Of all the joints on all the knees in all the world, she had to bump into mine. “Aaaaaaghaaaargh!!” I cried softly in surprise. I had severe arthritis.
“I’m sorry, was that your leg?” she asked in that fake innocent voice kids use when they’ve been caught with their hands in the cookie jar.
“It still is.” I replied coolly as I looked her up and down, and then from side to side. She was enormous.
I got up from where I’d been sitting, and quickly sat back down again as it still hurt too much. I could see this girl was trouble from the unlicensed firearm dangling from her waste and the fresh scars on her face.
“Cut yourself shaving?” I asked as she glanced around the place with suspicious eyes.
“Don’t be ridiculous. I thread. Anyway, when was the last time you had a shave?” she asked making an obvious reference to the beard hanging from my jaw; it almost touched the ground.
“Two days ago,“ I lied and smiled at my own cleverness. It had actually been three.
“Look, I’m going to be frank with you…”
Uh oh, the alarm bells were ringing in my head. Nobody had been Frank with me since he died of that mosquito bite when we went hunting in the Congo.
It was a very big mosquito.
“Mr…?” she paused to inquire. I pointed to the name tag on my chest, it said Technician, which was funny since that wasn’t my name at all.
“…Mr. Technician. I’m in a bit of a bother and I was told that you’re the only man who can help me.”
She wanted to use me like all the other women in my life. But I’d had my heart broken enough times to keep falling for the same trick over and over.
“Listen darling, I’m not another pretty face with an empty head.” That was true, I was just an empty head. “So why don’t we cut to the chase and can the flattery?”
I turned around and pretended to look busy with the shelf behind me, waiting to see how she would reply.
“I’m not flattering you, they say you’re the only guy around who knows about these things!”
I turned around slowly and asked, “And which things would these be?”
She was staring at me in a curious fashion, like a mule stares at a car driving by on a clear and sunny day. “Why are you moving so slowly? Do you have a sprain in your neck?”
She was good. Nothing escaped her beady little eyes. “I lift a lot of weight,” I shrugged. “Part of the job.”
The look on her face showed curiosity mixed with excitement now, and a little bit of hunger. At 12 stone, she looked like she needed a man who could lift a lot of weight.
“Look it’s difficult for me to say this…” She started, getting visibly flustered.
“Why, because we’re total strangers who’ve never spoken as much as a word to each other before today?” I asked her as I wiped my hands on her dress.
“No, it’s because English isn’t my first language.” She replied meekly as she snatched her clothes away from my dirty mitts.
Strange, I hadn’t noticed her accent before.
“Vat I vant to ask you is, oh god sis is so embarsing. I broke mein, how you zay it, espresso machine?” She was really discombobulated now, her cheeks had gone the colour of a baby’s bottom when you smack it too hard.
“Yes, that is how you say it.” I was stunned, is that all she came into my life to ask me?
“Vell, can you fixz it?”
Sure I could fix it. I could fix anything. That’s why I worked in a repair shop, but there were a hundred of those out in the city, why had she come to mine?
“Becoz I lif nearby.”
But I wasn’t buying it, something didn’t smell right and I wasn’t just saying that because of the fishmonger next door. I decided to pry for more information, I had to stall her.
“Sure lady, I can see the problem already. This will just be a minute.” So much for that plan.
She nodded her head in affirmation and went to stand near where the window used to be, before some kids broke it last week. The manager hadn’t gotten around to putting up another one.
I admired her bulbous figure as it blocked the sun entering the room. Then I went to work on her contraption with as much energy and passion as can be expected of an employee a few minutes before lunch time. My mind was torn in two, I wanted to ask her out on a date but I wasn’t sure I could afford to pay for all the food she’d eat.
“There, it’s done. This thing won’t give you any more trouble.” I declared as I tossed it across the shop towards her. She caught it on the first attempt. Excellent motor reflexes. I was smitten.
“Oh sankyou, sankyou! How can I ever pay you!?” She had tears in her eyes. From the joy of having her problem solved or afternoon acidity, I didn’t know which.
“Don’t you…have any money?” This was it, this was the spider in the ointment.
“Nein” She shook her head in despair. I wanted to walk over to her and take the espresso machine back and smash it onto the floor in a thousand little pieces and then scream at her for not being honest with me and wasting my time but I couldn’t. I just couldn’t.
She had already left the shop.