Two Fictions
Lucas Southworth

Two Plumbers: A Love Story

He was a plumber and she was a plumber. Long ago they met this way, as plumbers. And they married, each becoming part of HIM & HER PLUMBING. Like most plumbers, he and she (HIM & HER) were logical people, and taciturn. They understood that leaks could be plugged, ruptures fixed, damage restored. For them, all the world was a series of tubes. A push and pull of straight lines and right angles. They knew pipes were the perfect carpet of veins and arteries. Some carried water in, some out. Each had its own purpose. Each would always have that purpose. And, somehow, all of them must fit into the space provided.
Before he and she (HIM & HER) started dating, they made love to other young apprentices and plumbers. So when he suggested they go home and lay some pipe, she smiled because she'd heard it before. And when she proposed he take her to the bedroom and clog her drain, he smiled because he'd heard that one, too. From the moment they'd met, both he and she (HIM & HER) sensed that they had much in common. That they would continue to have much in common. Although they didn't say it, they agreed their relationship was best when it inhabited familiar spaces, however small and cramped. For now, they used terms and phrases of other plumbers, even if the words were already meaningless, already stale.
After years of fixing houses together, he and she (HIM & HER) learned to become more descriptive. I want you to screw your copper tubing into my female adapter, she insisted. And he winked, wondering whether she'd like to fit her drain flange over his drain extension. Okay, she agreed, just be sure you avoid my tailpiece. Later, she speculated whether she might use her bushing to erect his galvanized pipe, and he found the courage to ask if she would work on him like a tee extractor. Later still, he questioned whether they needed the PVC covering (for safety). And she suggested they try using a pipe clamp (for stability).
By sixty, he and she (HIM & HER) had mostly stopped making love. Instead, they'd thrown themselves into their business. Once, just weeks before retirement, both arrived at a job. They'd come separately, in separate trucks, each with HIM & HER PLUMBING stenciled on the side. In the house, water covered the kitchen floor and ran down the bathroom walls. Frazzled with worry, the resident led them to the basement where the steps had become a cascade. For a moment, he and she (HIM & HER) watched the flood. They knew the broken pipe was underwater and could see the force of it disrupting the surface. The resident told them he could not turn the water off. He had no idea how. Can it even be fixed? he asked them. Will it ever be back to normal? Both he and she (HIM & HER) smiled. They reached for one another, letting their fingers slide together and latch. Their dry palms touched. Yes, they told the resident. Yes.

Field Trip to the Last Museum

1. First, we see the wing of a bird behind glass. Its lightness, under lights.

2. We see a box with wheels (transportation).

3. We see a stuffed cat and dog and fern (housepets).

4. Above, hangs the cross-section of a machine he once used to fly through the air.

5. Stuffed close, without much oxygen.

6. We see bones and sand.

7. A dusty marble floor.

8. A piece from a house that was once made of such pieces.

9. In an adjacent room, we study tools for work and murder.

10. An atlas of what he once feared.

11. A list of what he named and how he named it.

12. A device he used to punish/torture/pleasure himself.

13. Then, we find the diagram of hope.

14. Erected and constructed by our famous scientists.

15. Three-dimensional and swinging towards us.

16. The placard says, This is what allowed him to see.

17. What blinded him.

18. But it isn't clear.

19. At least.

20. We're not sure we understand what we're supposed to understand.

21. And all of this is ancient.

22. Much of everything is long extinct.

23. The museum itself is relic.

24. It smells musty, of history.

25. And we turn the corner, leaving it there. Spinning.

26. We climb steps, descend steps.

27. We move on.

28. We pass other displays.

29. On him. On us.

30. And we see sketches and carpets and shapes folded from dry paper (self-expression).

31. Photographs and paintings and a large collection of weapons (beauty).

32. An exhibit on what has been lost. An empty hall, a hall of emptiness.

33. Then, we take out our maps.

34. We leave in the nearest direction.

35. Famished, we purchase food from the first window.

36. We consume it as he once consumed it.

37. Alone, and with others. As him, and as ourselves.

38. That was everything he left behind, we think.

39. He left everything behind.

40. And we understand this. This, we think, we understand.