He drew a deep breath. "Well I'm Back" he said*
Robert Heinlein and Women

Long Distance Plumbing

      Round the bend
      I heard a tapping noise coming from upstairs. I went to investigate. I opened the bathroom door and looked round the corner at the toilet bowl. The lid was lifting slightly with every tap.
      I thought there must be some sort of blockage or water pressure problem so I carefully lifted the lid. Standing in the bowl was a creature something like a pug dog and something like an octopus. It was blue.
      “Hey”, it said.

      “Don’t mind us, just doing our jobs”
      There was a pause.
      “You’re in my toilet!”
      “We know. You humans are just weird”
      Another pause.
      I looked closer. The creature was carrying what seemed to be a battered metal toolbox. It was wearing no clothes I think, and appeared to be male.
      “Just doing what job?”
      He waved a tentacle at the white porcelain around him. “Just fixing this transporter”
      “It’s a toilet bowl”
      “No, it’s a ceramic monoblock matter transporter. It just looks like a toilet bowl to you. You're seeing the three dimensional appearance of a four dimensional object. This is just the interface; the power supply and matter counter are under the floor”
      “It acts like a toilet bowl. I use it, I flush it.”
      “Call it what you will, put something in it and it goes elsewhere”
      “With water?”
      “Yep. It acts as a damper in these old models, to reduce the discomfort of going from three to four dimensions and back again. More recent models run dry.”

      “Just a minute”, I said. “We?”
      He pulled on a pink chain attached to the belt around his middle. From round the bend, and attached to the other end, came another blue creature. It looked younger somehow, less careworn. Its toolbox was less worn and dented. “My apprentice”
      “Hello sir!”
      “And I’m a transporter engineer”
      “Workmen, then… Do you drink tea?” (My Mum had trained me well)
      “One teaspoon of salt, no milk, please. Your usual mugs are fine. No salt in the lad’s one, he isn’t old enough”
      I made tea. While the kettle was boiling, I’d been thinking. “You know”, I said, “I’ve never had to clean this toilet bowl”
      “Of course not. Everything gets transported. Everything”
      “Where does it go?” I asked. I handed the mugs over. The workers were sat on the rim.
      “Since you don’t enter a destination and there’s nothing alive above the bacteria level”, said the engineer, ”it transmits to the last entered destination. That’s a room in a disused house in The Black Forest”
      “But I’ve been here five years!”
     “We know” said the apprentice, “That’s why we are here”
      “Quiet, lad!” said the engineer, waving two tentacles at him. They finished their tea.

      The apprentice took a thing like a blob of clear jelly from a belt pouch and guided it all around the toilet rim, passing it from one tentacle to the next. It glowed greeny blue. The engineer watched.“No harm done here, but you mustn’t use it as a toilet anymore” he said.
      “Sooner or later I’m going to need the toilet. What do you expect me to do?”
      He gave me a card. “Call this number”
      “Pete Whyte, plumber... I know him, but he’s retired”
      “Very reliable, we’ve used him for years. Just tell him we’ve been and he will know what to do; it won’t take long” The engineer unclipped a disc from his belt. It had buttons all around the edge, and a screen. He looked at it. “Right lad, we are off to the Empire State building again.”
      “Floor 47?”
      “That’s the one. The usual problem.”
      “Goodbye sir!”, said the lad.
      “Thank you very much sir, goodbye”
      “goodbye to you too” I said.
      The engineer tapped buttons on the disc then pressed one big orange button. The toilet flushed. The pair seemed to spin and elongate as they vanished into the bend. They were gone.
      I went to phone the plumber.

Roger Bradbury 2018

A word of explanation: I've joined a writer's group. Once a month we meet up and give honest and constructive criticism of each other's work. It isn't a group where everything is greeted with praise no matter how bad it is. We are there to improve, but it has to be fiction.

If you are reading this on the day of publication, the meeting was last night. Although I've written quite a lot of non fiction pieces, this is my first completed work of fiction for about 45 years. What do you think?




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