It started with a single drop of water.
It fell from the ceiling behind the wet bar in Ryan’s basement like a pearl of nitro glycerin detonating on the ceramic tile floor. The drop dispersed in a three-foot radius. Then came the second drop. Another little aerial bomblet of H2O spiraling down from an unseen enemy behind the ceiling sheetrock.
Ryan looked up. And here was a third drop bulging like a giant tear in the dark eye of the ominous ceiling. Before he could retreat, the droplet splashed on Ryan’s forehead like an overture to a full symphony.
“No,” Ryan shouted, lurching toward the stairs, racing up to the kitchen to check all the faucets, drains, spray hose, feeder pipes, drain pipe.
He raced to the radiator in the kitchen extension. The floor was as arid as precious British humor.
Ryan checked the bathroom — sink and toilet and radiator all functioning normal.
He raced back downstairs, missing the last step in a near pratfall, throwing a disc in his left lower lumbar East of Montauk Point. Sciatic pain boiled in his gluteus, bolting down his left leg like a pitchfork of lightning.
Ryan screamed a four-letter F-word. But all that made him think of was a five-letter F-word: FLOOD! Because by now the drip was a steady drum roll of water banging from three places in the ceiling. Plop-plop-plop was now bap-a-dappa-dappa-pap-pap-pap-dappa . . .
Ryan searched for three buckets to catch the competing drum rolls that sounded like Ringo Starr, Keith Moon, and Ginger Baker doing “Wipeout” on Ryan’s bar and floor.
With his left leg a lava spill from Mt. Sciatica, Ryan pivoted on his right leg toward the stairs and skidded on the water that was now a giant amoeba devouring his basement floor.
“Son of a b . . .”
He didn’t get to finish the sentence as a black four-legged creature hydroplaned across the floor. The cat — whose name is Black Cat — was drenched with ceiling water and looked more like an otter than a feline.
Then, Ryan could have sworn he heard the voice of the late Howard Cossell shouting: “Down goes Ryan! Down goes Ryan!”
Ryan lay on his side on in the puddle for a long senior moment thinking about that ad: “Help! I’ve fallen and I can’t get up!”
Black Cat stopped on the far side of the puddle, shook himself into a spiky punk rock hairdo, and gazed back at Ryan in a mocking way. Ryan could have sworn Black Cat was smiling before darting under the couch. Ryan pulled himself to his one good leg with the help of a stationary bike that he used to dry socks. This was the most exercise he’d ever grunted from the $1200 contraption.
Ryan sloshed across the floor, and squished up the stairs, dragging the electrified left leg behind him. He yanked the Hefty bag out of the kitchen garbage can. He considered putting the bag over his head and pulling the drawstrings at his neck. Instead, he carried the can, emptied two clear storage tubs of old papers and plunged back into the dungeon wondering if Jules Verne had been inspired to write “Journey to the Center of the Earth” by a single drop of water.
With buckets in place, Ryan scaled the stairs again and turned the feed to the dishwasher right to off.
He waited a full night to see if that did it.
Eight-times-three tubs of water later Ryan concluded that the dishwasher wasn’t the problem.
Ryan called a contractor friend to recommend a plumber saying he suspected that a pipe had frozen and cracked and was leaking somewhere in the circulatory system of the house. His contractor pal volunteered to come assess the problem first.
The contractor tore out the ceiling sheetrock expecting to find a broken pipe. No pipes. Just wet wood beams, drooling water from three places. The contractor checked upstairs the way Ryan had. But he located a thin transparent feeder tube for an ice-making system in a refrigerator that had not been used in months and needed to be thrown out.
The fridge was bought at Sears long before Jeff Bezos of Amazon, the richest man in the world, ate the famous company for a midnight snack. When Sears was still in business, Ryan had called several local appliance repairmen to fix his fridge but was told only Sears’s mechanics could service it because only they had the parts. Sears assured Ryan they would call back with an appointment.
Yeah, for its funeral. Because, like his fridge, Sears went kaput.
So, Ryan hauled a smaller fridge up from the basement and had not decided what to do about the Sears fridge.
Ryan did not know that when you turn off a fridge you also have to turn off the ice-making hose. Or else you get hosed.
After two days of flood, a dislocated disc, sciatica, a ruined ceiling and basement walls, the contractor turned a tiny cinch device under the sink that stopped the flow of ice maker water into the tube.
“See if that does it,” the contractor said. “It might take a day for all the water inside the crawl space to come down.”
Ryan set his alarm to ring every two hours through the second night so he could empty the three buckets three times.
By morning the dripping had stopped.
Black Cat strolled out of the warm and dry boiler room, stretched, yawned, gazed at Ryan, and shook his head. Ryan wasn’t sure if Black Cat said “Meow” or “Moron.”
Then Ryan heard one of the scariest sounds in the world: Plop.
Ryan turned, holding his breath, thinking: Please, let that be the last drop . . .