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Sample Humor Column
I've written humor columns for a variety of magazines and once won a Florida Magazine Association award for them
Leaky Faucets, Acolytes, and the Real Goods

by Stephen Morrill

I needed to fix a leaky faucet, which is how I met Bob Villainous.

"It just needs a new washer," I assured my wife as I dragged the toolbox out of the closet. She didn't look too reassured.

The faucet in question was one of those one-knob-does-all jobbies with the fake crystal top and lots of chrome. When I finally unscrewed all the plumbing parts, I sorted through them in astonishment. There was no washer. Instead, there was a cute little plastic ball, some assorted plastic parts, and a sort of rubber-and-teflon thing that was where a washer would have been in a real faucet.


I took the latter to the hardware store and asked for a replacement. Now, like all American males, I regard the hardware store as a temple, presided over by the High Priest, who can actually thread pipe before your very eyes. The High Priest is assisted by acolytes who can only show you where the lawn rakes are, but who hope to work their way up.

An acolyte looked at my semi-washer, pursed his lips, and walked slowly away to a back corner. I followed, maintaining a respectful one step to the right and two steps to the rear. He poked around in boxes with labels like "chrome-diddies," and "carriage-bolts" and "tuberworts, size 16mm" and "junk." He spent the most time in the "junk" box. Then he looked up and shook his head sorrowfully.

"Nope. We don't have this kind. Sorry." He handed the semi-washer back.

"Whattya mean, you 'don't have it,'?" I shouted. It was like being told that they don't have candlesticks in church. "You gotta have it. I got pipes laying all over the kitchen floor."

"Well, maybe we can do something," he said, pulling a braided bell-pull. Somewhere, far off beyond the nail-bins, I heard a deep, sonorous gong. A hush fell over the store. In a moment Bob Villainous appeared. The High Priest himself, he was medium height, with bushy hair and beard, red-and-black checked lumberjack shirt. He looked like he could fix the Space Shuttle with two chrome-diddies and a carriage bolt.

"Ah," he said, smiling at the semi-washer in my hand. "Got just the thing. Come with me."

I followed, my faith renewed. This man was the goods. All would be right with the world once more. He had "just the thing."

Soon we were in the dim catacombs beneath the floor of the store. Most people don't know that all hardware stores have vast catacombs under them. That's where they keep all that stuff that they go away to get while you stand out front admiring the lawn rakes.

"Hold this," Villainous said, handing me the flaming torch he had used to light our way. Villainous looked in more boxes, boxes whose musty wooden tops creaked loudly when he opened them, boxes with labels like "eye of newt" and "tongue of toad." A passing foul wind made the torch gutter. I looked around, and regretted doing so. From the dimmer corners, and from the shelves high overhead, eyes were looking back. From now on, I vowed to myself, I'll go only to Sears.

In a moment Villainous cried out, and so did I. "No, wait," he said as I sprinted for the stairs, still carrying the torch like an Olympic runner, "I've found it."

I came back and looked. "It" was a large plastic box. Villainous brushed aside the cobwebs and I saw the twin of my semi-washer. I also saw a lot of other stuff, the twins of everything inside the faucet.

"What's all this?" I asked.

"It's a replacement kit. You don't just replace the washer. You replace the whole inside of the faucet."

"But," I said, "I only need a new washer. The other parts are fine."

"Doesn't matter. You can't get just a washer. You have to buy the kit. It's only $5.98."

"Six bucks?" I cried. "Six bucks for a twenty-cent washer? That's highway robbery."

"True," Villainous said with a smile. "But that's the way they come to us, and I'm not going to break up a set."

Enraged, I stormed out and went to another hardware temple. That high priest had his replacement kit right up front, realizing, evidently, that this was a high-profit item, the more so because he was charging exactly double what Villainous wanted for the same box.

So I went to the grocery store, bought a sixty-nine-cent bottle of white vinegar, soaked all the old parts in that and cleaned them carefully, and put everything back together. The faucet still dripped; in fact it dripped worse than before.

A week later I loitered in the carriage bolt section until I saw Villainous leave for lunch, then bought the six-buck kit from a new acolyte. Villainous would have laughed and told me that Pride is one of the Seven Deadly Sins.

— end —



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