Tuesday, March 25, 2014

The Handy Man

I watched Hank McGrath for a few moments as he finished putting in a new seal under the stool in my bathroom.
The old seal had begun leaking during the night, leaving me not only with a monumental puddle on the bathroom floor but also with a soggy carpet in the hallway.
In a panic, I called maintenance at 6:00 on this Saturday morning, and Hank was here by 7:00, a smiling hunk of a man with curly black hair and flashing dark eyes. But this wasn't the usual maintenance guy, whose name was Alfred, a kindly gray-haired gentleman. Handsome Hank explained that Alfred was his uncle, who was on a two-weeks' vacation. Hank was filling in.
As I watched Hank now, appreciating the back muscles rippling under his T-shirt, he turned around to face me, wiped his hands on a rag, smiled—my heart lurched—and said, "That does it.
Stool secured and water vacuumed out of the hallway rug." His head tilted; his nose lifted. "What smells so good?"
"French toast, eggs, and bacon—if you've got time for breakfast. I really, really appreciate your help. I was in the middle of a disaster."
He shook his head and looked genuinely disappointed. "I can't. Got a lady in 310 whose air-conditioner has conked out." Then he unleashed a devastating smile. "Wish I could. I never get home cooking anymore. Raised on a farm where Dad taught me how to fix anything, but it was my sister who learned to cook. "
With that, gathering the water vac and his tools, he disappeared from my apartment. His handsome good looks, smile, and friendliness intrigued me. I collapsed on my couch and called my BFF Angie, who'd recently married and lived below me in 121.
"You know what you should do?" she said after I told her my Handsome Hank the Handy Man story.
"Break something, Hannah. Or clog up the dishwasher. Call maintenance again. Have your place steaming with the smell of a pot roast, maybe."
"Don't be silly."
"He's single, girlfriend. And he's not just a handy man. He's an electrical engineer who's helping out his uncle for a couple of weeks."
"How do you know that?"
"He was here yesterday. They're putting new smoke alarms in all the apartments. I took one look at him, saw his ringless left hand, thought of you, and started pumping him. I told him I knew the hot, single woman in 210. He should check you out."
I cringed. "You didn't!"
"I did. I intended to call you this morning." She paused for a second.  "Phone maintenance. Tell them you need a new smoke alarm right away."
I blew out a loud breath.
"You don't have much time, Hanna. He's got only a week left on the job."
No way could I fake a call to maintenance, but I did call again—for a legitimate reason. Sunday night while washing dishes I lost my birthstone ring down the kitchen sink drain. The building supervisor said he'd send a man over to take a look. I could expect him sometime after 4:00 Monday afternoon after I was home from work—I'm a paralegal.
The next afternoon, after I set a bag of groceries on the kitchen table, a knock sounded at the door. I opened it.
"You called?" Hank said, and smiled, a box of tools hanging from his right hand.
"I'm in trouble again," I admitted, totally embarrassed.
 Hank worked the gooseneck under my kitchen sink loose in no time. As I held out my hand, he tipped the pipe—and out tumbled the ring into my palm. "My birthstone ring," I said, beaming. "My parents gave it to me for my sixteenth birthday."
"It's beautiful, but you should probably have a jeweler clean it."
I sighed. "I hope you don't think I'm a nuisance. "My calling on Saturday, then on Sunday."
"I'm glad you called—I was debating about calling you."
My head tilted. I'm sure I looked surprised. "Seriously? But why?"
"They're putting new smoke alarms in every unit. You're not scheduled yet"—he cleared his throat—"but I thought maybe I'd...jump ahead of the schedule..." His voice trailed off.
His words sunk in slowly: jump ahead of the schedule. That meant he'd wanted to see me again, maybe as much as I'd wanted to see him. The smoke alarm—his excuse.
I cast a glance at the bag of groceries on the table, then at Hank. My heart rate spiked. "Homemade tacos tonight for supper," I said. "Are you game?"
His smile was the biggest one I think I'd ever seen. "I'm off the clock," he said. "And I'm game."
                                           The End

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