BY MICHAEL JOLL
Copyright is held by the author.
SID RANG the doorbell and stood on the doorstep, listening to the hollow ring of the Westminster chimes echo through the house. He stamped his feet with impatience while he waited for someone to open the door. Jeez, it was cold, standing there without a cigarette for company. He stamped his feet again, this time in a futile attempt to force some blood down into his work boots. He waited a few more seconds and rang the doorbell again.
“Time is money, lady. My time, your money. You called, I answered. The least you could friggin’ do is answer your own friggin’ doorbell.” The grumble helped to calm the nerves frayed by denial of nicotine. The patch didn’t help. Not much, anyway. And his knees hurt. Plumbers’ knees. Arthritis, rheumatism, whatever. And the cold cut straight through his work pants and froze the joints, enough to make them ache but not enough to deaden the pain. He took a step back and glanced up at the house. Upscale. Seven figures minimum. What were you expecting? That’s all you got in Forest Hill.
The second peel of chimes had finished bouncing off the walls when a woman’s voice called out, “Who is it?”
“The plumber,” Sid replied. “You called half an hour ago. Said it was an emergency.”
“I’ll be right there,” she called out. He thought he could see her outline through the reeded glass panel beside the door, pale and wavy. “Give me a minute. I’ve got to get dressed first.”
Sid took a step back and glanced at his watch. 11:15 in the morning. He wondered who the hell was still not dressed at that time of day.
“I came right away, lady,” he called through the door. “You said it was an emergency. You gonna let me in or not?”
The pale wavy form approached the glass and stopped, close enough that Sid knew he was not mistaken. Shit, she really does need to get dressed.
“I said you’ll just have to wait a couple of minutes.” She sounded as impatient as he did. The figure behind the door disappeared.
“Jeez, lady,” Sid said, as much to himself as to the vanished customer behind the glass. “What kind of friggin’ emergency is it that you have to get dressed for anyway?” Call out, one hour labour minimum, parts, enough to pay the rent on the business premises sure, but he’d had to put off his regular clients by an hour to satisfy this one, and the clock was ticking on his temper.
A door slammed somewhere inside the house.
Claws clicked on the hardwood floor and slid to a stop behind the door. A snuffle. A low growl. Sid bent down and pushed open the brass slot covering the mail box in the front door. A black nose and bared teeth greeted him. He let go of the rectangle and took a step back.
“Shit. Just what I need. A friggin’ dog. Ugly, hairy, smelly thing breathing over me when I’ve got my head stuck under the bathroom wash basin or whatever.”
He stood up. His knees creaked in protest. He heard a crack from one and a plop from the other.
“Hey, lady,” he yelled in exasperation. “Hurry up, for Chrissake.” He waited a moment then bent over, hands on knees, panting. “Friggin’ knees,” he gasped. “Friggin’ back. This is a young man’s job.”
The door opened. Sid straightened slowly, taking in the view. Bare feet. Beautifully smooth bare shins, knees, diaphanous nylon, parted up the middle, covering her thighs. Not much else. His eyes almost popped out of their sockets. Blond. Drop. Dead. Gorgeous. Centrefold material. Playmate of the Year. Had to be. She wrapped the negligée loosely around her waist and over her breasts, not that it actually concealed what it covered. Sid was, for once, at a loss for words. Out of habit he glanced at her hands. Perfect nail lacquer. Red. And rings. Plenty of them. Expensive rings, one with a rock the size of Gibraltar on the important finger.
“You must be the plumber,” she said. “Come in.”
“You Mrs. Black?” he stammered. He figured it was a fair question. House maids don’t usually come to the front door dressed for bed and nothing under the negligée.
“Miss. You got it at the second try. You should go in for ‘Wheel of Fortune.’ Call me Jade. On account of my eyes. I called. What took you so long?”
Sid bit his tongue and practiced deep breathing exercises. She was the customer. She had the money. Be nice to her. But not too nice. He pushed his way past the large, hairy dog and dropped his tool box on the mat.
“Let me take your coat,” she said, releasing her hold on the two halves of her negligée. Sid turned his back while she pulled the wool jacket off his shoulders and held it against her chest.
“What’s his name?”
“Sid,” she said.
“I said ‘yes’. You asked me a question. I replied. What did you want to tell me?”
“No, I didn’t.”
“You said, ‘Sid.’That’s me. It’s my name. So, what did you want to ask me?”
“Nothing. It’s his name too. The dog, I mean. It’s Sid.”
For the second time in the past couple of minutes, Sid wondered if Miss Black, Jade, was naturally stupid or whether she had to work at it. He glanced down but his jacket hid the evidence.
“Okay,” he said. He scratched the side of his head with grimy fingernails. “So, what’s the problem?”
“There’s a leak under the kitchen sink,” she said.
“Yes. A leak, under…”
“The kitchen sink,” he finished. “I get it. An emergency leak.”
“Yes,” she said. “Under…”
“Show me,” he said, cutting her off.
She hung Sid’s jacket over a peg on the hall stand. Sid shut his eyes. “This way,” she said. As he followed the negligée into the large kitchen he glanced through the open double door of the living room: White broadloom, expensive furniture. Paintings. Figurines. Forest Hill Taste. He stopped behind her. With one hand clasping the two sides of her attire together, she bent down to open the cabinet door under the sink on the kitchen island. The negligée came apart as she opened the second door with a triumphant “Ta da!” and stood back to let him inspect the view. Under the sink.
Sid thought he was going into cardiac arrest. They make movies like this, passed through his mind. For the Internet. Bored housewives. Horny teenagers. Lonely old men. This can’t be for real.
He examined the cabinets, crown molding, light fixtures for signs of concealed cameras. None that he could see. It would not be good for his business, or his marriage, if he ended up on YouTube before he got back to the office.
Sid rolled up his sleeves. “Nice tattoos,” Jade said, running her hands over his forearms. He turned his head away from the garden of earthly delights, got down onto his hands and knees and ran his finger over the nut at the bottom of the U-bend. A drop of water, no more. The woodwork below it held a small puddle of water, maybe the size of a toonie. He wiped it dry, turned over onto his aching back, eased his paunch under the double sink and grabbed a wrench from his tool box. Right on cue, the dog stuck its nose in Sid’s crotch.
“Jeez, Miss,” he called out. “Can you call your dog off? He’s in my way.”
Jade bent down and put her hands on Sid, the dog’s, collar. The front of her negligée gaped open.
Sid, the plumber, turned his head, but too late to avoid a close-up inspection of her abundant credentials unfolding before his eyes. Close your mouth, Sid. Put your tongue away. She tugged at the dog’s collar and disengaged the reluctant beast from Sid’s crotch. In reply, Sid, the dog, farted. The odor wafted under the sink and drifted into Sid, the plumber’s nostrils. Trapped beneath the underside of the sink, the water lines and the waste pipe, Sid could only gag.
The elegant, smooth legs moved from Sid’s view. He heard the rattle of a biscuit tin opening. He could fancy one, he thought, and a cup of coffee, even instant if that was all that was going, to take away the smell of that disgusting animal.
“Alone, are you, Miss?” He hadn’t seen or heard anyone else in the house. Only the dog.
“Yes,” she replied. The legs returned into his view, knees, lower thighs and the hem of the negligée. “There’s no-one else in the house at the moment.”
Sid heard the dog chomping on a dog biscuit. Or maybe a real, human cookie. Oatmeal raisin, maybe, or a chocolate chip. His mouth watered. When are you going to offer me a coffee, lady?
The chomping stopped. A hiss and a fart from Sid, the dog, followed. Sid, the plumber, gagged again.
He finished the job and eased himself out from under the sink. With a hand on the countertop he straightened his back and his creaky knees. Crack. Plop. Both still there. Jade pulled the two halves of her negligée together and held them loosely against her chest. “I thought it was a bit chilly in here but you’re perspiring,” she said. She pulled a sheet of kitchen towel off the roller and mopped Sid’s forehead. The negligée gaped open while she dabbed unnecessarily at the beads long since absorbed by the sheet of the quicker picker-upper.
“It’s nice to have someone to talk to,” she said. “I get bored, at home alone all day with no-one to talk to but Sid.” Sid could not remember talking to her. Maybe she has a better memory. Or maybe he wasn’t listening. Or possibly distracted.
Jade reached for the biscuit tin. Sid, the plumber, blinked. Twice. She held the tin tight against her chest while she wrestled with the lid. The lid released its grip, the two parts going separate ways. She placed the tin back on the counter, took a biscuit out and held it up. Sid, the dog, sat up and begged.
“Clever boy,” she cooed. The dog snatched the biscuit, chomped on it for a couple of seconds and swallowed it with a noisy gulp.
“Isn’t he just the cutest?” she said. “Mommy loves you, Sid.”
Both Sids gazed at her quizzically. Sid, the dog, let out the longest and smelliest fart yet.
Sid, the plumber, took a deep breath, instantly regretted, too late to prevent inhaling the fart that brought on another bout of gagging.
“He eats anything,” Jade said. “The dog, I mean. Just like his mistress.” She shot Sid, the plumber, a meaningful look. “It’s a bad habit. I could lose a pound or two.” She gave her butt a playful pat.
Sid, the plumber, examined his feet. He could use a new pair of work boots, he decided. Yes. He would pop into Mark’s Work Warehouse on his way home from work and get a new pair. And socks. He could always use more socks. Work socks. He gradually looked up. The negligée had closed. He breathed again. The fart still lingered in the kitchen air. She seemed oblivious to it. You’re 50, he reminded himself. And still married. With two sons. Don’t do anything stupid. Get out of here. Now.
“I’ll fetch my purse,” she said. Had she lowered her voice? It sounded husky. Or was it his overwrought imagination? “It’s in the bedroom.” Jade half turned and glanced at him over her shoulder. Did her head beckon as well? Shit! He looked away and examined his fingernails before rolling his sleeves down and buttoning the cuffs. The bedroom door clicked closed. For several moments Sid remained rooted to his chosen spot by the kitchen island, wondering what to do next. He was hungry. She hadn’t offered him a biscuit or a cookie. Cheap. That’s what she was. He reached into his tool box and found what he was looking for — the Mars bar he had been saving for his mid-morning snack. It was no nicotine substitute but it had to do.
He peeled the wrapper back and held the bar out between his fingertips, wishing it was a cigarette. Sid, the dog, grabbed the Mars bar. Two, three bites at the most, and Sid, the plumber’s mid-morning snack had vanished.
The door opened. Jade crossed the kitchen floor, her negligée agape. She smelled of perfume this time. Expensive. Yeah, it would be really expensive if he gave in now. Divorce at this time of life would cost him everything except his two lazy, good-for-nothing sons. She’d make sure he got sole custody of them.
“I don’t have much cash,” Jade said. “Will a cheque be okay?”
Cheque? “No, Miss,” he said. A cheque would only bounce. He would have to come back and get cash. And go through this again. Did she mean a rain check? No rain checks. “Only from my commercial accounts. For you, Miss, no charge.”
He grabbed his tool box and bolted for the front door. Any minute now, Sid, the dog, would start to react to the candy bar. His stupid fault. Served the bugger right. Sid, the plumber, took small comfort in the fact that the thin layer of milk chocolate covering the Mars bar would not be enough to harm a dog that size.
But, with any luck, Sid, the dog, would crap all over the white broadloom.