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The International Writers Magazine - Our Tenth Year: Bedtime Story

The Plumber
Alan Stokes

The bed's huge and white, very very white. The whole bedroom's white.
I close the door and go back downstairs and sit in the front room and wait for Nora to come back from the kitchen with the drinks. While I wait I study a photograph which is on the table next to me. Nora and her boy. Or rather, her sister's boy; her sister who'd died of a brain tumour ten years ago and asked Nora to look after her son until he was old enough to go out into the world and become the man he wanted to be.

Or a woman. Or a giraffe. He could be anything he wanted, her sister had told Nora before she died. So long as he was happy, that was the important thing.

Finally, Nora comes back with the drinks - a bottle of vodka and a bottle of coke and two very tall glasses - and puts the tray down on the table next to me, sits down and asks what I think about her house. I tell her that it's great, really great. Big and spacious. I don't mention the fact that everything's white and that it disturbs me. I mean even her dog's white, you know what I'm saying here. It's in the kitchen now, locked in for the night. Nora's after sex and isn't about to let her dog come between us. I'm sure of it.

'So someone slips an envelope under your door every month, is that what you're saying?'
Earlier, Nora told me ( not for the first time) that her husband has been arrested for trafficking cannabis in France and is presently in prison there and his accomplices are giving her a bundle of cash each month until he's released.
'Great, eh?' Nora says, pouring our drinks.
'Have you met them?'
'Don't be daft!'

I've known Nora for a week. We've just started the same course and hit it off immediately and started going for a beer together after class. Now we're here, here in Nora's enormous house waiting to have sex. I'm sure of it.
'I've had a miserable life', Nora says, handing the glass to me. 'I wouldn't wish it on anybody.'

I don't know how to respond to that. She mentioned this before and I didn't respond then either. What can you say to that? If Nora thinks her life's miserable, then it's miserable. A fact is a fact, you know what I'm saying here. Like when I told the class that first day that this was my last chance to do something with my life. I don't think they believed me but, as far as I'm concerned, it was true then and it still feels true now. If I fail this course, I'm fucked, it's as simple as that. There's only so long you can keep failing. At some point you have to galvanise yourself and go for it, you know what I'm saying here.
'You're still young. Good things can happen to you', I say.
'You don't understand, Bill', she says, sipping her drink.
'What don't I understand?'
She shrugs, takes another sip and leans back in the couch and looks up at the ceiling and sighs.
'You love your boy, don't you?'
She doesn't say anything. I sip my drink and settle back in the chair. It's around two in the morning and I'm determined to stay here. In her bed, that big white bed at the top of the stairs. I love that bed.

Nora's lying on the bed in her underwear. I was surprised when I saw her underwear. I expected black, maybe white. Big and frumpy-looking. But no. Her underwear's pink and silky and skimpy as fuck. She looks like an advert. I growled when she took her clothes off and she told me to go easy on her. I told her that her life wasn't miserable now and she smiled.
I'm down to my boxers now and she tells me to jump on her.
'Treat me like a whore', she instructs me.
I think about doing a little dive, springing into the air like a gymnast then realise that I'm just not up to that and roll onto the bed and start pulling on her bra, pulling and pulling but it just won't come loose and she laughs, she screams laughing. I call her baby, baby and she laughs and again she instructs me to treat her like a whore. I tell her that I've never been with a whore and finally she stops laughing and says: 'All men go with whores'.
'Where's your boy now?' I ask her.
'I've told you. He's with my mum', she says.
'When's he back?'
'In about two hours', she says and rolls me onto my back.

The bell goes and Nora jumps out of bed, screaming: 'Out, out!'
I pull myself up and look at her. I've no idea what's happening. Then it hits me: the boy's here. And her mother.
While Nora heads downstairs I get out of bed, get dressed and go out onto the landing and listen to them talking in the living room or maybe the kitchen, I can't quite tell. It's difficult, you know what I'm saying here. Maybe they're still standing on the front step. I mean I'm still asleep, you know what I'm saying here.

I go back into the bedroom, sit down on the bed and wait. Then I hear the front door closing and footsteps coming up the stairs. Then the door opens and Nora's standing there, grinning.
'Can you be a plumber?' she says.
'Can you pretend you're up here fixing the toilet? I've been meaning to get it fixed for ages. He'll believe that'.
I think about it. Quickly.
'But I can't act'.
'Oh don't be soft! You'll be brilliant', she says, laughing, heading out the bedroom and back down the stairs.
I continue sitting on the bed. I don't want to do it, of course. I don't like people telling me what to do. But it was a great romp and I want more. Nora's hot.

I go out the bedroom and into the bathroom. I take a piss and flush but it doesn't flush properly. I'm sure that it worked last night and can't understand it. I return to the bedroom, sit down on the bed and give it some thought. Then - fuck it I'm getting into character. Breathing in deeply a couple of times, I tell myself that I'm a plumber.
'I'm a plumber. My name's Bill and I'm a wonderful plumber. The best around. No job is too big for me'.
Then I'm up off the bed and I'm down the stairs and in the kitchen, telling Nora how difficult it is - the job. The toilet.

'So can you fix it or not?' she demands.
I look at the kid. He's leaning against the fridge, looking down at his feet. He's quite tall, much taller than I had expected. Has a moustache. Long, curly black hair. Nora said he's twelve but he looks like a man.
'Yeh but I need some parts', I tell her.

Before I came down I had a quick rummage in Nora's wardrobe and found an overall which I put on. It's yellow and has green hoops running across it. I also found a blue baseball cap. I thought I looked okay before I left the bedroom but now I'm not so sure.
'Parts? What kind of parts?' Nora laughs.
'Spanners and things', I say and she laughs again.
Michael's still looking down at his feet. I point to him and Nora grins and asks him if he wants to come with me - for the parts. For the spanners.
Finally, he looks at me, looks me up and down and then leaves the kitchen.
'He's at a funny age', Nora says, putting her arms around me and hugging me really tightly. 'But I think he likes you, I really do'.

© alan stokes Feb 2009
alstokesy at

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