My fortieth birthday was delightful. I had breakfast in bed and presents and a lovely birthday dinner at home on Friday, and another dinner at the Blue Talon on Saturday. It was a wonderful celebration.

So we got home and went to bed. At 2 AM on Sunday, Emily started throwing up. At 4 AM, Ben joined. By 5 AM, Pete was throwing up too. So far, I have escaped the stomach bug, whatever it is. Daniel helped by explaining exactly which microbe was infesting everyone.

Then on Tuesday morning, my mother smelled something unpleasant underneath the laundry room floor. That, of course, is where all the drain pipes run. It’s an old house, so we have a plywood square cut out of the floor that we can lift up to get underneath the house (one of the advantages to never having gotten around to putting linoleum over the subflooring).

(The way down.)

We sent Dan spelunking, and he reported that there was water all over the ground under the house. Clearly, something was leaking. Someone needed to go down and investigate further. Someone small enough to get under the house without getting stuck, and old enough to follow directions shouted from above by the Master Plumber.

(This is the Master Plumber. He does not like to wriggle around under the house on his stomach.)

So the small, old person going under the house would be…me.

(I am very secure, now that I’m forty, which is why you get to see the picture.)

Turns out that some plumber, at some point in the past, capped a waste pipe with A PIECE OF CARDBOARD AND DUCT TAPE. It lasted quite a while, apparently, but despite its ingenious construction, it gave way and now the washing machine is spurting grey water under the house.

(The pipes under the floor. Can I just say that the flash on the camera makes it look very bright and cheery under there? IT ISN’T.)

So I climbed under. Dan and Em came down to help.

Dan carried stuff and said, at intervals, “Is that a black widow? I see something moving over there. What’s that hanging down from the floor? Is it squirming? That’s a REALLY BIG WEB.”

Meanwhile I lay on my stomach (in the water),

(see how secure I am?)

ripped off the duct tape, cleaned the outside of the pipe, and cemented a proper cap onto it.

Now the foundations are drying out. It still smells a little ripe down there, though.

Stay posted for actual BOOK RELATED updates. I was writing about the Varangian Guard when the plumbing happened, but plumbing gets priority.

Showing 11 comments
  • Sahamamama

    … And if you have an extension cord and a small oscillating fan, you could possibly put the fan down there on a board overnight, to help dry everything out — you know, prevention of mildew and all that. 🙂

  • Sahamamama

    Try Baking Soda. It might help to sprinkle a few boxes of baking soda down there.

  • mary kathryn

    You are VERY secure. And now you also have some on-the-job experience for that extra occupation you’re longing for 🙂

  • Meredith

    Guh. The Varangian guard would be much more interesting. How nice is it that you have them to go back to…? 🙂
    I do realise of course that it is also nice not to live over a swamp….
    Well done you on the plumbing fix and welcome to the 40s! I like to tell people ‘this is what 40 looks like’ when they make weird comments….

  • Lori

    Eh, I should look so good. Of course, I’m a full year and a couple of months older than you are. 🙂 Isn’t the juxtaposition between history and current “real life” interesting?

  • Wendy

    Makes me want to break out into song….”I’M EVERY WOMAN, IT’S ALL IN MEEEEEEE!”

    Way to go! Here is your gold star, you earned!

  • Under the Sky

    You are beautiful! 🙂 All those questions Dan was asking I think I would have been asking too. At least it wasn’t so bad you had water snakes, right? LOL


  • Rose

    I read this today, on my birthday. Just left the land of only forty, joined the ranks of 41. And after reading this, I’m afraid to get out of bed tomorrow. Thanks a lot. 🙂

  • A Circle of Quiet

    I can’t even imagine the claustrophobia issues involved in this project…because I can’t get past the idea of sharing close, wet, dark space with a black widow. UGH.

    I hope this finds you happily returned to the sunlit lands,


  • Staci in MO

    So I guess this is where I quit bemoaning the fact that my husband is thinner than I am…

  • john fink

    Hmmmmmm . . . where was your husband during this spelunking adventure? Nothing like an attractive, independent woman willing to tackle plumbing issues! Mold can be a possibility with a leak like this and could pose some health issues for the occupants of your home. Twice per year, I perform a treament on my art studio – in a quart size jar, I mix one half vineagar with one half clorox and shut the doors for twenty-four hours, I don’t enter the premises until time to air it out [ 24 hours) The chorine gas produced kills any mold in all the cracks and crevices. This stuff is toxic so you would need to hold your breath before the mixing, then get the hell out of the “cave” and close the trap door. Not a bad idea to do this juft before family and pets leave on a long weekend. – JF
    P.S. I’m not sure how I arrived at your site, but I think it was googling poetry of John Donne and you somehow came up. Good luck on the new semester!

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