The Handyman gets up early; the Texas sun just peeking above the horizon. It is going to be another scorcher. Well into the 90’s and possibly hitting 100 or more by mid-afternoon. His “to do" list is long. He has a lot on his plate. Best to get started early. His black truck is not air-conditioned and the last thing he wants is to make his trip to Ace Hardware during peak heat-stroke time; any time the sun is up in August.
He dresses quickly, grabbing shorts and a wrinkled t-shirt from a rumpled pile of clean-ish laundry, before tip-toeing to the bathroom (mindful of his sleeping girlfriend) to splash water on his face and brush his teeth. Single-mindedly on a mission, he shuffles through the house, out the side door, and into the garage. The knob is loose and shifts away from the door as he pulls inward to open. One more thing to add to the list. He reaches into his shorts’ cargo pocket and extracts a crumpled sheet of paper, spins, and heads back inside to the kitchen. He knows there is a pen in here somewhere and begins cracking drawers to peek inside. Silverware...nope. Dish towels and potholders...nope. Mismatched silverware, ladles, spatulas, and a can-opener...nope. Double-A batteries, extra bread twist-ties—his mind briefly wonders about what purpose they could possibly serve—and finally buried beneath a plethora of odds and ends…BINGO!...a Bic ballpoint pen. Extracting it from the drawer, he jots “tighten garage doorknob" at the bottom of the list just under “replace nails around back door frame”. This pen is old. The ink blobs and smears and then quits altogether leaving the last word an inkless etching in the crumpled notebook paper. He tosses it back into the drawer then rethinking, picks it up again, etching an inkless *BUY PENS at the top of his list next to a tiny etched asterisk. First things first.
This handyman thing is new to him and wanting to make an impression on the homeowner, his girlfriend’s brother and family; is his goal. Although they have a little money saved up, the handyman and his girl will crash here until they find an apartment of their own so repairing broken stuff will be his repayment to them for their hospitality.
He has zero experience fixing anything other than his morning slice of toast (oftentimes ending with him standing at the sink—butter knife in hand—scraping away the burnt part) but has a pretty good feeling about it. He has a good head on his shoulders, having recently graduated from college as a mechanical engineer, and is always willing to try new things.
He marches out of the kitchen and through the den with purpose. Carefully opening the loose and jiggling doorknob, he steps down one step into the garage where his faithful black truck is waiting to take him wherever he wants to go. Ace Hardware for tools, Walmart for pens, or even his previous hometown in Massachusetts where cooler air surely awaits him. He rolls all the windows down then thinks for a moment before turning over the key. Scenarios run quickly through his mind, the possibilities endless. The cooler air is tempting and his entire family would joyfully welcome him home with open arms.
Making up his mind, he turns the key and Old Black’s engine roars to life. Backing slowly out of the driveway and into the quiet street, he throws the truck into drive and begins the journey to Walmart and a brand new package of Bic Pens. He will give this handyman thing and the sweltering Texas heat a try. Barring burning the house down, what could possibly go wrong?
By Lisa H. Owens
Inspired by true events.
Entered in a WOW (Women On Writing) Winter Flash Fiction 2020 Fiction Contest.