“Hi Chester, thanks for coming over so quickly I’m having trouble with my stove but I have to go out and pick up Lacey from school so could you see if you can fix it for me please...I’ll be about 45 minutes are you ok with that?” enquired Chester’s first client on his list of things to do for Thursday 12th January 2022.
The stove was used and owned by the local real estate agent, Jane Meadow, who was divorced and a single mum struggling to juggle a working life and motherhood at the same time with little or no help from her ex who only arrived on the scene when his money ran out or he had a truck delivery in a town close to where she lived. Jane lived in a small town where personal business was local business and local business was news so she was pretty careful about who she dated and kept pretty much to herself without raising any eye brows or giving cause for any scuttlebutt to rip around the town like a lightning bolt.
Chester Valentine was a 59 year old ex-army electrician who fixed toasters, washing machines, stoves, ceiling fans and pretty much anything that had electricity running through it and was very popular because he did great work and didn’t charge very much money to fix things because he was on a good pension from the army. He was a short partially grey haired chubby man with large black rimmed glasses and a real taste for wearing weird clothes out of the 1950′s. He was always seen with his pants pretty much over his belly button, colourful braces, usually red and a white cotton long sleeve shirt that made him look a little like an old school science teacher. His shoes were always immaculately clean and shiny and he smiled all the time.
“Sure Jane that won’t be problem you just go and pick your daughter up and I’ll get to and see what needs fixin!!... ” said Chester raising two fingers to his right eyebrow like a boy scout and saluting Jane as she started her car and drove off leaving Chester alone in her house while she ran the errand. He stood on the porch and waived Jane good bye till he couldn’t see her car any more. Then he clicked the stop watch on his left arm and set it for 45 minutes. Opened the front and inhaled deeply everything that he could smell in the doorway. He walked at a leisurely pace into the kitchen and poured a glass of water and returned to the porch and placed it on the steps gently then he turned around and switched all the power off in the meter box next to the front door for the house. Everything he did was clinical and he had done this before so it was standard procedure so he didn’t get electrocuted fixing the wires or the problems he found.
His shoes made no sound as he walked back into the kitchen and pulled the stove out to check the main wiring and could see straight away that the wires had perished and he looked at his watch. Instantly he figured out how long he had to do the job. This was his army training kicking into gear and he produced a set of screw drivers and replacement leads needed to fix the problem in 12 minutes flat which afforded him time to get other things done that he wanted to do.
With the stove now working back to its normal state he pushed it back into its position, packed his tools away except for a phillips head screw driver that he put in the right hand pocket of his pants and he commenced checking each room looking here and there at the state of the house. In the doorway of each room he stood in the entrance and inhaled deeply tasting with his sense of smell the flavours of each room individually. He checked his watch again. He had less than 30 minutes after the initial surveillance of each room to do the what he wanted to do.
Janes bedroom room now...he thought and he grabbed his screw driver from his pants pocket and started twirling it in his fingers while Jane had just arrived at her daughters school and was talking to a few school mums about the up coming week end where Lacey’s sports were being held.
Chester went out to his truck and retrieved a small aluminium ladder to allow him to get into the roof with ease and crawl over to the exact position above Jane’s bed and room.
He checked his watch.
17 minutes left.
Jane was so busy talking to her friends she completely forgot about the time and the fact that she had left Chester alone in her house. She stopped talking mid sentence when she remembered and said a hurried goodbye, grabbed Lacey’s school bag and walked at a leisurely pace back to her car asking her daughter how her day was and making sure that Lacey was secure in her car seat then started the car to drive homeward.
8 minutes left.
The traffic was always chaotic dropping and picking up kids from school and this day was no exception. Jane turned on the radio and chattered with Lacey asking her what she wanted for dinner because when they got home the stove would be fixed so she was able to cook finally if Chester had fixed the problem she was having with her antiquated kitchen appliance.
3 minutes left.
Finished wiring and he was now leaving the roof and coming down the ladder. Jane’s car was turned onto the main road at last and headed for home.
Chester put the ladder back into the truck along with his tools and locked it up and then walked back to the porch to sit and wait for Jane and Lacey to arrive home while sitting there very relaxed looking sipping his water looking at the garden beds that Jane was trying so desperately to grow things in but wasn’t having a lot of success with.
His watch was beeping at him. He pressed his watch and the beeping stopped.
Chester looked away from the garden beds when he heard the sound of Jane’s car horn and he raised two fingers again to his right brow and stood up with the glass of water in his left hand. He poured the water into the closest garden bed, because it needed it and made his way down to open Jane’s car door for her.
“How did you get on Chester is it fixed?” asked Jane as she grabbed her purse and unhooked Lacey’s car seat for her.
“All done...good as new” said Chester smiling at her and giving Lacey a high five as she ran past him to go inside and use the bathroom as she was busting to go.
“Awww you are so good Chester thank you how much do I owe you?” asked Jane pulling out her purse and opening it to retrieve some money for her most excellent handy man.
“5o dollars for the rewiring and I won’t charge for the labour ok?” said Chester in a quiet timid voice in reply.
“Are you sure?′ enquired Jane sounding stunned at how cheap his price was
“Yep that’ll do it” said Chester looking at the ground and not making eye contact at all. He just wanted to show her the replacement wires and get her to boil some water to prove he fixed the problem. Jane handed Chester a $50 dollar note and they walked inside and she filled a pot from the kitchen sink with water, turned on the stove and they both watched as the water came to a boil. Chester looked from the boiling water to Jane’s long auburn hair then back to the boiling water and said
“Jobs done...I best be going now Jane, make sure you tell your friends about me and thanks for trusting me to do it while you weren’t home” said Chester as he made for the front door and he turned to take one more deep inhale of the front room waving to Jane as he closed the fly wire door to the front porch. He started his truck and waived yet again and tooted his car horn.
Jane stood on the porch and waived back to him as he drove away. The smile on Chester’s face vanished and a malevolent unforgiving lear replaced it as he turned his truck on to the main road and joined the traffic there to drive back to his home.
“Job done” he whispered under his breath as Jane commenced to make dinner for Lacey in the kitchen talking on her mobile phone to a friend telling her about what a good job Chester had done and how happy she was that she could finally cook again.