When she's right, she's right
Each morning, Mrs. Keating chose her wigs according to how she was feeling that day. At 95 and with no signs of slowing down, she could choose the color or style she wanted. Who was going to say anything, and if they did, so what?
She was still in good standing with the television studio she worked at as a hair stylist for 40 years and it gave her access to many styles or colors.
Today, Rich the maintenance man was coming to fix her clogged drain, so when he knocked on her door at 2:15, she invited him in and offered him coffee. The maintenance people never took her up on her offers for beverages. She reasoned it was policy not to accept.
Rich wheeled his tool cart in and spoke with her about her maintenance issues.
Not wanting to burden the maintenance people, she clustered her maintenance problems together so they could be fixed all at once. Maintenance told her about how the problem worsened the longer she waited, but she ignored their pleas.
The first of her issues was a leaking pipe under her sink. After Rich cleaned out all of the plastic grocery bags and sink cleansers from underneath the sink, he surveyed the leak with a flashlight.
“So, Rich, can you fix this? I need this sink, you know. I’ve had to wipe up water every single time I turn the water on.”
“How long has this been leaking, Mrs. K?”
“Three months now.”
“Three months? What took you so long in calling us? It would have saved you a whole bunch of grief and cleanup if you called us right away.”
“I know, you guys tell me that all the time,’ Mrs. Keating said, “But I just don’t wanna bother you guys. You seem like you’re always swamped and overworked. At 50 bucks every time you knock on my door, I have to limit my calls.”
“Ah, that’s the real issue, isn’t it? Mrs. K., our concern is that you get your pipes fixed before it becomes a bigger problem. One of these days something will happen and you’ll flood your apartment plus several apartments below because of a simple clog you neglected.”
“Right and you tell me that every time I call you. Next time I promise I’ll call you as soon as I clean up my first mess.”
“Now we’re getting somewhere, Mrs. K., You’re never too old to learn.”
“Hey buster, you keep making wise cracks about my age and I’ll talk to management about them hiring mere babies for their maintenance staff.”
“Ouch. Mrs. K., that’s cold. You know I’m only playing.”
“And you know I’m totally serious.”
“Yes, I do know that.”
Rich grabbed three wrenches from his cart and ducked his head under the sink near the pipes. He got out his flashlight and then tapped one of the pipes with a wrench.
“That’s not gonna work, Rich,” Mrs. Keating said from the living room.
“I’m the professional here, Ma’am,” Rich yelled. “Leave the pipe maintenance to me.”
He tapped the pipe again.
“That’s not gonna work,” she said again.
He tapped the pipe a third time and the pipe burst wide open.
“What? What? What’s the matter?” Mrs. Keating asked.
“Nothing. Under control.”
But he was lying.
Hot water sprayed out with the force of a mini-hydrant. Getting up to grab a rag from his cart, Rich slammed his forehead on the inside of the sink cabinet. He didn’t have time to mourn the pain to his head as the hot water continued to pour out on the cabinet floor and now onto the kitchen floor.
For three minutes, sheer pandemonium filled Mrs. Keating’s apartment.
He was screaming.
She was screaming.
Water covered the kitchen floor. Rich slipped once and caught himself.
After Rich turned off the water supply and mopped up the mess he made. He changed the pipe and began putting his tools away.
“Mrs. Keating,” he said, “I am so…”
“Don’t say another word. I haven’t had this much excitement since my toilet overflowed. I think you were helping me fix that too, were you not?”
“And I’m not one to say, ‘I told you so’ but I just knew that wasn’t going to work, you banging on that pipe like that.”
As Rich reached for the door handle to see himself out, Mrs. Keating said, I’ll keep this a secret between you and me, that is, if you quit nagging me about fixing things early.”
Rich smiled and said, “I like that deal. Agreed. Now, did you have any other issues you needed me to address today?”
“What do YOU think, Rich?”
“Right. See you next plumbing problem, Mrs. K.”
Thanks for reading Three Minute Fiction! Subscribe for free to receive new posts and support my work.