“Below the Tub”
“Percy! Time for your bath,” his mother shouted from upstairs.
Percy could hear the pipes inside the walls. The water rushing. A torrent threatening to drown his free time.
Her remained silent. Still. Perhaps if he was quiet, his mother would forget–
“Percival Anderson Torkelson! You move your butt this instances. Don’t make me drag you by your filthy ears!”
When adults you’d your first name, they meant business. Percy groaned but know incurring his mother’s wrath this late at night would mean no dessert for a week. No time outside for a week! How else would he reverse all the pink-skinned scrubbing and soupy cleaning he’d undoubtedly experience whether he wanted to or not night? With a sigh of great disappointment, Percy rolled the fire truck he’d been playing with across the living room floor and made for the stairs.
Three steps up, head stuck through the banister railing, purring softly with sleep, was the family’s fat grey cat Fog.
“C’mon, Foggy,” Percy called. “Time for a bath.”
No fool himself, Fog’s body twitched into motion, its thick shoulder crashing into Percy’s shin, nearly turning the boy around, as it bounded down the stairs to safety.
“Coward,” Percy mumbled as he continued up the stairs and into the bathroom.
“‘Bout time, little man,” his mother said while she crossed her arms and tapped her foot impatiently.
Percy was already stripping down to his skin. His head got caught in his shirt as he attempt to apologize, his “sorry, mom” came out as an unintelligible jumble of clothes-stuff gibberish.
His head popped out and he wrestled the shirt to the ground, along with his socks and tighty-whitey underpants. From his near-death bout with shirtopus, Percy heaved might breathes, his shallow chest rising and falling like a bellows. Perhaps now his mother would see this bath time endeavor was wrought with perils? He could’ve been strangled by shirtopus? What terrors awaked him in the tub?!
She handed him a bar of soup.
“Member to get behind your ears. I swear, you’ve got mushrooms growing back there!”
“I clean my ears just fine,” Percy insisted.
A heavy sigh and a wry chuckle. “I guess getting you up with after only asking twice is the win I’ll need to take tonight.”
Percy grinned. She was weakening!
“Hop to it, mister. Now!”
She left him then.
Percy turned around to the tub. A large white porcelain container barely big enough for two people to sit, except with their knees knocking. Brass claws held up the tub. A complex network of copper pipes wove away from the nearby wall and up to a fosset dripping beads of water into the already filled tub. Frothy bubbles floated across the top like morning fog across a quiet bay.
Percy let loose a mournful moan like a deep bellied horn.
Somewhere down below in the house his mother shouted. “Tub. Scup. Now, mister!”
Padding across the tile floor, Percy tossed the bar of soup into the bubbly water and climbed into the tub that reached as high as his chest.
Water splashed, spilling over the lip of the tub.
Percy began to scrub vigorously. Not for the purpose to scrap away dirt but merely to speed along his torture!
He took a bottle of shampoo from a metal basket hanging over one side of the tube. Squeezed out a handful of pink liquid into his hand. It smelled like bubblegum. Things could be worse. Percy had put some of the shampoo on his tongue before. Unfortunately, the bubblegum was soup. Tasted it like. Yuck.
These days he just worked up a lather in his brown curls.
Satisfied he’s scrubbed the shampoo down into the roots, Percy did his most favorite thing about bath time…
He dunked his head.
A whale nearly head-butted Percy as he descended into the depths of the tub’s warm waters.
The whale honked at him but went on its way searching for its pod. Percy had seen a group of ten a week previously swimming in the direction. The lost whale would find its way.
Percy kicked his legs and angled his head down, pulling himself with his arms, scooping armfuls of water out of his way and descending.
Along the way a submarine sailed by, passing Percy by little more than a couple feet. It was painted yellow, was scuffed and used after several voyages, and at the front was shaped like the head of a duck. Through portholes Percy could see the confused looking crew, pointing, grabbing at knitted caps, pulling at their faces. Percy laughed. Bubbles escaped his open mouth, shaped like a small ‘o’. The crew lost their minds. Percy pulled his legs up, pointed, and spread his legs, trying to show the sailors he was not a mermaid. Just a boy. They had no worries.
What were the submariners looking for in Percy’s bath tub?
He had an idea and continued to stroking with long slices of his arms through the watery depths, his kicks propelling him down.
Eventually, the boy had swam so long and hard he found sand. Among the sand was a reef, the coral rust colored with some black and dirty yellow. Tiny fish scurried in and out of hidey-holes in the reef. Some of the brave ones came and greeted Percy, spiraling around his arms, dancing off his fingers tips, trying to find hiding places in his flowing, seaweed like air. He giggled. Until a couple of fish started nibbling at his crouch. Percy batted the fish away, shook himself.
Percy turned himself around with a sweep of his arms, like his older sister would do in dance class, except he didn’t have a stupid tutu like her.
Settled at the bottom of the tub was a old-timey ship. The hull broken up, sunk. The sails tattered. The reef had grown up around the ship after so many years, interpreting it into the environment. Dozens of fish jetted out of the smashed through hull, a line of tiny bubbles their wake.
Percy would bet the duck submarine was looking for this sunken ship.
A elfish grin on his face, curving his lips, Percy swam into the ship’s exposed full. He knew his way through the overturned barrels. The smashed crates. Most of the food in the crates the fish had already claimed. Other treasures, Percy was still going through.
Suddenly the sea shook, rumbling as if waking up from a long sleep and yawning.
Quick as a fish, Percy swam over to an open trunk and snatch at the contents spilled about, his fingers grasping.
Then he exited the hull and pointed himself back up toward the bright light swirling above.
Arms burning. Legs rubbery. Percy hit the surface of the tub’s water and gasped, his lung drinking in air.
Far away his mother called, “Are you done yet?”
She wasn’t angry or in a hurry. More surprised Percy had not vacated the water just yet, in haste.
He looked toward the door his mother’s voice had carried through. There in the threshold, head tilted, ears forward in interest was Fog the cat. Watching Percy with the smug expression. It swooshed its bottlebrush tail side to side and let go a condescending meow.
From the depths of the tub, Percy’s arm rose.
Metal pinged with a flick of Percy’s wet fingers.
Fog ran from the modest splash of water, and from the gold coin Percy had tossed at the cat. The metal piece clinked against the bathroom’s tile floor and spun.
Percy grinned and ran his fingers through his hair, sloshing water from his locks.