Joseph gripped the steering wheel of his truck and glared at the yellow Toyota crawling up the hill at 30 miles an hour. “What the hell! If we go any slower, we’ll be stopped.” He glanced at the luminous dial on his wristwatch. 8:40A.M. He was suppose to be on the job site at 8:30 A.M. He was going to be late!
He grit his teeth, shifting the truck into 4th gear as the Toyota slowed to 25 mph to make the curve. He couldn’t possibly pass the car. He would have to follow it all the way up the narrow crooked road.
“Crap!” he shouted, hitting the steering wheel with his fist and then he smiled in spite of himself. The expletive reminded him of his conversation with Richard last night at the local pub.
They’d had a few beers, just enough to make them both feel pretty jolly. Richard cracked a few “Joe the Plumber” jokes. Everyone thought that was pretty funny. Then he asked the question Joseph heard almost every day. “Why did you ever start a Septic Service business in the first place?”
How many times has some jackass asked that question? They really didn’t want to hear about the market research he had done, survey results, financial opportunity, business associates offering a partnership, and easy bank loans. The jackass had already made up his mind, saying it was “a crappy career choice, no pun intended.” He’d heard that one a hundred times too. So he’d just popped off the first thing that came to his mind.
“Well, it’s this way,” he’d said, keeping a straight face. “When I was a kid, I wasn’t potty trained until I was four years old. My mother tried every trick in the book to get me trained and I resisted every effort. She tried punishments, rewards, and stars on the blackboard, Dr. Spock, books and candy. Nothing worked until I made up my mind to do it myself. My mother claimed I was obsessed with my own poop and my brother calls me Crap Pants to this day, so it just seemed like the right career path for me to pursue. So I started my business, The Pooper Scooper. Does that answer your question?”
Richard seemed shaken by the poop story. Then it dawned on him that it was a joke. He blushed and then he laughed, “That was a crappy career choice and I think you’re fulla’ crap!” He excused himself, saying he needed to use the John but he never came back. He probably slipped out the back door.
Joseph filed away the experience in his head. It sounded pretty good and he vowed to tell it the next time anyone asked the same stupid question. It was a toss up which he’d heard more, “Joe the Plumber” jokes or the poop business question.
At the top of the hill, the Toyota finally turned off into a side road and Joseph shifted his truck back into 2nd gear and stepped on the gas.
Within ten minutes, he was at the address on the slip of paper where he was scheduled to pump out a septic tank. He opened the door of the truck and jumped out. A skinny guy with long hair and three day’s beard, shifted from one foot to the other as Joseph started flipping dials on the side of the truck.
“Sorry I’m late. I got held up in traffic. So, where’s the tank?” he asked.
“Um, well, man, I guess it’s over there somewhere.” He pointed ambiguously in the direction of a building sitting toward the back of the lot. The paint on the building was peeling and boards hung loosely across the window. Its outward appearance suggested it had sat empty for years. Joseph noticed a heavy padlock on the door. He couldn’t help wonder, “Why would they need such an expensive padlock on an old building?” He shrugged and returned to the business at hand, removing the equipment he would need to locate the site of the septic tank.
For the next hour, Joseph walked the yard with his device until he located the tank and set about attaching hoses, turning gauges and starting the pumps involved with the pumping process.
The guy who greeted him had returned to the house. Once the hoses were all connected, it was a waiting game. Not much to do for the next 30 minutes or so. Joseph liked to play a game as he waited. He tried to figure out what turned people on, what was their favorite past time, what things were they hiding? It wasn’t hard. Usually there was something in the yard or around the house suggesting clues.
Like, just last week, the guy had a golf cart parked by the side of the house. That was an easy one. Or the guy with the antlers nailed on the side of the garage. That was a dead giveaway. Or the guy with the roses lined up, trimmed like House Beautiful. Gardener. It was a stupid game, but it gave him something to think about while he waited for Old Pooper to do its job.
Joseph hitched his belt over the spare tire on his belly. He looked around the yard. So what things lying around indicate this guy’s turn-on? The place was a mess. Tin cans and bottles lay around in heaps. Old cardboard boxes stacked up by the old building crumbling in the sun. Weeds about three feet high, except for the worn path that led from the house to the old building. That’s odd. Obviously, the guy spent a lot of time walking back and forth from the house to the old building. Now, what the heck?
Old Pooper slurped and gurgled and it wouldn’t be long and he’d have to knock on the guy’s door and ask for a check. In the meantime… Wait a minute. Joseph sniffed. Something was wrong. Crap never smelled good, but this smelled even worse, like chemicals or something. He glanced around the yard. No one in sight. He ambled in the direction of the building, looking over his shoulder. The TV blared from inside the house.
He stood by the side of the building near the window and pulled out a cigarette, lit it and took a puff. He leaned toward the window and put his hands over his eyes. Couldn’t see a thing. Boards covered the window and blocked his view. He pulled a screwdriver from his overalls pocket and pried on the top board, glancing over his shoulder toward the house. Nothing stirred. The board squeaked as he pried out the top nails and dropped the board down a couple of inches, revealing a crack of window underneath. Light shined out from the room inside.
Old Pooper chugged in the background as he peered inside. Cupboards lined the walls. Beakers, tubes and vials covered the countertop. The sink was piled high with bottles and bowls. On the roof, a thin stream of steam curled upward. Add all this to the smell seeping from the septic tank… A Meth Lab!!
“What the hell are you looking at?”
Joseph jumped back. Skinny Guy stood in the doorway with his fists clenched, a scowl on his face. A dribble of spittle at the corner of his mouth stretched and receded with each word.
Joseph’s heart skipped a beat! How much did he see? Did he see me pull the board off the window? Joseph searched for an excuse.
“Hey man! It’s cool! I thought there might be a John inside. All that crap’s got me thinkin’ I need to take a dump.”
Skinny Guy wasn’t buying the crap story! He reached behind his back and pulled out a pistol.
“Shut up. That’s enough. Step away from the building.” He waved the gun, gesturing Joseph away from the window.
Joseph put his hand up. “Take it easy with that thing. I’m comin’.” He stepped toward the house. “Get on in there.”
Old Pooper’s sucker growled and gurgled. Joseph stepped closer to the truck. “Just a second. This thing’s about done. Let me turn it off.” He reached toward the instrument panel on the side of the truck. Instead of turning off the machine, reversed the switch to start the dump process, grabbed the hose and yanked it from septic tank. The hose whipped across the ground, driven by the pressure inside Old Pooper. Joseph gave the hose another yank and it skittered across the ground, spilling out the tank’s contents still inside the hose. The end of the hose dripping with green slim struck Skinny Guy, knocking him to his knees and spewed across his body and into his face. The gun flew from his hand, landing in the tall grass.
Joseph leaped forward and grabbed the back of his collar and yanked him to his feet. Skinny Guy writhed and screamed, spitting the foul liquid from his mouth, shaking his hands and pulling at his clothing until he stood naked in the weeds, shaking and crying like a baby.
Joseph flipped Old Pooper’s levers and turned off the machine. He dialed 911.
“Hey, yeah, this is Joseph Cotton. I’m out on a job on Lakeville road. There's a Meth Lab out here in one of these outbuildings. Can you send the cops out? Oh, by the way, I’m holding a guy on a citizen’s arrest. And will you bring him a change of clothes?
“..uh huh… why? Because he’s covered with crap...
“What? …Why? Because my business is The Pooper Scooper. I pump out septic tanks and …. What?…
Joseph sighed. “Well, you see, it's like this. I was obsessed by poop when I was a kid. I didn’t get potty trained until I was four years old, so it seemed like the perfect career choice….