Water can’t scream, but Jolie sure could. “Help, help. I need help now!” rose in a screech from the kitchen, unnerving as I was putting final touches on a manuscript, calming hang drum music playing, and jasmine incense smoking in my loft retreat.
“Oh, no,” I thought, “Jolie broke her promise for no more do-it-yourself home improvements, at least during the pandemic.”
The plumber had, just before the shutdown, installed a swan neck kitchen faucet in minutes, mumbling that shut-off valves and drain pipes would have to eventually be replaced. I asked if he could do it now, but he scribbled off the invoice with the cost more than the price of the installation, and was out the door with “It can wait.” I couldn’t take my eyes off his pants hanging so low I could see the asscrack I’d been averting my eyes from during work. Even my complaint about weak cold water flow was met with what I had heard from technicians servicing the refrigerator for freezing vegetables in the crisper drawer and the stove for cloudy streaks inside the range’s oven glass—design flaw.
Jolie, unable to hit the tennis courts during the shutdown, and who conquered cabin fever with what she dubbed her D.I.Y. Pandemic Projects, started in on the shut-off valve, planning to adjust the flow and then do a quick fix on a leaky trap with pipe dope and tape. That plan turned into an I Love Lucy moment, rivaling even the iconic “Lucy and Viv Put in a Shower” scene.
I ran downstairs to the kitchen, a sheaf of paper falling from my hands as I slipped on the slick floor where Jolie, surrounded by sopping wet paper towels, was splayed out, a human sponge of hair and clothing, water gushing like a fire hydrant cranked open on a summer day. But this was no childlike venture.
I darted to the neighbor Dan, a contractor by trade, banged on his door screaming “Flood, flood” with the urgency someone might for fire, just as he and Luanne, the condominium’s home owner association president, were walking up in masks with bags of food from the local market.
In no time, Luanne and I were in the garage storage room turning off a remotely placed whole house valve, she communicating with Dan with the gusto any rescue operation might require by walkie-talkie she’d used rock climbing once with Jolie and her Sierra Club group.
Arms bundled with rolls of blue shop and plush bath towels alike, we all sopped up water finally halted on its trajectory through walls down to the bath and bedroom floors of the condo. After emptying a wet vac, again and again, we headed onto the patio and slumped into the vintage motel chairs Jolie had refurbished the week before without a hitch. Giddy with exhaustion and basil lime gimlets I pulled from the freezer, we burst into laughter, begging Jolie to swear off any more D.I.Y.’s.
Her response was unexpected, “Hey, you know what? The sink’s floorboard buckled from the flooding. I know I can easily pound that out!”
Our jaws dropped and shaking our heads Dan, Luanne, and I let out slow groans.
Jolie snickered and said: “Be grateful it wasn’t electric!” Then fixing her gaze on me added: “Get over it—at least it’s a little something for your writing.”
Andrena Zawinski’s debut collection of flash fiction, Plumes and Other Flights of Fancy, and fourth full-length collection of poetry, Born Under the Influence, were released in 2022. She hails from Pittsburgh, PA but makes her home in the San Francisco Bay Area.