The Plumber

by James Tate

         When the plumber arrived to fix the water-
heater he eyed me with considerable suspicion. I
told him how grateful I was that he had come
and he actually growled at me. I asked him if
I could get him something to drink and he said,
“I don’t want your stinking water.” I pointed
him to the basement door and he spat at me
saying, “What, do you think I’m an idiot?” Then
I heard pounding and cursing from the basement
for the next forty-five minutes. I considered
calling the police, but knew they wouldn’t
believe me. I considered getting in my car and
just getting the hell out of there. As he came
up the steps I could hear him whimpering, actual-
ly sobbing. He opened the door and threw his
arms around me. “I can’t fix it!” he said. “I’m
a terrible plumber!” I held him in my arms and
we rocked back and forth with me gently patting
him on the back. A little while after he was
able to leave, his wife called to ask if he was
alright. I said that he was just fine and she
thanked me very sweetly.