The faucet is leaking, taunting Katherine Thomas as she hovers over the contraption with a large bottle raised over her head, both hands clasping it. The faucet has been leaking for days without relief. Drip drop, drip drop. Water pools in a deep groove inside the chipped ceramic basin and streams down the drain. Katherine is heaving, hands shaking. Drip drop, drip drop. She’s preparing the final blow when she looks out the kitchen window and stops—.
Katherine is standing over the sink washing vegetables. She takes the rinsed vegetables—zucchini, eggplant, and onion—from the stainless steel colander in the sink and sets it down on the cream-tiled counter. She uses her forearm to turn off the faucet. The steady flow of water is interrupted, but a minuscule amount still escapes. She shrugs it off. Michael will take care of it. She wipes her hands on her apron and sets the vegetbles on a cutting board to prepare.
Michael, Katherine’s husband of five years, has locked himself up in his study on the second floor of their New England home, presumably to work on accounting papers for the marina that employs him. Katherine’s noticed he’s been a bit distant the past few days now and has no idea why he’s begun to bring his work home with him. She shrugs it off. Drip drop.
Katherine puts dinner in the oven. She pours a glass of lemonade and brings it and her copy of Moby Dick outside to sit on the veranda. She sees her neighbor, Adam Fiske, pull into the house next to hers. He shuffles through his white sedan, moving a fishing rod to the floor of the car. He doesn’t notice Katherine watching while he whistles and carries a bouquet of red roses to his veranda. Both houses are identical aside from their paint colors and reversed floor plans. Katherine’s house is white and Adam and his wife, Bradamente, have a blue one.
The chirping of the summer birds is overpowered by screams minutes later. Katherine glances up from her book when Adam slams his screen door and heads to the car, bawling. A naked teenage boy is following him, covering himself with a white hand towel. Sweat drips from his flushed face and panting chest. Katherine can’t help but notice both the teenager and Adam have similar looking eyes: both are green.
“Mr. Fiske, won’t you talk to me, please?” The boy’s brow is furrowed and face desperate. He’s taller than Adam, and his onyx hair is more full than Adam’s blond hair.
“You slept with my wife on our anniversary!You stole my mermaid of twenty years!”
Still holding the towel with one hand, the teenager waves the other. “I’m sorry you found out this way! Please, don’t go. We can talk about this. You, me, and Bradamente.” Adam gets into the car. Driving into reverse, he hits his mailbox, which is shaped like an oversized trout. It falls to the ground and Adam disappears out of the old subdivision. Katherine sets her book down on the table next to her chair and approaches the teenager, who is walking back towards the house after chasing Adam down the drive. He stubs his toe on a sprinkler head, dropping his towel to com- fort the sting. He hops on one foot while Katherine walks to him.
“I think I know what’s happening here.” Glancing across to Adam’s house, Katherine can see Adam’s wife leaning against a veranda post in her purple silk teddy. Her black hair covers her glares. Katherine continues. “But, why don’t you tell me anyways?” The boy faces her.
“My name’s Collin, Collin Callaghan.” He offers her his hand.
“I’m Bradamante’s lover.” His nipples are erect. So is his fishing rod.
Katherine holds up her hand. “First, I’m not shaking your hand. Second, cover yourself. Third, how old are you? Your body looks twenty four but your face looks fifteen.”
“You like my body?” He shows her his ass while picking up the towel. “I’m seventeen. But please don’t tell anyone!” He raises his voice. “Bradamante and I are meant to be together. Plus, I’ll be eighteen in a few months so the law can’t break us apart.”
Katherine’s arms are folded now. “How long have you known Bradamante?”
“Three weeks. Doesn’t love blossom so quick?” He blows Bradamente a kiss. “In fact, I was planning on asking her to marry me.” He turns to Bradamente, who has her hands to her face and is crying. “I don’t have a ring, but I do have my love and my body to give you, if you’d take me to be your husband.” He gets on one knee. Katherine crosses her arms and rolls her eyes.
“I do! I do!” Bradamente shrieks. Katherine’s eyes widen and her hands go in the air.
“Are you serious?” she asks.
“Well, it was nice to meet you, Katherine,” Collin says. “I hope we can be good friends.”
“Not likely.” Collin lowers his head and walks away. Katherine doesn’t watch his ass cheeks bounce while he walks. Instead, she goes back to her book, reads another chapter, and empties her glass before going back inside.
When the aroma of a homemade ratatouille wafts in the air, Kath- erine goes to get Michael. She knocks on the study’s white door. Michael pokes his head out.
“Kathy, how are you?”
“It’s Katherine, and I’m doing fine.” Seeing his grin makes her smile. “It’s time to eat, Mike. Come down while it’s still warm.”
“Thanks. It smells good.” He starts to close the door but stops.
“What a show those Fiskes put on earlier, huh? I saw the whole thing from up here.”
“She’s a whore and he’s obsessive.”
“Adam’s not like that,” Michael jokes, “he’s just…dedicated. She is a wretch, though. Anyways, I’ll be right down.” He starts to close the door but Katherine stops him with her finger.
“Oh, do you mind taking a look at the faucet later? It’s leaking.”
He nods. “Of course.” He kisses Katherine’s forehead and closes the door. Katherine goes downstairs to the dining room, where she has set the table for two. She places the ratatouille in the middle of the table and waits. She can hear the drip drop of the faucet in the kitchen. It aggravates her to the point she drums her fingers along the cherry table. Ba-da-da-dum.
Twenty minutes pass and dinner’s cold, the sun has left, and Katherine realizes Michael’s not coming. She spoons a heap of ratatouille onto her plate and eats it quickly with a glass of lemonade mixed with a dash of vodka. After packaging the leftovers in the refrigerator, she goes upstairs. She passes the study on her way to the bedroom. Light shines underneath the door. She doesn’t bother to say goodnight and instead, heads to the bath. From the bath’s window, she sees Collin and Bradamente tossing clothes, trinkets, and a giant mounted swordfish out a second-story window and cupola into the grass. The sprinklers outside saturate everything.
Adam scoops up the items and tries to toss them back up through the second floor window. The clothes plop back onto the grass. Katherine shuts the blinds and soaks in the warm water and Treasure Island for an hour before heading to bed without her husband.
The next morning Katherine dresses in white jeans and a blue-collared shirt and goes downstairs. The faucet is still dripping and Katherine is still eating her meal by herself. After finishing her scrambled eggs and bacon, she goes up to check on her husband. He’s inside the study with the door locked. She knocks.
“Hey, Kathy. How are you, dear?” He doesn’t open the door.
“It’s Katherine. Don’t you have work today?”
“Working from home. I’m going to try to save up for that sailboat
“Oh, all right. I’ll make you a sandwich for lunch,” she says reluctant.
“That’d be great, thanks.”
“Don’t mention it; and Mike, you know I don’t need a sailboat, or rowboat, or yacht, right? They’re just things I want, not what I need.”
“That won’t stop me from trying to get them for you.”
“You’re sweet.” Michael smiles and shuts the door. Katherine goes back downstairs. She hears the doorbell. She answers it. Adam is standing on the opposite side, his eyes puffy and hair disheveled. She assumes he’s spent the night on his dilapidated boat in the marina.
“Katherine, could I talk to you, please?”
“What can I do for you?” She doesn’t welcome him inside. “Would you please talk to Bradamente for me? You know, I love
her and I think she’s been caught in the net of that teenie-bopper! He’s no angler like me. He can’t do what I can!” He’s screaming now. “I won’t have someone steal away my treasure!”
Katherine takes a deep breath. “First, you’re not a pirate, so quit acting like your wife is your sick possession. You’re a fisherman and I don’t care about your clever nautical references. Second, your wife’s a whore, not a mermaid. I can’t help you, sorry.”
“Well, could you please ask Mike to give me a hand?” His tone is calmer, crushed.
Katherine laughs. “Michael? He doesn’t even have time to sit down and eat with me, let alone fix the damned leaky faucet! You’re on your own, Adam.” Adam raises his foot and stomps down on the porch. The force sends his foot through the plank. He struggles to get free. Katherine closes the door and goes to read 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea in the living room.
Lunchtime passes without Michael. She takes his sandwich and shoves it into the garbage disposal and listens to its teeth rip and tear at the bread and meat like a shark. She pours her second glass of vodka-infused lemonade, this time fifty percent vodka, and goes in search of her book. There’s a knock on the door. She chugs the last of her drink, gagging, and opens the door.
“What do you want?” she asks Bradamente, who stands on her porch in a short, skanky yellow sundress.
Bradamente removes her sunhat. “You probably think I’m some home wrecker, but—”
“Oh, Bradamente,” Katherine interjects, “I wouldn’t call you that. I’d call you worse.”
The worse-than-home wrecker rolls her eyes. “Look, I just want to know what Adam said. I saw him over here earlier.”
“I told him to leave just like I’m going to ask you to do.” Katherine tries to close the door but Bradamante holds it open with her hand. Katherine gives up, letting the door fly open. For a moment, the floor seems to sway, then stops. Bradamente avoids the hole in the porch and steps closer to Katherine.
“Why do you think I’m so horrible? I’m only doing what any woman would do and that’s satisfy my needs. I’m resourceful, Katherine. We women have power. Men think they’re kings with their fishing poles and lures, but it’s us, the prizes, who control them. But I can’t control Adam anymore so I found a new fish to fry.” She waits for Katherine’s agreement.
“Bradamente, I asked you politely to leave. Now I’m telling you to fuck off.” Bradamente scuffs and steps back. “Oh, and keep your little pedophile’s daydream away too.”
“You think he’s just as sexy as I do!You want him just as much as me!” she hisses. “And fix that hole in your porch; you make this neighborhood look trashy!” Walking backwards, she falls off the step and lands on the sidewalk. She picks herself up, adjusts her hat, and walks with tall posture towards her house. Katherine mutters to herself and closes the door.
Drip drop drip drop. The faucet in the kitchen is leaking like a hole in an unsinkable ship. Woosh.
Four days pass with Michael in his study and Katherine sulk-ing around the house with vodka in her hand. The kitchen is dirty now. The trash hasn’t been taken out and the floor tiles are in need of a good scrubbing. Drip drop. During the four days, Katherine has seen Adam try climbing up his house’s latticework to talk with Bradamente, only to be hit in the head with her frying pan. The police released him from jail later that day. He now hides in bushes and behind trees. Drip drop. From the window above the kitchen sink, Katherine has watched Collin bound and gagged by Bradamente and doused in milk. She wore fishhooks as earrings and made him suck in his cheeks—both sets. One night she made him eat worms. He seemed to enjoy it. Drip drop.
The faucet continues to leak despite attempts by Katherine to fix it. She’s no good at using tools, especially after a bottle or two of her favorite vodka. When she did try to fix it, she banged the wrench against the pipes, exacerbating the problem. Drip drop, drip drop. Swoosh.
Michael finds his wife reading her book upside down out on the veranda. He steps out of the house and unexpectedly gets his foot stuck inside the hole made by Adam. “What’s this?”
“Fiske got angry.”
“Oh. He came by?”
“Four days ago I think.”
Michael studies his wife. She’s gazing intently on the novel. “Kathy, what are you doing?” He has his car keys. He’s wearing a white collared shirt and jeans. He has stubble all over his face, Katherine notices.
“I finished all the books in the house so I’m reading this one upside down. Oh, and it’s Katherine.”
Michael looks puzzled. “If that’s what you want to do, Kathy, that’s fine with me. I need to get something from the office. I’ll be back in a little while.”
“It’s Katherine and it’s Saturday. Do you really need to go?” Vodka fumes linger around her mouth. A glass is lying on its side on the porch.
“Yeah, I’ll only be a bit; don’t worry. I’ve got a surprise for you later.”
“Dinner for two?” Her voice is condescending. He doesn’t notice.
He leans in and kisses her forehead. “Even better. See you later.” Once she sees Michael’s car leave its spot on the street, Katherine smirks. She sets down her book and marches into the house and upstairs to the study door. She gropes the handle and throws the door open. It bumps the bookcase beside it. She enters and walks towards the mahogany desk. The whitewashed floors groan under her footsteps. She inches towards the desk and sees not papers, calculators, and pencils, but tiny bits of wood, cloth, paint, and brushes. A large clear bottle rests on its side. On closer examination of the desk, she sees the work her husband has engaged in for the past week or so. She picks up the bottle. Inside the bottle is a ship; a highly detailed replica of one with several masts, cannons and little details like windows, anchors, railings, and stairs. There is even a set of double doors to the captain’s quarters and grates on the deck for cargo.
Katherine bites her lip and shakes her head. “This? This is what has separated us? Unbelievable!” With the bottle in hand, she leaves the study and goes to the kitchen sink. The faucet is Niagara Falls. Whooosshhhh! Swooooosshhh! Roooaaarrr! Katherine’s about to fix the problem. She takes the bottle and raises it above her head.
—mid-swing. In the house across from hers, she sees Collin bent over Adam’s kitchen table, tight pink briefs pulled up between his ass cheeks. He’s wearing one of Adam’s brown fishing hats and has a plastic fish swimmer in his mouth. Bradamante’s behind him, wearing a skimpy bra and panties with grey sequins that make her look like an ugly bottom feeder. In her hand is a large metal hook with a ball at the tip. Adam is watching from inside a rose bush that matches his shirt and camouflage pants below the window. Thorns are stuck and bleeding over his arms. Though Katherine can’t tell for sure, she thinks he’s got a filet knife in his back pocket.
She sets the bottle down and says to no one in particular, “I really am like that whore, aren’t I? So demanding. So bitchy.” She looks back at the ship-in-a-bottle and notices something she hadn’t before. Engraved at the bow of the ship, on both the starboard and port sides, is the word Katherine. Dazed, she places the bottle on the counter. She wipes a tear with her hand.
“That man!” she says, choking up. She braces herself on the counter and glances towards the ceiling. “I love him.” She brings the bottle back upstairs and waits for her husband to return home in the kitchen. She sits, not facing the window, listening to the soft drip drop of the leaky faucet. The front door opens and her husband comes into the kitchen with a plastic bag.
“Hey, love. Surprise, I got you a new faucet! Sorry it’s taken so long for me to get it.” Katherine stands while Michael sets the bag on the counter. “But hang on. I’ve got one more surprise upstairs.” She stops him before he can leave. She embraces him crying. He hugs her, uneasy, and says everything’s all right.
The faucet in the kitchen is leaking. But Katherine Thomas doesn’t mind.