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I’m in Mazzone’s True Value hardware store buying a quarter-inch pressurized cap for the water line that used to go in to my old refrigerator’s ice maker. I’m fairly pleased with this fifty cent purchase – it’s early in the day and I’m under the illusion that I’ve taken care of another problem. But I should be more cognizant of the signals around me, including the big kid with the square head, board shorts and oversized Jets jersey, asking the Mazzone employee in all earnestness if they sell machetes. I tell myself it’s none of my business, and that he’s likely confusing it with some sort of gardening implement. Heading toward home, I take particular note of the various Virgin Mary front yard displays in this South Brooklyn neighborhood. These multi story brownstones are all pushing two million (and higher) despite a supposedly slumping market, but some folks still aren’t selling and a little gentrification isn’t going to prevent the Holy Mother from getting her props.

Back at the digs I attach the cap to the copper water line and turn the cold water back on, anticipating pushing my new fridge in place and admiring a job well done. But it doesn’t form a seal and there’s a touch of dampness on the side of the copper. So I’m off again to the discount store a few blocks up, to procure some threaded plumber’s tape. Another one dollar purchase – I’m up to a buck fifty now, but am getting some exercise in the process. Never mind the panicking girl running with hands over mouth from behind the register, crying that her wallet’s been lifted. I’m willing to turn my pockets out in proof of innocence if it means getting home and forming a tight seal on my old freezer line. I pick up a few bottles of Gatorade at the shady bodega on the corner, planning on putting the cooling powers of my new appliance to the test. An hour later I’ve gone through both bottles and the entire roll of plumber’s tape, and of course the leak is even worse. Sweating though my third t-shirt of the day, I get the inspired idea to disconnect the line entirely from under the sink, and cap it there. Ten minutes later I’m again soaked, this time a result of the water spraying in all directions. I’ve gone from a passably damp quarter inch copper pipe to a tapped Harlem fire hydrant in full summer glory. I shut off the cold water, bite the bullet, and reach for my phone.

I don’t know any plumbers in the area, but after a few calls I settle on a firm called “Einstein’s” – an unlikely name for the trade, but there’s something reassuring about the girl’s voice on the other end of the line. I tell her that it’s a straight forward job and shouldn’t take more than ten minutes, and she explains that it’s seventy-nine dollars for a service call and estimate. The guy arrives promptly and when I ask him if he’s Einstein he offers the appropriate response in a thick Brooklyn accent. “If I was, would I be doin’ this job?” We’re off and running. I explain that I’ve bought a new refrigerator and had trouble trying to cap the water line that went to the old unit’s ice maker. He looks under the sink, tells me it’s no problem, and then, with a straight face says “what it’s gonna be is two hundred and eighty-nine.” I tell him he’s got to be kidding, and he offers a slight grin and some form of explanation relating to escalating costs. What can I do? If I send him away I’m out eighty bucks and back where I started. I tell him that it’s almost as much as I paid for the new refrigerator and he suggests that I “shoulda got one with an ice maker.” Fifteen minutes later all is in fine working order, except my credit card, which has been swiped to the tune of three hundred and change.

Later in the evening I’m enjoying some hand-made ice, watching sheet lightning flash between the thick clouds over Jersey. Again with the weather – it seems like I never stop with this. But the entire area’s like some electrical appliance that gets plugged in come June and stays charged through early September. Sometimes it’s a better idea to let the water run.

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