How To Tree A Plumber
I launched myself halfway across the room and landed with a resounding boom that shook the house. It was nothing next to the ongoing racket which woke me. The first moment of cleared-headed memory is that of the jar traveling through the soles of my feet and rattling my jaw. The loft bed I launched from was only five feet high, but I’d managed to get most of the way across my bedroom via subconscious aerial acrobatics before my soggy brain even registered that someone in the house was about to be mauled to death. Things moved very quickly after that, but in the manner of adrenalin where the situation and every decision is crystal clear and impeccably thought through.
One step forward. Left hand grabs the robe from the hook. One step to the right. Right hand grabs the doorknob. Out the door sideways, then forward two steps, turn left, four long strides down the back hall, turn left, clattering down the back stairs. The barking grew deafening.
Dogs bark very specifically. There are happy barks and mock-play barks and rabbit barks and postman barks. Then there are the I-am-going-to-rip-off-your-face-and-feast-on-your-eyeballs-you-evil-intruder barks. It was this bark which had propelled me from my bedroom at warp speed.
As I came thundering down the stairs, I ducked my head to see under the seven food ceiling. Crouched on a four foot stack of drywall, hunched over on all fours, was our young plumber. On the floor, doing his most fierce imitation of an Irish Wolfhound, was my shaggy mutt, Jordon. I was so relieved no one was being actively mauled, I sat down on the second to last step took my first ragged breath of the morning.
I looked up and met the young man’s eyes.
“Jordon, be quiet.” I didn’t yell.
He was instantly quiet, his white fluffy sidekick Benjamin catching on a moment later, shrill yaps also dying away. He looked at me with a rather smug grin on his bewhiskered muzzled, as if to say, “Look, Ma, look at what I caught!” I looked up at the plumber. On reflection, he was a rather handsome man, tall and strong, with a clean, open face, that was rapidly taking on a relieved expression.
“Are you okay?” I asked a little breathlessly.
“Yeah, he just got my pant leg,” the man reassured me, a little breathless himself.
I nodded. Then I looked down.
I had never actually put on the powder blue bathrobe. Rather, it was clutched up under my armpits. My only piece of clothing was a pair of pastel striped panties. This did not concern me overmuch, but it did seem an inappropriate mode of dress for a fourteen-year-old girl to be talking to a twenty-four-year-old man while wearing (or not). I stood and started back up the stairs, calling for the dogs to follow me. My older brother was just then at the top of the steps, fully in his bathrobe and looking very perplexed.
“It’s okay. You can come out now,” the young man called as I turned to go. His compatriot had made it all the way to the single working door in the under-renovation basement – the bathroom.
The entire incident was precipitated by the fact that Grandpa Dale, our Mom’s father, had not shown up at his usual seven o’clock in the morning, as he had the entire week preceding. Mom would let the dogs out of my room, where they slept at night, when she got up at six. Grandpa would arrive at seven. The plumbers would come around eight. My brother and I, lazy teenagers that we were, would crawl out of bed sometime around nine and come down to help hang drywall. It was all very civilized.
Never once had those dogs barked at anyone and the two young plumbers had gotten into the habit of going straight in the back door and down the back stairs to the basement to get to work. And so long as Dale, a senior member of the pack, was there, the dogs never let out so much as a warning growl, but greeted the two visitors with sniffs and wagging tails. That did not mean the visitors were pack mates, of course.
So it was that on a hot morning in July, my dog Jordon, thirty pounds of shaggy gray growl (with the help of his pint-sized sidekick), treed a plumber, a grown man, on a stack of drywall in our basement, who then had to be rescued by a wisp of a girl in her underwear.