by David Landrum
“Hey, baby, I’m your handy man.” — From the song, “Handy Man” by Otis Blackwell
I’ve always liked the song “Handy Man.” I like the original version by Jimmy Jones and the cover by Del Shannon. My favorite, though, is the recording James Taylor made of it in 1977. I like Taylor’s version because he sings it in an easy, sweet, gentle voice, and this reflects how I am. Of course, I like the song most of all because I do the thing the guy in the song says he can do. I fix broken hearts. I’ve done it now at least two times.
The first one I fixed belonged to a girl name Linda Seales. I got to know her when I worked at a McDonalds in Indianapolis.
Linda was not a pretty girl. She had red hair and blue eyes but her teeth all had spaces between them and she was a little chubby. She came from a poor home. As a senior in high school she started working at Mickey-D’s to earn spending money.
Linda didn’t open up much at first, but after a while she started talking about a kid named Tom Hefner, who was giving her a hard time at school.
Hefner came from a wealthy home. Religious, good-looking, popular, clean and wholesome, he tormented Linda without let-up—and to the great amusement of the other students. Every day he launched some kind of barb at her. She insulted back, but he had popularity on his side and good looks. “Suck my nose,” she would say, but her insults had no effect because he, and the other students, knew he rated higher on the social ladder than she. Linda patiently endured it and confided to me, the Handy Man.
Hefner was breaking her heart.
I did research on him. He played football and sang in the school choir. I studied his picture in her high school yearbook so I knew what he looked like, found out what church he attended, and went there a couple of times myself. He always attended a 9:00 P.M. service with his family but stayed afterwards for something—a catechism class, I think—until after ten and then walked home alone. I waited for the right night, and when it came I got my shotgun, and cornered him on the empty church parking lot.
Rain poured down. He came walking, wearing a poncho with a hood. I got out of the car, shoved the shotgun in his face, and told him to get in. Terror flooded his face. His eyes darted both ways and I saw from the way he placed his feet and shrank back that he meant to run. I let him have it, putting a deer slug right in his heart. The shot flipped him completely over and he landed facedown, blood streaming into the falling rain. The loud sound of rain and the church bells muffled the shot. I hopped back in my car and drove away.
Bess, our supervisor, told us the next day that Linda would not be at work because one of her friends had been murdered yesterday. I tried not to smile when Bess described Hefner as Linda’s “friend.” The newspapers and the local TV news reported on the tragedy. No clues and no suspects.
I knew it would be foolish to leave town. Linda formed a link between me and Hefner. This might arouse suspicion. I had left no clues as far as I could see. The police said robbery had not been a motive.
I worked at the MacDonald’s there another nine months. Nothing linked me to the killing. When Linda returned to work she was subdued. She told me she felt guilty, even though she knew it was silly to feel that way. After a couple of months, though, her smile returned, her blues eyes shone, and her red hair looked brighter. Without Hefner’s constant badgering and bullying, things were better for her at school. She had met a guy and the relationship was going well. Everyone around Linda commented on how much happier she seemed.
I smiled to myself. I had fixed it. I had fixed her broken heart.
When I felt it was safe, I left town. I made sure I closed out my bank account, got my apartment deposit back, and said good-bye to friends, including Linda. I did not want anyone to suspect I had left town because I had something to hide.
I moved to a place in Arkansas and got a job at Walmart. I worked there a year, moved in with a girl named Luann, and worked. I began to wonder if anyone with a broken heart would come along for me to help. Finally, in the middle of winter, someone did. Her name was Tiffany Bledsoe. She went by the nickname Tiff.
Again, a pretty girl, but a girl with a broken heart. This time, though, the guy she had married was the source of her heartache.
Tiff was slow to open to me, but I’ve learned over the years how to win confidence from girls I think might need my skill as a handyman. In the break room she would talk about her husband, Jimmy. I would listen, respect her silences, and not push her to open up. Patience is the key in such matters. Finally, she began to share the truth. He beat her. She made me promise I would not tell anyone else. I promised and intended to keep the promise—but also to make things right.
Here I encountered a problem. If I got rid of Jimmy she would be even more heartbroken.
She would feel guilty and blame herself. Her heartbreak would get worse. I thought and thought about it and concluded there could be only way to fix her broken heart. I would not kill him. I would kill her.
This fixing would be trickier because I lived with Luann and our apartment was only a short distance from her house. But I’m handy with love and I’m no fool. Soon I got an idea that would provide me with an alibi.
I bought some grass, and Luann and I smoked it after supper. I had set the digits on the clock by our bed up one hour. After smoking, we jumped in the sack and went to it. I made sure I smoked a lot less than she did. After we were done, she fell asleep.
I got up out of bed as stealthily as I could and left the house quietly. Jimmy worked nights. I climbed in Tiff’s back window, sneaked into her room, and put a pillow over her face. I’m sure it didn’t cause her a whole lot of pain. She shook and raised her arms for a few seconds but then got still. I held the pillow there for a long while to make certain she was dead and then left. I walked back home and climbed in bed with Luann. The whole thing had taken me only twenty minutes. I woke her up and told her I wanted her again. Killing Tiff got me aroused and Luann and I did it then both of us fell asleep.
When the news broke, I was a “potential suspect,” as the police put it. They questioned me. I told them I was at home with my girlfriend. They questioned her, asking if I had been with her that evening. She said I was. What time did they go to sleep? She said we watched TV, had sex, and went to sleep around 8:00 (Luann always looked at the clock as she dozed off). The police concluded I was no longer a suspect. The coroners had put the time of Tiff’s death between seven and seven-thirty.
I lived there another two years. Jimmy, Tiff’s ex, got married again not even a year after I cured Tiff’s heartache for her. I wondered if he would treat this new girl with equal contempt. But this wasn’t my job. I had done my work. I had fixed a broken heart. I had done what I came to earth to do.
Luann and I eventually split. I moved on, this time to Oregon. I’ve found a job. There is a girl who seems forlorn. I’m getting to know her and she is beginning to confide to me.
I fix broken hearts. I know I really can.
* * *
David W. Landrum teaches Literature at Grand Valley State University in Allendale, Michigan. His horror/supernatural fiction has appeared in numerous journals and anthologies, including Horror Through the Ages, Dark Distortions, The Cynic OnLine, The Horror Zine and Ensorcelled. He edits the on-line poetry journal, Lucid Rhythms, www.lucidrhythms.com.