Loca Moca in the Garden

Topsy-turvy, one-ring circus with clowns behaving badly. That sums up the past couple of months. First, let me apologize for not writing and posting, for not keeping up appearances in The Word Garden.
Word is I’ve been ill, bronchitis/pneumonia, which have taken two months to get over; my oldest son graduated from the local community college and transferred to the University of California at Los Angeles, 400 miles and a world away. The garage has been packed and unpacked several times in the process of deciding what goes to LA for the start of summer session.

Finally, car loaded, a last hug and terse farewell, I found myself alone in the ruins of my adult children’s childhood—sports pennants, castoff baseball gear, broken fishing poles, comic books, bent bicycle wheels, moldy patio cushions, decades-old Valentine’s Day decorations, kaput computers, a ripped bag of tile grout and an empty gas can for the lawn mower. Transition never looked so messy or so daunting. That’s when I noticed.

A dark splotch creeping under the box of replacement tile, tile waiting to stand in should one of its glazed brethren develop a hairline crack, an earthquake fracture. But even after several minor quakes have rumbled through the Sacramento Valley, all household tile is holding together and the need for replacements seems unlikely. Perhaps a spilled Monster Loca Moca caramelizing in the heat and dust, I think, move inside the house.

Time passes, don’t ask how much. I don’t know. A week, two. The fluorescent lights in my dressing room flicker and go out. I dress by the light of my makeup mirror. Searching the garage for replacement lights, I find a half dozen beside the water heater. Test them and find I’m still in the dark. Returning the duds to the garage, I look at the dark splotch on the floor. It has grown, spread under the old boom box and camp cooler. I bend and swipe the floor—water. Following my fingers under the water heater, I recognize it is leaking. The inspection tag attached when it was installed says “July 1979.”

At Home Depot, the only person who seems to know anything about anything is Rameesh. He’s a kindly, older Indian gentleman in the appliance department, but it turns out light on plumbing knowledge. Rameesh said don’t worry, everything can be fixed up in a hurry. Put the charges for water heater replacement on Home Depot credit card, 24 months interest-free, guy comes the next day. All done. I’ll help you fill out form.

I declined and went back to the plumbing aisle, wandered back and forth in front of the water heaters, gnashed my teeth, spit like a cobra, noticed Jim teaching a handsome young guy how to buy plumbing parts for a job and figured he was a contractor, might have some solutions for my problem. Got his card, went home.

Checked Home Depot consumer credit terms online: NO INTEREST IF PAID IN FULL WITHIN 12 MONTHS* on any Installed Heating or Air Conditioning purchases of $299 or more. Minimum Payments Required. 25.99% interest will be charged to your account from the purchase date if the purchase balance (including premiums for optional credit insurance) is not paid in full within 12 months or if you make a late payment. *Only 50 percent of applicants qualify for “no interest offer.” Home Depot price for water heater replacement—40-gallon, mid-range quality—$1,100 to $1,300.

Called Jim, he sent handsome Devon in the most blown up, sputtering hoopty I’ve ever seen. We talked. He’s a journeyman plumber getting back on his feet after the recession. He’ll do the job when I’m ready—$600 to $800, including labor. I’m thinking about it, watching the Loca Moca stain’s progress, sending money to UCLA, picking up abandoned sports gear, dusting off the lawnmower, itching to get back to the garden.  

Published by Kate Campbell

Writer, editor, photographer, novelist, short story writer, poet.

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