Last Tuesday night, an alarm went off in my basement. So I put on my robe and slippers, and went down to investigate.
What I found was a gray alarm box going into hysterics. The little guy kept shrieking and frantically flashing a message to “Check the Septic System!!”.
For the benefit of those who do not know what a septic system is, think of what it means to live a hundred miles south of the Metropolitan Sewer District. You have to have your own.
For us, everything that goes down the drain gets pumped out to a big tank buried behind the house and if something goes wrong, the little alarm box in the basement freaks out.
So I called my septic guy.
After parking his truck, he walked around my yard and came back to the house to ask, “Where’s your septic tank?”
“Weren’t you the guy who installed it?” I asked.
“Yeah, but I don’t see it,” he said.
“It is in the woods,” I told him.
He took off his ball cap and shifted it nervously from one hand to the other. “I though I put it over there,” he said, gesturing toward a spot behind my house.
“No, you put it further back than that. Now it is in the trees” I said, “and I warned you at the time that the woods is coming this way and it eats things.”
He blew off my last statement and walked back to his truck. There he rummaged around for a site map and the largest tape measure you ever saw.
“Hang onto this,” he said, handing me one end. He then spooled the tape out into he woods. He came back a bit later, looking more confused than when he went in.
“Do you know where in the woods it might be?”
I shook my head no.
He tried a new angle, spooling off into the woods again, only to return even more perplexed. But this time he held the chewed off end of a PVC pipe.
“It’s gone,” he said.
The woods had swallowed my tank, leaving a big hole as testament to its ravenous hunger. Apparently it didn’t like PVC though, so it spit it out.
He can’t say I didn’t warn him.
Some blame it on the ancient oaks. They say when the trees take a liking to something, it is gone. It doesn’t matter how big or small it is, if they want it, they eat it. Cars, houses, barns, it is all the same to them.
Others say it is the soil. If not for the woods itself, I would like to lean in that direction. Our grandfathers shoved the trees back with bulldozers so they could plant row crops but you can only push a woods so far before it starts to push back.
Every night, it creeps a little closer.
When the air is still and the insects take a rest, you can hear it move. Leaves rustle when there is no wind. Branches creak and moan. Roots snap and pop as the trees pull themselves out of the ground to take another step closer before the rising sun catches them at it.
Every morning, I beat them back but it is as futile as fighting the rising of the sea. Now they have claimed my holding tank.
The septic guy was apologetic. He grumbled about poor soils and promised to cover the damage under the installation warranty. Then as he turned to leave, he stopped cold.
“What the…” he said, utterly dumbfounded, “where’s my truck?”
I pushed aside a buck-thorn branch, revealing his pickup.
“It must have rolled,” he said getting into the cab – but I heard him release the parking brake.
It had not rolled.
I didn’t say a thing. He wouldn’t believe me if I did.