Come and Get Me
Katie’s elderly aunt slept in the sun while her dad recited Red Fox punchlines, trying but failing to keep his voice down, although the remainder of the partygoers, resentfully sober 7th Day Adventists, retreated from the heat into the house where a gray bearded man in rainbow suspenders twisted up a miniature zoo of balloon animals. I couldn’t tell if it was the beer, the sun, or the air of religious judgment, but I began to feel dizzy. I tasted metal. There was a buzzing in my ear and my head felt like it was full of cotton. I caught a whiff of hot maple syrup, then putrefying garbage, both from an unknown source. Katie’s dad’s topic of conversation shifted from Red Fox to Rudy Ray Moore. I excused myself from the table. I opened the sliding glass door and was hit in the face with a delicious gust of cool, dry air, as well as a burst of excited voices. Sitting cross-legged in a semi-circle, children squealed in delight as the balloon man manipulated his cache of multi-colored latex, while the adults focused on gossip. I located the bathroom, closed and locked the door, and splashed cold water on my face and neck. I rinsed my mouth with water from the bathroom faucet. I could hear the screams and laughter and electricity of the party on the other side of the door. I didn’t want to go back out there to all of those faces and mouths and teeth, all of those ears and eyes. I flicked off the light, sat with my back to the AC vent, and decided to take a nap. If they wanted me, they would have to come and get me.
Katie said if they made an action figure of me it would come with a toilet auger, like how the Toxic Avenger came packaged with his mop, and this filled me with great pride. I had only purchased the toilet auger the day before, in an attempt to avoid hiring a plumber to simply unclog our toilet, but it’s sturdy red handles felt so natural in my grip, and I felt a tremendous sense of satisfaction as I snaked the metal coil into the unseen depths of the brimming toilet, penetrated the soft blockage (as the auger directions called it), and flushed. “Best $30 we ever spent,” I beamed, and thought maybe I entered the wrong line of work. I loved being a librarian and all, but was there anything as purely satisfying as unclogging a toilet? I mean, it was too late to actually become a licensed plumber, but maybe I could just unclog toilets on the side, me and my trusty auger. It was something I had done for previous jobs, whether or not it was my primary responsibility. When I worked at McDonald’s, when I was a dishwasher at Baker’s Square, even when I managed a Family Video. Many times, I had been paid to unclog toilets. I was good at it, too, with years of hands-on experience, and many of my coworkers would simply refuse to do it. So how much could I make, unclogging toilets for $10 or $20 a pop? I had even recently dreamed about unclogging a toilet. In this dream, I had driven to Wisconsin, to visit my family for the first time in over a year and ended up at a friend’s apartment instead. He was sick, weak, in recovery, and he needed my help unclogging his toilet, so after I gave him a belated birthday present of a 1989 Donruss Ken Griffey Jr. Rated Rookie card, I began to ineffectually plunge away while he watched in disapproval. If I had only had my toilet auger with me, I now thought, lucid and awake, I would’ve cut through that muddy clog in an instant, but this dream took place weeks before we made the purchase, and so I was unsuited for the job, with just a pathetic toilet plunger in hand.