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"Things You’re Not Proud Of," by Tom McAllister

“Are there people living inside our pipes?” my wife asks.

“Of course there are not people living inside our pipes,” I say, but: of course there are people living inside our pipes. Where does she expect them to stay? A hotel?

The thing she has never understood, will never understand, is this: real estate. Capital. Supply, demand. It’s the reality of the world. Homes are not affordable. Banks are broken. So you move inside somebody’s pipes if you have to move inside somebody’s pipes. It’s happening everywhere. 

They’re not proud of it. But life is full of things you’re not proud of.

*   *   *

She tells me to Drano the pipes, so I ask her if she’s okay with the moral implications of massacring the people inside the pipes just because she doesn’t like undrained water rising above her ankles when she showers. 

“I thought you said nobody lived in there,” she says.

“They don’t,” I say.

*   *   *

While she’s out buying the Drano, I’m lying facedown in the tub, warning the people in the pipes. She doesn’t know them like I do, doesn’t respect them, but I understand where she’s coming from. The tub drains too slowly. They pose legitimate health and safety hazards—it has to be against the health code to have people living in there, with their back hair and fluids and communicable diseases. The chaos of their conversations rattles within the pipes, and when they shout at one another about money, the walls hum and clang. They claim they can’t see our bodies when we’re showering, but I suspect they can see our bodies when we’re showering. 

So I get it. I do. 

Still and also, I am not enthused about killing them just because their existence is a little inconvenient to my own.

They think I’m bluffing. They say: You don’t have the guts. They say: Could you stop peeing in the shower? 

I say, “If you’re going to stay here, we need to establish some ground rules.”

*   *   *

I am still in the tub when she returns from the hardware store, am still working out a verbal contract with the people in the pipes. Negotiations have been arduous; they won’t even make simple concessions, i.e., they won’t tell me how many people are in there, let alone agree to stop inviting friends over for parties. 

“Listen,” I said. “She’s home, and I’m the only one who can stop her from killing you.” 

This isn’t right, the patriarch says. He says: Threats of violence. What happened to good faith negotiations? What happened to Constitutional rights? 

Deeper in the pipes there is a flush of applause. He says: I’m sending an email to my Congressman

I didn’t even know they had Internet access in there. 

Read the rest of this story in Unstuck #3.