by David S. Atkinson
Charlie was uncomfortable, so he sealed up his shower. He was uncomfortable because he had a date soon. That’s about the long and short of it…but I suppose I’ll elaborate.
He got some caulk from the garage, clear silicone of some kind, and filled in the gaps between the Plexiglas sheets that made up the sides of his mostly, other than the foot tall section to the ceiling above the Plexiglas panels, enclosed shower. The caulk he covered, both within the shower and without, with duct tape. He smeared an epoxy coating over the top of the duct tape, trying to seal as much as was generally possible.
Charlie had always been a thorough person.
The drain he covered with a rubber block sheet he’d bought for an old tub one time when the attached metal drain stopper broke. He wasn’t sure why he still had it. Then he put epoxy over that as well, duct tape first, before filling the concrete shower pan with a quarter foot base of darkly colored river pebbles.
Then he turned on the shower, reaching over the top to do so, while standing on his kitchen folding step stool.
Charlie never should have agreed to the date. It wouldn’t go well. Charlie’s dates never went well. His friends at work set it up, saying he needed to find someone. He wouldn’t have to go out of his way. The girl would come get Charlie and they’d go have some dinner. There was no reason for him to say no.
Except, of course, that he should have said no.
A green tarp from the basement was next, though perhaps more olive than basic green. It was old, but wasn’t ratty quite yet. He took his tin snips and cut jagged strips from it. Several, around six feet long each, tendrils branching in multiple directions from a main stalk. He glued rocks inside a wrapped portion formed of one end and buried it under the river pebble layer. Floating with the water churning from the filling shower, it looked like trails of seaweed.
He thought about a chest that would open and close, or a diver to blow bubbles. They probably didn’t make those in Charlie’s size though, and building his own sounded like a sure recipe for electrocution.
Better to just skip that part.
Charlie liked dates, of course. He enjoyed people, and being around them. Life was fine on his own, time always being full, but life with other people was pleasurable too. Misanthropy was not among Charlie’s problems. He wasn’t even necessarily that introverted, by nature.
He just wanted to be him though.
Dates made Charlie feel pressured. He had to be who he was supposed to be rather than who he was. That wasn’t so far apart with some dates, but it still left Charlie feeling clammy. Others were worse and Charlie liked them correspondingly less. Some even told Charlie who to be, explicitly.
Charlie liked these least of all.
There was an old black inner tube in the hall closet, deflated, a large one. Charlie cut through a section, leaving one long circular strip. One end he mangled and glued and twisted until it resembled flippers. The other he put over his feet and legs. He attached bits of tin foil like scales, and used spirit gum to put a couple purple spray-painted sand dollars on his chest.
A blue plastic crown from an old renaissance festival suit complete the look, coupled to his hair with some extra Christmas tree ornament hooks. He made sure it was straight and then slipped over the top of the stall edge into the filling water.
Perhaps he should have simply called to cancel. Charlie wondered if he was going to extremes. He’d wanted to do this for a while though, thought about it often. The date was simply a reason to finally pull the trigger.
Charlie surfaced for some air.
Honestly, he’d been afraid to try the scheme because he wasn’t sure it would work. Would the Plexiglas hold? It was thick, but that was a heck of a lot of water. Heavy. What about the seams? The drain? Showers weren’t designed for such things. Regardless, Charlie noticed that it didn’t seem to be doing too badly.
The doorbell rang and Charlie ignored it. It wasn’t his concern. It still wasn’t when it rang a few more times. However, the “Hello?” when she came in despite the lack of an answer certainly was.
“I’m in the bathroom,” Charlie called, pulling himself up out of the water. Then “You must be Linda” when she walked right on in.
Did they know each other well enough for that sort of thing? Coming in his house when he didn’t answer the door? Marching into the bathroom instead of waiting for him to come out? Most people wouldn’t have done either.
“I don’t have to do what you say,” Charlie informed her. “I’m a merman now.”
She looked at him for a while. Then she stormed right back out. He regretted it a little. She was pretty like his friends had said, soft eyes and long, dark hair.
But then she marked back in, wearing an Aquaman costume.
“Shit. Did you actually have that with you?”
“Yeah, in my purse. You going to come out now?”
Charlie considered. “Do you think Aquaman controls fish, or just communicates with them?”
“Communicates,” Linda replied. “He always just seems to ask rather than tell, just like I’m asking if you want to go grab some pizza. Maybe even a little ice cream afterward.”
Charlie turned off the water in the shower. It had just gotten near the spray head anyway. “Good. I forgot to put any food in here so that works out great.” He dug down in the bottom and uncovered the drain and, just like that, the weight of the water started to lift.
David S. Atkinson is the author of Apocalypse All the Time (Literary Wanderlust, forthcoming January 2017), Not Quite so Stories (Literary Wanderlust, 2016), The Garden of Good and Evil Pancakes (EAB Publishing, 2014, and a 2015 National Indie Excellence Awards finalist in humor), and Bones Buried in the Dirt (River Otter Press, 2013, and a 2014 Next Generation Indie Book Awards finalist, First Novel <80K). His writing appears in Bartleby Snopes, Literary Orphans, Atticus Review, and others. His writing website is http://davidsatkinsonwriting.com/.