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Archive for the ‘Bailey White’ Category

We had been talking about plumbing disasters, and Rebecca mentioned her favorite story, from Sleeping at the Starlite Motel:

Broken BathtubMy Aunt Eleanor was taking a shower the other day when the whole bathroom fell right through the floor and landed in the dust under the house. Dripping wet and all lathered up, picking soap and tile grout out of her ears, Aunt Eleanor crawled out of the debris and through the startled doodlebugs.

Actually, every good family has a story of a spectacular plumbing disaster. The finer the family, the more wonderful the story.

“Your great-uncle Melville,” said Aunt Eleanor wistfully, “came through the ceiling from a second-floor bathroom, right over the dining-room table when Pamela was having her garden club luncheon.” She reflected bitterly. “And we have sunk to this.”

I knew what she meant. A simple plunge from the ground floor, and no guests in the house at the time. There’s no denying that our family has degenerated over the years: the family fortune frittered away, the big house sold. We are probably not up to a second-floor plumbing disaster involving chandeliers and crown moldings.

“Are you all right?” I asked Aunt Eleanor, trying to change the subject. “Do you feel as if all your back bones are fused together from the impact?”

“I feel fine,” she snapped, “just humiliated.”

“Actually,” I said, “nowadays people are judged more by the clothes they wear, the kinds of cars they drive, and where they go on vacation. Determining social status by plumbing calamities has become obsolete.”

Aunt Eleanor sighed. “I’m old-fashioned, I guess,” she said.

The plumber told her that most houses these days are built on concrete slabs, so there’s no potential for accidents like the one she had.    He recommended a fiberglass tub and shower unit. “You’ll never have another problem,” he said.

I went to town and bought Aunt Eleanor a $60 linen skirt and a gold watch. She smoothed down the pleats of the skirt and strapped the watch on her arm. She thanked me, but she didn’t look impressed.

“Concrete slab,” she muttered. “Fiberglass.” She sank into the moth-eaten down cushion on her Chippendale chair, closed her eyes, and let her mind drift back over the years to a time when our family would have been ranked number one in the Grady County equivalent of Burke’s Peerage, when the women were ladies and wore white lawn, and the men were gentlemen and smoked fine cigars. “Shot right through the ceiling medallion he did, your great-uncle Melville,” Aunt Eleanor said dreamily, “and landed in the tomato aspic. Now there’s style. There’s class. There’s breeding. “

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