The plumber arrived just in time.
“Thank goodness you guys come on weekends,” the woman of the house led him to the only bathroom. “It’s an almost-disaster in there.”
“I’ve seen nearly everything in this business, ma’am,” he went past her into the room. “Not much surprises – OH MY WORD!”
He faced a pristine toilet.
“This is worse than I feared!”
“But I haven’t shown you – ”
“Nope!” He held up a hand. “I can tell by its calm façade that this commode is hiding an abomination.”
“You can tell just by looking at it?”
“It’s always the clean, serene-appearing ones that mask the horrors.” He knelt down in front of the toilet and put his ear next to the bowl.
“Are you listening for leaks?”
“Ssh: the plumbing’s speaking to me.”
“Ohhhh….” She didn’t quite know how to take that.
He listened in a few more places, then stood and took the lid off the tank and gasped.
“Have you put chemicals in here?!”
“Well, yes, it was rather dirty.”
“Never put chemicals in the tank ever again! Swear it!”
“I – I swear – ”
“Good.” He replaced the lid and lifted the seat. Shuddering slightly, he turned to the homeowner.
“I have to go out to the truck for a second. I need – The Snake.”
“Oh my, has it really come to that?”
“It happens to the best of us, ma’am.”
He retrieved The Snake from his truck that was blocking her driveway and marched back into the house, stiffening his spine and girding his loins for the ordeal that lay ahead. The homeowner was still standing in the bathroom, staring confusedly yet sadly at the porcelain throne that had betrayed her.
“Ma’am?” She turned to him. “It’s better if you’re not here to see this. Things are about to get ugly.”
“Of course. Do what you must.” She left.
The battle raged for over an hour; there were heroes on both sides, and the losses were many. When it was all over, the plumber emerged and went to the kitchen, where the homeowner was checking her e-mail.
“Well?” She asked, taking in his disheveled clothes and shaking hands.
“I did all I could to save it,” he said, his voice cracking, “but I have been… defeated.” He could barely choke out that last word in his humiliation. “I’m going to have to install a brand-new toilet.”
“I understand,” she said, bravely.
“And new pipes.”
“If that’s what it takes.” She was wavering.
“And it’ll have to be done in a separate visit.”
“Confound it, man!” She exploded at last; he took a step back. “That toilet is needed today, do you hear me?! Make it happen!”
He blinked, pulled out his phone, and contacted headquarters. “Cancel the rest of my appointments for the day – this is war.”
He sprang into action and somehow had the entire installation completed by the end of the night, and that included a trip to the local home goods store to purchase a new toilet. It was a feat never-before accomplished and never to be duplicated. When it was all over, the homeowner awarded the plumber with a lovely check in exchange for a detailed invoice, and they parted as comrades-in-arms leaving the battlefield. It was a sweet victory indeed, now that the thing could be flushed without fear for the first time in days.
The plumber drove his mighty chariot off into the night, with the satisfaction of a job well done and the feeling that he would never truly be clean again.