While some men wore their hearts on their sleeves, Elmer wore his work on his sleeve.  His customers and particularly Mildred, his wife, found this distressing, for Elmer was a plumber, and a careless one at that. 
Our story begins right here, at Paradise Perks cafe,  on an evening much like this one, exactly one year ago.    For you see, it is when Christmas lights bring a bit of cheer to a cold and wet night that the Creative Muse visits this very room.  Her name is TIEN.  She looks like one of us, human in form, but even in a world of airbrushed glamour photos, yes, even in a world where curves and muscles are contoured secretly in Photoshop, TIEN is the real thing:  a pure spirit sent to bestow the kiss of creative fame and glory upon one lucky writer, actor, painter, or comedian.  
TIEN has almond black eyes that shine like onyx, and her long black hair has a luster that captures even the slightest light.  She is tall and thin, and walks with such grace that she seems not to touch the ground at all.   She might be here tonight, but if she is, you will know.  The music itself here at Paradise Perks changes around her.  There is a glow in the room, and the sweet fragrance of jasmine.  Just being in the same room will elevate your mood.  Being in the same room with Elmer would have a very different affect on your senses. 
TIEN appears at Paradise Perks once a year, and only once, and that only for one purpose:  to attract the one man or woman who cannot resist her, and who dares to declare his or her love unashamedly, for such is her power of attraction.  To such a one, she imparts a passion and focus to create.   She does this by kissing his lips, lightly like a ray of warm sun breaking through a cloud.  She places her kiss just to the left side of his lips, for the energy then passes through the enchanted one’s neural network to the creative right hemisphere side of the brain.  The energy generated there by that single kiss lasts a full year, but not longer. 
It was at the end of just such a year, one year ago, on the usual day after Christmas, that TIEN returned to bestow her annual gift of creative passion.  As usual, she ordered a pot of hot jasmine tea and an almond flavored scone and settled into on of the large cushioned chairs where she curled up with a book of Vietnamese love poems. 
Unknown to TIEN, a disgruntled barista had laced her scone with LSD.  TIEN began to see the words of poetry in her book lift from the pages and float about the room.  She followed them, reaching for them wherever they might finally settle.  The random words now combined to form new poems of 3 or 4 words each, like koans or haiku.   One of these read:  “Slung over a pipe, a smell of filth, a winter’s wind.” TIEN, looked about for some clue.  Then she saw Elmer, slung over a pipe, smelling of filth, and making one yearn for a fresh winter’s wind.  She knew she must kiss him. 
“Look at me, darling.  Look deeply into my eyes,” she moaned seductively to him as he was about to lift the commode from its seal. 
 “Lady, the women’s toilette is closed.  No offense ma’am, but get a clue.” 
“I hold your destiny,” TIEN persisted.  

“Please, keep it to yourself,” Elmer said, or use the men’s room.” 

 “You are the chosen one,” TIEN persisted. 
“Yeah,” Elmer grunted, putting down the heavy ceramic toilet stool to get a better view, “You got that right lady.  They always choose me for these nasty jobs at the last minute.” 
But before he could turn around, TIEN took him firmly from behind, spun him around like a martial artist, and planted a heavy open mouthed kiss that covered both the left and right sides of his brain, popping at least two buttons off his official “Peppy Plumbers” work shirt. 
“Holy Shit!” Elmer exclaimed when he caught his breath, not realizing that his words more or less described the sudden transformation. 
Elmer for the first time took a fresh assessment of his appearance.  Standing there in the women’s bathroom, he turned to the mirror to get a better view, and shook his head.  He rubbed his fingers against the several days of beard.  He tried to bring some order to his disheveled, matted hair.  

He examined his hands like a baby might first discover its fingers, and said, “I need a manicure.” 
Washing his face and hands, Elmer then walked out of the toilette, and asked one of the students studying at a corner table for a pen and paper.  The student was so eager to get Elmer’s lingering scent away that she handed over a full note pad and pen immediately.  
“Just sit somewhere else, please,” she pleaded.  
“I am so sorry,” Elmer said to the student.  “I have no idea how I let myself go like this.”  Then, responding to an inner compulsion, he said to himself,  “There’s not a minute to spare.” 
Elmer then went to a distant part of the café, where he began writing furiously, hoping to capture at least pieces of the ideas that were erupting like an unending collage of images from his brain. 
Elmer became known in the months that followed as the amazing “plumber-poet.”  Women, when their husbands were away, would clog their own drains just to have him stop by, for he was known to find inspiration in the most common of situations and to find beauty in the most plain of women, for with Elmer, nothing was plain, and every customer became another source of enchantment.  In the months that followed, Elmer rose like a Phoenix from the sludge to win numerous prestigious awards and international literary acclaim. 
Then, on December 26, 2012, the pipeline to fame burst.  Mildred was online, clipping and saving the most recent poetry reviews to Evernote, when she heard Elmer’s scream.  She leaped up and rushed to Elmer’s second floor-writing studio overlooking Martha’s Vineyard.   There he sat, with a look of bewildered desperation. 
“Mildred, it’s gone.  Totally gone.  I can’t write, think, or fart a single word of poetry.  It’s like someone just shut off the main water valve.” 
“Elmer, please dear, don’t panic.  Every artist has writer’s block occasionally.” 
“No Mildred, this is different.  I feel like my fount of inspiration just became a clogged septic tank.” 
Mildred scratched her head.  She never much cared for poetry until Elmer went wacko over it a year ago.  She really didn’t need to understand it.  All she knew was that Elmer had suddenly become very hot in bed, trying things she never imagined possible in 20 years of marriage.
“You don’t think this will affect our sex life do you?”  she asked him. 
“Please Mildred, call my editor and the people at the Poetry Foundation.  Tell them I’ve suddenly become ill.  Tell them I can’t be at the acceptance ceremony for the Pushcart Prize at the Southern Review.”
“Tell them . . . tell them I’m suffering from severe dehydration of the soul.” 
In the days that followed, Elmer would from time to time fondly handle his old plumbing tools, and have a few beers while watching World Wide Boxing Federation fights on Saturday nights.  When his editor called, Elmer would tell Mildred to make an excuse.  He stopped shaving.  He took up munching on pork rinds. 
But Mildred also noticed that some things did not change.  Elmer kept the books of poetry at his bedside.  She would seem him reading late at night, and when he read, he would often whisper lines of poetry in her ear, which excited her, and that in turn would excite him.  Elmer had always enjoyed sex, and now that he was back to being a plumber, he saw how useful good poetry could be. 
Elmer never relapsed to Old Spice, but continued to use Givenchy colognes.  He opened his own plumbing business, and named it “The Poet-Plumber” and would, after every servicing, leave a signed copy of one of his original 2011 poems.  It was not only a very good year, it was the only year, but it was enough to change a man’s life. 

(c) FXP 2012