Handyman

By: Claire Thompson

Chapter OneStraight.



The word popped into Will’s head. Whether or not he was actively thinking about it, he couldn’t help but scope out any guy, no matter how old or unattractive.

The man standing on his front porch appeared to be in his mid-forties. He had dark brown hair threaded with gray and deep-set gray-blue eyes above a prominent nose. The words Affordable Improvements were stitched in small red letters on his pale blue denim work shirt. He wore dark blue jeans over scuffed brown work boots. His hands were large, the fingers thick and blunt. They looked like the hands of someone who made his living with them.

“Hi. I’m Jack Crawford. You called about doing some renovations to your kitchen?”

“I did. Come in.” They shook hands, Jack’s grip firm and friendly. For some odd reason Will didn’t want to let go. He found himself wondering for a split second if maybe he’d been wrong. Maybe the guy was gay? His cock twitched at the thought. He looked up into the man’s face, but saw nothing there but an innocuous, polite smile. Feeling a little foolish, he dropped Jack’s hand and gestured for him to follow.

Until three months ago, Will had lived in the city, working as a trader for a prestigious investment bank by day and living it up in the Manhattan club scene by night. Sleep, he used to laughingly tell his friends and lovers, was overrated.

After running all day on too much coffee and the adrenaline rush of playing with big money on Wall Street, Will had increasingly found the need for sleeping pills and booze to unwind. His doctor had warned him if he didn’t slow down from his fast-paced, hectic lifestyle, he was going to burn out before thirty-five.

When his boss, barely fifty-five, dropped dead in front of him of a massive heart attack, Will, deeply shaken, had finally stepped back to assess his life. He took a leave of absence from the firm, determined to take stock of his life and figure out what the hell he was doing. He decided to buy a house in the suburbs, settling on an old Tudor he’d snagged for a song.

The quiet, tree-lined Scarsdale neighborhood was quite a change from the frenetic, pressured pace of the city. He missed the clubs and the vibrancy of city nightlife but was determined to give this new life a try, at least for the six-month leave he’d negotiated with his company.

He hadn’t counted on the cost and work involved in renovating a hundred-year-old home, the last updates apparently done in the sixties, when avocado green and vomit orange were the preferred color scheme.

He had already had a bad experience with an electrician he’d hired, who had started out gung ho but then faded away, leaving wires dangling and work incomplete until Will had been forced, in absentia, to fire him.

Jack, at least, had been referred by a friend who said he did good, reliable work at a reasonable price and, most importantly, showed up to finish what he started.

“What were you thinking of having done?” Jack looked around the long, narrow kitchen with its peeling linoleum floor, green cabinets and orange countertops.

“What am I not thinking of having done is more the question,” Will quipped. “The woman who lived here bought the place with her husband sixty years ago. She told me her kids had been trying to get her to move for the past thirty years since he died.”

“Why do you think she finally moved?” Jack seemed genuinely curious, which surprised Will. Usually these workmen types just wanted to get down to business and were happiest when left alone.

“Her bones, she said. Just couldn’t handle the cold anymore. She said from November to April she just ached with it. Her daughters finally convinced her to move down south with them. Lucky for me, I guess. It’s very hard to find anything even remotely affordable in Westchester County anymore. This place is pretty rundown—I didn’t realize quite how much. The basement is a disaster of crumbling concrete and mold. The upstairs bathroom has what must be the original old porcelain tub, complete with rust stains. I had a shower added the first week I was here—I couldn’t imagine bathing in that tub.

“The attic is filled with stuff she forgot or didn’t feel like taking—things like cracked old rolls of linoleum, stacks of old window frames, mounds of ancient newspapers and magazines and various boxes that probably haven’t been opened since World War II.

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