What a riot. All I meant to do this morning was keep a long overdue coffee appointment with an old writer-friend of mine. His father had passed away, and things have been so complicated on my end that we hadn�t seen each other for months. Our meeting was set for ten o�clock in the mezzanine at a grocery store on the west side of town, not far from where he lives. We like to meet there because the coffee is free, and because there�s room to stretch out a newspaper or two while hatching multifarious plots, which, historically, have led us into many a blind and costly alley.
At about eight-thirty, the tree crew our landlord had told us to expect one of these days arrived. We lost a big pine tree in our recent snow-and-ice storm, and several others around the house had taken quite a beating. After the foreman and I had compared notes and tramped through the mud outside, the workers set up a huge racket.
A few minutes later, the telephone rang. It was a man from the city water department returning my call asking them why our water had been tasting and smelling so bad the last couple of days. We have well water, and one of the city�s wells is down the alley behind our house. Usually our water is wonderful. He asked me what it smelled like. I said, �The best comparison I can make is that it smells like a chicken ranch.�
Well, this opened a can of worms. It turned out this man grew up somewhere outside San Antonio, and that he knew all about chickens and turkeys and what they smelled like, and of course he wanted to know where I was from and how I came to know about chickens, and so I told him I was hatched off a flat rock and then raised on a farm in Central California, and this went on for several minutes � brown eggs versus white eggs, chicken diet related to yolk color, etcetera � until I was finally able to guide our conversation back to the business at hand. �It must be a chemical in your plumbing reacting to the hard water,� he said. �The well is fine, we test it every day. No one else in your neighborhood has called.�
Finally, after a discussion about plumbing, we decided that I should call the landlord ... who immediately said the city was trying to pass the buck. And so I told him the city employee had said he�d be glad to come out and show us that the water was good all the way from the well right up to the meter, and prove that the problem must be with the house plumbing. Hearing that, the landlord said that�s exactly what we should do. By this time, it was about twenty minutes after nine. I called my dear friend Roland. �Roland,� I said, �this is William the chicken farmer.� And of course Roland was delighted to hear from me....
About the time I hung up again, a member of the tree crew rang the doorbell to tell me in Spanish that he needed to go into the backyard. When I closed the door after him, the phone rang. It was a call from my mother�s podiatrist, which necessitated yet another call. And then I had to call the landlord again to tell him that someone from the water department would be here tomorrow morning at ten.
By then, coffee-time was only five minutes away. I jumped in the car and raced across town, miraculously hitting every green light and making what is usually a fifteen-minute trip in about eight.
I found my friend working on a crossword puzzle. After telling him what had happened, we talked about what we always talk about: family, writing, and our mutual fear of ordinary gainful employment. We had a very nice time. The elderly woman at the next table wasn�t even upset by our occasional lighthearted invective. At any rate, she didn�t call the management.
Before parting company, I gave my friend a small stack of magazines that included my byline. On the way home, I stopped at the bank and deposited a royalty check. Seeing it, the drive-up teller looked at me through her little window and smiled.
Also by William Michaelian
52 pages. Paper.
Another Song I Know
80 pages. Paper.
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