Flush with the windfall from our Federal tax returns, Milton and I take it upon ourselves to personally lift the sagging economy. He promptly purchases a 42” flat screen LG TV and a Sony Playstation 3. My cash inflow is a shade less than his so I splurge on a new shower curtain liner and a quart of Pequa drain opener.
My bathroom’s drain is slow, but I have not replaced my bottle of Pequa since I last used it a year or two ago. Many years back, a plumber named Luis who used to service my building, advised me to always have a bottle of Pequa in my home. He was very persuasive when he said, “This shit works.” I like to think that there is no link between Pequa and his death from cancer a year later at age 34.
Certain that I will forget Pequa because I tend to think of it more as “the shit that works” than its plumbing industry name, I have kept the empty bottle under my bathroom sink since I finished it. I could have tossed the bottle into the trash and written Pequa’s name on a post-it and stuck that post-it to the inside of a cabinet, but that seems like too much hassle. It’s easier to keep the empty bottle under the sink for a year or two since that is exactly where its replacement will go.
Before venturing out to my local hardware store I bundle up because it’s 27 degrees today. Yet, it’s not the layers of clothing I don that takes so much time, it’s making sure that I pack my two digital cameras (one a Flip video), my cell phone, a pen and pocket notebook (can never predict when inspiration might strike), two lip balms (trying to get in the habit of carrying a spare), keys, wallet, and a copious stash of tissues since my nose runs like a faucet in the cold. Every pocket of my jacket is now bulging. When I glance at myself in the mirror, it appears that I’ve transformed into a nursing terrier with several swollen breasts.
As I am trekking through the freeze, halfway to my neighborhood hardware store, Beacon Hardware, it occurs to me that the one vital necessity that I forgot to pack was the piece of paper where I scribbled “Pequa.” The rest of the way, the mantra looping inside my head is, “What the hell was that shit called, what the hell was that shit called, what the hell was that shit called?”
Beacon is a family-owned and operated small business that has been on Amsterdam Avenue since 1940. They’re my go-to hardware store since their prices are not as extortionist as their competition. I never feel like I have to barter a kidney when I buy a replacement bulb for my refrigerator or a scrub brush for my grill pan from Beacon. I also like being loyal to the little guy.
Entering Beacon is like entering Mayberry. It’s such a time machine when you open the door, a bell clangs, and Bru, a mellow Labrador Retriever, is the official greeter, but today, he’s apparently not on duty.
Instead, I see John, who immediately asks me if I need help. That’s a loaded question in general, but I tell him, “Possibly in a moment.”
I’m still determined to remember the name Pequa on my own. Therefore, I head over to the shower curtain liner shelf, grateful that I still have the capacity to recall that I need a shower curtain liner. After locating a liner in my favorite color next to black, clear, I accept reality that this attempt to recall the name Pequa is hopeless. I grab a liner and head over to John. I am so flustered at my inability to remember Pequa, I become inarticulate when I approach him.
John: So what else do you need?
Me: I need …
I pause pregnantly not wanting to say what I’m thinking, “The shit that works.”
John: Yes …?
Me: I need the stuff that … uh … unclogs the … thing.
Yes, I blanked on the word drain at that pivotal moment.
John: Oh! You need Pequa! Over here.
John walks over to a high shelf, and I follow him. He reaches up, removes a bottle and hands me a quart of Pequa. The package looks almost identical to the one I last bought during the second term of the Clinton administration. I immediately look at the price, $7.99.
Me: Huh, it’s only gone up $2 in twelve years. I was anticipating it would double. You know this um … um … hmm.
I pause resisting the urge to sound impolite and say “shit.” Psychic John comes to my rescue again.
John: Stuff works.
Me: Yeah, this stuff works.