The pipe shaman

by Amandeep Jutla

There’s a law that says whenever we have a drainage problem, we’re supposed to call the pipe shaman. His number’s in the yellow pages. I looked it up last week, after our toilet stopped flushing. I had already started dialing when Toddle put a hand on my shoulder.

“Kat,” he said. “Are you sure we need to do this?”

I said, “We have a drainage problem, don’t we?”

Toddle said, “Do we know that yet? What about the plunger?”

“I tried the plunger.”

“Well, what about if we just wait it out? It could solve itself, if we give it a little time.”

I sighed and put the phone down.

Five hours later, the toilet still wouldn’t flush, and the bathroom was really starting to stink. I told Toddle that I was going to call, and that he’d just have to deal with it. He got really quiet and went to the bedroom, probably to curl up and pull the covers over his head. What a pussy.

The pipe shaman answered on the second ring, speaking in a smooth baritone. I described the problem to him and he said he’d be happy to come by, perhaps in fifteen minutes? I said that sounded good to me.

When the knock came at the door I opened it eagerly, and greeted the pipe shaman with enthusiasm. Between you and me, though, I’ve got to say, he disappointed me a little. I don’t know what I was expecting, exactly, but I’d sort of been hoping for something a little more colorful, a little more, I don’t know, ethnic, than just a black three-piece suit.

As if reading my mind, the pipe shaman smiled. “I don’t look the part, I know,” he said. “What can I say? I like to look good.”

“Sure,” I said, “right. Let me lead you to the bathroom – ”

“Oh, no need. I’ll find it myself.”

I shrugged. “Feel free.”

He said, “I always do.”

An hour later the work was done. I’m not sure how. The pipe shaman had brought no tools, and his suit was as immaculate as it had been when he walked in.

“I’ll give you a demonstration,” he said. “Observe.” He flushed the toilet, and together we watched the water swirl down the drain.

I put my hands together. “Looks great. How much do I owe you?”

“I wouldn’t worry about it now,” said the pipe shaman.

“Uh, okay.” I walked him back to the front door. “Thanks for coming so quickly. We really appreciate it.”

“We?” For the first time, the pipe shaman looked interested. “I thought it was just you living here.”

“Oh no,” I said. “It’s me and my husband, Toddle.”

“Little Toddle. I see. He didn’t come out to say hello.”

“No.” The hell with it, might as well tell him – he’ll get a kick out of it, probably. “The truth is, and this might sound a little strange, my husband’s afraid of you.”

“Of me?”

“Yeah, it’s a complicated story. His parents died when he was young, and for some reason he’s always had it in his head that you were responsible. Apparently they’d coincidentally called you to fix something just a few days before the car crash. So he formed this association.”

“I see.”

“You know how kids are.”

“Little Toddle.” The pipe shaman seemed lost in thought.

“Anyway. Thanks again,” I said.

“No, no,” said the pipe shaman, shaking his head slowly. “Thank you.”