T H E W A T E R B E D
WILLIAM E. ALLENDORF
Property of Wm. Allendorf and Black Hole Productions
All Rights Reserved
Cincinnati, Ohio December, 1980
The most relieving part of this story for you must be that,
though this story was written as your Christmas present, I did
not intend to write it about you. I'll save you for Sam Drek,
the space wanderer, to handle.
Merry Christmas to you--as merry a one as you can have under the
T H E W A T E R B E D
The rain fell in one of those obnoxious late-winter drizzles that
made it necessary for Phil to keep the windshield wipers going.
The skies held back just enough that the wipers often ran over
dry glass, making an awful protracted squeak. At times, Phil
would turn them off, only to find his visibility quickly
disrupted by the fine mist .
"If only (WRUNCH squeak) I could be sure (WRUNCH) it'll work he
thought. (WRU. . .squeak WRUNCH sq. . .) "Shit!" Phil turned off
the wipers again. "Let the rain fall, I've made up my mind: if
she doesn't like it then screw her!" Without thinking, he looked
at the seat beside him. Wrapped up in the plastic bags that
still glistened with beads of rain were two sets of waterbed
sheets, a pad, and a liner. The heater and fill kit lay on the
floor. His hand slipped down and patted the sheets. "Screw her,"
Phil pulled the old Rambler off the highway and headed it down
Beck Street into town. The warning light flashed bright protest
from the engine at the sudden change in speed. It needed a tune
badly. After a good work-out the motor would sputter in disgust
and fatigue, having been halted in its wide-open burst of
glory.on the open highway. By the time he reached University
Avenue, Phil had calmed the Rambler sufficiently to take the turn
with only a brief flicker of protest. He guided the car into the
Upper Graduate Lot and nursed it into a place near the dorm.
"Easy princess," he soothed. as he switched off the ignition.
The Rambler convulsed in a fit of dieseling and passed out. Phil
waited an extra moment to make sure it was dead, then got out.
Dangling out the back of the trunk was a stack of lumber. Phil
untied the trunk lid and peered inside. The lumber had shifted
and squashed a jug of windshield washer fluid. The plastic
bottle, though dented badly, was unbreached. He picked up the
bundle of two-by-tens and hefted them to his shoulder. Half way
across the lot, Phil remembered the open trunk, but after a fast
argument with himself, he decided not to go back and shut it.
They would only get some dented washer fluid, a garden hose and a
rusty tire iron.
Luckily. another student was leaving as Phil reached the door to
the dormitory.. He held the door open for Phil,and then jumped
ahead to open the inner door.
"What ya' building, Phil?" the student asked. "A bookshelf,"
"Had it approved yet?" asked the other.
"No," said Phil," It won't be attached to the wall or anything."
"I don't know,man. " said the student.
"Thanks for the help!" Phil said as he pulled the inner door
closed behind him. Eventually he got the lumber, heater, and
sheets smuggled safely into.his room. Once inside, he assessed the job
ahead of him. The dorm bed and his book shelves would have to go
to make room for the new waterbed. The bed was easy. Phil broke
it down and stashed it in the storage room behind the laundry.
His bookcase that was made from wood scraps, concrete block, and
milk cartons was going to be harder to get rid of. The blocks and
cartons were too valuable to dormies to hide anywhere, so Phil
had to leave them in the room. The cartons would fit in his
closet . under his clothes. The heavy bricks finally ended up
neatly stacked against the ceiling on the uppermost shelf of his
built-in desk. It took considerable strength to lift the blocks
over his head while Phil stood on his desk-chair.
The frame for the new bed was made from unfinished pine lumber.
It had been the cheapest kit in the store, but the ninety-nine
dollars and tax had not left much for sheets. The raw
two-by-tens fit together with modified door hinges and locked
with set pins. Phil began putting the frame up, working as
quickly and silently as possible. Damn the housing contract!
Full speed ahead. A snag developed when Phil realized that the
boards had warped slightly since they had been fitted with the
hinges. Try as he might, Phil could not get any combination of
the four sides to stand squarely on the floor. With a
considerable amount of pounding, he was at last able to arrive at
a may which had the bed rocking on two of its corners only
slightly. Phil stood back to admire his handiwork, then ran his
hand over the wood-
"Damn!" A pencil-sized splinter of green pine suddenly speared
his palm. Phil stifled a scream as he held his hand, pain
shooting up his arm, and deadly pine resins and bacteria working
their poisonous way into his bloodstream. After some
deliberation, Phil braved a peek at the wound. In fact, the
splinter was a bit smaller than a pencil-- more of a
toothpick--yet it hurt as much as ever. He gathered his strength
and pulled the splinter out. A drop or two of blood oozed from
the gore. Phil ran to the workroom and sank the hand under.the
running faucet. As his blood mingled with the water, the pain
and trauma subsided. Phil dried his hand on his pant leg and
returned to work. About the time Phil began fumbling with the
liner, there was a knock at the door.
"Go away!" Phil shouted," I've got a girl in here." "I do not
think you have girl," came the reply from Kabir in his own
version of English. "However," he continued,"I will go away just
the same. Goodbye, my friend." The Indian at the door receded
with quiet shoe-less footfalls. Halfway to his room, he broke
into a song: "Rosie, you all right//You wear my ring/ When you
hold me tight- "
"All right! Get in here," snapped Phil, who had stuck his head
out the door. The Indian stopped the song, turned smartly around
on his heels in a most exacting Gurka-style about-face, and
marched back to Phil's door. Upon reaching the threshold, Kabir
completed his maneuvers by jumping high in the air, landing
one-two and snapping an open-handed salute.
"Commander Fang! " he shouted in his version of cockney,"My
friend, sir! What can I do for you, sir?" Kabir broke from
attention and stuck out his hand. "Hellooo, my friend!" he said,
waving the hand stiffly until Phil shook it.
"Get in here!" repeated Phil, who allowed the door to open only
enough for the Indian to squeeze through. After re-locking the
door, Phil turned to address the Indian student.
"Wow!" said Kabir, spying the waterbed frame. "No Rosie for
you,tonight. You are very lucky--so is she? Who is it? Who is
the lucky lady? Do I know her?"
"It's Barb," replied Phil. "You met her when she came in for
"Ah! Yes!" said Kabir. "She was the one who went to the
Homecoming dance with your friend, Kirby."
"Yeah," Phil said.
" So," Kabir concluded. "You win her back now from your friend,
Kirby, yes? Steal her."
"Well not exactly yet, but I'm working on it," corrected Phil.
He pointed at the waterbed. "That's what this is for."
"Yes, is waterbed," replied Phil. "Look, Kabir, I-"
"You date her plenty much???" said the Indian, grinning. "Lot's
of coitus, eh?"
"Yeah," replied Phil, "But what I really need right now-"
"You count on me, friend," interrupted Kabir." I tell everyone to
leave you alone tonight."
"Hold on, Kabir!" said Phil.
"Is it okay if I bring Ali down to see it?"
"Yeah, but wait a second,Kabir." said Phil. "I need someone to
help me get this done. Can you help me?"
Kabir's eyes brightened and he stuck out his chest. "For you, my
friend," he said. "I will do it." He stuck out his hand again to
be shaken. Phil complied, then turned back to the bed. "I go get
Ali to help too." Kabir said, making for the door. "He come and
"No thanks," said Phil. "But it was not sufficient to stop the
"What?" said Kabir, halfway out into the hall.
"I just need you," said Phil. "The less who know about this, the
"All right," said Kabir,"Private Kabir of Her Majesty's Secret
Service at your service, sir!" He snapped to attention.
Without considerable delay, Phil and Kabir managed to place the
heater, liner and mattress into the bed. When it came time to
fill the mattress, the two went down to Phil's car. While Phil
packed the hose in his laundry bag, the Indian kept constant
vigil so that they would not be discovered. They re-entered the
dormitory through the side entrance. At each doorway and turn in
the hall, Kabir went ahead and made sure mo one was around.
Eventually, they made it back to Phil's dorm, only making a
slight spectacle of themselves in front of the dorm manager who
was leaving his apartment on a date. Both the manager and his
date looked curiously at the two students skulking around with
their laundry, but the manager thought it best not to inquire.
Upon reaching the room, Kabir let out a sigh of relief.
"Oh boy!" Kabir said. "That was close."
"It wouldn't have been if you hadn't been sneaking down the hall
in the first place." replied Phil, handing an end of the hose to
Kabir. Let's go to the kitchen and I'll hook this up to the
faucet. Then we'll start filling-"
"No, my friend," said Kabir,"I am good with this sort of thing.
You stay here and attach hose to bed. I go and fix the water
"You'll need this," said Phil, tossing the filler kit at him.
They told me you need adapters to fix the hose on-"
"Yes! Yes!" said the Indian." I know all this. I turn on water
when I'm done." The Indian left with one end of the hose in tow,
leaving Phil to attach the hose to the mattress. Phil was just
discovering that Kabir had taken the wrong end of the hose with
him, when he heard Kabir shout from down the hall.
"Here comes water!" There was a hissing sound from the end of the
hose like a fuse. Phil had only enough time to shriek.
"Stop Kabir!" he yelled then at the last moment, Phil saw the
answer. The hose continued to hiss and gurgle, but Phil ran to
the window, hose in hand. He doubled the hose and stuck it
between his legs while attempting to open the sash. The window
stuck. and before phil could wrench it open the pressure cause
the hose to unkink and a gusher started. It shot icy water into
his crotch. Phil yelped, dropped the hose, and then started
chasing the end around the room.
He pounced once and missed. The water pressure drove the hose
away from him, but he pounced again and was able to grab the end.
In a shower of mist, he bent the hose over and held it. The end
dribbled a bit and hung limp in its conqueror's hand. Soaked and
mad, Phil ran down to the workroom with the hose. He found Kabir
watching the faucet intently.
"Turn it off, Kabir!"
"What is the matter?" Kabir replied.
"You gave me the wrong end, you dumbshit!" Phil said. "Oh," said
Kabir, "I did not think of that. When I found my end did
not work, I modified."
"I modified it," the indian repeated. " I just took the coupling
and changed it with my knife, see?" Phil looked at the coupling
to the sink. Sure enough, the Indian had taken a knife to the
plastic adapter and made it fit backwards. The Indian's pocket
knife lay amid a pile of plastic shavings at the edge of the
sink. "You look wet," the Indian said.
"Yeah," replied Phil." I had some trouble getting my end to fit.
"No problem," said the Indian," I will fix it."
"No!" said Phil " I'll take care of it."
"No," said the indian."I will make it work." He turned off the
faucet , disconnected the hose and went down the hall splattering
water from his end. Shortly, the Indian was back grinning.
"Now, " he said grabbing the end that Phil still was holding in
his hand. "We will just take this end-" He studied the hose and
adapters for some time. "Oh," he said. "I made a mistake. I
should not have made modification. For as you can see, my
friend, it will not work for right end. We make it work." He
dropped the hose on the floor and ran out of the kitchen in
direction of his own room. In a flash, he was back with some
silver duct tape. "We fix good now." He said, as he set about
wrapping the tape around the faucet and hose. After several
yards of tape had been applied, Kabir stood back. "We are done.
Now, Mister Phil, please have the honors. He bowed and pointed
at the tap. Phil looked a little perplexed , but followed
Kabir's cue, and turned the cold water handle. The water rushed
out into the hose, bloating it up like a green sausage. There
was not a drop to be seen leaking from the jury-rigged connection
at the spigot. Phil and Kabir returned to Phil's room to clean
up the water and watch the mattress fill.
By the time they had cleaned up the water, the mattress was
nearly filled. Phil made excuses to Kabir, Shuttled him out of
the room then set about disconnecting the hoses. He looked at
his clock for the first time as he was stashing the hose in his
closet. It was eight-thirty. Barb's bus would be arriving at
nine. There was only enough time to burp the bed, put on the pad
and sheets, throw on his parka and run down to the bus station.
It would be too late to try warming up the Rambler.
Phil became acutely aware of his wet pants as he hurried uptown
to the bus depot. The March wind found its way up his coat and
made his scrotum cringe and his thighs ache. He made it to the
station just as the Trailways bus was pulling away from the curb.
A lone figure carrying a suitcase that was much too large for her
was poking her head this way and that looking for someone.
"Barb!" Phil cried as he thundered up to the person. "Phil?"
said the woman. "Where have you been?"
"I was running late," replied Phil, out of breath. "Where's your
car?" she asked.
"It wouldn't start," Phil said. "I walked over."
"Well, I'm not lugging this suitcase all the way to campus," she
"It's good to see you, Barb," said Phil, taking the suitcase from
her. They began walking back up University Avenue.
"It's good to see you too, Phil," Barb said, smiling." There's
not too many of us left around here."
"I get out in June," Phil said. "Kirby is back in Elkhart working
in his dad's drugstore. He says he wishes you'd come up and see
"I might," she said#"Is that all he's doing?"
"I think he's writing for the local paper--some column on books."
"At least he's writing," she replied." How about your work?"
Phil was about to answer when his foot caught a crack in the
sidewalk and he tripped. Barb lunged for the suitcase, but Phil
righted himself quickly.
"You all right?" she said.
"Yeah," he replied."I just tripped."
"How's your writing doing?" she repeated.
"Oh, all right, I guess," he answered. "It has to sort of take a
back seat while I finish up my thesis, but I get some time in.
I've been doing some experimenting. I haven't sold anything
recently, but I'm doing a lot of growing."
"Good to hear that!" she said. " I was wondering when you were
going to cut that space cadet shit and write something
meaningful. Can I read some of your new stuff?"
"Oh. . .sure," he said.
"What sort of experimenting have you been doing?"
"Well,"said Phil, biting his lip,"I've been working on one
novella that's about this elf princess who enlists the aid of a
wizard and his dwarf sidekick in regaining her throne. I really
like the way the secondary patterns are shaping up-- lots of good
innuendo. I think it'll sell. Maybe Fandom Magazine will pick
it up and illustrate it like the other one."
"Oh," she said." Wasn't that the one that printed a three-dee
comic strip of one of you stories."
"Yeah," he sad, perking up slightly." That was the one about the
priest who was sheltering the heir to the lunar empire."
Barb chuckled,"Phil, you never change, do you? Still lost in
space." Phil looked at Barb, stopped waLking, bit his lip, then
started walking again.
" At least I'm selling, Barb." he replied. "That's all I ever
hope for." He paused then added, "What are you up to?"
"Lots," she said. "I have that job with UBS doing technical
writing. I've also got a new volume of poetry being published
through Raven Press and if that goes well, I hope to start giving
readings on the campus circuit. You know, I think the best of it
all is the local community college wants me to come in and teach
a poetry seminar."
"That's great, " Phil said. "How much is that teaching job going
"Six-hundred a quarter for two days a week," she said. "It's at
night, so it won't interfere with UBS.
"That's great," Phil said. By this time, they had reached the
graduate dorm Phil motioned for Barb to follow him in. "Let's go
in and I'll fix you a cup of coffee," he said.
"Still Phil's famous hot-potted instant?" she asked.
"No," he replied. "I got a coffee maker for Christmas--makes real
"Oh, good," Barb said. "Of course, I'm probably going to miss
"Can't even make it anymore," Phil said. "The little hot pot died
of a broken heart when it saw my new coffee maker." He opened the
door to the dorm and held it for Barb. She walked in and opened
the inner door so Phil could get through with the suitcase. They
walked down the hall to Phil's room. Barb drew only minor
attention from the other men on the floor, but Phil received
several knowing looks from his friends.
As they passed the showers, one of the Taiwanese students emerged
from the shower, naked and dripping. He sputtered in fury for a
moment then took a deep breath through his tightly gnashed teeth.
"Who SHHHtole my closHHHes!" he yelled, then recognizing that he
was in the presence of a woman, he stood wide-eyed and frozen in
humiliation. Down the hall. there was an outburst of typically
oriental laughter. The naked chinaman ran between Phil and Barb
and set off down the hall in the direction of the laughter. "You
GuySHHH!! ! " he yelled; the rest of his tirade was lost in a
babble of Chinese. The room from which the laughter came quickly
fell silent and the door slammed shut. Phil ushered Barb through
his door as the Chinaman banged helplessly on the door with his
"Still never a dull moment." Barb said as Phil closed and locked
the door. Barb and Phil's eyes met briefly. Barb was startled as
the latch clicked. She turned away from the door, but upon
realizing she was standing in front of a waterbed that nearly
filled the entire room, she became even more shaken. "What is
that?" she said.
"Like it?" Phil said as he put the suitcase by the door. "It's my
"I can see that." replied Barb. "You can't have that in
here--you'll get thrown out!"
"Who has to know?" said Phil. "It'll just be our secret. "Oh,"
said Barb. drawing a deep breath and glancing longingly at the
"As I remember," said Phil. "You like yours hot and strong with
nothing in it."
"Your coffee," said Phil. " You like it black still?"
"Oh. . .yes!" She said. "Yes! Black. . .please."
"Phil took off his parka and laid it over his desk chair, then
went over to the coffee maker that was on the dresser. As he
brushed past Barb, he put his hands on her shoulders. Barb
"I just wanted to help you off with your coat."
"My coat?" she said. "No, I'm cold. I think I'll keep it on."
"I'll hurry up with the coffee then." he replied.
"What's wrong with your pants?" she asked as she pointed at his
"Oh that?" he said, pointing at the wet spot. "I had an accident
with the hose while I was filling the bed."
"Oh." she said. "How long have you had the bed?"
"I just finished putting it up this evening.before you arrived.
That's why I was late."
"I'll be right back" Phil said."I have to go fill the reservoir
with water. Hang tight."
"Listen, Phil," she said. "I have to go over to the sorority
house soon. Why don't I take a raincheck on the coffee."
"You're cold," he said.
"Well, I'll get a cup when I get over there," she replied.
"What's so great about the sorority house?" he said, "I Thought
you hadn't been active since undergrad."
"I'm er. . .I'm staying there this weekend," she said. "They said
they'd put me up."
"But I thought you. . .I mean we. . ." Phil sputtered and
"It was last minute plans," she said.
"Oh." Phil replied. Barb went over to the corner and retrieved
her suitcase, then reached for the door. Phil unlocked it. She
opened it and walked out into the hall. Phil followed.
"Can I walk you over there!" he asked as he jumbled the coffee
maker in his hands.
"No," she sighed. "I'll go over alone. I don't think they'd let
you in anyway."
"How about having dinner over at Larry's Candleglow later?" he
"It'll have to be later this weekend." she replied. "I'm very
tired after that bus ride."
"How about you and I. . ." Phil let the question trail off.
"Thanks for coming to meet me." Barb said, and she left After a
long time propped against his closed door with the coffee
maker by his side, Phil walked over to the bed and sat on it for
the first time. It accepted him with a gentle slosh that quickly
damped away. He lay there barely moving with the ripples, then
sat up and held his head.
"If she hadn't been so-" his thought trailed off. "Damn!" he
said and he kicked his desk leg with his sneaker. That was all
the poor overloaded desk would take. Phil had only enough time to
realize what was happening.
"CHRIST!" he shrieked as the desk gave way under weight of the
concrete blocks. Books pelted him as he tried to roll out of the
way. He grabbed his pillow and cowered as the first concrete
block slipped from its ceiling-high perch and struck the
mattress. It breached the vinyl and sank from sight in a splash
which blew up from a gaping hole in the sheets. Two more blocks
followed, each with a Kerplash!
Phil lay huddled at the head of the bed, still holding the pillow
up as a shield. He was lying in water up to his waist, and the
entire room about him was flooded. He just lay there doing
nothing. Shortly, the water found the heater control that Phil
had not had time to attach to the bed. With a sizzle, the water
shorted out it out. The room went dark. Soon there came a knock
on his door.
"Mister Phil," said Kabir from the other side of the door. "Are
you all right?" Phil did not answer.
"Is he in there?" said another voice, who was probably Ali. "Are
you there, Mister Phil?" Kabir repeated. "We heard crash. Are you
"There is water here, see?" said the other. "Coming from under
"My goodness," said Kabir. "Go and call the front desk. Something
has happened to Mister Phil.
Phil just sat in his puddle hugging his pillow and said nothing.
A N A F T E R W O R D
(not to appear in final publishable draft)
A year ago, I could not have written this story without making
Phil out to be a martyred romantic hero. He was too close to
me-- just as you were. If this story had come to pass at that
time, I might have had him drown in the waterbed or electrocute
himself or something equally horrendous. As it stands, Phil goes
on living, in my sketch books, and perhaps another story someday.
You, Barb, can go back to writing volumes of blank verse in peace
and quiet. You never deserved Kirby's unrequited indifference
and condescension and Lord only knows what literary Karma lead me
to inflict you with PhiL He was not your fault, and he is only
mine in that I was born with a good deal of Philip Lockwood Fang
in me that cried out to be developed.
Poor Phil. Like Kilgore Trout, he has been released to posterity.
What do you unemployed characters do with yourselves. Do
crossword puzzles? Go fishing? Write your memoirs? Goodbye,
Barb. Phil tried desperately to please you, and so did I. You
never found happiness within my stories, so perhaps you will find
it now that you've been released. With best wishes in a bright
future for you, I am,
Wm. E. Allendorf
18 December, 1980 0045 EST
P.S. Don't worry about the car. Phil sells it, and it finally
winds up in the hands of someone who takes good care of it. The
last I wrote of the Rambler Marlin, it had made it out to the
backside of Titan without showing any undue wear.
Editor's Note: This was the last installment of a series of stories
called " The Space Cadet Suite," which was kind of a parallel universe
to the writer's own reality. It detailed the lives of four undergraduates
at a liberal arts college. Most of the suite was never scanned for the Black
Hole Literary Review. Maybe someday it will make it into these archives as
an unreleased rarity. As I remember, the stories were pretty popular when
they were written.