In Clinton, we’ve got location, location, location. The Emma House is at the intersection of two main highways, across from the post office. The library is just a long diagonal away so I know who returns their books.
We’re catty-cornered from Margaret’s Salon and the Gazette Office. Gaze through the beveled glass on our front door and you’re dead-on with the vestibule of the First Methodist Church. Awkward on the Sundays you want to sleep in.
The afternoon of my arrival—first of the spring-- it’s like a Feydeau play, with multiple entrances and exits, pratfalls, and stock characters. I’ve been on my phone from Fulgham on, lining up the cast.
Enter John Turner, Clinton Water Company. Front yard.
We say hi, how are you, and he gets right to it. He locates the water main cover, leans into the hole and rakes away dead maple leaves. I walk out toward the street and watch while he pries the lid off the water main cover and wrenches it open.
Exit Liz. I trek to the basement to turn on the house main and within minutes I hear the blessed sound. Seems like everything is under control. Exit John.
I go from spigot to spout throughout the house making sure nothing is leaking. I flip on the circuit breaker and know it's a short wait for hot water time. After traveling from San Francisco, the first hot shower is a primal pleasure. In a few minutes I check the water temperature. It’s still like ice.
Back to the purgatory we call a basement. Bad, Bad, Bad. Water is gushing under the porch instead of into the water heater. I go upstairs and into the yard. It’s already a marsh. I revisit to the basement and turn the water off, on, off, hoping for a cure.
I stand and think about it. This is not a John Turner problem unless I want the water off. Sooo. I call Lloyd Callison, plumber of choice and leave a message that I have a problem and there’s no hot water. I sound desperate because that’s what I am. But it’s a Friday night, almost dark, and I doubt if he’s looking for work. Exit Liz. To the side yard.
Enter Steve Hardy. Next door neighbor. I can barely see him behind a huge wood stack running the length of the yard. He waves, and we meet in the driveway. We discuss the ice storm, source of all the fallen limbs. .
With a wry smile, Steve asks me if I’ve noticed the condition of my front yard. Sure enough, I have noticed that it is once again full of branches, a surprise to me since I recently contracted with his son Daniel to clean debris left from the ice storm. He explains that the highway department just came along a few hours ago and did another cutting. The workmen left huge branches where they fell—all over the front yard. He asks if I need his help with the current crop. I tell him thanks, don’t worry about it. Exit Steve. Exit Liz . To front yard.
Enter Daniel, Amanda, and Elana. Steve's children. They have come to help me anyway. I’m grateful. We start pulling limbs toward the street. Some are huge and can’t be rolled so we inch them end by end toward the sidewalk.
Enter Steve with the chain saw. Now everybody is working away. It looks like we can finish the job before dark.
Enter David Prince. David was in my high school class. He hasn’t changed a bit. David offers to help. We talk for a few minutes about last summer’s class reunion. He offers to help again. We talk some more and exchange email addresses for photographs. The sun is starting to go down. Exit David.
Steve and his chain saw make short work of the limbs. We finish stacking all the debris at the street, hoping the highway department making a pickup. We have no way of knowing if this will happen. The sun is setting. Exit Steve. Exit Amanda, Daniel, and Elana.
It’s fully dark. I’m hungry but that’s the least of my problems. I go inside and start to make plans for getting the shower I really need by now. My options are limited. I can take a cold shower. I can take a cold bath. I can nuke a washcloth in the microwave and take a bird bath. I can go to a friend’s house for a hot shower. The final option is sounding really good.
There’s a knock at the door.
Enter Lloyd Callison. He’s grown a beard since I saw him last and at first I didn’t know him. He explains that he got my call, is going to be working at this regular job at Goodyear all day tomorrow (Saturday) and will take a look at my plumbing problem tonight. I tell him it’s under the house. He says no problem. I look up and say “Praise God.”
Exit Lloyd. Exit Liz. To the crawl space under the back porch. It is pitch dark now. We shimmy under the house with our two flashlights. He goes first.
In a manner of minutes Lloyd identifies a sag in the pvc pipe that leads to the hot water heater, and it’s obvious that a long strip is split from water puddling in the sag. It looks like a good ten feet will have to be replaced. I start to worry about how much this might cost, but he is also saying that this will be an easy fix. “I do need to go to the hardware store for some supplies,” he says. I look at him blankly. The one hardware store in Clinton has been closed since 5 this afternoon. “Isn’t it closed?” I ask lamely. “Not if you have the key,” he says. Exit Lloyd.
The hardware store is not across the street, but it’s only a block away, in the heart of downtown Clinton. About fifteen minutes pass. I close the door to the back porch and stand there. I am too dirty to go into the kitchen.
Enter Lloyd. he returns carrying two lengths of pipe, some cement, and a new fill valve for the toilet, which I also discovered was leaking. We inch back under the house and I have my flashlight again. I try to light the crawl space without shining him in the eyes. He tries to angle the new length of pipe in place. In a matter of minutes, he’s crawling out backwards, so I have to crawl out backwards too. On the way we are gathering up cement cans, extra pipe, and tools. He comes in and I write him a check for what he says I owe him and then some. He tells me to go to the hardware store tomorrow and pay for the materials. And to call him next week if I need anything. I tell him I doubt if it will be that long. Exit Lloyd.
I take off my hiking boots and leave them at the back door. In the kitchen I peel off another couple of layers, thinking that I will have to sweep the floor already from all the under-house dirt I’ve brought in. I go to the living room and look at the black television screen (it’s not hooked up) and eat some cereal and yogurt while I wait for the hot water heater to work its magic. I could read or play Mom’s piano to pass the time but finally I opt to just do nothing. After a while I test the water in the shower. It’s steaming, so hot I can barely stand it. Close curtain.