60-Something

Fixing Stuff Chapter 1 - A Good Man is Hard to Find

2013-06-26T17:29:00Z 2013-08-01T13:27:08Z Fixing Stuff Chapter 1 - A Good Man is Hard to FindBy Denise DeClue nwitimes.com
June 26, 2013 5:29 pm  • 

This time it’s about the raccoons. Last time it was about the raccoons, too. Also the time before that.

It started with the birds. I got some shepherd’s crooks and some bird feeders, hung them outside and filled them with bird food, so I could watch the original “hunger games” in real time.

Of course, the lower-cost huge bag of bird food didn’t all fit into the bird feeders, so I clipped the bag with one of those potato-chip clippies and put what was left neatly away on the screened-in back porch.

Might have been a day, or maybe two, and my back porch looked like the aftermath of a teenage raccoon hoot-nanny—or rave—or whatever they call it now--when creatures go berserk and wreck the place as they dance madly around. Crumpled bag, seed everywhere, and a punched-in lower left-side of the screen door. Furry bums.

So I called somebody to fix it. They did. I never put seed on the porch again, but the next year, one of them must have remembered how much fun they had, and they bashed in the screen again. If one of them didn’t remember and this knowledge was passed along genetically, we’re all in a lot more trouble than I thought. Anyway, I had it fixed again.

Then, last winter, the little creeps smashed in the screen once again and tore open five cans of root beer that were quietly hibernating in the corner. So this time I called Harry and he fixed the door with two layers of screen, one clearly an industrial-strength version, which could protect against small bears. We shall see.

All this reminded me of the time, year ago, when Angie’s List was but a glimmer in a householder’s eye, when my garbage disposal finked out.

It wasn’t just the garbage disposal. Nothing in my life was working at the time: not my refrigerator, my air conditioner, my car, my two ex-husbands or my 20-year old son. The only major appliance/person who seemed to be fulfilling its/his/her work destiny was me and my 17-year-old niece who was taking dance lessons and waitressing at a Cajun restaurant. But she’d work in a coal mine if it meant she wouldn’t have to go back home to live with her mother/my sister.

One of the boys in my son’s funk band who had moved in with us could have put something down that disposal. Or the guys who were painting the living room. Or Anetta the cleaning lady. Or maybe it was me when I was cleaning out the refrigerator (which had become a giant petrie dish instantly fomenting anything we placed inside). I turned the garbage disposal on. MMMMMMR. Then nothing. I reached in there and pulled out take-out Thai food, squeezed lime peels. I moved the little blades around. I pushed the small red button on the part of the disposal underneath the sink. MMMMMR. Kind of like a snoring man when you rolled him over, I thought. Were those the good old days?

At the time I had a few friends who knew how to fix a few things, but I never met a man who would put his hand down a garbage disposal. It’s the one broken appliance that immediately necessitates calling a repairman. The guys I knew would try to fix washers, dryers, anything with belts. But when they looked into that disposal’s dark hole, all they saw was a million tiny Kukri-wielding Lorraine Bobbits. No way would they put their hands down there. GRRRRRR. Too horrible to think.

Anyway I called a repair company and Ivan said he was coming between 9 and 10:30 the next morning. And he did. A small, professional, bespectaled semi-attractive guy, he came to the kitchen and set up his tool kit. We should all have one of these. I noticed a little wire brush, a panoply of screw drivers, drills, bits, strange clamps and wires. He puttered around a bit, poking in the disposal with some kind of tool—not his hand.

“Did you put meat down there?” he asked.

“Maybe,” I said. I was getting kind of bored with the whole thing. “’Course it could have been the cat. He’s been bringing me a lot of mice lately. Maybe he hid a mouse down there.”

Ivan flinched and turned around and looked at me like I could be serious.

“’Course it’d probably be dead.” I laughed to let him know I was joking.

“It better be dead,” he said.

I told him I was only joking but I could tell he pegged me for a nut cake.

He knelt down under the sink and puttered some more. GRRRRRR. It was working!

“While you’re down there I was wondering if you could take a look at the dishwasher. I think the garbage disposal backs up in there some times. The dishes don’t get very clean.”

“I’d have to charge extra for that,” said Ivan. “Plus you’d have to call it in and I’d have to come back again.”

“How much extra?”

“Ninety-eight dollars.”

“Whooo-boy,” I said. “I was thinking it’s more like a $49.95 kind of problem.”

“Too bad, because it’s really simple to fix,” he said.

I’ve never tried to bribe a civil servant and I’m too embarrassed to barter, but I figured that when you get somebody in your house who knows how to fix things, you should go for broke.

“How ‘bout I just give you fifty bucks on the side and you fix it now?” He puttered. I stuttered. I asked him where he went to school to learn how to fix things, talked about how hot it was outside, blah blah. Then he said he would take me up on my offer and asked me if I had a coat hanger. No kidding. I gave him one and he ducked back down and wriggled some things around. The dishwasher was fixed.

Ivan came up for air. “I bet you like it very, very hot,” he said. I quickly counted out the fifty bucks and when I looked up, Ivan had taken off his glasses. No kidding.

“I’m glad to be of service to you and I can fix anything,” he said.

“That’s really great,” I said, “but I guess we’re all fixed up now! Thanks so much.” I gave him the money and started toward the front door. He packed up quickly and followed me.

“I live real near here,” he said. “I could stop by and fix anything. Anytime. Just call me.”

He left. I closed the door. I went back to my kitchen turned on the appliances and sat sweating in the comforting din, trying to figure where I went wrong. The bribe? My inordinate interest in the DeVry Technical Institute? Maybe when I said how hot it was, I said it in some kind of funny way.

No. It was the joke about the cat. And the mangled little mouse. He must have thought that I thought. . .. oh, never mind. That was years ago.

I’m looking out the window. There’s a raccoon the size of a small bear lumbering toward the bird feeder. I mean this sucker is bigger than a two-year-old child. I fly out the well-screened back door and yell at him: “Get out of here, you free-loader! Get a job!” As he waddled off into the ravine I screamed after him: “Nobody wants you? Need some training? Get some skills! Ever think about the DeVry Technical Institute, you big thug?”

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