The Bruno Caper
The boss’s name suited him: Don .He was a middle-aged man with auburn hair, cut closely and always groomed to perfection. His uniform, a navy blue Armani suit and a yellow power tie, had the typical successful look of the early 80’s.
When at work his serious aspects and gregarious nature complimented one another. He greeted clients fully suited and escorted them personally to the black leather guest chairs with brass studs accenting the armrests in typical expensive club fashion. The natural smile never left his face as he removed his suit coat and paused to hang it neatly on a rack, apparently designed to match his desk. He turned to his clients to be sure they were comfortable, inquiring about the need for fresh coffee or water and sat easily at the helm of his massive desk. The top of the desk was brilliantly shined and only a fresh folder, with the new client’s name typed neatly across the tab, prevented the impression that the desk top was a mirror made of Brazilian cherry and not the center of negotiations for a new construction project.
Don took off his gold nugget cufflinks, placed them in his shirt pocket and extracted a fountain pen with the ease of an accomplished magician. Before speaking he rolled up his sleeves exposing muscular arms that reminded the client he did not always do the heavy lifting from behind a desk. He spoke softly setting his clients at ease and spoke of the early days when he turned a two flat into an expansive construction empire one building at a time. He would proudly announce his skills as a plumber were the tools that lent him the introduction to the tradesman upon whose labor he shrewdly built his empire.
Don began the discussion: “Don’t let the 18 percent interest rate frighten you.”
He explained he had specialists in financing and that the project would be finished sooner because few companies could stand the weight of Jimmy Carter’s stagflation due to lack of work. He had resources that would outlast this and any other foul financial climate.
“For 10 percent down I will start construction without worrying about financing!”
He reminded his clients of his personal faith in Jesus and that his business grew exponentially as long as he tithed. He would not only build it quickly, but on budget and in five months from shovel in the ground till the paint dried on the walls. That would be ample time to find an acceptable mortgage for one quarter of a million dollars and the financial climate to change.
“I will personally change the standard warranty to three full years from closing instead of the usual one year.”
Unable to resist the power of the boss’s ability to close a deal and anxious to build there new home, Mr. and Mrs. Thomas signed the contract and a check that day for $25,000.00.
Don then introduced Jim, the job foreman who appeared neatly dressed in jeans and an open sport coat covering a plaid shirt. It was clear there was a dress code in the boss’s office but Jim only donned the jacket to meet the new clients. He would be seen many more times in his jeans and plaid shirt while the house was built and the crew needed supervision.
Jim always took his muddy boots off before getting into the impeccably clean cab of a company truck. When he showed up to report to the boss his wing tips were shined to military perfection. Jim, a wise and skilled foreman, understood his job, which included handling the everyday details of the dirty part of the construction project and running interference for the boss who had long ago earned his role as CEO of the company.
The company ran effectively as if it were a military unit. It seemed that everyone knew their role and responsibility and the chain of command.
The house was constructed on top of a hill. The foundation was poured and the muddy road to the house had deep ruts from the retreat of the heavy machinery as they retreated from the site after completing their mission in a rain storm.
The first inspection by the Thomas’s was the next day. They splashed through the mud hitting every rut in their Cadillac Deville as they drove up to the house. There was a wooden plank from the mud to the front of the foundation. They both got out of the Cadillac from the passenger side and carefully walked up the ramp.
A minute passed in the warming sun when they both got the same impression. The foundation was too small for the grand house they had imagined. They left in a hurry and once home to the phone to call Don the boss.
“It is too small,” Mr. Thomas cried at the receiver.
The boss paused for a moment, presumably to think about a response.
“Too small compared to what? The sky?”
Enough said, he was right as always, and he seemed to have everything under complete control.
The construction was completed ahead of time even though Mrs. Thomas added another $100,000 worth of upgrades on the kitchen and family room alone.
The completed house stood on the hill with an inviting charm. Don had worked his perfectionist magic. The upgraded kitchen became a masterpiece of integration of custom cabinetry and paneled walls all done in pure designer white and accented by coral-colored porcelain floors, tiles laid in diamond geometry. The counter tops were dark green granite. The adjacent family room and laundry/mud room were done to perfection in the same style. The bathroom off of the mud room had the same white paneling to a chair rail and above it tinted glass mirror to the nine foot ceiling. The accessories in the bathroom included even a shower stall to wash the dogs. The back door had a small porch raised three steps from the path that cut across the crown of the hill to the driveway.
The unseen but intricate hub of plumbing designed by Don exited the house through the foundation and under the driveway to a lift station, which then allowed the waste water and sewage to flow into a septic field on the other side of the hill. This was an engineering marvel to Mr. Thomas but escaped notice from his wife whose main interest was the interior design.
Months passed without a complaint. Mrs. Thomas hired an army of maids to keep the dwelling showroom new in appearance. Not a thing was out of place nor would that be tolerated.
The day came when the first signs of trouble appeared with a sluggish toilet off the mud room. It took several flushes to realize that nothing was flowing out through the drain. Plungers were purchased at Ace hardware and given to the maid. No success resulted in their use.
It was Time to call Don. After the usual secretarial facilitation Don was on the phone. Mrs. Thomas explained the situation to him in fluid detail. Don was the knight in shinning armor coming to the rescue with a simple command: “Be calm. I will take care of everything right away.”
In the next moment he advised Mrs. Thomas that he would ask Jim, the foreman and fellow church member, to dispatch a plumber who would follow instructions to the letter. This will all be taken care of and over within the hour! Jim received instructions from the boss and contacted an employee named Bruno, giving Bruno no authority to act on his own but to report each detail of what he found to him.
Bruno knocked on the back door within the hour reporting to Mrs. Thomas for duty.
If Don was the most meticulous man Mrs. Thomas had ever seen, Bruno was the exact opposite! He was tall. He had a huge muscular frame. His hair flew about as he moved his head. Long and disheveled it stuck out in three places from lack of management or cowlicks or both. His brown, unkempt locks had no sheen, appeared dusty and he generally seemed to have forgotten to go to the barber for months. His big round eyes encased in a large round face lacked the ability to focus in any one direction for more than a moment. Hair also grew from his ears and nose with abandon like a garden left to grow weeds. His smile was not menacing but clownish. He had protruding lips that did not seem to cover his semi-toothless mouth.
He carried a plumber’s wrench over his shoulder like a soldier coming home from a lost battle. He was dressed in dirty grey overalls that were covered in brown stains. If the plumbers wrench had not been angled across his shoulder one would have perceived these stains as just mud. Knowing his occupation raised some speculation about the origin of the stains. His boots were just as offensive as his overalls and seemed to leave a trail behind him of brown footprints.
He spoke broken English in an eastern European accent. “Hello, Mrs. I am BRRUUNO,” in a throaty voice. “Jeeem sent me!” It took several repeats of the name Jeeem to realize he was talking about Jim the foreman. Without waiting for an invitation, Bruno pushed himself through the back door almost falling over the threshold.
“EES this that blocked commode?” he inquired trying now to give an air of professionalism. Again without invitation he marched into the bathroom off the back of the mudroom. In an instant he left half a dozen smudgy handprints on the tinted mirrored walls while peering into the toilet at the unflushable contents.
He moaned aloud “I SEEE DE problem Mrs. EEEZY to fix. YoUUU got a plunger?” She handed him the tool the maids failed to find effective.
Immediately he started to pump the plunger in fast rapid rhythmic movements like a lumberjack sawing a log by hand. Water colored brown splashed everywhere, even as high as the mirrored walls above the wainscoting. When he was done he looked at the bowl with great satisfaction and sighed.
“That should fix it Mrs.” He stated with authority and simultaneously flushed the toilet. His toothless grin turned to a frown as water poured over the top of the bowl onto the floor. Since the floor was already wet and dirty he did not seem affected, but Mrs. Thomas shuttered with silent rage.
Bruno said, “Don’t worry Mrs., I call Jeeem”
The conversation overheard was cause for concern! “Jeeem the toilet don’t flush!” said Bruno. A pause followed by “SSSSSSSSSS, Jeeem, you want me to do what? Ok I tell Mrs.”
Bruno turned and advised Mrs. Thomas that Jim wanted him to use a snake to clear the pipes. He trudged out to his van to retrieve the plumber’s snake and trudged back into the house, the snake unfolding and dancing in his arms like an oversized and worn out slinky toy. As he wrestled with the device the ends of it scratched grooves into the paneled white walls. He seized control of it and began with the same vigor he used with the plunger to feed it into the pipes until all that was left was a short piece in his wet dirty hand. Having exhausted the entire length of the snake he wiped it out of the pipe while turning it in large circles leaving noticeable scratches on the porcelain bowl. He got to the end and dropped the snake onto the floor where it unwound and he flushed again. Again the same result as dirty water poured over the top of the toilet onto the now unrecognizable coral tile floor.
“SSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSS” announced Bruno, “I call Jeeem again!”
Apparently Jim was on the phone again while Bruno brought him up to date on the
lack of improvement in the flushing situation. “Yes Jeeem, I do that”
Bruno turned to Mrs. Thomas: “Mrs., Jeeem say to take off toilet and look in pipe,” snorted Bruno. She nodded tenuously in the affirmative. Bruno promptly unfastened the two anchor bolts holding the toilet to the floor and pried loose the seal. More dirty water, the last of it spilled onto the floor as Bruno hoisted the commode and carried it like a baby in both arms out the back door. He set it gently on the concrete landing a little too close to the edge. As he turned to come back in it toppled down three steps and began to accelerate as in rolled down the small hill into a decorative boulder and broke into multiple pieces. Bruno seeing what happened stated emphatically, “SSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSS.”
It was a sound that he used to show surprise at an unfortunate outcome by drawing his breath inward through the gapes in his teeth. He turned in a flash and without explanation peered and then reached into the drain pipe now exposed on the floor. Another brief “SSSSSSSSSS” and he said, “Mrs., I call Jeeem.”
Once back on the telephone speaking to Jim he made several more SSSSS sounds while shaking his head no.
Bruno still shaking his head no turned to Mrs. Thomas and said, “SSSSSSSSSS, theees is bad, Jeeem says I got to break da wall.” She winced! Bruno, reassuring her, said “Doonworry” in a softer voice, “I will hose down the mess and clean up when I ‘m done.”
Mrs. Thomas started to sob. Tears rolled down her face and the phone rang! Bruno answered it. “Jeeem? No Boss!” he paused. “Ok boss I check thee reset button in the lift station now” He turned and ran out the door to the septic tank, lifted the concrete disc and looked in. He ran back in the house grabbed the phone and said, “That’s eet Boss you solved it. Mrs. will be so happy.”
The next morning Mr. and Mrs. Thomas were having takeout coffee and muffins for breakfast while waiting for Don’s crew to come and clean up the mess that had contaminated their home. It was 7 a.m. on Saturday morning. The doorbell rang for the back door. Standing there was not Bruno, not Jim, but Don the boss himself. Don was wearing overalls that were clean but unpressed. His clean white tee shirt had the name of his construction company across the chest. His boots were well worn but clean. The Thomas’s surprise was clear as they both said in unison, “Don, why are you here?”
Don replied: “I know Bruno failed you. I know Jim failed you. They have both failed me. They are both good men. They are both members of my church. I know their character. I ask your forgiveness. I have forgiven them.”
He paused to reflect. “After all, if I did not come today to clean up their mess myself, I would not know how much forgiveness they need.”