I do lie and fuck with people, this is a story that happened several years ago. My wife at the time and I were really fucked financially. All but one of our credit cards was maxed out and we really didn’t have anything but the food we grew and traded at the farmer’s market.
There are several houses on my farm and in one lived a knight, a real honest-to-god knight. He was knighted by France for not dying in some really shitty battles in WWII.
I’d gone to the hardware store like I did almost every day and when I returned I saw a plumber parked in the driveway and I couldn’t pass. So I got out and saw my friend Shig yelling at the plumber. See, Shig is deaf because, as he says, “a hand grenade went off by my head.” Without his hearing aids in I knew he couldn’t understand a word this 23 year old plumber was saying to him.
The plumbers were describing how a leak under his house needed repairing and it was going to cost 8 thousand dollars to repair. I knew there was no way Shig was going to pay anyone to fix his leak for 8K and I tried to explain this to the plumbers. Farmers know how to fix things with a bit of baling wire and some duct tape. Shig had made numerous repairs to his house but at the age of 97 he could no longer crawl under the house or have enough strength to fix things in tight spaces.
I asked the plumber to call his supervisor and let me work something out. Shig’s wife at the time was diabetic and had lost her leg. She was 91 at the time and hadn’t had a bath in a few days because of the water leak. Shig wasn’t about to let any of this stand in the way of giving his wife a bath and I knew I’d end up under that house fixing the leak myself if I didn’t get the plumbers to back off the price.
“Go For Broke” was the motto of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team, an Army unit comprised of Japanese Americans from Hawaii and the mainland United States. The motto was derived from a gambler’s slang used in Hawaii to “go for broke,” which meant that the player was risking it all in one effort to win big. The player would put everything on the line.
Eventually the plumber’s supervisor showed up and explained California Code and how the repair would take a few days and cost between 8-10 thousand dollars. It took awhile for me to explain who Shig was and what our country had done to his family and friends and what Shig had done for his country — all before these plumbers (or I) had even been born.
We settled on $800 — that would entail a out-of-Code repair and would take a couple days to complete. The supervisor spoke to the plumber who had enlisted a young apprentice to help him with the work.
I told Shig that the repairs were getting started and that it was going to cost him $300, which I backed up with a fake estimate from the plumbers. He couldn’t believe that I’d talked the plumbers down that far and was really jazzed to see them return with a bunch of supplies to begin work. Those kids worked hard for a couple of days crawling around in a tiny wet crawl space under his house.
Shig’s daughters came around to check out the work and heard about how the plumbers had capitulated on the price. I paid the plumbers $800 with the last bit of credit Pilar and I had. Pilar agreed that it was the right thing to do, blow the last bit of credit we had on fixing this problem. We were both real sad about how fucked we were, but at the same time we did something good that day. Sure, there were other way to fix this, but I found a greatness in a quiet bit of service.
Shig’s unit had the saying “Go for Broke” so it seemed like an appropriate move on our part. If you wonder what real men did, you should read about some of the people that fought for your country.
Today the credit cards are all paid off — we figured out how to get out of debt. This morning I got a email from Shig asking me to come fix a leak with his toilet. He says he just doesn’t trust those damn plumbers. We had lunch. It was the first time in a year that he had anyone over for lunch. One of the best burgers I’d had in a long time and it reminded me of this story.