Last Tuesday night, an alarm box in our basement went into hysterics.
The little guy kept shrieking and flashing messages that read: “Check Septic System!!”.
For the benefit of those who do not know what a septic system is, think about living a hundred miles south of the Metropolitan Sewer District. In other words, you have to have your own sewer.
For us, everything that goes down the drain gets pumped out to a big holding tank buried behind the house and if something goes wrong, the little alarm box in the basement freaks out.
So I called the septic guy.
After parking his truck, he walked around my yard and came back to the house to ask, “Where’s your septic tank?”
“Wasn’t it you 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 hand to hand. “I though I put it over there,” he said, gesturing toward a spot behind my house.
“No, you put it further back. 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 biggest tape measure you ever saw.
“Hang onto this,” he said, handing me one end. He then spooled the tape out into the 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 soil. It is nothing but a thin layer of clay over white sand and when it takes a liking to something it doesn’t matter how big or small it is, if the ground wants it, it eats it. Cars, houses, barns, it is all the same.
Others say it is the trees. Our grandfathers shoved them 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 once in a while, I beat the trees 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, “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.