The Plumber and the Lizard King

Image of Short Story
Stirred from his sleep by the ringing telephone, the plumber lets out a sigh after glancing at the clock in this early morning hour. He had hopes for a quiet Saturday, maybe go to a movie after a leisurely lunch. Those thoughts are quickly shattered as the caller is frantic.

“What is the earliest you can arrive to clear a drain? How quickly can you get here? I need you as soon as possible.”

The questions became a single demand from the out-of-breath concierge in an apartment building at 17 rue Beautrillis in Paris’s 4th arrondissement.
The plumber places the receiver back in its cradle and lights a burner on the stove to warm a pot of coffee. Thoughts return to a leisurely day as the weather in Paris has been pleasant for early July. “Oh, how everything’s an emergency” he mumbles to no one, lighting a Gauloises cigarette while pouring the thick dark syrup into a stained mug.

Arriving at the building he is startled to see a firetruck and two police cars. Quickly ushered upstairs by the concierge - one, two, three flights - they reach the apartment and again he’s surprised to see detectives guarding the door. Making way with heavy tool bag in hand, the plumber navigates down the narrow hallway to the last door on the left.

The bathroom door.

Upon entering, the bathtub is half full of murky water, puddles around it on the floor. It looks like splashing or maybe the pattern left from someone exiting the tub without a towel. No sign of overflow so why the emergency? Every drain in Paris looks the same. Century-old buildings with century-old plumbing. The drain snake has taken on far worse as it begins its intimacy with the tub.

Overhearing the detectives, a famous rock star, an American, was found dead here in this bathtub hours ago. The name, Jim Morrison, doesn’t resonate. They say he was known as the Lizard King, the larger-than-life lead singer for a band called The Doors, with a voice of thunder and a lightning presence. He was mystical, daring, elusive, and it seems, shouldered with a reputation as a drunkard.
Pausing a moment to take a closer look at the scene, he now realizes two things. The larger puddles were caused by the removal of the body from the tub and the smaller ones by the sink is where the body laid at rest. His mind resists the impulse to put an image with the name.

The detectives look impatiently at the plumber.

Refocused on the task at hand, he works the snake down, down, down.



Suddenly a giant suction sound erupts and the half filled tub is now empty as the plumber watches the soul of the Lizard King vanish down the drain. He wonders for a moment if the famous singer will make it out to sea, totally free, or become part of the drinking water of Paris, to be absorbed by all, his spirit living on in the faucet flow of everyday life.

The plumber packs his bag and makes way to another emergency in the city of light.