By Pedro Pablo Morejon
HAVANA TIMES – I woke up this morning ready to take on the day. I could hear the sound of water falling from my elevated tank outside. “How strange,” I thought, because I don’t normally leave the water valve open. I opened the door that leads to the back door and found a pool of water, and worst yet: the pipe was broken in two places. A strange thing I still haven’t been able to figure out.
I tried in vain to stop the leak, but it was impossible. The tank emptied in a couple of hours, and I was able to block the other leak coming from the street with a wooden plug.
I thought I might be able to solve the problem with a couple of similar pipes, but I didn’t have the pipes, the tools or the experience needed for that job.
My plans went up in smoke and the job now, without water in the house, was to look for a plumber. “Go to La Comuna and ask for El Enano (the dwarf),” my neighbor suggested, prazing the man’s skills for this kind of job.
It was almost noon and I had been able to fill some containers, luckily. I made lunch and went in search for the guy under the scorching sun. La Comuna is a neighborhood at the end of the town, two kilometers away from where I live. With my skin burning and sweat breaking from my brow, I reached the place and began to ask around.
Somebody called out to me from a doorway and to my surprise, it was an old classmate from my Preuniversity days. I barely recognized her. Time leaves its mark. I remember I was really slim back then, with an angelical face and brown hair. Today, I’m a man with a head of premature grays and an involuntary arrogant look. She’s no longer the girl with a Barbie body, she has short hair now and is a little overweight. Otherwise, she’s just as talkative and pleasant as always.
She invited me in and I accepted. It was good to sit in the shade while I discovered she was the plumber’s neighbor. When she told me he wasn’t in, I was getting ready to leave and come back that evening, but she offered me coffee and we got stuck into a light conversation, the kind where you tell me your life and I’ll tell you mine.
The quasi-monologue ended with the Dwarf. He’s a good man who, in addition to plumbing, knows how to do just about everything. Electricity work, building work… plus, she said he was a great person with a lot of bad luck.
After years of being married to a woman, fixing up her home and raising a son, she ended up changing him for another, and he was left on his own, in a dump, to start all over again.
As the man didn’t have a cellphone, she promised to pass on my message and to even call me so I could talk to him. I gave her my number and I did in fact talk to the Dwarf that evening.
It was a weekend and he didn’t stop working, too many commitments but he knew my mother and it turns out he installed the water in her house, telling me that he’d come Thursday morning and for me not to worry that it was a “done deal.”
In the meantime, I made do with the stored water. He came Thursday and was knocking on my door at 8 AM. When I opened the door, I found a small man, with a mostly bald head and wrinkled skin. A man who had worked all his life with a look in his eye that I interpreted as honest. I liked him immediately.
I was surprised by his visit, because I wasn’t sure he’d come. For thousands of years, contracts were formalized with your word. Just expressing an agreement of wills would join the parties involved. Over time, important contracts demand the formal requirement of being put into writing, as proof that a man’s word is just straw without any value. I don’t believe in anyone’s word myself, but my old classmate and this man have proven that there are exceptions to this rule.
I offered him some breakfast which he didn’t accept, and he immediately rolled up his sleeves and got stuck into the job at hand. It seems he came with everything and he’d put and coiled two pipes in the middle of the downpour from the pipes, in just 20 minutes. When I asked him how much for his labor, he told me, “give me 100 pesos.”
I was left stunned again, I was expecting it to cost a lot more, and I had good reason. For the two pieces of pipe he brought, his labor, his expertise, for how little money is actually worth right now, I thought his work was a gift for just 100 pesos.
I gave him 200 and I still didn’t think it was enough. He took his tools and shaking my hand told me, “anything else you need, now you know, I’m here.”
As he walked off, I thought about how the Dwarf had taken more than 200 pesos without realizing it, he had made a friend.