Biographical Sketch

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Blog: Wit 'n Wisdom

          Janice LaQuiere




The Plumber’s Lady

By Janice LaQuiere

Sherry bounced the beam from her small flashlight across water-soaked cardboard boxes, and passed it over her old exercise bike. “There’s got to be a good five inches of water down here.” She pulled her hair back from her sticky forehead. “What a time for the power to knock out the sump-pump.”

Her rubber boots sloshed through the water as she surveyed the flooded basement. Overhead a distant clap of thunder peeled and rolled through the air. The beating rain on the windows slackened.

“How am I ever to tackle this on my own?”

Her mind wandered. Every morning for the last fifteen years she had prayed for a husband. Each night in bed she wondered why God hadn’t granted her request. Sometimes doubts overwhelmed her and she questioned whether her prayers made it as far as the bedroom ceiling. She desired love, the tender touch, and the emotion that came with marriage. Now she was more practical. With a hopeless sigh she calculated how long it would it take to clean up the mess. Doing this alone stinks. I don’t have a clue where to start?

She wadded over to the sump-pump and jabbed at the float. Without power, though, she knew she was helpless.

“Hello! Hello! Anyone there?”

Sherry started at the male voice, and dropped the flashlight. Bummer! She immediately plunged her hand down into the black murky water, but the light was out. It must be one of the neighbors. Earlier she had seen a number of them outside surveying the flooded street and the fallen branches.  Someone probably noticed her open side door.

"Down here." She patted her hand dry on the back of her pants.

A shadow blocked the dim light from the doorway. “Power’s out. Don’t you have a light down there?”

“I dropped it.” She stared into the darkness. It’s just as well. I’ve spent the last fifteen years dressed to the nines every time I step out the door, just in case I meet Mr. Right. Here I am in Dad’s old army jacket with my hair—

A bright beam of light blinded her. “Good thing I brought my spotlight.”

Sherry squinted at the halogen light and stepped back. “Wow.”

“Hi. I’m Gregg Matthews.” He took the basement steps two at a time, and stopped on the bottom step as his boots hit water. “I’m your neighbor from two doors down. Things look pretty ghastly down here.” His eyes remained riveted on her, until Sherry was convinced that she was the “thing” that looked ghastly.

“I guess they do. I’m Sherry.” Her voice ignited animation in him. He turned and ran up the stairway.

“Well,” Sherry spoke to the empty house as she slowly made her way up. “If that’s the way he wants to be.

She crossed the kitchen to the mudroom, and flipped up the shade, letting in the afternoon light before turning to the mirror. I look worse than I thought. Her curly red hair formed damp ringlets that clung to her face and neck. The ratty army jacket hung from her shoulders and eclipsed her figure. At least olive green makes my eyes stand out.

She heard a noise and suddenly he was there in the mirror behind her. His reflection looked down over her head. He was well built, with a firm chin. His ash blond hair curled up above his collar, and around his ears. The red, white and blue embroidered patch on his denim shirt said “Matthew’s Plumbing and Heating,” and underneath it “John 3:16.” His walnut brown eyes locked with hers, then she saw the orange extension cord coiled over his shoulder.

“You again,” she blurted.

His eyes twinkled at her. “I brought my generator over and left it in your garage. I’ll run down and plug your sump-pump in, and turn on some lights.”

She trudged after him with her heart in her throat. Of all the days to meet the new neighbor.

As the water level dropped she hoisted a soggy box and started up the basement steps.

Her arms felt the cardboard bottom give way. “Oh! Oh! Gregg, quick.”

His boots squished as he rushed to her and reached out to block the cascade of naked Barbie dolls, and miniature shoes. “I’m afraid it’s too late. There isn’t anything left of the bottom of the box.” He grabbed the plastic pink convertible that balanced precariously through the gaping hole and started piling dolls inside. Sherry felt her ears turn warm and she wondered if it showed.

She led the way into the kitchen. “Just drop them in the sink. I’ll need to wash them off later.” Balling up the wet cardboard she crammed it into the trash compactor, then looked up. There was something quaint about a six-foot tall man holding a bright pink car stuffed with Barbie dolls. Tears jumped to her eyes, she didn’t know if she was going to laugh or cry. Here was the kind, gentle man she had always dreamed of, but what must he think of her, the bumbling neighbor girl from down the street? “I know you must have a lot going on today, what with the storm. Thanks for your help. If you don’t mind I’ll return the extension cord this evening.”

“It’s not a bother. I’ll just help you finish up here. My afternoon is pretty clear.” He plopped the car into the sink and eyed her dirty hands. “I have some leather gloves you can use.”

Sherry sighed. Can’t you just go away and come back tomorrow morning, when I’m put together?

Three hours later Gregg placed fans on the clean wet floor, as Sherry surveyed their work and washed out the mop. “I really appreciate your help. This was a bigger job than I thought it would be.”

“I thought it was fun. What do you say about running up to Morton’s Steak House and grabbing dinner?”

“Dinner! It would take me a good hour to get ready to go.” Sherry rinsed off her hands and grabbed a paper towel.

Gregg gave her a puzzled look. “What’s wrong with what you’re wearing?”

Sherry’s mouth gapped and she stared at him. Was he was blind or just joking? Seeing the sincere question in his eyes she motioned to herself. “Look at me. My hair. My clothes. My make-up. My hands.”

Gregg crossed the floor and reached for the hand that hung limply against Sherry’s side. He bent her fingers around his own as he gently brought them to his lips and slowly placed a tender kiss on her damp knuckles. “I’ve admired those hands from my windows for the last two months. I watch you sit on your porch and read your Bible. Sometimes I’ve thought about following you to church. You’re always doing something you know, cleaning, gardening, always put together as a plumber’s fitting. But I like you now best of all.”

She was startled at the look of longing in his face.

“I’ve admired those lips, too.” he added softly.

She felt his minty breath on her face, and was speechless.

He smiled and squeezed her hand a little tighter. “Now, are you ready to go?”

©Janice LaQuiere 2004