“I would fix it myself if I had the know-how,” Ramona spoke directly into her phone, “I do have some tools but I wouldn’t be sure which ones to use where.”
On the other end of the phone, the nasally voice of the landlord, somehow both professional yet annoying and exasperating to listen to, responded politely, “That isn’t a problem, Ramona. You’ve been a good tenant with no problems so far. I really don’t mind coming over to take a look at the leak. I should be able to fix it in one go.”
“That would be great.”
“I just have to get over to your building. You’re in Building C, is that correct?”
“Yes, that’s correct. Suite number 142.”
“Okay. I’m on my way. I’ll use my key so no need to buzz me up. Can I knock when I’m there?”
“That sounds fine.”
“Okay, see you shortly.”
Without saying a goodbye, Ramona accepted the departing words from her landlord and hung up the phone. The landlord, a tall man with unwashed hair, who called himself by the name of Captain and never used a real name, insisted often to his tenants that they call him with any issues in their suites. Ramona was never one to host parties in her suite. Never one to break things or make a mess. She lived alone and always paid her rent on time. In the eyes of any sensible landlord, she was the ideal tenant. This doesn’t mean that Captain was the ideal landlord.
Ramona was an insufferably lonely individual. She lived alone, worked alone, and commuted alone. Captain wanted badly to befriend her, nothing more. However, his advances always made Ramona uncomfortable. She tried to avoid him as much as she could. Captain himself lived in the same apartment buildings that he supervised. He had a one bedroom suite in Building B. If he looked out his window, he had a direct view of Building C. For this reason, Ramona never opened her blinds. Her suite was incessantly dark inside no matter how many new lamps and lights were brought in and turned on. Ramona sometimes wondered if she had a way with the atmosphere that would darken any place she went. Maybe wherever she went, she brought the dark with her.
Perhaps life was bleak, but it wasn’t all bad. Ramona had two great friends. One boy and one girl. They weren’t humans, but they were as good as she was going to get. A pet store impulse-buy. Without any prior aquarium knowledge, Ramona purchased two African dwarf frogs from the tropical freshwater community tank in the pet store window. Originally, she asked the teen employee for one, but the underpaid high-schooler suggested she get two as they get lonely. Ramona, relating far more than she wished to, diligently asked the employee to add another.
Two tiny pet store frogs now served as her sole companions in life. A 2.5 gallon tank housed her little amphibious friends. She was thankful for them every day.
Anticipating the arrival of Captain, the only preparations yet to be made involved the frogs. The lease forbade pets. This was agreed upon with a signature. If Captain came in and saw the tank, though small and inconspicuous, he would surely demand that they be removed. And then where would they go? She had no one else to pawn the pair off to. Would they have to go back to the pet store? Would they get flushed down the toilet? The solution to each worst-case scenario was a simple towel draped elegantly over the tank. As Ramona approached with the towel, she uttered an apology to her frog friends.
“Just for a little while,” she told them sincerely, “I know it must be hard to stay in the dark. Only until he’s gone. You are such good little pets, just stay patient for me.” The tank was cloaked in darkness before she had even finished her sentence.
Preparations were made. Captain was due to arrive any moment now. Ramona stood in wait. She knew that Captain would knock upon arrival, but knew as well that even if she prepared herself for it, the knock would startle her initially. In silence, for a brief peaceful moment, all was still as she waited.
“Pets,” uttered a deep male voice.
“Captain?” Ramona called out hesitantly.
“Is that all we are? Pets? Nothing but a little froggie in a cage?” a female voice responded.
This wasn’t Captain’s voice, but who else was around and could be talking to her? The thought of it being anybody but Captain was as frightening as it being Captain. “In here, Captain,” she called out.
No one entered. A quick glance through the peephole confirmed that Captain had not yet arrived. Even so, Ramona opened the door and called out again. “Captain?”
“Captain? Your half-witted landlord?” the male voice rang out in response.
“Come to fix a leak under the sink, has he?” replied the more feminine voice.
Perhaps someone was playing a mean joke on her. In a disciplining tone, Ramona called out once again. “This isn’t a funny joke,” she said just as she shut her suite door.
“A joke! Ha! Maybe it is! What a measly existence for two frogs!”
This time, it was more obvious where the voices were coming from. Muffled under the towel, it became apparent that the male and female voices were originating from the very place in which the tank sat, covered and hidden. It had to be a joke. A cruel joke on a lonely little lady. Ramona’s body posture closed. Her nostrils flared. She was angry and she wanted no part in this foul practical joke. Someone was trying to make her think that her frogs were talking to her. She wasn’t falling for it.
“I know my frogs aren’t talking to me right now,” she asserted to no one in particular. She felt smart and satisfied after making this declaration.
“And what else do ya’ know, sweetheart?”
“‘Cause we sure know a lot about you.”
“Stop!” shouted Ramona, “I demand you to stop!”
“Why don’tcha’ come take a little looksie at us, hmm?”
“Humour us, why don’tcha’?”
Ramona took a quick glance around her suite. Nothing looked out of the ordinary. Everything was exactly as it always was, save for the tank that was hidden underneath a towel. She didn’t expect to find anything out of the usual, but with fluttering hands she lifted the towel just enough to check on the tank.
It was as normal as normal could be. One frog was diving down to the bottom of the tank after just coming up for air. The other frog hid inside the barrel decoration in the tank, only revealed by her leg sticking out at an uncomfortable angle.
“Not sure why I even checked. Frogs don’t talk.” The towel was pulled back over and the frogs disappeared into the blackness under it.
“We don’t, hey?”
“Then who do you suppose is talking to you right now?”
Ramona smirked. Maybe she just had to play along.
“Humour me,” she said, “go on and prove it then.”
“You ask the questions, baby,” the male voice followed up.
“What do I feed you?” Ramona asked.
“And not even the freeze dried kind.”
She remained unconvinced. Maybe the practical jokester did their research in advance. Maybe they already knew what to feed African dwarf frogs. Now, more annoyed than anything, Ramona rubbed her forehead and let out an exaggerated sigh. Captain would be here any second, and this tomfoolery would come to an end.
The heavy sigh was immediately followed by the male’s voice once again. “How about yesterday?” it asked.
“I don’t know,” replied Ramona with frustration and irritation, “How about it?”
“You was sat over on that couch all afternoon, weren’t ya?”
Weird. She was.
“Pants right off?”
Pants off? How would anybody have known? The blind was always closed. No roommates hung around.
“Pants right off, alright. Legs spread.”
“Too bad ya’ can’t find a fella to do that for ya’.”
“Must get tired of doing it yourself.”
“STOP!” Ramona shouted desperately. Now, she was embarrassed and scared. Was the room spinning? She just knew she was going to faint. Resting her body against the wall, she mustered up the strength to get a few more words out. “Who’s there? Really!”
“Ribbit ribbit, sweetcheeks.”
There was a knock at the door. Ramona was startled by it but the jerky motion she made in response instantly took her faintness away.
“Keep quiet. One more peep out of you and I’ll kill you, I promise you!” she whispered in a combination of a scream and a whisper.
“Our lips are sealed.”
Suddenly, she wasn’t feeling as much dread over greeting Captain. She opened the door for him and almost could have smiled when he said hello to her. For a little too long, she gazed up into his eyes and wanted ever so slightly to leap into his arms for comfort. She didn’t, though. She just tore her gaze away and motioned for him to enter. She had not yet spoken a word to him.
“A leak under the sink?” Captain confirmed.
Ramona nodded quickly.
“You look nervous,” Captain retaliated.
Ramona blushed. Her heart was pounding and her skin had become eerily pale.
In a quiet voice, she turned the focus back to the leak. “Can you fix it?”
Captain assured her that it would be an easy fix. He even held up his box of tools proudly as if he were showing off a trophy. The faint feeling became now unbearable and Ramona quickly ran off to her bed to lay down.
Once there, she closed her eyes and awaited unconsciousness, but it never came. She tried to force herself to faint first by holding her breath, then by breathing too quickly. However, unconsciousness seemed simultaneously too far away and too near to her. She was still all too aware of everything around her. The metal clanking sounds of Captain’s tools rang loudly. The sounds of water running and Captain loudly clearing his throat followed. Ramona lifted her hands up to her ears but it was no use. She could hear everything. She wondered, for a moment, if it would be ethical to pray to God to make her faint. Then, she curled herself up into the foetal position. Nothing was left to do except wait. She listened, unwillingly, as Captain carried on his work on the leak under the sink. Occasionally he would cough and the sound disgusted her. Even his coughs somehow sounded nasally.
The next sounds she heard were Captain’s grunts as he stood back up, followed by a hasty update on the situation. “Done,” he informed.
Ramona sat up and met his eyes. “It’s fixed?”
“It is. That all you need?”
“Yes, that’s all.”
“Then I guess I can head out now. Unless, of course, you want me to stay a bit.”
Ramona was taken aback by the suggestion. She felt almost as though she had just been insulted. She felt as if a man had just whistled at her out of his car as she walked down the street. Offended, she gave Captain his answer.
“No. You can leave now.”
“Well, then, lock me out, okay?”
He winked at her just as he was turning around to leave. He pushed the door closed and Ramona gathered herself enough to be able to lock it. It seemed to have gotten darker. The air felt heavy. In some sort of peculiar way, everything in her apartment looked normal, but had a ghostly presence to it. It was as if everything around her was alive, but also dead. The feeling of being watched overcame her. But how could anything be off? Everything looked just as it always had.
Of course, apart from the 2.5 gallon tank that housed two African dwarf frogs. It was still covered by a towel.
To restore things back to order, Ramona just had to take the towel off, right? And then everything would be back to normal?
Only everything wasn’t back to normal, because when she uncovered the tank, the two frogs had simply disappeared. The water remained. The decor all stood in its proper spot. The filter was still going. Though she had loved those frogs dearly and used them to ease her extreme loneliness, she was relieved to see that they were gone.
That would be the end of the tank. That would be the end of breaking the terms of her lease. Right away, as it was still fresh on her mind, Ramona set out to empty and dispose of the tank. She felt a solace in knowing that when she poured the water into the sink, it wouldn’t leak out.
A knock at the door, one she wasn’t prepared for, startled her to her core. Captain must’ve been back. The tank didn’t have any animals in it anymore, so she didn’t have to hide it. She couldn’t get in any trouble for just having water in a box. She saw no need to hide it again under the towel.
Thinking that whatever kind of ordeal had just brought itself upon her was now over, she put on a happy face and went to greet Captain at the door.
Instead of Captain, a man and a woman stood at her door. She didn’t recognize the couple.
“We’re new here. Just wanted to formally introduce ourselves to ya’.” said the man in the exact voice that she had heard earlier.
“Seems like a nice place! Too bad about no pets!” The woman joined in the conversation. Her voice was the same as the feminine voice she had heard earlier.
“Anyway, we just wanted to say hello. See ya’ around, sweetcheeks,” said the voice of the strange man.
The woman pushed the door closed. Without hesitation, Ramona locked it, and promptly fainted.
Gillian Corsiatto hails from Alberta, Canada right between two major cities Calgary and Edmonton. She has been a lifelong writer and her first book was published in 2021! Since then, she has been motivated to keep at her writing and further it into an established career. Gillian’s main current work is actually a play in three acts entitled Sunday Morning Classics. A goal is to get this play published just as she did her last book. A short story writer as well, A Leak Under The Sink has been underway for quite a while now. First written as a short story, then a short script, then another (slightly longer) short story, it has been developed and experimented with, and it’s finally reached a place that Gillian can be proud of!