Allen was in the kitchen looking through the kitchen one morning trying to find something to eat. He reached for cabinet door and the handle came off in his hand. Linda and Markey were not in the house, so he cussed out loud. When he grabbed the edge of the door with the tips of his fingers and the screw came rolling out and fell onto the counter below. He grabbed the handle and the screw and handle and placed them in his pocket, so they did not get lost while he went to get his Phillips head screwdriver from the little toolbox that Linda allowed him to keep.
She always told him that it was the maintenance man’s job to fix things around the apartment, but he knew how easy a fix most things were. She would say, “Come on, Allen. You are going to get us in trouble. It says in the lease agreement that we are not allowed to make any changes to the building without express permission from the management company.” But he was a man, and men were expected to do this kind of work. Linda even liked to see him get his hands a little dirty from time to time, and by getting his hands dirty she meant tightening screws that had worked themselves loose or applying lubricant to squeaky door hinges.
Linda has had so much trouble going out and finding so much trouble finding cleaning solutions to help her clean up the rust ring around the faucet in the bathroom sink. She has used bleach scrubs and rust removers and always has to end up using tons of elbow grease to get the white porcelain of the sink to look passably clean, but it always ends up stained again. He had offered so many times to take apart the faucet and fix it. Just last week, he said, “All it needs is a new application of Teflon tape around the threads of the pipe. It’s an easy fix.”
She said, “I have had the guy up here to do that. I watched. We just need a new sink.” The thought even crossed his mind to surprise her with a new faucet because even just that would stop it from having that slow leak, but she must have seen the faraway look in his eye. She said, “That is up to the apartment management service, Allen. If you put in a new sink, they will kick us out for sure.” He always said that they wouldn’t mind if they improved the apartment. She always went back to the line in the lease agreement. He had half a mind to read the lease agreement himself to see what it really said because as much as he trusted her—and he trusted her implicitly—nobody ever read their lease agreement. There was no possible way that she could be quoting accurately. The best she might have done was skim over, but he wasn’t sure she had done even that. Who would?
Allen had remembered that he had put his toolbox in the top of the closet, but he looked and couldn’t find it. He moved around the shoeboxes of stuff that they had stored up there. It wasn’t that long ago that he had rearranged everything on that shelf to make room for his tools. Even before he and Markey had moved in with her, there was never enough storage space. He had placed the tools on the far right of the shelf for easy access when he slid the door opened to his side of the closet. The first thing he did when he arrived at her apartment long before they even knew they would be moving in together was make a mental note of all the things that he could fix if he lived there. He wasn’t being presumptuous. He had just had that sort of thing beaten to him by his parents.
His father would always be working around the house or helping out one of the neighbors. Allen was always given the option of helping his father to earn a little extra on his allowance. Depending on the amount of Saturday morning he would be expected to burn on the task, he would earn between three and five dollars, and on really big jobs, he could be expected to earn up to twenty dollars a day. He thought that was big money back then.
His mother always reminded him that the money was only a bonus, and the real payment was the help that they were spreading across the community. He always took that to mean that if he didn’t volunteer to help his father, he would still be expected to go and help only he wouldn’t get paid, but he also believed her about the importance of building up the community. That was something that he missed about living in the city. They lived in a community, but the people never acted like a community. In the city it was always about how your money could help others once it was filtered through some philanthropic organization of course. Everybody needed their cut, like the maintenance man. He was just trying to justify his job by making everyone too scared to do their own simple jobs around their own apartments.
There had been an empty space in the top of the closed where his toolbox had been, and he knew that he was moving the boxes around in vain. Linda must have gotten into his tools and forgotten to put them back. Either that, or Markey had gotten out a chair and gotten into them. But Allen didn’t think that he had because the tools would have been scattered around the apartment, and he would not have needed to look in the closet to know his tools were not there. But there were some clothes piled up in the corner of Linda’s side of the closet. That was strange because Linda wouldn’t just pull her clothes off the hanger, and they didn’t own a cat who might be expected to pull down clothes while trying to climb to the top of the closet to catch a rat. He had heard that rats could be rather sizable in this city, and he knew it was hard to keep out the rats in a city this size. But he had not seen any evidence of one unless this was the evidence right here.
Allen picked up the clothes to see if they had any rodent damage and to put them back up on the hanger had they comedown for some other reason. They were three of Linda’s blouses with the hangers still in them. Wouldn’t you know it, his toolbox and all of his tools had been hidden under the clothes. The toolbox looked like it had fallen off the shelf and popped open dumping the tools except after they fell and scattered, they were all pushed into the far corner and hidden under some clothes. Markey was starting to look like a suspect after all. Allen still didn’t know why Linda hadn’t noticed the mess and cleaned it up on her way to drop Markey off that morning.
He straightened the blouses on the hangers and tried to brush out the wrinkles with his hand hoping that hanging them back up would remove the wrinkles that wouldn’t come out. Then he gathered the contents of his meager toolbox and placed them back inside. He had four wrenches two metric and two standard, a Philips and a flat blade screwdriver, a few wood screws and a handful of nuts and bolts. Just the basics for puttering around an apartment that you aren’t allowed to fix on your own. He pocketed the Philips and placed everything else back in the box.
Back in the kitchen, Allen screwed the handle back onto the cabinet door. He had thought about getting those stubby screwdrivers when he had gone out to the hardware store to put together his home handyman kit, but he was glad he had gone with the medium length screwdrivers. The stubby ones can get into tighter spaces, but the longer ones give you more control over the screws. And sometimes those screws can be squirrely and hard to handle especially the small ones like this one that holds cabinet handles in place. The job was done, and it was a simple one. It would have been even simpler had he not had to search for and then clean up his tools, but he was happy about his work. He smiled and felt like a proper man of the house when he closed the cabinet door to test out his work.
It had taken longer than he had expected to get this job done, and now he was really and truly ready to get him that breakfast he had come in here for in the first place. When he heard the sound of screws falling onto the wooden shelves of the cabinet, he was totally crestfallen. He opened the cabinet to see what needed fixing this time, and the cabinet door came completely off its hinges and nearly hit him on the head before he blocked it with his forearm. He heard the sound of scurrying inside the locked cabinets and what sounded like soft sniggering from the next cabinet before its doors fell away from its hinges. It turned out that it wasn’t Markey after all who had had scattered and hidden his tools. But Markey must have accidently let something in the last time he went through one of his fiery portals to the regions of hell.
Allen thought he had remembered skimming over something about evil brownies or some other gremlin type creature when he was trying his best to help Markey with his studies of The Grimoire of Shadows, or one of the other books of dark magic that Raul had sent with him. Allen was glad it wasn’t something more serious. A mischievous creature that gets his jollies from taking things apart was much better than a poltergeist or some other thing that could cause him actual harm. The worst thing this creature is piss off the maintenance man if he took something apart that Allen couldn’t fix. He only hoped the thing couldn’t figure a way around the barrier spell that Markey had put up just incase something gotten out during his magic studies. Or worse, what if there were time limits to the barrier spells, or what if this was one of those creatures that grew in power every time it did a mischievous act. Allen knew so little about the dark magic side of the universe. He knew even less about it than he did about actual science, and he really didn’t know too much about that either. He had a feeling he could learn about the dark magic, and he thought he could probably use seeing as how he was the same person as Raul, and Raul was a master of such things. That thought frightened Allen, but at the same time, he knew that he had to take care of this on his own.
He couldn’t leave this creature to the maintenance man to take care of, and he didn’t think Linda would think any less of him if he had to wait for her help. But like fixing things around the house, taking care of infestations was man’s work, and he felt like he needed to prove it to himself. If he couldn’t take care of it himself, it would be fine then to go ask for some help.
Allen grabbed a big plastic bowl from the cabinets. He was going to try to catch this thing. He turned on the flashlight on his phone and started to shine it into the cabinets. At the end of the cabinet, he saw a vaguely human like creature wearing pointed gnomelike hat. It was back in the corner behind a stack of plates and glasses. The creature didn’t seem to like door handles and hinges but it had been strangely careful of the dishes. Its eyes reflected back green light like a cat at night and its skin had a light green tint. It couldn’t have been more than about six inches high, and it was bearing its sharp fanglike teeth. It was crouched like it was going to pounce if it had to.
If he could tell from the body language of a creature he had never even believed existed, he thought the thing was showing a mixture of fear and bravado. He thought it was almost daring him to make a move. He had also seen the almost innate ability Markey had with monsters, and he hoped that with all the studying he had to do just to just barely understand the things that the boy was studying that some of that ability might have rubbed off on him.
He reached into the cabinet to grab the creature, and the thing hissed at him. Allen said, “Now, now. We don’t need any of that.” He moved a few inches closer to the creature, and it lunged forward and snapped its jaws shut in a bluff attack. He said, “It’s ok little fella. I’m not gonna hurt you.” The thing seemed to relax a little with the sound of Allen’s voice, so he kept saying things in a soothing voice and moving his hand toward the creature. He put his hand around the creature, and it bit him. Allen jumped back knocking the plates and cups out of the cabinet. Several of them hit the counter and bounced and made a terrible noise others fell all the way to the carpet on the floor. Amazingly, none of the dishes broke.
The creature jumped onto the counter from the cabinet leaped across the sink. It jumped up knocked the cabinet door open and climbed inside. Allen said, “I can’t believe the little asshole bit me!”
There was a tiny voice from inside the cabinet. It said, “You’re the asshole. I warned you twice not to touch me.” The squeaking of screws coming undone started coming from the cabinet door. The handle fell to the counter and the door started to sag on its hinges.
Allen said, “If you can understand me, then please stop breaking my house.”
From inside the cabinet, the creature said, “I don’t do favors for people that call me an asshole.”