Hydrophobia

There were two weeks of school left, and I was feeling pretty good about myself. I had things planned almost perfectly so that my students would be healthily occupied with end-of-year projects and presentations up until the last day of school.

Things were going well, that is, until I opened my big mouth:

Being an English teacher, I thought I was being clever by using such figurative imagery. But I had inadvertently issued a challenge to Fate.

Despite my happiness, I had slept horribly for nearly two weeks. In light of everything going well, my subconsciousness seemed to be preparing for something. Maybe puckish fate had been sprinkling my dreams with tiny nightmares.

As an English teacher, I thought I was smart enough to know that things like foreshadowing happen in books and movies, but they don’t happen in real life. Turns out I was wrong.

We were sitting on the couch watching TV, when Eric erupted in an expletive.

He had spilled his water. A big, tall, icy glass of it. It was a rare occasion, and I watched as he sopped it up with towels.

I only remembered the incident because it was repeated that night. At nearly midnight, I awoke from a sound sleep by yet another expletive. This time, Eric had spilled his water on the bedroom carpet. Behind the night table. And the dresser.

In the four years we’ve been living in the house, Eric has not once spilled water.

I woke up grumpy and helped him clean it up.

I slept terribly, plagued by dreams I could not remember.

The following night, I awoke at midnight realizing that I had left my phone—my alarm clock—in the car. I checked for it in the garage. This detail is important only in that when I went to look for it, there was in fact NOT a gushing mess of water issuing forth from the hose faucet.

When I awoke the next morning at 5:30, the toilet flushed but wouldn’t refill. I spent the next fifteen minutes trying to figure it out.

My heart pounded. The adrenaline coursed through my veins. Eric had no water pressure. I had no water pressure. This was more than just coincidence. I felt it in my gut. Something was terribly wrong. I rushed down the stairs as theories about a water company conspiracy flooded my brain. Maybe the apocalypse had come while we slept. Or the ocean had evaporated. My brain cooled as everything on the second floor seemed fine.

 But then…

Russsh.

Russsh.

The rush of water. Like a flowing stream.

“Are you running water up there?” I asked.

“No,” came a sleepy reply.

But I heard a gushing nonetheless. I ran down to the basement to check the bathroom. And what I found down there set me on full alert mode. It is a trait I inherited from my mother through which I can wake from a dead sleep and spring into action in a matter of nanoseconds. It’s a talent reserved for the most dire situations, catalyzed only by such things as medical emergencies, screaming family members, or puddles of water in the squishy basement carpet…

Not fully awake, Eric trudged down the stairs, my hysteria not registering yet.

Running into the garage, I discovered Niagara Falls had relocated to my hose faucet. The world moved in slow motion. The fountain wet everything in its path. The insulation. The utility carpet. The pegboard. It had pooled in buckets and in the crevaces of tools.

Swimming through the tool room, I climbed on a crate, my pajamas already soaked, and reached the shut-off valve.

I allowed myself to breathe again. There was nothing but the beating of my heart and the…. dripping of…

WATER!

I sloshed down the stairs to the basement. I checked out the storage area under the stairs. A layer of water was creeping its way up the cardboard boxes, oxidizing the metal armor of a Halloween costume, saturating the drywall.

I checked the clock. I had only 90 minutes before I had to leave for school. My “perfectly-planned” lessons now demanded that I be at school to grade students’ oral presentations. Not that they would have minded if there had been a sub….

My husband called his boss, who chuckled at his reason for personal leave. “It’s not icy out, so I assume the water is–kinetic?” he asked faceteously.

At least SOMEONE got a chuckle out of it.

I spent the next 90 minutes frantically removing saturated cardboard from under the stairs and running the carpet cleaner’s vacuum function, grateful that the thing had finally paid for itself. When I finally arrived at school, my hair still dripping wet from the fastest shower on record, I hurried to make arrangements for substitutes after the student presentations.

As I drove home, I hoped maybe the whole thing had been a dream. A very bad dream.

But it wasn’t.

At home, my husband, who had been running the carpet cleaner when I left, was on the couch, forlorn. He was eating McDonalds. All those cardboard storage boxes were still there under the stairs, soaking up the water.

But at least it had finally stopped dripping.

“I thought you were going to keep cleaning down there,” I said.

“Vacuumed for hours…” he mumbled. “Called some places…” He stared blindly at the McDonald’s bag. “They forgot my double cheeseburger. But I got you two of the little ones.” He looked back down at his fries as if they, too, were in conspiracy against him, as the rest of the day seemed to have been.

“Have one of mine,” I said, tossing him a burger. I ate mine without tasting it and hurried back down the stairs. The dogs (did I mention we have dogs?) were so confused. Eric was home. I was home. Water was everywhere.

Leia, the adventurous one, bounded down the stairs with delight. The carpet squished under her, and she wagged her stub of a tail.

Yoda, who is afraid of everything, ran back upstairs.

Meanwhile, Eric’s phone rang. A moment later, he informed me that someone was coming to help dry the carpets. He would be here in a matter of minutes. “And, um,” he added, “we’re supposed to clear out the room.”

“What?”

“And the storage under the stairs.”

I sprung to action, grabbing things left and right. But Eric just stood there looking like he forgot how to breathe.

I should stop here to clarify:

The basement is Eric’s “man cave.” I’m legally not allowed to clean it. Not even to vacuum. Eric, a notorious newspaper hoarder, has a stack of newspapers that doubles as an extra end table, a stack of video games, and various containers of snack foods to satisfy whatever video-game-induced craving might hit. It was all too much for him, and he kind of wavered in place a little bit as if he might move to do something, but then he’d stay put, surveying the room like a general surveying the remains of his men on a battlefield. He was lucky, however. The water seemed to spare the most important elements of his man-cave.

Here’s a map:

I was so thrilled that the largest stack of newspapers was spared…

I don’t really remember how it is we managed to clear all the elements of the man-cave into the living room upstairs, or the garage, or the patio. But we did. Armfuls of DVDs, vintage video game systems, even a full-body replica of Roman armor found its way safely out of the water.

Now, we have a series of industrial-strength fans and a robotic-looking dehumidifier. We were told that everything will be fine in three days. The carpet has been loosened from the walls, and it undulates with the power of the fans. Leia takes delight in the rippling carpet, prancing around and rolling like it’s her own private ocean.

Yoda, on the other hand….

And me? With the living room full of plastic storage containers and my husband now “homeless” and monopolizing the “non-video-game TV,” I have confined myself to the kitchen with my laptop. And created this. I hope you enjoyed : )

Comments are closed.