by Richard Rippon
I should have known it wouldn’t work out.
My Dad had always warned me about hiring tradesmen from adverts in the paper, but the boiler had given up and it wasn’t getting any warmer. When the doorbell rang, I was in the process of putting on a fleece to stave off the perpetual chill. I opened the door and at first I thought I was the object of a trick, then the voice, deep and gruff with a slight Welsh accent.
“Alright mate, you rang about the boiler?”
I had to drop my eyes several feet to see him. A short haired dog, black, tan and white looking up at me with large brown eyes. My mind flashed back to the advert. Free estimates, 24 hour callout and, what was it, Corgi something?
After an uncomfortable pause I let him in and lead him to the kitchen.
“Would you like…erm,” I began.
He cocked his head to one side quizzically.
“…a cup of tea?” I finished.
“Yeah mate, that would be good.”
He already had the cover off and was prodding various components with his screwdriver in an exploratory fashion. I got on with making the tea. When it came to handing it to him, I had another awkward moment. I didn’t know where to put it: on the bench, or – more traditionally for a dog I thought – on the floor. He seemed to sense my quandary.
“Just there mate, s’fine,” he said around the screwdriver in his mouth and nodded to the bench.
I decided to leave him to it and removed myself to the TV. Not long after, the living room door nudged open and his little snout appeared.
“Think I’ve got that sorted mate. It was an ‘O’ ring, but I had one in the van.”
“Great,” I walked after him into the kitchen. The long-silent boiler was now humming merrily and the radiator was warming when I touched it.
“I’ve popped the invoice on top of your microwave there,” he said as he collected together his tools. I picked up the stub of paper and looked at the bottom line.
“£55!” I said, “for a washer? Are you sure that’s right?”
“Including callout, yeah,” he barked. “You find another guy cheaper round here. I’ve done you a favour there.”
It didn’t feel like it. I grudgingly found the cash from a combination of my wallet and the wife’s handbag. I handed it to him, the little runt, and he was out the door, without another word. I slammed it behind him.
My Dad had been right. However, as the house slowly warmed, I felt comforted that despite the cost, it was one less job on the list.
I walked into the chaos of the dining room. Horizontal wooden lats could still be seen through the aborted plaster job. Amongst the abandoned plaster bags were banana skins and discarded teapots. Another thing my father says, which has proven to be true: if you pay peanuts, you get monkeys.
Richard Rippon writes stuff. He has appeared in a number of online literary magazines (including Monkeybicycle and Word Riot) and in print (Skive Magazine Issue 7). Contact him here.