an original short story
This is a work of fiction. The characters in no way represent any real person(s), living or dead .
On a sweltering June afternoon in 1977, Mrs. Madge Anderson was sat in her husband's favorite chair. It was a faux leather super-deluxe reclining lounger—the one he'd rescued from the rubbish, after the old spinster upstairs, Mrs. Signatorie had passed on. Her relations were disinclined to keep it, along with sundry other items they'd suddenly inherited and reluctantly came to clear away.
Madge got a the woman's toaster, a brass umbrella stand, a chipped Hummel figurine and a posh fox fur stole out of it. Mrs. Wurststein from apartment 3-B downstairs had quickly beat her to the nearly new ten-speed blender and the expensive beauty salon style hair dryer. Madge was still quite put out by that, and though nearly a whole year had gone by, she still wasn't speaking to the old bat.
The chair was comfortable. George had gotten the best of the whole lot, Madge had to begrudgingly admit. She sank her amble bottom down further into the alligator green Naugahyde. She took a sip of iced tea from the glass on the battered old end table next to the chair. Madge knew her husband, George, wouldn't be pleased with her presence in what he considered his sole domain. For the moment though, he was away at work and she could do what she pleased in her own home. Thank god for that, she thought. Heaven knows how she would cope when George retired in a few years.
Sitting with only her floral-patterned cotton housecoat and a pair of slippers on, Madge tried to ignore the heat. An early heat wave had hit the city, and it was ninety degrees in the shade. What little shade there was to be had in the city, that is. There two electric fans blowing hot air on her. They cooled the sweat on her brow, but did little to relieve the stifling atmosphere inside their small Brooklyn flat.
Madge was presently engrossed in a steamy paperback romance. The colorful cover of which featured a handsome, exceptionally fit young man. He was wearing nothing but a red plaid kilt and a sword. His muscular arms were wrapped around a swooning blond girl in long blue petticoats. Madge glanced at the young woman on the cover and sniffed in derision. She decided that if a man built like that decided to have his way with her, the last thing she'd be doing, was to be unconscious.
Licking her lips and squirming with anticipation, Madge eagerly flipped the page, as the randy Scotsman unfastened his kilt and she was about to be given an accurate description of the size and state of his turgid...the telephone on the kitchen wall rang shrilly.
Letting out a dramatic martyred sigh, Madge put the book down and heaved herself out of the chair. But not without some difficulty. The chair gave a sickly sucking sound, as her sweaty, beefy thighs momentarily clung to the faux leather. The phone continued to ring as she made her way into the blistering hot kitchen. Madge reached up and yanked the phone off its hook, muttering, with a slight whine in her voice, "This had bettah be good!"
Plopping herself down on a chair nearest the open window, she propped one elbow on the stained surface of the wooden kitchen table. Sighing a third time, Madge cradled the beige phone handset next to her ear, between her chin and shoulder. With her free hand, she wiped the sweat from her brow.
"Hello?" She said, still somewhat annoyed.
"Hi Madge, it's Dorothy." Came a loud, high-pitched, late middle aged woman's voice down the other end of the line. "Just givin' ya' a jingle ta' see how ya' liked that book I lent you. Don't forget. It's due back at the library on Monday. Ya' gotta' get it to me by the end of the weekend."
"I'm nearly finished with the book, Dorothy." Madge told her. "You were right. It's very dirty!" She smiled, fanning her face as if she had a sudden hot flush. "It's even bettah than my favorite soap, you know the one, Lives of Our Restless Hospital."
"Oh yeah, I used to watch that show! Never missed an episode." Dorothy agreed. "I don't bother with it any more, though."
"Why's that?" Madge asked, wondering how anyone could possibly not like Restless Hospital. Not with a dreamboat star like the dark and handsome Addison Leanders on it.
"Meh. Not enough sex for my taste. But give those censors another twenty or thirty years to kick the bucket, and maybe the three TV networks will smarten up and show the boys with a little full frontal nudity. Now that would be somethin' worth waiting for!"
Madge snorted in agreement. She reached over and pulled a paper napkin from the plastic rooster shaped napkin holder in the middle of the kitchen table, and used it to wipe the sweat from her head and neck.
."You know Dorothy, I never thought it was right that the movies ain't got no issues with showing women's breasts." Madge rolled her eyes at the water-stained fly-specked ceiling. "Everywhere you look on screen these days, it's tittie city! But, do they ever show us women a man's juicy bits? Not a once!. I'm tellin' ya', it just ain't fair! The men get an eyeful, while we women still have ta' stare at bulging crotches, and use our imaginations."
"Yeah, I hear ya' Madge. Maybe this newfangled cable television I been hearin' about will be different. Up to forty channels you get, so they say. Imagine that! No censor's either. They'll be able to broadcast whatever they want. Sex, swearin', violence. Whateva'. Wouldn't that be somethin'? Twenty, thirty, years from now, we won't have ta' use our imaginations anymore."
"We live in hope!" Madge heartily agreed. "Shame is, by the time they get 'round to it, we'll be in our seventies or eighties. We'll probably sleep though the whole damn thing."
Suddenly, loud screaming came wafting through the open window from the steamy pavements down below.
"Hang on a minute, Dorothy." Madge said, as she leaned over to look out the window and see what was happening.
Someone had turned on the fire hydrant on the curb. Clustered around it, a bevy of children had gathered to cool off under the spouting stream of water. Their shrieks and laughter grew as more kids came to join them.
"Hey!" Madge shouted out the window. "You kids be quiet down there! A person can't hear herself think!" She groaned in disgust, as the noise only seemed to increase.
"What's goin' on?" Dorothy inquired.
"Ah, some idiot opened the hydrant down there. God, I'm glad the boys are all grown and out of the house. I forgot what a racket kids can raise. Won't have any peace and quiet around here now, for the rest of the evening. And I just got to the really good part in the book, damn it all."
"Ooh, I think I know what you mean. The part where McDonald finally gets it on with that girl he found wandering lost in the glen?" Dorothy asked excitedly.
"No, that was chapter four. Jeez, I had to go and take a cold bath after reading that bit. This is the part where he's finally rescued his lost love, Lady Geneva.. The one who was kidnapped by Lord Guy. I'm tellin' ya' Dorothy, if I had a man like that fella', I'd definitely be livin' happily ever afta'. George, he ain't never been no fun in bed. His idea of foreplay is to turn off the TV set. Then it's five minutes of playin' hide the salami and it's time for a cigarette."
Wishing she had a cigarette, Madge spared a quick glance at the yellow plastic daisy which was the kitchen clock. It was hanging on the wall above the kitchen table. She was dying for a smoke. Madge fervently hoped that George had remembered to buy her a pack of Virginia Slim's on his way home. Last time, the jerk had spent the dollar she gave him for it, on a beer at Tony's Tavern.
Dorothy clucked her tongue, bringing Madge back into the present. "Oh come on, sweetie. Don't exaggerate. He can't be that bad, Madge."
"Huh! I get more sexual satisfaction from one of these romance novels. When it comes to sex with my husband, I might just as well be dry dockin' one of Macy's shop window dummies." Madge shook her head in disgust.
Out in the living room, Madge abruptly heard loud whistling coming from the hallway outside their front door. "Eh, great. Speaking of dummies, I think my lord and master is home. I have to go now, Dorothy. I'll call ya' tomorrah' some time. That OK?" Dorothy assented. "Bye."
Getting up to hang up the phone, Dorothy threw the now sweat soaked paper napkin in the trash bin. Pausing for only a second, she looked up at the ceiling. "You know, I ain't into believing in the power of prayer, magic genies or pixie dust. I reckon it's all a load of crap. But if there's anythin' I'd ever want for myself, it's that somebody'd come and replace my George with someone like that Scottish guy in the book"
She did a quick check of the cramped, somewhat untidy kitchen. A saucepan of spaghetti bolognese sauce was sat on the stove, slowly simmering away. Moving over to the counter, she reached up into the upper cupboard, and pulled out a box of spaghetti. A big pot of water was sat on the stove next to the sauce, and Madge turned on the gas fire underneath it, to bring it to a boil.
As she heard the front door open, she pulled open the fridge door and yanked out a can of beer and quickly poured it into a tall glass. The foaming white head rose up over the golden liquid beneath it, and spilled over the rim of the glass. It left a ring of smelly fluid on the counter top. Madge ignored it. She figured that she could mop it up later, when she came back in to the kitchen to cook the pasta. As she turned her back, a cockroach scampered over to the spill. A few minutes later, it would slowly crawl away in a zig-zag pattern.
As Madge moved into the living room, George was standing by the door, newspaper under his arm, mopping his sweaty face with a soiled white handkerchief. If Madge was fat, George was stick thin. He was a couple of years younger than she, and had dark hair only just beginning to gray at the temples. He was wearing his green work coveralls, bearing his first name in red stitching on the left side of the chest. The other side had a patch sown on it, with the logo of the machine tool company where he worked.
"The king is home!" He announced in his broad native Brooklyn accent, grinning as Madge handed him his cold beer.
"Welcome home, yer majesty." Madge responded flatly, giving a mock curtsy. "Oh, that reminds me. Yer' throne is backed up again, yer' highness."
Wincing, George took a sip of his beer. He looked at his wife owlishly.
"Ugh. Madge— got home and you gotta' spring this on..."
"Look, George. I called the plumber. He said he can't come until tomorrah. But hey, if ya' think ya' can hold it that long..." She retorted. "...though I'd go easy on the beer if I were you, your kingliness. It's eight blocks to the nearest public john, ya' know."
George nearly dropped his beer. He stared at her aghast, as if his wife had just imparted some truly dreadful news. Madge suddenly realized that the evidence of her use of George's personal chair was in plain sight. The glass of now ice-less tea was still sitting on the end table, and the paperback was on the chair's seat. If George knew she'd been sitting there...well, forget his anger over the toilet. He'd really blow his top if he saw that.
"What!" He gasped, horror-stricken. "A plumma'? You gonna' pay some jerk thirty-five bucks an hour just to un-stop a john? Are you outta' yer cotton-pickin' mind, woman?"
Slamming his paper down onto the coffee table in front of the sofa, George took a long gulp of beer. Belching loudly, he unbuttoned the top of his overalls. He was wearing only a sweat-stained sleeveless white cotton tee shirt underneath.
"Ain't no way some lousy con artist calling himself a plumma' is gonna' get thirty-five bucks from me." He muttered angrily. "Not for uncloggin' no stinkin' toilet! Jesus! I'll do it myself, for gawd's sake." George turned and headed towards the bathroom.
"I was afraid you'd say that." She sighed, crossing her arms and shaking her head sadly.
Turning around, George's eyes narrowed. "An' jus' whad'dya' mean by that crack?"
"Since we're talking about cracks, why don't we just pay a plumber to put in a new toilet, George?"
"He rounded on her. Getting right up into her face. "Have you lost your mind, Madge? Where's the money gonna' come from? In case you haven't noticed sweetcheeks, I'm not one of them hoity-toity big-wigs who lives in a big mansion out in the Hampton's. We ain't got the money to put in a new bathroom."
"We could use our vacation fund." Madge suggested hopefully. But her hopes were quickly dashed to bits.
I"m perfectly able to fix my own toilet. We don't need no help." He said stubbornly, hitching up his pants and heading determinedly towards the bathroom.
"George," she pleaded, quickly hiding the book and tea glass while his back was turned, "please, just promise me you'll only use the plunger. You won't fiddle with the pipes or anything this time, will you?"
Stopping cold, George stiffened and turned about to face her.
"Are youse implyin' that I don't know how ta' un-clog a lousy toilet?" He demanded angrily.
Madge merely crossed her arms and raised one eyebrow at him.
Waving his arm at her, George headed back towards the bathroom. Madge went to the kitchen get some lettuce and tomatoes for a salad from the fridge.
"Meh, I can fix that john in five minutes flat. You'll see." He hollered to her as he grabbed his tools from the bedroom closet.
"Five minutes, everything is five minutes with you..." Madge muttered to herself, going into the kitchen, "...jeez. If he's gonna' start messin' with the pipes, maybe I should forget the plumber and call a lifeguard."
"You say somethin' Madge?" He called out as he entered the bathroom.
She shouted, "I'm just rememberin' how ya' 'fixed' my kitchen sink last month, George."
"What'dya' mean? It works alright, don't it?" George shouted. This was followed by a loud clanking noise of metal on metal.
"Oh yeah." Madge snorted to herself. Then, shouted back at him, "Depends on what you consider working, George. Every time I do the dishes, there's a flood in the kitchen. I'm thinking of buyin' one a them toy biblical arks for the mice and roaches."
Suddenly, she heard George gave a startled cry. He cursed loudly. Without warning, there came a thundering noise from the bathroom. The whole flat trembled for a moment. Dishes rattled in the kitchen cupboards, and some of the pasta water splashed out of the pot and onto the stove. Madge stared at one of the rickety old wooden kitchen chairs, as it began shifting backwards. A few seconds later, everything went still again. As if nothing untoward had happened at all. The spaghetti was still boiling away, the kids outside continued to play under the hydrant. The kitchen clock ticked away with rhythmic regularity.
"George?" Madge called out, puzzled. "What in the name of hell was that? Felt like one a' them earthquakes. Like they get out in California. George? What's goin' on? I hope you didn't screw up the plumbing again. Last time you did that, Mrs. Epstein upstairs would've like to have drowned flushing her john. All 'cause you had to go and screw with the water flow...George?"
There was no answer. Then, there was the sound of the toilet flushing. Only it was louder. Much, much louder, than usual. And, it seemed to go on forever. When it stopped, there was utter silence. A completely unnatural silence. Like that of a closed tomb. The boiling water no longer made a bubbling noise. The fridge stopped humming. The kids down on the street had gone quiet. The kitchen clock had stopped.
Then, a heartbeat later, the clock began ticking again. The water boiled. The kid's laughter could be heard through the open window. The fridge clicked back on.
Madge hurried into the bathroom. "George?" She said, as she walked through the door. But, the bathroom was deserted. There wasn't a single sign of her husband. He wasn't there. Madge sighed in disgust. The toilet seat was up, and the tiled floor was covered with water. A wrench, a plunger and a pair of pliers lay on the floor near the sink.
"George? George? Where in the hell did ya' go? Are you in the bedroom?" she called, eying the disheveled state of the bathroom. "I hope yer not expectin' me to clean up this mess."
There was no answer. She checked the bedroom. He wasn't there, either. George seemed to have simply vanished. Just then, there came a loud knock on the front door. Sighing, she went to answer it. Madge opened the door, wondering if it was Mrs. Epstein complaining about her toilet again. Speechless, she simply stood there, staring up at the sight which greeted her, her mouth hanging open.
"I believe you are in need of a plumber, missus?" Came a young man's heavily accented voice.
Standing there in her doorway, was a tall, dark handsome Scotsman. And he was wearing nothing but a kilt and a tool belt.