long for a blog, I guess. 🙂

It was another routine call for Steve.  Just another clogged drain.  The disposal had stopped working.  He was the man for the job of course.  Best plumber in the area.  He’d even won awards from the local press in those “Best of Springville” things.

Of course, nobody knew the real purpose of his job.  And they never would.  The government makes sure of that.  But that doesn’t change his drive to do his job well.  One doesn’t often think about a plumber enforcing a vendetta with his job, but it’s more common than you might think.  Terrorized and deceased family members have driven more than one young man into service for vengeance and a goal to keep the rest of the world safe.

Steve pulls up to 1080 Lily Ave.  Another quiet suburban house with a broken disposal and stopped up drain.  This one doesn’t seem like it could turn deadly, but you never know.  Steve had yet to lose anyone on one of his jobs and he aimed to keep it that way.  Grabbing his toolbox he heads up to the door and rings the bell.

The door opens and another suburban housewife answers the door.  She’s the same type of woman he always sees.  Looking a little harried from her duties as head of the household.  Still pretty, but life is starting to wear on her a little too.  It’s an early evening call which means she’s been at work all day too.  And her husband is either too busy to do his own plumbing or just doesn’t know how.

None of them really know what they’re dealing with anyway.  Even if they think they do.  Steve would rather they call him.  Safer that way.

“Hi, Mrs, Thompson?  I’m Steve from Clear Pipes.”  He flashes her his biggest, warmest smile to put her at ease.  People always distrust letting strangers in their house.

She welcomes him into the house and shows him to the kitchen sink.  “I’m not sure what happened,” she tells him.  “I turned the disposal on two days ago and it just made this grinding sound and stopped working altogether.  We’ve been washing dishes in the bathroom since then.”

“I’m sure it’s something simple,” Steve tells her.  “Probably some small object slipped down there and got caught.”  It’s the same line he always uses in this scenario.  He always tried to make it sound genuine though.  The truth is that disposal technology has advanced greatly in the past few years.  The newer ones can cut through darn near anything short of dropping diamonds in there.  The reason for the recent innovations is because of the one thing they can’t cut.  Cocoons.

Kartukian cocoons in particular.  The Kartukians would wait in hiding in the disposal they’d infiltrated, just waiting for the right object to come through.  Sometimes a chicken bone or an errant bottle cap that slipped off the counter.  Once inside, the Kartukians would wrap the object in a silk-like cocoon, not unlike spider silk.  But, unfortunately, many thousands of times stronger.  The stuff was impenetrable.  No American company had been able to design a blade to cut through it yet.  Though Steve had heard from a couple of government sources that the Japanese were coming close.  He wasn’t sure if it was for real of just hearsay.

Either way, it didn’t change his job right now.  He opened up his toolbox and opened the doors under the sink.  Fortunately Mrs. Thompson had left him to his work.  Some of his techniques can’t be used around civilians and it always makes his job harder when they hang over his shoulder.

First he pulled out a small black light and shined it underneath.  Yep, there they were, the tell-tale slime tracks of a Kartukian.  Pretty decent sized one from the looks of it too.  He got started pulling the disposal apart and soon enough found the object.  It looked like a piece from a baby bottle or something.  And it was covered in cocoon material of course.  Amateurs doing their own plumbing always mistook the cocoon for either hair or just general drain gunk.  Little did they know what danger they could be in.

The fortunate thing is that the Kartukians are rarely successful.  The government had discovered years earlier that their big plan for dominating Earth was to clog the drains in an effort to drown the populace in water and waste.  Nobody ever said they were real bright aliens.

But every so often, by a fluke, they’d hurt someone.  Steve had read case studies of exploding septic tanks, flying disposal blades, and “accidental” bath tub drownings.  Hell, he’s see it happen to his own parents when their septic tank exploded and killed them both.  The officials quickly talked it up as purely an accident.  They couldn’t let the public know that their neighborhood had a mass infection of Pinoodies.

‘Noodies, as those in the service called them, were closely related to Kartukians.  Kartuk being the next door planet to Pinoo in their system.  Pinoodies are much more difficult entities to deal with since they work underground.  Harder to detect.

Steve pulled his thoughts back to the job at hand, pulling out the small, cocoon covered piece of debris and placing it in a sample bag.  Everything goes back to headquarters for analysis.

After placing the plastic bag in the lower tray of his toolbox, he takes out a small item that looks like a pen light or one of those laser pointer things the kids play with in movie theaters.  This is no pen light though.  He dons his eye protection and a quick press of the button sends a very short flash of radiation into the disposal.  That will take care of that batch of Kartukians.  He’s never been sure why the radiation doesn’t work on their cocoon material too, but it doesn’t.  And they can’t permanently install radiation devices in the drain to keep them out.  It would take it’s toll on the people living in the house.  Steve sometimes wondered what it does to him too.  In the long run he decided that the job was more important than his own health.

Just as he finishes replacing the last part os the disposal, Mrs. Thompson comes and and says, “How’s it going?  Did you find what it was?”

“Sure did,” says Steve.  “Just a plastic piece of something.  From a baby bottle maybe.  It was pretty mangled, so I just threw it out.”

“Oh good”, she says.  “Thank you so much.”  Steve flips the switch and the disposal hums to life just like it was brand new.  “Here’s your invoice Mrs. Thompson.  The company will bill you.”  The government, go figure.  Saving the world and they still charge you an arm and a leg.  It’s an expensive undertaking.  People just don’t realize what they’re paying for.

Mrs. Thompson thanks Steve again as he walks out the door.  He drops his toolbox in the back of his van and gets in the drivers seat.  As he pulls away he sees that car again.  And the driver is that lady from the mental hospital.  She’d been by his house the night before trying to convince him that he’s sick in the head.  She obviously didn’t have the high end government clearance he has, so he told her to beat it and got on the phone with his boss to get him to contact her.  Obviously, he hadn’t.  So now she’s following him.  Intent on convincing him of his mental instability.  How lame.  He’s perfectly fine.  Isn’t he?

Phil Johnson

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