As a displaced Montreal Jew living in the Bible Belt I have taken innumerable precautions to keep Jesus out of my home. But His disciples are a ubiquitous and tenacious bunch. Their intentions may be honourable, but they’ve mastered the art of circumventing our inalienable right to enjoy the separation of church from state and the public sphere from the private.
In short, Jesus and his messengers will find their way in: through the mailbox, the fax machine, via email, trap doors, mouse holes, and drain pipes. Neither caulk, nor lock, nor bleach, nor Microsoft Security Suite can stop them. As a great thinker once said, “Wash your hands and say your prayers ‘cause Jesus and germs are everywhere.”
So my plumbing went to hell, and my wife found us a handyman who boasted of his versatility in carpentry, toilets, bathtubs, and even in offering solace to those whose plumbing has gone to hell. I arrived home to find the emissary from the world beyond our dysfunctional Jewish drain pipes hard at work healing our ailing bathroom:
The Plumber [hunched over the bathtub]: “Good to meet ya. Man I love throwing myself into my work, taking on a new and exhilarating project, and seeing how it all coalesces into one great revelation.”
Me [staring blankly at him]: “Uh Right. I feel the same way about teaching. Yet I spent fourteen years in college and undoubtedly make less money than you.”
The Plumber: “Now don’t be so sure. I have a Masters of Divinity and spent a good many years, spreading the word of Our Lord, Jesus. But like Jesus, I returned to my roots – carpentry and plumbing. Now I get to combine my work and fulfill my calling.”
Me: “Does that mean you can conduct a baptism in my toilet once it flushes again?”
The Plumber: “And how! And then I can expel the money changers from this here Temple” [He points ceremoniously to my toilet, bathtub, and sink.]
…An hour later…
The Plumber: “Hey – come here. I solved it! God is truly a miracle worker! Your bathtub will never leak again. Yeshua hamoshiach yavo (Jesus the Messiah shall come)!”
Me: “Uh you do know I’m Jewish, right?”
The Plumber: “Indeed I do! I love You people! You’re so chosen, and blessed.”
Me: “Right. You must excuse me, I need to read about the Holocaust to prepare for class.”
The Plumber: “And God is against antisemitism! Where’s the toilet brush?”
I leave the bathroom in deep thought, unclear if I should be making the check payable to the Father, the Son, or this Holy Plumber – or whether in fact they are all one and the same.
…10 minutes later…
The Plumber: “All done. Hey, do you know this masterpiece of Jewish culture and theology?” [He starts humming “If I Were a Rich Man.”]
Me: “You mean Fiddler on the Roof?”
The Plumber: “Boy, you really know your stuff. … So then tell me what do you think about Obama?”
Me: [Being sucked into a conversation I do not wish to have.] “Uh … well-” [Fortunately, he cuts me off.]
The Plumber: “Yeah, He’s two-faced. I can’t believe how he’s walked all over Ben Netanyahu. … Dunno maybe he’s actually a Muslim on the inside … Hope they throw’em out come November. … But I have faith in Ben. He’ll protect the Promised Land.”
Holding my toilet brush, the Plumber rises ostentatiously as if he is Moses on Mount Sinai about to smash the Ten Commandments.
The Plumber: “I do here dee-clare that it will be America’s downfall if we forsake Israel! It is the Holy Land promised to the Chosen People! I shall not forsake you my Brother! Amen.”
Me: “Your work and words are truly inspirational.”
The Plumber: “Now come, look hither my Son, and I shall show you a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding out of the Throne of God and of the Lamb.”
And with a strong hand and an outstretched arm the Plumber flushes my born again toilet. Its still waters gracefully vanish from God’s Throne, draining into our recently installed septic tank.
The Plumber: “I am done, my dear Israelite, and I must leave Goshen for a higher calling. But I am certain that my work in your sacred Temple of piping and porcelain has brought us one step closer to the End of Days. How do you feel? Don’t ya feel it?”
Me: “Well I feel something. But I think I need to take a shower. A long long shower.”
Born and raised in Montreal, Jarrod Tanny is Assistant Professor of History at the University of North Carolina Wilmington. His book City of Rogues and Schnorrers examines how the city of Odessa was mythologized as a Jewish city of sin, celebrated and vilified for its Jewish gangsters, pimps, bawdy musicians, and comedians.
The illustration for this story was done by David Mitchell.