Sandra was stretched out with her torso underneath the sink. She grunted slightly as the wrench finally started to loosen the fitting. The snicker from the room at large made her suddenly self-conscious; she hated it when people treated her work like a spectator sport. She got the U shaped pipe loose and carefully unfolded herself. Back in the light of the kitchen, she started looking for the blockage.
“So,” the customer said, “what made you decide to become a plumber?”
“Its steady work and decent pay,” Sandra answered as she found the problem. It looked like there was an entire carcass of chicken bones all jammed together in the pipe.
“Sure, but a girl plumber? And young besides? You must be one of a kind.”
Sandra sighed, and didn’t answer. The leer in the guy’s voice was nothing new to her, and in the brave new world where she was a plumber all too often it was the man of the house who was home watching the kids. Frequently he had seen a few too many pornos and was expecting to peel her out of her clothes and take her on the damp kitchen floor. Sadly, the guy (she never remembered customer names) wasn’t taking her silence as a signal to leave and kept trying to make conversation.
“The jumpsuit is cute. But isn’t it warm and uncomfortable?”
“Company policy. Everyone at Spee-Dee Pipe Services wears one.” After years of plumbers being, well, the butt of jokes her company had finally issued full jumpsuits to all personnel in the field. Being a plumber meant having to occasionally twist yourself into an odd space and the jumpsuits meant you stayed covered. No customer complaints. Well except for the time John split his, squatting down to reach a tool.
Sandra nearly had the pipe clear. She was working a little faster than usual, wanting to get away from this guy who was obviously still hoping for the penthouse forum version of her visit.
“You know who you look like?”
“In the paper today, that shot of the vigilante chick that stopped the bank robbery. You have the same build.”
“That’s flattering but I’m a plumber. What would I be doing on the streets in the middle of the night with a whip, going after bad guys?”
“You seem strong enough for it. I bet that costume would look good on you, all skin tight and cut so low in the back...”
“Sir, I’m at work.”
Mercifully, at that moment the last of the gunk in the pipe splatted out, and the baby started to cry. Sandra stared at the guy until he left the room, and then got back under the sink to replace the pipe. She moved quickly hoping she could be on her feet and ready to go by the time little precious was taken care of.
After her last call of the day Sandra went to her friend’s house. Helen was there waiting for her, excitedly waiving the paper.
“Did you see?”
“Yes, Helen, I saw. Do you know what else…”
“Front page, baby! Did anyone recognize you?”
“Not really. One guy commented that I looked like her, but he was just trying to come on to me. I still think I need a mask.”
“No way. Just keep your hair up or under a bandana at work and stay away from tight clothes in real life. No one will ever figure it out.” Helen wandered to her kitchen, talking under her breath. “Maybe we should get you dark framed glasses too. That always works.”
“Helen. We need to talk about the costume.”
“Why? Is it uncomfortable? Pulling somewhere? Did it impede your movement last night?”
“None of that.”
“Do you have it on right now? God I love those coveralls, they can hide anything.”
“I do have it on. Let me show you the problem.” Sandra unzipped her coverall and stepped out of it. She pulled the bandana off her head, and shook out the low bun that had been keeping her hair back. They had yet to solve the shoe issue, since the work boots weren’t very sleek and Sandra refused the heels that Helen had wanted her to wear. There was a pair of ballet flats in the bottom of her work bucket that were the current compromise.
“Oh Sandra. You look super! With me behind the scenes and you out front we’ll get this town cleaned up in no time.”
“Helen. Look more closely.” Sandra turned to face away from where Helen had settled at the table.
“What? Superheroes need to show a little skin, and we agreed your back was the way to go.”
“But cut this low? Look at the photo in the paper, the way I’m bending over that guy all you can focus on is…”
“Not your face,” Helen said briskly, “which is the point, isn’t it? And how can you be embarrassed about it when it isn’t even you?” Helen calmly met Sandra’s gaze. Sandra broke first and walked to the table to join her friend. They had been together since middle school when they were the two outcast girls everyone had picked on. Comic books had been their escape.
Helen’s voice was all excited again. “Do you know what they’re calling you-- because of the whip and everything?”
“I haven’t heard.”
“The Crack. Isn’t that just awesome?”