lundi 22 mars 2010

The puddle


"Il y a de l'eau dans le petit salon," called my husband from where he was finishing up the balcony -- oh, hosannah -- last evening.

"Comment ça de l'eau dans le petit salon?" I asked.

"De l'eau, je te dis, de l'eau dans le petit salon." I wasn't deaf. I was looking for more precise information so that I could remain seated on the sofa and not worry at all.

Only I wasn't supposed to not worry. I was supposed to rush to the petit salon and see for myself.

"Où dans le petit salon?" I asked, climbing over the dog cushions Baccarat places directly in the middle of the path between the two armchairs, my voice climbing right alongside, to a pitch normally reserved for fishmongers' wives, and the only way to get to the other end of the house, if I don't want to trip over the basket of stuff for the fireplace. It's dangerous around here in the semi-dark. My husband has broken several expensive low-voltage light bulbs dropping his baladeuse, those lantern-type lights you can hang wherever you are laboring before lights (and electricity) are installed, onto the concrete slab, and slowly but surely, the living room has descended into darkness to feed his need for light bulbs.

I need to go to IKEA.

"Viens voir pour toi-même," he snapped back at me, raising my pulse another 40 BPM.

Water in a room where there is not supposed to be any water whatsoever is never something of which you want to be informed. Ever. Particularly not when you have just had a brand new concrete slab poured, and it is drying to receive a new solid oak floor so that your 1920's Johann Urbas blond mahogany piano can finally be delivered and you can stop worrying day and night that Monsieur is furious with you for delaying receiving it this long.

I peeked in. I didn't need to look. There, at my feet was a large puddle of water, filling some of the deepest paw prints Wisp left when she ran all over the room, panicked in the fresh concrete, looking for a corner in which to leave a poop. My heart rate rose another 40 BPM.


The puddle spread out from the corner of the door into the room, deepest at that point, saturating the lovely new concrete in an expanding arc of wet. My brain set into overdrive, looking for an explanation. The garden hose? Could this be from the garden hose my brother-in-law had used during the afternoon to clean the dishwasher he brought us? There is so much water damage in the outside walls just a meter or so away across the entry, where the spigot it fixed to the wall, that it seemed entirely possible. I asked my husband what he thought, but he couldn't follow me.

"Quel tuyau?" I knew what he meant, the tuyau (pipe) from the plumbing leading to the outdoor robinet (spigot) or the tuyau de jardin (garden hose), but I thought I was being perfectly clear and was far beyond too agitated and aggravated to do anything but look exasperated and probably glare at him, which he never appreciates.

I ran outside to look at the ground, which was rather pointless, since hours had gone by, but I saw a chunk of the corner of the wall missing, the plastic mesh behind exposed, and right below it was the elbow from the gutter to the downspout, lying right next to the missing bit of chaux. I returned to the petit salon.

"Je n'aime pas de tout quand tu me parles comme ça," he informed me.

I knew, but it is so frustrating when they suddenly don't understand anything and you have to explain everything twice, when you don't even want to think it once, but I decided to change my tone. We had enough of a problem on our hands. I explained about the elbow and the bit of broken wall, but there was one thing that puzzled me.

"Mais, il a fait beau la semaine dernière. Pourquoi ça serait parterre?"

"Il a plu hier. Tu ne te souviens pas? Sam a pris la voiture car il pleuvait hier matin."

It was true. I had forgotten; after a week of beautiful weather, it had started to rain Friday evening and poured Saturday morning. The rainwater had brought down the elbow the workers can't seem to get fixed back into place again, which in turn had damaged the wall and saturated the ground with runoff from the roofs. Great. I looked at the puddle, a new idea forming.

"Ou, est-ce que ça peut être du pipi?" I wondered aloud, a whole new line of reasoning opening up to me. "A Baccarat fait pipi dans le petit salon?" I asked, dropping to my knees and placing my fingertips in the wet. I brought them to my nose. There was a faint odor of pee, but so faint as to cast doubt. From the quantity and the size of the wetness, I thought Baccarat -- besides, she had pooped in this room when she was a puppy and later, when she was sick during the night and didn't dare bark to get our attention.

She is very considerate.

I put my fingertips back in the puddle and moved them around (I have no idea why) several more times, sniffing them long and carefully again and again. Could the concrete itself give water the slight bite?

"Flaire ça," I said to my husband, rising back to my feet. He backed up as though I were about to stick possibly pipi covered fingers in his nostrils.


"Oui," I insisted. After all, I had sniffed it; why shouldn't he? "Je dois savoir ce que c'est. Alors, c'est du pipi ou non?" He relented, looking like he would not forgive me for some time.

"Non. Je ne pense pas que ça soit du pipi," he pronounced.

That was when I realized that I had never wished more that one of the animals had peed in the house, on my lovely, paw print covered concrete slab.

"T'es sur? Tu ne sens pas cette petite odeur métallique, du pipi?"

"Je ne pense pas."

Even if I would have to find some product to saturate the concrete to remove the hint of pee so that whoever had done this -- had someone and not something done this -- would never return to do it again once the oak flooring was installed. If it were one of the animals, then we didn't have a very serious water problem of which we had previously known nothing, hidden, as it would have been, by the floor itself.

I returned to wondering about the other possible sources of the wetness. Having grasped what I was trying to say about the possibility of the water saturating the ground adjacent to this area from the leaking garden hose possibly backing up enough to find its way onto the slab, 6 cm below the level of the finished floor between, from inside the thin rat slab on the back fill on which the terracotta tiles are set, with the help of the missing elbow on the gutter in pouring rain yesterday, he followed me onto another terrible possibility: we'd sprung a leak in the pipes leading to the spigot.

"Le compteur d'eau, il marche?" he asked.

I grabbed a flashlight and went to remove all the crap under the kitchen sink, smelling to high heaven from the water dumped from the hoses of the old dishwasher we had removed that afternoon; water that had been in those hoses for, oh, 7 years. At least I knew now why the house had smelled so foul all afternoon. I tried not to breathe and trained the beam on the water meter, making a mental note that I'd have to empty this out and clean it, thoroughly.

"Je ne peux rien voir sur ce nouveau compteur."

"Tu n'entends rien?"

"Non," I didn't hear any clicking noises.

"Alors, ce n'est pas une fuite."

And, because the level of the finish floor is actually two steps above ground level outside, it was also extremely unlikely that this was from the garden hose and spigot, unless the spigot was running back into the house when its turned on, as well as into the garden hose attached to it.


The pipi possibility was looking more and more likely. And the likely culprit was looking more and more like Shadow, whose two siblings have died of kidney failure.

"Si c'est l'un des animaux, c'est Shadow," said my husband. "Depuis un moment, elle refuse d'aller dans la litière et va toujours dehors. Peut-être elle a été bloquée dans la maison et a cherché un endroit pour faire."

It was possible that she had chosen this area in which to pee, being stuck in the house and needing to go, and remembering when it was the rubble backfill before the concrete pour, but even more likely was that this was a case of cat turf warfare: Wisp had poohed here, and so she was countering with a puddle of pee. The French doors had been open a fair amount of the afternoon and she yowls when she wants to go outside.

"Oui," I nodded, "probablement Shadow." She wanted to go inside to get back at Wisp.

I had already written to Monsieur in the midst of this episode to throw my hands into the air and tell him of my defeat at getting this room ready for the piano, and offering to accept delivery to the living room and find a way later to move the piano to the petit salon, if I ever managed to get it under control, and here it was, probably a big old puddle of cat pee.

Why does life suck so much sometimes, and why can't the damn cats just get along?
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