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Saturday, March 12, 2011

How I Met the Plumber by Nancy Goldberg Levine

“Norie, my love.”

Marlena Lefton heard the deep voice of her brother through the door of his locked office. What was going on in there, she didn’t know; didn’t really want to know. She heard kissing and the sound of her childhood friend, Norie Morgan, giggling like they were back in elementary school again.

They weren’t, Marlena mused. So much had happened since those happy days, including the death of her mother. She and her brother were lawyers now. Norie had been dating her brother since December, and they’d picked today to declare their undying love.

Marlena wanted to be in love, too. She was happy for Norie, God knew, her friend deserved a chance for some joy in her life. Didn’t she deserve it, too, though? She knew she would never find anyone in her small hometown in Maine, so she’d started surfing the net to meet the way her great-grandparents had -- through a matchmaker. Amid the sound of laughter and kisses, Marlena scanned the websites -- Rent-a-Yenta, Matchmaker, Matchmaker…

It was the end of the day, after court and clients, so Marlena had a chance to be on the computer, just for herself. She heard the key in the office door turn, and saw Chandler and Norie, grinning widely.

“We’re going home,” Chandler said. “We’re stopping for Chinese first. Do you want to join us?”

“No, thanks,” Marlena said. “I still have to wait for the plumber.”

“Oh, yeah.” Apparently, he’d forgotten that he’d promised to wait for the plumber this time, since the last guy had come on to her.

“Go on ahead,” she said.

“I’ll make it up to you,” Chandler said. “I’ll get extra Chinese food.”

“Okay,” Marlena said. The door opened just and Norie and Chandler stepped out while the plumber stepped in. He was the epitome of tall, dark and handsome, with smoky gray eyes and broad shoulders. This was definitely not the chubby, middle-aged married plumber who’d made a pass at her the last time. Of course, Chandler had called a different plumber, but still…

“This is one of the most fun-looking law offices I’ve ever seen,” the plumber said, his gaze falling on Norie and Chandler, who were throwing piles of autumn leaves on each other and laughing as they walked to the car.

“That’s my brother and his … significant other. They’re in love.”

“Ahh,” said the plumber. Marlena saw his van in the driveway of the Victorian home that served as a law office and noticed the sign “Go Down Moses Plumbing -- Don‘t Let Your Pipes Plaque You..”

“Clever,” she said. “And it’s our kitchen sink that’s plaguing us.”

“Lead the way,” the plumber said.

Marlena led him to the kitchen, reading the name on his uniform. Clayton Klein. Jewish, she thought. No wedding band, but that didn’t mean anything. Maybe he took it off when he was working. She left him alone to deal with the kitchen sink and went back to her matchmaking websites. A few minutes later, he was finished, and she caught him peering at the computer and the latest site. She tried to get out of that window, but was too late.

“A matchmaker website? Someone as beautiful as you needs a matchmaker?”

“Yes,” she said, dismissing the “beautiful” comment as a pick-up line. “I live in a small town, and all of the good guys are taken.”

“Not necessarily,” Clayton Klein said.

“How did you fix the sink so fast?” Marlena asked, trying hard to change the subject.

“Loose washer. Nothing to it. I also put some drain solution down there so you don’t get a clog. Now, about this matchmaker thing…”

“Everyone around here is in love. My brother, the other lawyer in the office…I just want that, too.”

“And you think you need a matchmaker to find you a match? What if you end up with Lazar Wolf, like in Fiddler on the Roof?”

“She didn’t end up with Lazar Wolf. She married the tailor, remember?”

“But somebody else had to end up with Lazar Wolf. Right? Of course right!”

He made her laugh.

“Want to go out for coffee?” he asked. “We can debate the pros and cons of matchmakers.”

Coffee did sound good. Marlena found herself saying yes to Clayton, the plumber. They made the short walk to Bertha Bluestein’s Bakery and Karaoke Bar, Mensocket’s answer to Starbuck’s.

They talked about more than matchmakers. They talked about their families and why he had decided to become a plumber (he’d taken over the family business after his dad died). She told him why she’d become a lawyer, specializing in family law. So far, she’d only told Norie about the time in sixth grade when their gym teacher had locked her in a storeroom with three of her other classmates because their parents had had the audacity to write notes excusing them from gym that day. The other kids who were locked in there with her had made fun of her and said she “smelled.”

“I made up my mind that day to defend the underdog. Anybody who makes fun of people had better stay out of my way.”

“I’ll remember that.”

“It’s been nice talking to you,” Marlena said, pulling money out of her purse to pay for her coffee. As she did, a bottle of talcum powder slid out.

“So that’s why you smell like lilacs,” Clayton said, grinning widely as he handed Marlena the talc.

“Old habits die hard,” she said. “Sometimes, I’m still that kid in the sixth grade. I believed what those other kids said, even though it …”

“Wasn’t true,” Clayton said. :”And isn’t true now. I love the way you smell. It reminds me of my grandma’s lilac bush.”

“Flattery will get you…”

“A date?” Clayton asked.

”Yeah,” Marlena said.

“And you didn’t even need a matchmaker.”

About the Author: Nancy Goldberg Levine is the author of TEMPTING JONAH, a romance novel about friends who become lovers set in the fictional town of Mensocket, Maine, where "How I Met the Plumber" takes place. She is also the author of more than 50 short stories. She lives in Cincinnati, Ohio, and her day job is working for the government.

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