Friday, September 20, 2013

water, water, neverywhere

The ol' MOG doesn't travel as much, these days. Used to be he'd take off for 2 or 3 weeks and I'd hold down the fort, but now he leaves for weekends here and there. One thing is the same, though: if the house is going to break or crime is to be committed, it will be while he is not in the same state. Fugitives running through the backyard, helicopters over my skylight? He must be out of town. So yesterday, he went to the airport, and within a couple of hours, I discovered that we had no running water.

You know when you're going to figure out the water is turned off? Not before you change the world's most violently hateful diaper. Oh no, it will be after. In that moment, listening to the faucet hiss, a faint memory comes to my mind, a memory of a water bill, sealed and "filed" on Richy's desk, in a pile of sealed bills. Maybe even a couple of water bills, I don't know. Obviously we are very responsible people. Or we are just people who pay our bills online and then forget to open the envelopes... It's a good thing I can't see your judgy face right now, because I would definitely act like I didn't notice and then hold it against you for like, an hour. Anyway, yes. We, mature and responsible adults, were now victims of the system.

As I was scrubbing my skin off with baby wipes, I got a call from R2's school. He was very upset and needed a ride home. I gathered my young, which took approximately 1000 years, and called the water company on the way. "Ma'am," the agent said semi-patiently, "you are never going to have running water again, unless you can bring 150000 golden doubloons and place them in the veeery center of the dragon's mouth." In the background, Tristan set up an impressive show of vocal force in requesting that I play "ba ba ba ba ba ba ann" immediately, and Toby and Brynn did not disappoint with their loud queries about how exactly one's water is cut off, and why and why didn't we just pay the bill and why couldn't we stop for McDonald's right now. I, being a responsible and involved parent, made many, many SHUT IT hand motions and also throat-cutting gestures. "How long will it take to turn on?" I asked, like a noob. "Weeeeellll," she said, "they could possibly turn it on when your youngest child becomes of marriageable age, but you'd have to get here before noon."

It was almost 11. The thing was, I didn't have enough problems, so I had to get some more. There wasn't enough money in the bank to pay the full amount. I had a check from the MOG that would more than cover it, but it wouldn't clear until the next day, if deposited. So I thought, hey, I'll cash it and then take my bounty to the mouth of the beast. Except it was in his name. So I wrote my name. But they said it was "altered" and I think I narrowly escaped imprisonment. I hope that you hear a steady soundtrack of crying and extremely loud personal questions in the background as you read this, and also Barbara Ann on repeat, because that's how it sounded. Only louder. The teller took pity on me and told me that I could probably fake out the ATM and get the money, so I did. Now if I ever get a meth addiction, Imma take that route and skip the whole altering-checks-scam.

I took my handfuls of filthy lucre and headed to the 1 of 2 places in this entire city to pay. As we piled out of the car, I noticed that all of my children looked like they had been recently cast in the Broadway production of "Annie" with the dirt smudges and greasy hair and mismatched shoes and R2 with his bruised head and survival gear. Right. I took all the ragamuffins inside, where a very nice police officer sat with them and learned every secret I ever had. And then it was paid and we celebrated with cheeseburgers, because the water was coming back.

Except it didn't. I called back at 2:45. "Ohhh," the agent said, "You have to report your payment to the troll at the drawbridge." "But, um," I try to say nicely, "Didn't I pay the troll directly? Is the troll's computer not connected to yours? Is there a secret manual for this kind of thing? And can I please haz water?" "The thing is," she told me, "that they quit at 4, and it is preeeeety close to 4." I talked to a supervisor about how close exactly 4 is to 2:45, and they said they'd put me on an emergency list and someone might come sometime. In the meantime, we had a steady stream of dialogue, the children and I, about all the ways we use water, including the toilets. Lot of discussion about the toilet.

We made a grocery run for about 45 minutes and missed the guy. "The CUSS?" I might have said, and called the agent again. "Oh yeah, she said, "You have to be there."It was at this point that Toby warned me to watch my language, very, very concerned about my use of "freaking".

"Because the water on switch is inside my house?" I asked. "Because of why? Can he come back?" "No, he can never, ever come back. You have passed the point of no return." But then they said maybe he'd come before midnight, or maybe not, because life, who knows? Life is what happens when you're making other plans, and we have to dance like nobody's watching, footprints in the sand, something like that.

And then a great thunderstorm came. Because of course it did. And of course the roof leaked. I had a pioneer idea: I will capture this indoor rain and flush the toilets! So I did, and also I filled up the bathtub using all of my tupperwares and the gutter spouts. And the water never came back on. And then we ran out of bottled water, because nothing makes a child thirstier than knowing there is a finite supply of water. So Tristan woke up at midnight and screamed for 20 minutes while I climbed under furniture and found discarded partial bottles and gave them to him.

Toby woke up at 2 am and drank a Coke and played video games, and I let him. I was dancing like nobody was watching, or sleeping, anyway.

Took one more phone call and a goat sacrifice on the highest point of my roof, but at 10 am the water came back on. Looks like somebody's living right, y'all.  Lordy.


  1. And here I thought it was just me. The SAME thing happens to us every time Dean leaves town. But, Jess, Oh. My. Word! Your story TAKES THE CAKE!

  2. So YOU'RE the one who got us that big thunderstorm - thanks, I love them!


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