Plumber’s Helper

We slept until noon. Around three, Sylvie left to register for her conference at some humongous hotel on the bay. After registration and check-in there would be meet and greet meetings followed by an opening night banquet, speeches and entertainment, closing with some notorious keynote speaker with a wishful thinking slide show on passion, motivation, and sports. But Sylvie would be back at the bungalow for the night. She would not be sleeping at the hotel. I walked around the bungalow and yard, checking out the details, sipping a late afternoon coffee, feeling lazy and easy going. Our neighbors to the east were noisily going in and out of their place, filling a small dumpster out front with trash from their house. I wandered over to say hello. Josh and Margo were co-presidents of a service fraternity, and they’d leased the house for a week of meetings and parties in sync with the fall semesters starting up. The clean-up was almost over, and they were vacating the place as soon as they got it inspected and got their security and cleaning deposits back. Meantime, did I know anything about plumbing? One of their toilets was backed up. I found a plumber’s helper and a drain snake in the garage and went to work. Apparently they don’t teach you in college not to flush a bikini down a toilet, I said. Or an empty beer can. Margo looked distraught. Josh said he’d not taken Plumbing 101 yet. I plunged the second toilet for good measure. When I asked Josh what he was studying he said he’d soon be finished with a business degree in marketing and planned to pursue an MBA. His goal was to amass as much capital as he possibly could over the next ten years then sit back on his laurels and surf. He was planning a startup that would amass capital for the express purpose of funding other startups. Right, Margo joshed him, it will take you the next ten years just to pay off your student loans. Margo was studying forensic science. Maybe you should both consider a plumbing start-up, I suggested, and left them to their clean-up, studies, and careers.

“Plumber’s Helper” is episode 62 of Inventories, a Novel in Progress in Serial Format at The Coming of the Toads.

Big Dogs in Tall Grass

On the beach at Refugio we walked under palms through sea grass
Small waves rolling off the point from curlers coiled and we’re
Young and unafraid holding our long boards against our hips and in
Summer surfers with yellow and green bangs and those days only a few dogs
Peopled the campground under the fat wide palms big
Umbrellas shading the old watermen drinking cool beers out of tall

Cans telling stories of how in their days the waves were really tall
Paddling out beyond the kelp beds and diving through the ocean grass
Holding their breaths under water scraping off the rocks big
Abalone shells for eating on the beach around the evening fire we’re
Stoking in a giant hole near the high tide mark with dogs
Down the beach running after gulls swooping low and in

The water the dogs paddle into the shallows after the gulls in
The shore pound the old stories go out with the tide before the big tall
Pensheet dogs with designer stories of virtual waves but these dogs
Don’t see the sun also rising setting fire to the grass
We don’t need your tall tales we are a big dog generation we’re
Never going to passeth away we’re just that big

The pensheet dogs they said were high class the dogs were really big
Went to the finest schools in the prairie grass land in
With the in crowds in with the big dog push the big dogs were
All witty wealthy healthy hardly weathered at all and tall
And ran through the tallest grass
But didn’t notice on their tail trailing the three headed dog

Bidding them sign a yellow dog
Contract
and sign it they did the big
Dog generation in the tall grass
Trying to avoid passing away in
Dog dress posed in ties tall
And dog weary of putting on the dog were

Bone tired and dogged they were
Now in the dog days of their runs as big dogs
Woofing at their virtual waves barking tall
In the overhead grass under a big
Ocean prairie sky panting and drooling in
The tall dry smoky grass.

Who listens to this doggerel we’re wishing still big
And long swells to the lucky dogs under running laughter in
The whirling wind through the tall sea grass!