Tuesday, May 20, 2008

The Cannibal King

It was more than time to replace the toilet. He had finished all the other work in the apartment and only the bathroom still needed doing. The sink and tub were no big deal if he didn’t finish tonight, this tenant could manage to stink for a day. But the toilet? People were not pleased when you messed with their toilet. And if you had to remove it, they really were not pleased. So replacing a toilet had to planned with great care and every consideration for the dignity of his tenants. Sandoval’s was the last one.

"So, Sandoval, I need to replace your toilet. Then I can install the new flooring. Tiling is already done. What day is good for you?"

"Yah man, Mr. David, every day is bad, bad, bad. I’m home now, all de time, Mr David. How you going to do this thing? Cause you leave a man wit no toilet..." Sandoval shook his head sadly, the beads on his ringlets and dreads clicking back and forth in sympathy.

"Look Sandoval, you name a time I can come by and do this. Because I really have to do this, there is going to be an inspection on the other work as well, before I seal up the openings. And I only have to take the toilet out for maybe an hour or so."

"An hour? Dat it?"

"Yeah, that’s all. Sandoval, you have a girlfriend, it shouldn’t require lot of persuasion on your part to get her to agree to you staying over for a bit. Hell, she’s a good spirit. She must be to have you hanging around. You go spend some time with her, I’ll do the work."

"Okay Mr David, you persuaded me, wit you fancy words and big ribbon on high. I gonna go to my girlfriend’s, I guess this afternoon, sah. Yeah..." Sandoval smiled. "Yeah Mr David, you just do whatever you got to do. I be goin’ to my girlfriend Maria’s house."

"I thought you were seeing Maritza.

"Oh Mr David, you just cannot keep up with my life, can you, Mr David? Maritza was two, tree week ago. Maria is the girl for me, now. How do you solve a problem like maria? You rub its tummy and a genie comes out!"

The two men nodded to each other, then each picked up his tools and prepared to leave. Mr David picked up a tote with plumbing supplies. Sandoval grabbed a pouch with the day’s ganga. He continued singing as he let the apartment door slam behind him and went down the steps to the sidwalk.

"Sandoval, I’m going to do this late afternoon, that’ll work today," Mr. David called to Sandoval’s back.

Sandoval waved and called back, "I see you tomorrow, sah! You have a good one!"

Mr David looked at Sandoval, now all the way down the block and shook his head. He picked up his tool box again and went downstairs. He needed some different tools and had to measure to make sure he got the right toilet. If the size was wrong, it would not fit the plumbing components. There were two toilets in the storage area in the basement, He hoped one of those would fit and save him the trouble of going to the store.

Later, he reentered the apartment and looked at the offending toilet. It works. It works fine. Still the powers that be had determined that old water guzzling tanks were to be no more. Since the rehap was extnsive enough to qualify as new construction certain aspects of the code had to be adhered to precisely to the letter. He bent down and pried the putty away, turned off the water line and flushed. He removed the now-empty tank from the base and looked down.

Using a putty knife, Mr. David broke up the seal around the base of the toilet, loosened it. Very carefully, removed the actual toilet and set it aside. There was a gaping hole. It smelled. Sewer fumes and gasses formed a ghost cloud over the toilet, a miniature typhoon. He shoved a rag in the opening to stop the stench from infiltrating the rest of the house. He measured the opening diameter and the distance between the wall and the pipe openings. There was one in the basement that should fit.

Mr. David returned with the new toilet and unboxed it. He set it into place. It was the wrong size. He sighed. This meant a trip to Lowes or HD or the local place, none of which seemed like a good option at 5:30 pm on a Tuesday. He would call first, make sure one of them had the size he needed in stock, before he started racing all over the world.

The local place and Lowes were out. HD had the right size, but that was a good forty minutes away. He sighed and went to the van. Gotta get it. No choice.
A flat. Perfect. A flat tire at six o’clock with rush hour traffic and then an hour of work ahead of him. Mr. David shook his head. Change the flat, get the toilet in the morning when HD opens at six a.m. He could have the toilet installed by 7, 7:30 the latest. Sandoval was spending the night with whoever anyway.

BRNG!BRNG! BRNG! It was five o’clock. Who calls at five o’clock?


"Mr. David, what you doing to me, man? What going on here?"


"Yes, Mr. David, dis be Sandoval! What you do man? What you do wit me toilet, man?"

"Um, I had the wrong size. I was on my way to get the right one. I thought you were spending the night at Maritza’s. I mean Maria’s."

"No, man, we have a little quarrel, man, I come home. And den, man, I got to use de toilet man. But there is NO TOILET! No! What cho do man?"

"Oh, Sandoval, I am so sorry. I took the old one out and I have to pick up the right size. I really am sorry."

"Oh man, you ruin me life! I come home, I had war wit me girl and den I had to shit in a pot like a cannibal man. Like a cannibal! I be telling you!" Sandoval almost squeaked as he talked he was so upset.

"Huh? Um Sandoval, I though cannibals ate people. I never read about them shitting in pots or anything at all like that."

"Well just cause you don’t read it don’t mean it ain’t so. Like a cannibal, I’m telling you! No bigger insult to a man than to have to shit in pot! Cannibals, Mr David!"

"Okay, Sandoval, the store opens soon, let me get the part and I’ll come right over."

"You do dat man. You do dat for me, Mr David. Yah." Mr David heard Sandoval’s beads clicking as he nodded his head and then a click! as Sandoval disconnected.

Mr. David stood there, looking at the phone in his hand. Cannibals shit in pots? He shook his head. This is New York. Why the hell shouldn’t the cannibals shit in pots if they want to? Who was going to tell them no?

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