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Fixer Upper (A Short Story)

Anton was studying Literature at the University of Essex when he decided to try his hand out at writing fiction - which he does to this day.


"Pass me that socket wrench will ya son." George said from beneath the belly of the car.

The twelve year old boy looked at a fold of tools in confusion, biting his fingertip before picking one and sliding it to his father. George felt around the floor and grabbed at the silver handle - a muffled sigh of exasperation tickled the undercarriage.

"That's a spanner boy." George said with disappointment and slid out on the creeper board.

George loved to fix things, ever since he was Junior’s age and his father lifted him up to screw in a new lightbulb in the basement. Thereafter he was smitten by any opportunity to heal impairment and bring household injury back to life. It gave him a sense of purpose, a surge of power, a status of importance.

George believed in the traditional values laid down by the father, who showed him how to hammer in a nail and lock a bolt in place. For hours after school he would be down in the basement - under the very light that he had once returned to its former illuminating glory - practicing his craft by rebuilding old bird feeders, piecing together tattered furniture, removing infected spikes, and sanding down splintered scabbing.

You may think that George should have been a doctor of some kind, a surgeon no less. Alas he did not have such opportunities, for following his time at school he joined the forces, after which he met Lorraine, who not long after that gave birth to Junior.

But if anything at all, those events only provided him with even more chances to do the things he loved, for he would soon purchase a fine house - the kind his father owned and fixed - and then he would have plenty of work to keep himself occupied for the rest of his life.

"You see, this is what I need." He held the gleaming socket wrench in front of Junior’s face.

"Oh.” Junior looked at it indifferently. “Ok Dad... Hey can I go and play ball with Dickie and the guys?" He asked, looking out of the garage door across to where his friends were walking down the street tossing around the pigskin.

George lowered his head in disappointment and gripped the elusive implement tight inside his calloused hand.

"Listen Junior, I'm trying to teach you something here. This isn't just about fixing the car son, it's about the responsibilities that you will face in life."

The boy looked back at the tools with daunt, sliding his hand over the spread of metal ribs with clear disinterest. Then he turned to his father and replied:

"Ok dad. I'll stay."

He gave one last look to the vanishing boys. George let out a long sigh and said:

"Fine. Go."

The boy drew a smile and ran outside yelling for his friends to wait. George stood up, taking an oily rag from behind his belt to wipe his hands. It was a mere gesture at this point, for the grease from all the work that he had done over the years had eaten its way into his fingertips and now nested forever in the aged crevices, turning into a permanent element of his complexion; a lifetime of labour tattooed on his very hands.

He let out yet another dejected sigh, stepping back a little to take a look at the car. His eyes glazed over with a spray of daydream. If only he could fix it...

Out of all the things that he loved to work on - the mouldy pipes, the squeaky hinges, the scorched radio transistors - he adored his car the most. It was a '67 Mustang with a faded coat of ocean blue. It wasn't much more than a skeleton with patches of azure skin drooping on three punctured tires, but he had made a promise to himself that one day it would be a champion - a reputable workhorse of tradition.

Yet it was still only a sick body eaten away by rust, that breathed heavily with a sooty chest of rotten ventilators and punctures exhausts. Although he was determined to let it shine, and worked tiresome hours trying stitch its wounds, it seemed like he would never spark that engine into life. He looked at the socket wrench and was instantly overcome with frustration. If only he could...

In a momentary fit of hopeless rage, he threw the wrench against the front fender, watching it bounce off and leave yet another scrape on the already battered car. George breathed heavily for a minute until he calmed down and walked outside into the afternoon sun. He could still hear the boys even though they were long gone. He sighed again. He did so a lot...just like his father. He then pulled down the garage door and went inside to see Lorraine about lunch.

That night when Junior came back from the game he had a gnarly graze on his knee. He told his father that he wished he'd stayed behind to help.

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