“The Probable Tradesman”
by Gareth D. Jones
The neighbourhood was well-to-do, with detached houses and large cars. Rogerio ducked his head as he walked away from his van, hoping nobody would notice the faded paintwork and interesting selection of dents and scratches. He approached number fourteen and rang the bell.
The woman who answered the door was in her late twenties, heavily made up and with a strained look on her face. “Good, you’re here.” She opened the door wide and gestured him in. “Don’t you have any tools?”
Rogerio held up the small case in his left hand, barely big enough to contain a hammer. “Everything I need’s in here.” Probably. It was the reason he could not afford a new van.
The woman looked unconvinced, but led him into the house.
“It’s my wedding ring, you see, lost down the drain.” She sniffed.
“I’m sure I’ll have it out in a jiffy.” He followed her into the kitchen, a modern, luxurious layout with black marble work surfaces, sleek cupboards and chrome highlights. It smelled of lemongrass.
The woman gestured unnecessarily at the sink.
Rogerio gave it the once over, opened the cupboard beneath the sink, and knelt to look closer at the plumbing.
“Probably trapped in the U-bend,” he said. He put the toolbox down before him and considered it for a moment. Every tool he might ever need for any job was in there, simultaneously. Rogerio had soon discovered, after investing all his money in this wonder tool, that probabilistic did not mean what he thought. Mostly because he had not understood the explanation given by the earnest young scientist who was hoping to be an entrepreneur. He thought it meant he would probably always have the right tool for the job. In practice, it meant he would probably be disappointed. He opened the box. A set square. Very helpful.
He closed the lid, waited an indeterminate number of seconds, opened it again. A laser-guided spirit level. A tac hammer. A junior hacksaw. The inventor had been very apologetic when he took the tool box back and explained, with exceeding politeness, how useless it was for his work. Unfortunately, the budding businessman had explained, his money was already invested in the next generation of probabilistic picnic basket and so could not be refunded. He promised Rogerio a discount on the next product to be patented. Which left Rogerio under a sink, with not much money, and no easy way to earn any either.
The woman stood behind him, emanating impatience.
Once more. A nail punch. That would have to do. Goodness knows what he would end up with if he ever took any prospective future girlfriend on a picnic. He took the nail punch in a tight grip and pushed against the grooves of the U-bend’s collar. After quite some heaving and grunting it began to shift. Eventually he could get a grip and start loosening it by hand.
“Bowl, please,” he said.
The woman passed him a ceramic bowl wordlessly.
He finally loosened the U-bend and pulled it away, catching the drips in the bowl. He tipped the piece of pipe carefully, emptying the dirty water into the bowl.
“Where’s the ring?” the woman asked, pushing forward.
Rogerio shook the U-bend and the glistening gold band tipped out. Hit the rim of the bowl and bounced into the tool box. The woman grabbed for it over Rogerio’s shoulder, knocked him forward. His knee hit the box and the lid snapped shut.
“Pass me my ring!”
“Okay, okay,” Rogerio waved her back and stood, putting the tool box on the work surface. With a sinking feeling he opened the lid. There was no ring, only a collection of washers.
“What have you done with it?” That was the beginning of a long tirade in which she threatened to call the police, and accused him of any number of illicit activities. Some of which bordered on being true, but were unrelated to his current predicament, so Rogerio declined to comment.
“But, look!” said Rogerio as she took a brief pause for breath. “It’s not in the tool box.”
“It definitely fell in there!”
“Well, I thought so too. Maybe it bounced out into the cupboard?”
They both spent several minutes crawling round the floor, looking in the cupboard under the edges of the work surface and covering less and less likely places. Rogerio surreptitiously opened the tool box several times. A handful of nuts. A cleat. A plumb bob.
The woman finally lost patience and ordered him to leave, picking up her phone to dial the police. Rogerio opened the tool box one last, desperate time and gave a bemused smile at the contents. He took them carefully and slid them into his pocket, putting the nail punch back into the box where it belonged.
As the woman turned to usher him out Rogerio held out his hand. “I found it in the tool box,” he said.
The woman snatched her ring and slammed the door.
Rogerio walked back to the van, hands in pockets, jangling the collection of matching gold rings his box had produced.
He could afford a new van now. Probably.
Gareth D. Jones works with hazardous waste, which has so far failed to mutate him into a superhero. He is a father of five who also writes stories and drinks lots of tea. His tales have appeared in 40 publications and in 23 languages. Download his anthropomorphic fable, Daybreak, at http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/239064