“Do you want to see what I found?”
Marybeth was about to grab the laundry out of the washing machine – it had just turned off with a hard thunk – when the plumber called out to her.
No, not really, she thought, rolling her eyes and sauntering to the master bath. All I want to do is take a shower without being calf-deep in water. The skinny man was on his knees, chest pressed against the edge of the tub. She was grateful there was no sign of the infamous plumber’s crack. He smelled like grease and damp towels.
“It’s no wonder the water wouldn’t flow,” he said, turning to face her. Elvis would have been proud of the man’s mutton chops. One of his front teeth was gold, the one next to it silver. She jumped back a step when she saw the dead animal dangling from his fingers.
“Oh my God! How the hell did a rat get in the drain?” she shouted, cringing as the body spun lazily.
The plumber smiled. “That’s no rat. Nothing to be afraid of. It’s just a clump of hair and soap and shampoo. Kinda looks like a rat, though, doesn’t it? I pull them out all the time, but this one is especially big. You have daughters?”
She stared at him quizzically. “Yes, I do. How would you know?”
“House full of girls means a lot of long hair going down the drain. It builds up over time until you get something like this.” He tossed the hair-rat into the small plastic waste pail by the toilet. It made a squishing noise when it hit the bottom. Oh crap, that’s disgusting. Just keep cool. It’s not a rat. It’s just hair. Rats were high on her weakness list.
He kept on talking, oblivious to the shade of green she’d turned. “The best way to avoid this happening in the future is by using a few ounces of prevention.” He opened his massive toolbox, rooting around, making rough grunts and sighs.
“Here it is.” He held a brown bottle of liquid drain cleaner. The plumber shook it and unscrewed the cap.
“We tried that but it wouldn’t work,” Marybeth said.
“That’s because you waited too long. This stuff wasn’t going to get past that,” he said, tilting his head toward the garbage. Marybeth felt her bile start to resurface. “You gotta get to it earlier, clean it out at the source.”
Marybeth leaned against the doorframe. “Is there any brand you recommend?” Plumbers don’t come cheap. If all it takes is a few bottles of that stuff to avoid overpaying old mutton chops, she was in.
He repositioned himself so he was now sitting on the edge of the tub. The armpits of his blue shirt were dark with crescent moons of sweat. “Just make sure you get the name brand stuff. The knock-offs don’t eat the hair away near as well.”
She nodded. “Got it. Name brands. Don’t wait for the drain to get bad before I use it. You don’t need to pour that now, do you? I mean, since you just cleared everything out.”
The plumber nodded. “It’s best I show you how to use it.”
Great. I’m sure he’ll charge me ten times what that bottle is worth in the friggin’ supermarket. Does he think I’m an idiot? Open bottle, pour down drain, don’t get any on your skin. Jesus.
He waved her closer. “Come on, I don’t bite. There’s a trick to pouring so you don’t get any splashback.”
Marybeth resigned herself to his demonstration. Hemming and hawing would only keep him in her bathroom longer. She stood next to him, smelling his coffee and cigarette breath.
“Like I said, you gotta get it at the source.”
With whip-like speed, he lashed out and wrapped his fingers in her hair. “Ouch! What the hell are you doing?” Marybeth screamed.
The plumber smiled with uneven, jaundiced teeth. “Gotta burn it at the source.”
She tried to scream but he clamped a greasy hand over her mouth. With the other, he tipped the bottle over her head. At first, the gelatinous goop felt cold, like chilled pudding.
And then the fires began. Shocked with white-hot agony, she kicked him in the balls and pushed him in the chest with both hands. The man tipped over the tub, the back of his head ripping the water spout from the wall. “You goddamn bitch!” he shouted, cradling his head with his hand, his palm coming back slick and red.
Marybeth ran to the sink, spinning the cold water handle, splashing as much as she could onto her head, careful not to get any of the fluid in her eyes or face. It felt like battery acid eating away at her scalp. The stench of her disintegrating hair and scalp made her stomach lurch.
Something heavy smashed against the back of her legs, dropping her to her knees, her chin clanging on the sink’s edge. The plumber held the lid to the toilet tank. His legs were wobbly from the blow to his head.
“You fucker!” Marybeth shrieked. She grabbed her husband’s toothbrush, leaping to her feet and driving it into his eye. The man staggered against the shower wall, the wet gore of his eye leaking over the brush.
Marybeth’s cheek sizzled as the drain cleaner dripped past her hairline. The plumber fell into the tub, yowling like a deaf cat. “Is this the source?” she snarled, prying the heavy ceramic lid from his hands. He couldn’t hear a word, the pain was so excruciating.
With a mad grunt, Marybeth crashed the lid into and through the base of his nose. The plumbers extremities shuddered for a few seconds, then went still.
The lid keranged against the tile floor. Marybeth fumbled in the medicine cabinet until she found the shears. Working through searing pain, she shaved the hair from her head. When that was done, she ran water over her scalded flesh, crying. She dried her head carefully, then applied and entire tube of bacitracin to her head and face. She looked like a carnival freak. Behold, the Lizard Woman, even fire couldn’t kill her!
She looked at the plumber’s body, heard the trickle of his blood going down the now-clear drain. His hair would do.
After a quick trip to the basement for her special toolbox, she removed his scalp with practiced ease. She placed the wet flap of flesh and hair in the sealed container she used for all of her trophies.
“Have to be more proactive with the drains,” she said, staring at the plumber’s scalp. She’d leave the body for her husband when he came home. Disposal was his specialty. She was just a trophy hunter.
~ Hunter Shea
© Copyright 2014 Hunter Shea. All Rights Reserved.