Thursday, May 21, 2015
Then when we heard the scream come up the pipe and through the drain, my wife and I knew we weren’t dealing with an ordinary clogged sink. We’d attempted to pour scalding hot water down the drain just seconds before. But it bubbled and steamed stagnantly in the basin, which was worrisome. It had always done the trick before.
I remembered the last time we’d had to do something like this, pouring the boiling water and hearing the sound of that screechy, stridulous voice saying something like, “I’ll be back!” The voice growing fainter as the clog itself was presumably dislodged and sent further and further back down the pipe, gone and away, to one of any number of horrible and richly deserved fates.
And now it was back. It was screaming loud, too loud, always too loud. And it was not budging. It had gotten stronger, bigger maybe. More capable of clogging.
All of this taught me a lot about how clogs in pipes form. Some of the nastiest clogs, anyway. They form because they’re pure evil incarnate and they desire existence as clogs. That’s it. There’s not much else to them.
I wouldn’t give in to its belligerence, a response quite the opposite of my wife’s, who immediately relented to its reign of terror, choosing to avoid the sink and that bathroom. She asked that I call a plumber, too, but I refused. I was insistent I handle the clog myself.
“Hey clog!” I taunted down the pipe, “I’ve got something for you.” I poured a superheated drum of an industrial-strength plumbing liquid down the drain. I wore a gas mask, because the noxious fumes the liquid gave off were obviously pretty toxic.
The clog was unmoved. “You think you can hurt me? I’m clog of all clogs, so no, sir, you cannot.” Depressing but apparently true. The random things I sent down my drain did nothing to ease the clog. The random things I sent perhaps only made the clog stronger, furthering the clogging power of the clog.
So I sent down horrible things: tarantulas of various sizes, mostly. They scare me and make me scream. I thought they’d scare the clog. I was wrong. Clog was a heaving mass of live tarantulas stuck to the already collected filth. I’d miscalculated. I’d made life easier for the clog, fed it, in a manner of speaking.
I continued to instigate fights with Clog, telling it, from my safe distance, I wasn’t afraid. My wife soon left me. She’d said something about my deserving Clog, or “the clog in the bathroom sink’s drain” as though it were just any clog.
Clog would gurgle so little at times that it almost convinced me it had finally been dislodged, voluntarily or not. Then I’d turn on the water and the drain would bubble and belch, as usual. And there I’d be, left to watch as its derisive laughter rippled the water in the sink.
I had a hunch that if I could somehow coax Clog out of the drain then there had to be some means of sending it off into the world to be another person’s problem, finally. I knew that in the drain Clog had all the power. Out of the drain it was on uneven footing, a world with plenty of space to move.
I had it in mind that I could offend it from its spot in the pipes and so desiring to make me stop however it could, it would emerge from the drain to confront me.
“You are a loutish clog indeed, Clog! Loutish and certainly repellent. Repugnant, even!” I was not a practiced bully, but I found it in my heart to come up with words I thought might upset Clog.
“I’m taking offense,” Clog said. Clog said it could only abide my words for so long before it had to take action, to defend itself and its sense of dignity. My plan was working.
“Fine! Take some form of action! I encourage it and am unimpressed by the prospect of what you might do!” I shouted, laughing nastily.
“All right,” it spat, and then I heard the gurgle. It was slithering upward as fast as it was able, but I was ready.
“Wait, no, I’m not ready for you.” I said, lying to Clog as I clasped the opening of an old pillowcase around the drain.
“Yerrrrrrrggggghhhh!” it shouted as it flew from the drain into an old pillowcase, saturating the pillowcase with black liquid but still becoming, in effect, trapped. It almost bested me by causing the pillowcase to overflow, but I was too quick for it. I tied the end of the pillowcase off and threw Clog into a dumpster, happy for that to be the end.
I was disappointed that Clog reappeared some nights later. It started when I heard a knock at my door. I answered and standing before me was very obviously Clog, dressed to look like a door-to-door salesman. Clog wore a black fedora. It’d cut eye holes into the pillowcase somehow, still sloppy and greenish. The eyes were black, something putrid visible in them. Spiders were crawling around in the pillowcase, making it undulate disconcertingly. It’d drawn on other features: a mouth, a nose, ears and again I was impressed by its dexterity. Clog’s pillowcase was perched upon an old coat rack, which it had draped in a tattered, filthy trench coat, which perhaps at one time belonged to a street person who’d moved on to less aggressively rank attire. When at last I got the chance to observe Clog walk, it seemed to swing and tilt the coat rack from side to side, coming close to tipping over every so often.
“I was wondering if I could have a moment of your time,” Clog said. “I’m selling things of great value at minimum cost. I’d like to sell one of these things to you, but first I’d appreciate it if you’d let me inside to use your bathroom.”
“No,” I said, slamming the door. I vomited all over my perfectly clean carpet, though it was a small price to pay to finally be rid of Clog, to have won the day.
I see Clog wandering the streets from time to time, looking for confined spaces to slither into and obstruct, like between dumpsters and the buildings they’re set against.
My wife has never returned.
Matt Rowan lives in Chicago, IL, with his wife and two chihuahuas. He co-edits Untoward Magazine and serves as fiction editor of ACM: Another Chicago Magazine. He’s author of two story collections, the recently published Big Venerable (CCLaP, 2015) and Why God Why (Love Symbol Press, 2013). His fiction has been published in mojo journal, Pear Noir!, Necessary Fiction, elsewhere.
This Zine Will Change Your Life previously published Bad Baby by Matt Rowan. Check it out.
Street artist unknown.
Photo by Adam Lawrence.
Pale Honey is a charming dream-pop duo from Gothenburg, Sweden, and they released their self-titled debut LP in May of 2015.