Flash Fiction Friday: A Minor Obstruction in the Piping
by Kirk Jones
Jim watched in disgust as the six-inch deep pile of tissue paper spiraled in the john, refusing to go down. He waited as long as he could, pleading with the toilet’s contents, “Flush, damn you! Please?” When it became apparent that his prayer was in vain, he called out to the one person within earshot who, like the porcelain god, wasn’t listening. “Damn it Sandy! Must you use half a roll of toilet paper every time you take a piss?!”
He knew what came next. The fifty-foot septic snake, which he bought for what he assumed would be a minor obstruction, was going to be put to use yet again. He walked downstairs, brushed the lint webs from his dryer out of the doorway to the garage, put on his rubber boots and stomped his gloves several times in case any spiders had decided they would make a nice home. After he was sure whatever might have dwelled inside the gloves had died, he put them on, grabbed the metal snake and headed to the back yard, uncoiling it as he walked.
The tank lid, as always, was a bitch to get off, but he managed after a few tugs on the rotting stretch of rope tied to the handle. Then he slid the snake clumsily into the pipe leading back to his house, waiting to feel the blockage. At ten feet, there was still nothing. He continued to twenty, where he finally felt resistance. Getting down on his hands and knees, he drove the snake into the pipe at full force until he loosed whatever it was that waited for him. Then the water started pouring from the piping into the septic. He looked away from the stream of refuse and inhaled deeply, trying to avoid the smell, when he heard something sizable plunge into the water from the pipe. “If that’s another one of the grandkid’s toys, so help me God,” he whispered to himself as he used the snake to fish through the septic. Then it surfaced, one finger at a time. A hand. It appeared to be reaching out to him. Even though he had seen his wife inside only a few minutes before, Jim’s first thought was that she, or someone, had somehow fallen in. So he reached in and clasped the hand, pulling it up with force that anticipated a body on the other end. But the hand ended at the wrist, crowned by purpling flesh and crimson.
He dropped the hand back into the sewage and combed his fingers through the grass, looking into the tank to confirm what he had seen, what he had felt. As if on cue, the hand bobbed back to the surface and receded again into the dark, bilious pool.
As he turned to vomit, the pipes chimed with the now familiar sound of thick, fleshy appendages plunging into the murky waters. Jim looked down and watched as hand after hand rode the current into the tank. Unlike the first, these hands did not float apathetically on the surface of the sludge. They skittered from the opening in the ground, pouring out in all directions. Before Jim could run, the hands overtook him. More rushed to the surface to join their brethren as even more slithered into the tank below from the pipe. Jim cried in horror as the hands pulled him down and dragged him towards the opening. Then he was in the tank with them, struggling to find solid ground beneath the water. On the ceiling, hundreds of hands writhed like a single living entity. Instinctually, he parted his lips to scream, and the hands rushed inwards. He chewed at the fingers, crunching sewage-soaked bone and flesh between his teeth, but soon the hands pried his jaw apart and tore at his insides as the light from above was slowly eclipsed by the tank’s concrete lid.
Kirk Jones is an instructor of humanities for the State University of New York. His work has appeared, or will be appearing in Amazing Stories of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, A Hacked-Up Holiday Massacre, New Tales of the Old Ones, Bust Down the Door & Eat All the Chickens, Unicorn Knife Fight, Flashes in the Dark, and on Bizarro Central. His first book, Uncle Sam’s Carnival of Copulating Inanimals, was published by Eraserhead Press imprint NBAS in 2010.