She stood across the kitchen watching him work, feeling completely helpless. He crawled out from underneath the sink and wiped his hands with the oily rag he kept in his back pocket. “That ought to do it,” he said, turning on the sink. “Good as new. I just tightened some nuts and changed the base. You shouldn’t have any more problems here.” She thanked him graciously, of course, but there was one more problem she’d be having with the payments. He took care of that too saying it was okay to make payments. He headed out to his truck and for a second he could feel her watching him through the curtains. Nah, just put that outta your head, Jimmy.
Jimmy Toole got into his rusted old pickup with the “Toole Plumbing” logo across the doors. Not that he needed to advertise around here. You couldn’t ask for a better plumber really. Or a nicer guy. Jimmy could do it all. He was the best they had. He was all they had.
He got back to his shop which doubled as his living space and hung up the tool belt. Water trickled in through the roof. Shingles needed replacing. Jimmy sat down and pored over countless bills of his own and then the many customers he’d let go on payments on account of his own generosity. Anderson: late. Andrews: late. Heck, Bailey wasn’t too far in the hole. Maybe he’d come through. Frustrated, Jimmy crumbled up some papers when droplets struck the thin spot in his hair.
“They’re taking advantage of you, Jim.” No, stop that. Put that outta your head. “They think you’re stupid. She was watching you leave, laughing at you.” No. The water dripped through the hole in the roof making a noise that made him wince. That wood is going to get soggy and the damned floorboards are going to need replacing.
He went to the sink to run some water. The knobs turned quiet as a whisper. The water ran smooth as a spring and he’d know it if he’d ever seen a spring. He splashed some on his face. The grim reality was that it was all over. They were going to take his home and his business and it was too late. Even if all of the bills came and all the people paid tomorrow he was already doomed. This mess was far too big now.
“They made a fool of me. They’d be sorry if I just left. I’m the best they have. Who would fix their shitty lives, their toilets and sinks and clean up after them if I left right now? No one. They’d have to do it all themselves and pay for it themselves. And for a while they’d surely try. And they’d fail too. Then they’d look around for Jimmy Toole and he would be gone. And all the toilets and sinks would back up and the entire town would overflow with a river of grease and shit and horror carrying all of their god damned lives away with it. No, they’ll just hire new plumbers. Ha! They’ll need several to take my place. And by the time they realize it it’ll be too late. They’d be helpless wading through stink and shit wondering where to even begin. Oh no. Where is Jimmy now? He left us because we didn’t deserve him. Yeah. That’s how it’ll be until the entire town is buried beneath it all.”
Anyone passing by the building that evening would have smiled at the idea of the gentleman living inside. Not only a gentleman but a man who truly enjoys the work he does. They’d be completely oblivious to the fact that he is a certifiable crazy person. This is a decent town full of decent people. They prefer to keep thoughts like that as far outta their heads as possible.
Jimmy splashed some more water on his face and quit talking to his reflection. He tore at the overshirt with the giant “Toole Plumbing” patch embroidered across the back down to his sweat stained Fruit of the Loom tee. The water dripping through the roof became quieter as the floorboards became soggy. The desk was littered with unpaid bills. He flipped over the sign to say “CLOSED” and locked the door as if it mattered. “Hello,” he smiled and waved to a passerby. And then Jimmy Toole, the nicest plumber this town as ever known, got in his rusty old pickup and drove with no destination and no intention of coming back.