Came by a couple of weeks ago to finish his rough-in for the bathrooms upstairs. He surprised me. I had been busy re-installing the old brass swing-arms for the dutch windows on the first floor but had to ditch that for “trade admin.” In that I spent most of the day laughing and jawing, running all over the house helping him run pipes, cipher the layout, and butcher my beautiful framing. He gives me hell when I don’t bring him coffee. I have been bugging him for over a year to give me a “Grey’s Plumbing” t-shirt. Instead, months ago, he brought a t-shirt with a depiction on the back of the monster truck Gravedigger. Sometimes I enjoy wearing it to pick up Henry from school. Last week I finally remembered to bring him his “blind-man’s rule,” a thing that I’d had for years before realizing that no-one deserved it more than him.
One of the tasks we took care of was rigging up a temporary sink and toilet in the basement, as all the existing water lines are being reworked in the house. I had demo-d the old metal sink in the kitchen, complete with avocado-colored metal cabinet and slanted cast-iron top and we drug it downstairs. He ran a cold-water-line in to the faucet and some pvc off the drain, out the back and around the cabinet to a big rusted up drain in the concrete slab. I insisted that he glue on a 22 degree elbow at the floor so that it would a. slow the run-off down and b. force the water to spiral into the cup-shaped opening in the floor. He gave the whole set-up his “Niagara test” by stopping the sink, filling it to the top, and then pulling the plug, we watched, two grown men, with great pleasure as the water ran out of the sink, down and out into a perfect spiral, curling over itself in hurried abandon, washing over the sides and finally down the drain. I have no idea why this is so pleasing to me. I have shown it to Darin and Judson, pretty much anyone who has come by. Most everybody agrees it is one of the best things currently going on in that house.
That afternoon he finished with me and I got back upstairs to the dining room and my hardware. I had just gotten my wits back on the subject when he came through, singing, and stopped dead in his tracks.
“Clay. Come down off that ladder for a second.” He was staring at a place next to me where the wall intersected with the ceiling.
“What? Are you having a stroke or something?” I asked.
“Look up at that crack up there. You see it?”
“Yeah, I see it.” There was a small area where the plaster had chipped off revealing a triangular shaped piece of scratch coat.
“Don’t that look like Scooby Doo?”
“What?” I hollered, “Are you high?”
“I don’t know, maybe I am, I mean, isn’t that, doesn’t that look like his neck?”
I stared. I stared at it for two days after he left. “Ronnie, I don’t see it.”
Later that day he told me about a clear toilet he’d seen in a trade catalogue with an aquarium built into the tank.
“Dude you are fucking with me today!” I told him.
“No I swear! I mean I think I saw one. Shit, now I don’t know. Let me go ask Scooby Doo.”
“Gah!” I said, and walked out of the room.
That night I went hunting on the web and sure enough, found the aquarium toilet. Complete with fish.
Two days later I apologized to Ronnie Grey for not believing him, and would be honored if one day he would one day install a fish-tank toilet in my house. He said he’d love the opportunity. Darin has since informed me that “Ronnie Grey tells no lies” and I know this to be one of the life’s great truths. That very same day, as the descending sun refracted in through the ancient warbled glass of the large windows in the front greeting room, a single ray lit upon the crack at the ceiling. I saw the big mouth opened for the great happy tongue to spill out, the pointed ears folded forward, and suddenly Scooby Doo was there, smiling down at me.