Dave the Plumber

Dave the Plumber by Barbara Holm

Dave the plumber stood in the stranger’s bathroom, staring into the depths of the toilet, trying to imagine them, the food they ate, their favorite movies. He smiled shyly to himself as he dusted off the counter, wiping two long stray hairs into his palm. The hair was wiry and black and long, moist with tap water. He reached into his tool box and got out a ziplock baggie and sealed the hairs up and nestled the ziplock back in his tool box with several other identical baggies.

On his walk home from work Dave stopped by Sandy’s Deli. He kept his eyes on the green and white tialed floor, letting familiarity guide him to the counter. Shyly, he looked up at the girl. She had brownish blonde hair that was in a greasy ponytail. Her pores were large and had bits of dirt collected in them.

“Hey, Dave, how is it going?”
“Ugghhh,” he mumbled.
“The usual sandwich?”
“How’s work?”

She handed him a paperbag with a smile that he ignored. He handed her the money and turned to go.

“M-M-My name is Deena,” she said.

Dave turned back and looked at her. They made eye contact and then she hurriedly dropped his gaze and began picking up and then putting down various sandwich ingredients and utensils. Dave pocketed the brown paper bag and left the deli that he had come to every day for several years.

Outside on his walk home, Dave felt anonymous and simultaneously one with everything. He took his sandwich out of his pocket and began to eat it. It reminded him of the sandwich his mom made him when he was a sick child. It was the taste of absolute peace and comfort in being yourself, and yourself alone. Dave walked past streetlamps flickering on as night took over the quiet town.

The next day at work Dave was plunging away at a stranger’s toilet when he felt some resistence. He shifted his weight against the plunger and began pushing and pulling harder and harder. He had something large and heavy on the end of it. He yanked hard upwards, plunging up a tuft of human hair, followed by a human head, followed by a surprised human being body.

“Hey,” said the gentleman, shaking toilet water off his clothes.
“Hello?” said Dave in a quavering voice.
“My name is Steve and I am a sandwich maker.”
“From the toilet?”
“What are you doing in the toilet?”
“Making sandwiches. Do you want one?”
“Yeah… actually… can I have a reuben?”
“May you?”

Steve the sandwich maker made Dave a sandwich that was more delicious than any sandwich he had ever tasted. Dave took Steve home with him and made him a tiny bed in his apartment where Steve was happy to reside, away from the stench of toilet land, and subsequently made Dave several sandwiches a day. Dave was very happy and well fed and his days got brighter and brighter and he began to love his job and his life and for once actually feel good about himself.

One day Dave was sitting on top of a park picnic table after a shitty day of work, enjoying a particularly nice sandwich while reading a book when a girl in a pink coat with long greasy brownish blonde hair walked toward him through the park. She kept her eyes on the ground a few feet in front of her and approached him, standing a few feet from him. She didn’t say anything and then after a moment sighed.

“Hello,” said Dave.
“Hey,” said Deena.
Dave went back to eating his sandwich.
“Dave, you… where have you…. um,” she said.
“It’s me, Deena! From the sandwich shop!”
“I know.”
“Well, you look… well…” She shifted her weight from foot to foot and messed up the back of her hair with her hand.
“Thanks,” Dave said. “I feel well.”
“You, just, stopped coming into Sandy’s, without any word, no goodbye.”
“I have to say goodbye to the sandwhich shop?”
“You came in for three years every day! How could you leave without saying goodbye?” Deena looked down, tears welling on her cheeks.
“Well, I don’t… need you anymore,” Dave said, befuddled.
“You don’t need me?”
“Not you specifically. But, I met this guy in a toilet, right, who makes the best sandwiches in the world!”
“The best sand…?” Deena muttered trailing off. “Better than the ones I made you?”
“Yep, here have a bite,” Dave handed her his sandwich.
Deena took the sandwich in her hands and looked at it and looked back at him in disgust.
“I can’t believe you would say that. Sandwich making has been… my life. I built my identity around it. You know, I was happy. I liked my job and I liked… you. Then you had to come around and plunge away at my feelings! And, let me tell you this, there is no way that feeling of betrayal could taste half as good as the sandwiches I make!” Deena took a bite of the sandwich. “Holy shit…” she said softly to herself. She slowly ate the whole thing in silence, relishing every bite, and then turned her gaze back up to Dave.

The park grew darker and rain began to pour down on them. Deena stood, getting sopping wet in her pink coat, staring at Dave. Crumbs dribbled down her chin and mustard stained her hair. She rocked back and forth on her heals and tilted her head up, allowing the rain to wash onto her face, careening in rivers and pools around her sunken eyes and bony cheekbones. Leaving her in the growing damp darkness, Dave quietly packed up his tool box, pocketed the book he was reading and walked home.

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