They call her The Beast. Or rather, the boss man calls her that. Late to the lunch meeting, she brought it on herself, the brutal gossiping before her arrival. Thick as a tree with a fat laugh and red face, the boss man leans in his chair to see across the restaurant. He is fond of throwing paper into people's drinks and slapping the wall as he passes by offices occupied by women, slapping hard on the wall or door to hear them shriek.
"I don't see no chairs skidding across the floor, being knocked about by her big hips." he said.
One learns to not be late to meetings.
The Beast likes things done in certain ways. It's been instilled in her that rough tones bring better reaction, quicker response - and she's right. Small face. Eyes cloistered in wrinkles. Parenthetical hips. (Boss Man is right about those - I wrote the detail in my notebook.) She looks at people through the rectangle glasses at the end of her nose, tilting her head back, always threatening to do this and that. Anger seeps from her pores. Papers clutter her desk. White boards scrawled with red, black, and blue letters, graphs, rules and flowcharts for how she envisions the departmental flow, some names marked with a double !!, only one with a star. Amazing how anything can get done without her influence and guidance. We hear that, those of us within earshot. No one works as hard as she and no one, no one understands. I have the office next to hers and occasionally I'll hear her in there, crying softly over the soft rock she plays on the radio.
She shows up finally. Chairs shift, bodies straighten. A pall blows into the room.
Three pimples sprouted on our waitress's left cheek. She takes the orders. Chicken fried steak for me. 14 units of Novolog. Maybe it'll cover it. I take the insulin in front of everyone, so they'll turn their eyes and not look at me. It makes the room lighter.
Teeth clinking against glass. Boring language, mundane topics. Explosive laughter at the right spots. Forks clatter, scrape gravy from plates. Tea glasses sweat.
Had to leave early. "Plumber coming," I explained. Grabbed my tester and notebook, thank Boss Man for lunch, and politely ask them to hold off their gossip till I leave. Soft laughter. Scoring some points.
Supposed to be there at 2:00, the plumber showed up at 5:30. I opened the door and he stood there with his hand on his son's shoulder. Son!
"So you got a leak somewhere's?" he asked.
His son is standing there, knees pressed together, both hands clutched over his groin.
"He need to go to the bathroom?" I ask.
Of course he does. He's 6, thereabouts. I show him the way and tell my son to go grab his lightsabers. The plumber and I go out.
There's a male moment where we both stand with our hands on hips and he allows me to explain the situation, nodding his head like I have something worthy to contribute. His eyes are yearning for a beer, a hamburger, an end to cracked PVC. I explain the split seam in the PVC elbow, how I think it's the ball valve in the main feed line is leaking as well, get to feel manly with that language flowing out of me.
"3 to 4 hours most likely." He squishes his boot into the mud. "But this looks like it'll dig up easy, but you never know. Yesterday I ended up at a job where the first three inches came up like pudding and the rest was solid rock. So you never know. I can schedule you maybe Friday - if not then, Monday. 85 an hour."
I told him to call me then, when he can confirm the schedule, mentioning that I'd already taken the entire afternoon off for today. He doesn't notice the words. Like The Beast, only he works hard.
So, we still have a leak and our ground will continue to rot for another few days while I initiate each day and conclude each night by plunging my hand into that muddy water to crank the valve.