The Sewer Saga Revisited

Reading Time: 4 minutes

Remember this?

Sometimes the things we try just don’t work.

Despite all of the efforts, Mother’s sewer remained backed up. It only took about 36 hours for everything to quit flowing. Completely.

Giving her credit, she wasn’t even going to tell me.


That wasn’t going to work very long. We are from Arkansas, but please, indoor plumbing should be indoor plumbing.

Brother Neil fortuitously called me right after I had been up to her apartment to see how bad things were.

“Jan, I’m really sorry I wasn’t there to help you. You want a suggestion?”

We are old friends along with being siblings. Which means we have respect for each other and we respect each other, if you know what I mean.

“Yes.” I am sure he heard the defeat in my voice.

I was thinking about how many times the old, bad, cheap plumbing had gone south in our childhood home. When I left, my father accused me of stopping it up everything I came for a visit.


I know it was his frustration talking.

Your mind goes to desperate measures when you have backed up sewer issues.

“They’ve got something at Ace Hardware that you might want to try.” Neil continued with a description that included that this solution would make your toilet smoke. His description included a warning that it would also burn the lining off your lungs if you leaned over to peer into the sewer hole you were pouring it into. But it wouldn’t hurt your pipes.

Sounded too good to be true.

However,  the other thing I forgot to mention was that when Bernie and Javier came to try and help me (now over a week ago) Bernie told me to go to Ace and buy “this miracle drain cleaner”. He too mentioned that it would make my toilet smoke.

Neither man remembered the name.

I took it that the stuff’s reputation proceeded it and no identifying name was necessary. All you had to do was say you wanted the drainer cleaner that smoked your toilet.

Silent Bob came home from work. I told him where the nearest Ace was and asked him “Please.”

“You don’t know the name of the stuff,” he said. “We can probably just get it at Home Depot.”

I may not always  make the right judgement call, but when two people, who have had experience in a subject, give you very specific advice about a problem solution in that subject, I know enough to go with it.

“No, ” I said, “we have to go to Ace.”

SB came back thirty minutes later with a red, gallon bottle wrapped in a thin, clear, plastic bag. It was the font and skull and bones emblems blazing the label that were obvious even through the filmy plastic.

“The guy at Ace said do not get this in your eyes or on your skin. Janet, he said that about 6 times. He said this will eat through anything organic. Poop, paper, wood, anything organic. He said to use 3 ounces to start out with.”

I felt the weight of the bottle in my hand. When I bake, cook, paint, do science, make pottery, or just generally work, I have whatever I am using all over me in a very few minutes. It’s not intentional and I never considered myself someone who was careless or with no small motor control, but scenes of horror movies where people’s faces melted off of their skulls when they splashed into the wrong dark pool of whatever was crossing my mind. The jug was heavy and I did consider that splashing could be an issue, let alone just outright spilling.

I poured a good half a cup down the kitchen sink. The plumbers putty around the top went funny and kind of exploded away from the rim of the drain. But not completely.

We then moved to Mother’s bathroom, Bob having obtained a piece of window glass to hold in front of my face.

I poured a cup down the shower drain and then an even more generous cup down her bathroom sink.

And then I went to the toilet.

For some reason, the toilet, it was personal.

I poured two cups into the water bowl and watched.

Smoke started pouring out of it like some weird underwater match had been lit in its nether regions.

It was the sound I heard first.

Somewhere down in the pipes that I actually knew quite intimately, a distant rumbling had started. Like counting the claps of thunder after lightening, a half second later, a big bubble of stinky air exploded above the toilet water surface.

I have to tell you, I was quite enamored with what happened. I watched and listened as somewhere all along the very stopped up sewer lines of my Mother’s apartment, Liquid Fire was reaming out organic matter from here to there.

It would take the whole gallon and a little more than three hours to get it running the 1/2 mile to the sewer treatment plant where all good poop filled organic matter should go.

That night SB and I laid in bed and sweet talked each other.

“Wasn’t that just amazing,” I said to him as he scooted over close to me, my skin fragrant with sweet olive soap after my stinkless sewer work day.

“You know how I always tell you how much I love you. So much that if I ever thought you decided you’d choose someone else over me, what I’d do.” I said, rubbing my leg over SB’s hairy one.

“Yes,” he said, half exasperated at the joke/non joke that women always mean when they have these conversations with their mates. “You’d cut me up and feed me to the hogs and coyotes at the back of the farm so there’d be no trace of me.”

“Yeah, that,” I said, getting a bit closer and running my hand through his hair, “or a couple of jugs of “Liquid Fire” oughta do it.

Authors note:

1. “Liquid Fire” is almost pure sulfuric acid. There is some amount of Rodine 31 A, which according to google is a sulfamic acid inhibitor. I have no idea why.

2. Sulfuric acid does nothing to plastic. Your plastic disposable water bottles would be impervious to it’s action.


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