Soiled clothes strewn across the floor, dirty dishes piled in the sink, and an empty pot on the stove. Caroline looks about her house. She reaches up to pull her oily hair back in a ponytail and cringes. On second thought, she grabs the phone and hits redial.


“Instant Plumbing, can I help you?” a woman answers.


“Yes, it’s Caroline, again.” She steadies her voice.


“Oh, I’m sorry ma’am. Hasn’t a technician returned your call yet?”


Caroline glances at the clock and jots down the time below the running total. “No, and this is my fifth call. I guess you can say that I’m more than a little annoyed.” Her toddler comes running across the kitchen with food smeared across his face. “When the hell are you guys going to finish up the job? I have a two-year-old here. I need my water back on now. I’ve already figured out that your company fired the guy who started this job.” And to whom Caroline had given $400 cash for “extra” work he supposedly had to do, of which she would chalk up to charity at this point.


“I understand how frustrated you must be.” Actually this feels condescending and makes Caroline more irritated. “I’ll page the field supervisor again. If you don’t hear back within fifteen minutes—”


“I’ll call back again.” Caroline finishes the woman’s thought. Then she adds, “I’m sure I’ll talk to you soon.”


The receptionist says, “Hopefully he’ll call you back.”


After hanging up the phone, Caroline—suddenly thankful that the past six months of potty training had been unsuccessful—steps into her mildewy-smelling son’s room, walks across the damp carpet and grabs a fresh pack of baby wipes. At least they would have clean hands.

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