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Photo by Kozy
Photo by Kozy

Photo by Kozy

“You gotta a problem here; it’s gonna cost you.”

The Fixer

  While chasing a carpenter ant with a hammer across our family room on a Sunday afternoon, I noticed a crack in the wall near the door to our patio.

  “Oh, oh,” I thought. “This is going to cost me.”

  I saw an ad for a handyman on Craigslist. I called him. He said his name was Dom DeLucia.

  “But they call me ‘The Fixer,’” he said.

  That sounded promising so we set a meeting for Monday morning.

  Dom turned up on time at 9 a.m. I noticed he was driving a Caddy. I expected a Ford-150.

  He bore no resemblance to any handyman I had ever seen. He had smooth, jet-black hair, combed straight back; olive skin; and a fine Roman nose. His dark eyes were as cold as icicles. On a long, wiry frame, he wore a light gray silk shirt that sparkled and slender black pants. His shiny laced shoes screamed Gucci, and his nails were exquisitely manicured.

  “Aren’t you overdressed for this kind of work,” I said.

  “I like to look good on the job,” Dom said. “You gotta a problem with that?”

  “Nope, all good,” I replied.

  I noticed my hands had begun to sweat.

  The Fixer spent a few minutes inspecting the crack in my wall.   He then turned to me as I watched with some anxiety.

  “You gotta pretty big issue here,” he said. “It’s gonna cost you.”

  “How much?”

  “Two and-a-half, maybe three grand. Let’s call it three.”

  My heart sank. As always when such news arrived, the words of my late father echoed in my head loud and clear. A whiz with tools and any kind of mechanics, he always told me to watch closely while he handled one home repair after the other with ease.

  “If you don’t learn how to do this stuff,” he said, “you’re going to have to hire someone. It’s going to cost you.”

  I had little interest. And, as usual, my father was right. I’ve been paying for it ever since.

House Tour

  “Since I’m here,” Dom said, “why don’t I look around and see if you have any other issues. Might as well take care of them all at once. You don’t have a problem with that, do you?

  “Ah, no, that sounds like a reasonable idea,” I said.

  I felt moisture on my upper lip and forehead.

  We started in the garage. Dom went right to my water heater, which I knew was old. While he carried out his inspection, I reflected on the time a few years back when I tried to light the pilot. I mistakenly turned the valve the wrong way, sending a stream of natural gas into my garage. Unaware of pending disaster, I was about to light a match when I heard a voice shout: “Stop!”

  It was my neighbor, Jeff Poody.

  “What the hell are you doing? he said. “Outta my way.”

  I stepped aside. Jeff righted my wrong. Before he left Jeff showed me a news article on his phone from an incident that happened the previous week in a nearby town.

  “This could have been you,” he said.

  The headline read:

Man Blows up Home, Himself While Lighting Water Heater

  Dom’s report snapped me out of my memory lane visit.

  “It’s shot,” he said. “I can get you a nice one, reasonable.”

  “How much is reasonable?”

  “I’d say around three-and-a-half grand installed,” Dom said.   “Let’s make it an even four. That won’t be a problem, will it?”

  I wanted to cry, but kept quiet. We moved back inside. Dom said he was going to check my electrical outlets.

  That activity reminded me of another unpleasant experience. I once attempted to replace the guts of an old outlet with a new one, a relatively simple exercise, I thought. Unfortunately, I mixed up the positive and negative wires. The resulting jolt knocked me into a glass table, which shattered, sending me to the ER for multiple stitches. That concluded my short-lived career as an electrician.

  Dom gave me another jolt.

  “You need to replace all your outlets and your fuse box,” he said.  “Normally, I’d say eight grand but for you I’ll do it for seven five.”

  Seeing me wince, Dom continued, his manicured forefinger tapping lightly on my chest.  “You know, my friend, electricity is a very, very dangerous thing and you want to keep your family safe, right? So I’m guessing this is not going to be a problem for you?”

  I meekly said yes and then, gathering some courage, asked: “Do you have licenses to do all this work?”

  “No problem,” said Dom, confidently. “I can get any license you wanna see. Electrician. Plumber. Sheet metal. Dry wall. I got access to all of em.”

The Sink

  Before I knew it, Dom was poking around under the sink in our main bathroom. This was the scene of another situation in which I was a victim of circumstances. I attempted to clean the hair out of the pipe below the sink that was plugging the drain. To get it right, I watched a YouTube video. But it was in Chinese and I missed Step 1: Turn off the water. The resulting torrent flooded not only the bathroom but the adjoining hallway, destroying the carpet.

  That was a serious cha-ching, in reverse.

  Dom resurfaced.

  “Bad news,” he said. “All the plumbing in this bathroom has gotta go.”

  “Of course,” I said. “And it’s going to ……..”

  “Two grand,” he replied, before I could finish my question. “Now that we understand each other, it’s not going to be a problem at all, is it?”

  “Sure, Dom,” I said, noticing for the first time that the front of my shirt was soaked in perspiration.

  We returned to the family room for a final consultation. Dom got busy on his calculator. I started thinking about the stocks I was going to sell off to pay the man.

  Finally, he said, “I’ll tell you what. I’ll do it all for 15 grand. Cash.  Up front.”

  “Cash? Up front!” I said. “I don’t have that kind of money on hand.”

  “Then you can go to your bank and get the dough while I wait here. Not a problem, right?”

  I started to wonder about The Fixer. Yet, I was desperate to get the work done and knew handymen were hard to come by.

  “OK,” I said.

The Collector

  Dom stayed in the family room as I headed toward the front door. Suddenly, there was a knock. I opened up. Remarkably, there stood a man who could pass for Dom’s brother.

  “Can I help you?” I asked.

  “Yeah,” he said. “I’m looking for Dom DeLucia, otherwise known as The Fixer. That’s his car in your driveway, right?”

  “And you are?”

  “Jimmy Paduca,” he said. “But they call me The Collector.”

  “Why are you looking for Dom?” I asked. His response was in mobster-ese.

  “He’s in hock to my client for 15 large, the vig on a loan for playin’ the ponies.”

  At that moment, Jimmy pushed me aside and ran into the house. I was right behind.

  “Dom!” Jimmy shouted.

  By the time Jimmy and I reached the family room we watched through the window as the backside of Dom went over my neighbor’s fence.

  “Man,” Jimmy said, “he’s one slippery dude. Now I’m the one in trouble.”

  “What about the Caddy?” I said.

  “The car!” Jimmy said.

  No sooner were the words spoken than we heard the Caddy start up. Dom and his wheels were gone.

  Jimmy clearly was crushed. Feeling bad for the man, I offered him a drink. He accepted. Also rattled from my experience with The Fixer, I joined in. Several scotches later we were yakking away like old pals.

  “You’re a good guy and didn’t deserve that,” Jimmy said, slurring the words guy and deserve. “You like to play the ponies? I can get you a sweet advance. Low vig.”

  “Nah, my friend,” I said. “Not my thing.”

  “Too bad,” he said.

  “Hey, you wanna make some fast cash?” I asked Jimmy, who was still sipping his drink.

  “Doin what?”

  “See that crack in the wall?”


Written by: George J. Tanber

Edited by: Michael Gordon

Photo editor: David Kozy

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