The following morning, under a one-ply cover, Malchicken discovered the plumber’s discarded vessel of man-flow in the bathroom trash. It was ripe, yellow, and cautiously seeping.

When the Chickens’ toilet finally ceased all activity, not even a limp bloop or a minor glug, Mrs. Chicken grabbed her Keno pencil and skipped to the end of the plumbers’ section. The minute Harold Zamcochyan’s boots struck across the living room floor, Mal started perspiring with excitement. This guy wasn’t going to fart around, literally. He didn’t blink at the sight of the water damage stains on the floor, and didn’t recoil when his steel-toed boot took a dip near the base of the toilet. Most important, he told the puffy-faced and flirtatious Mrs. Chicken that he was going to send in the camera or else he wasn’t taking the job. She chewed on her sleeve and considered her options. “Will it take long?” she finally asked. Malchicken stood behind her and peered at the plumber through the long O of his tightly curled hands. The plumber’s jumpsuit was embroidered with the name “Hobie.”

Before setting his knees down to work, Hobie moved aside the purple gingham toilet paper cozy and tugged at his pants several times, hooking his fingers deep into the belt loops. But, as head went to hole, the denim slipped and the curved tip of his vertical crack popped up and said yes’m. It was, to Mal, an impenetrable, onerous pit—and here he had to snigger—a pit probably a lot like the one the man was himself facing head on.

Without turning around, the man muttered something indiscernible; his breath rippled over the surface of the bowl like a scrunched-up sheet of plastic food wrap. Mal watched the darkened wet patch on the knee of the man’s pant leg spread upward to his thigh and across toward his ankle at the same chilling rate. One of the plastic caps intended to cover the toilet’s unsightly bolts had been knocked off and now floated toward him. Inside, there was something colorful resembling chewed peas and carrots, with dried clumps of hairy matter. It tried to dock on his shoe so Mal shuffled over to let it pass into the hallway. The water level was high enough to carry it over the threshold and whump, up and over it went. The sewer man again barked something and moved aside invasive clumps of clotted toilet paper with the back of his hand while he prepared the cable. He had hairless, dimpled skin on his back, and—hunched over as he was—a scruff of neck-meat so large Mal thought that if at that very moment the Tsunami was to come into the Chicken trailer, without a doubt Mal would need both hands to grab hold of Hobie.

Three hours later—having sent in the camera, viewed footage of dense video grain, retracted the cable, and shook it near his ear several times—the plumber got off his knees and sent out a request for the two Chickens to come into the room. He spat into the bowl, sending a sheet of honeylike liquid over the edge. A dry spider scaled the edge of the crumpled toilet paper cozy and dodged in and out of sight. Mal (who had never left) poked his head into the hallway and called for his mother. She came, nearly tripping over the cheap gold molding missing a cheap gold screw, one hand lifting a sweaty lock of hair from her cheek and the other holding the prodigal plastic cap. Hobie glanced from one Chicken to the other, panning for a visual clue that would explain what was wrong with their pipe.

The Chickens looked at each other and then back at him. Malchicken leaned into the monitor and examined his reflection. Mrs. Chicken whispered, “Problem?” and handed him the plastic cap. The sewer man turned his gaze into the hole and said very slowly and very loudly, as if addressing non-English speakers. “What…all did you throw down there?” In his voice was the hope that one of the Chickens would fess up to jettisoning a weird exotic baby animal or a portion of unfinished potato salad, but no go. Mrs. Chicken looked to her son for a response. Mal was busy wondering if shaking his head would be a bad answer or a good one. The plumber growled with impatience. Mrs. Chicken started to nod and then changed it to a no, and then nodded.

“Honest Injun. No. Nope. Nothing. It’s just…just…well. That’s it. Just us. Down there.”

“Well,” the plumber said, without conviction. “I am blasting water like the dickens through there and can’t move this thing a friggin’ inch.” He wagged the cable at them.

“Broken?” asked Mal, reaching for the camera.

“This here video camera attached here is supposed to light up and show what’s going on down there. These guys here are led lights.”


“Look at it here, they’re on.”


“I send it down, and they don’t work.”

“Here?” asked Mal, tracing a circle around the lights and watching the reaction on the monitor.

“It’s totally black once you get down in there.”

“Down in there,” Mal said convincingly.

“Without the lights I just can’t see what the devil is in your pipes.”

“See…See?” Mrs. Chicken muttered, throwing her arms up. “I just don’t know what there is to really look at.”

“And there’s nothing that’s moving it. I keep hitting it, hard.”


“Three hundred pounds of torque on this skid.”

“Hard,” Mal repeated, spinning the camera.

“Penetrating nozzle with thruster jets.”

“Thruster jets.”

“And two thousand pounds of water per square inch, and I can’t move your matter?”


“Christ, you’re an annoying kid.”




“If you really need to see…”


“I’ve got a flashlight in the kitchen,” Mrs. Chicken said.


“How about some coffee?” she asked, tucking the sweaty lock behind her ear.

The plumber grunted. “Great. That should really teach this toilet a lesson.”

“It’s decaf,” Mrs. Chicken whispered, placing a proud hand on her hip.




“Is that a yes?”

“Lady, what did you throw down there?”

“I told you. Nothing. It’s just us. And besides, I don’t know what there is to see, really.”

“Shit.” The plumber replied, unscrewing and tossing the led self-leveling camera into the corner.

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