Chuck stared at the neon green “Open” sign glowing in the window ahead of him. It was a strange place for a vacuum repair shop, considering it was quite literally in the middle of an apartment complex, but he didn’t exactly have the time to look elsewhere: his vacuum was on the verge of death. The fact that a shop had opened up across the hall from his home–seemingly overnight–was clearly some sort divine intervention.
Chuck wandered up to the wooden door beside the glowing “Open” sign, then lifted his fist and excitedly tapped against it. The door looked almost exactly the same as his, light blue with flakes of chipped paint doing their best to curl toward the floor, except for a small hand-made turkey drawn below the peep hole. His door was severely lacking in farm animals. It wasn’t a particularly nice turkey, in fact it was actually quite unrealistic. He’d never seen a turkey that so clearly resembled a human hand. Nonetheless, it was still better than he could do, and he recognized that it was more intended as a “we repair vacuums” sign than a traditional “hand turkey.”
The doorknob twisted to life, turning left and right before stopping. Someone seemed to be struggling with some sort of deadbolt or chain lock on the other side of the door, muttering various insults to his poorly behaving locking mechanism. The knob again resumed twisting before finally giving way.
“Yes?” said a man, pulling the door open and stepping forward slightly. He didn’t look much like a vacuum repairman, dressed in a navy blue robe with messy, unwashed hair. If anything, he looked more like a middle aged man-child that had only recently gotten out of bed at the early hour of 7:10pm. Then again, Chuck had very limited experience with vacuum repair men and even less with their attire. For all he knew, this was simply their outfit.
“Hello,” Chuck said, pulling his vacuum up so that it rested just in front of his feet.
“Can I help you?” the man said, distorting his face slightly and tilting his head. It looked almost as if he were caught off-guard by Chuck standing in his doorway with a vacuum in hand, waiting expectantly for the man to grab it and work his magic.
“Yes, I saw you were open and wanted to stop by,” Chuck said, nodding toward the neon green “Open” sign.
“Oh, the sign,” the man said, peering forward slightly and glancing at the green lettering. He returned his gaze to Chuck. “I think you’re a bit mistaken. I just picked up that sign yesterday at the mall, thought it would be funny to put it in my apartment.”
“It looks great,” Chuck said, nodding. He pushed his vacuum cleaner forward slightly. “Anyway, this is broken.”
“Cool,” the man said, again distorting his face. Chuck had never met a vacuum repairman so uncomfortable around vacuum cleaners. Admittedly, however, his model was rather old; it was possible the man had simply never seen such a style before.
“How much will it be?” Chuck said, again pushing the vacuum cleaner forward and waiting for the man to grab it.
“Will what be?”
“The repair, I really need this fixed. I have a big night ahead of me.”
“I’m sorry?” the man said, staring down at the vacuum cleaner.
“Yeah, I like to vacuum my apartment on Saturday nights. Usually from 7pm to about 3am. I try to get to every imaginable spot, which—as I’m sure you are aware—takes a very long time.”
“That’s you? You’re the guy who vacuums every damn Saturday?”
“Guilty as charged,” Chuck smiled. It was nice to meet a fan, especially someone so well-versed in vacuums as he.
“You can’t just vacuum at, say, any hour during the day?”
“I find it works best when I start later. Anyway, I’m having a bit of trouble with Charlotte over here,” he said, nodding at the vacuum. He’d named her after the spider in Charlotte’s Web, which was one of his all-time least favorite books. It was irritating to constantly be reminded of the horrid novel every single Saturday evening, but it wasn’t like he could just change Charlotte’s name. It was too late for that. Old dogs, new tricks, all that jazz.
“I don’t understand why you’re telling me this?” the man said, reaching for the door.
“Would you mind taking a look? I imagine it has something to do with the suction. Or maybe the lack thereof. Definitely something wrong somewhere,” Chuck said. He wasn’t a vacuum repairman, per se, but his evenings spent cleaning had taught him a thing or two about the inner-working of the device, in that he was aware it was supposed to suck air.
“What? Why on Earth would I do that?”
“Because,” Chuck said, glancing down at his watch, “It’s 7:14pm right now, which means I’ve got less than two hours before vacuuming begins.”
“I don’t see how that’s relevant,” the man said, staring at the vacuum.
“You’re the only guy capable of repairing Charlotte. I need you to get her working again. If I try to go down to the mall and meet with one of those fancy repair guys, I won’t get her working until tomorrow at the very earliest. I’ve heard great reviews about your shop,” Chuck said. He’d actually never heard so much as a passing mention of this repair shop, but he certainly wasn’t afraid to sprinkle on a complement or two to get things moving. “It looks beautiful, by the way.”
“You don’t seem to understand,” the man said. “This is not a repair shop.”
“Then why are you ‘Open?’” Chuck said, pointing to the neon green sign.
“I told you, I just got that sign yesterday at the mall. They sell them at Spencer’s Gifts.”
“And it’s still gorgeous.”
“It’s just a sign,” the man said. “I’m not a repair shop.”
“And the turkey on the door?” Chuck said, nodding toward the crudely-drawn hand-turkey below the peephole.
“That’s a turkey,” the man said. “My kid made it in his Kindergarten class.”
“Oh,” Chuck said, nodding slowly and lowering his eyes down toward the vacuum by his feet. It was obvious now, he’d clearly made a terribly embarrassing mistake. He’d made the baseless assumption that the gentleman in front of him was a vacuum repairman. Now that he thought about it through a bit more, it didn’t really make much sense. The way he dressed, his hair, his complete and utter confusion at the mere sight of an uninvited vacuum: he wasn’t a repairman at all, he was just some guy in a bathrobe. “I see.”
“Thanks for stopping by” the man said, slowly beginning to close the door, his face distorted in an I-just-ate-something-rancid expression.
“Wait,” Chuck said, reaching out and stopping the door with his hand before it shut. “Is your son home?”
“I’m sorry?” the man said, stopping.
“Your son, I need him to fix my vacuum.”
The man stared at Chuck, his head tilted to the right as he eyed him up and down, almost as if it were strange for a 43-year-old man to be standing outside his door on a Saturday night, asking for his Kindergarten aged child to repair his vacuum cleaner.
“Fine,” he said, exhaling heavily. “I’ll get him. But he’s not supposed to do any repairs on Saturdays.”
“Thank you,” Chuck said, smiling and pushing the vacuum closer to the door. The man turned and disappeared behind the door, footsteps fading as he wandered further into his apartment . With any luck, Chuck would be back in his own apartment within the hour, prepping the area for a relaxing night of vacuuming, a newly repaired Charlotte by his side. He just hoped he’d remember to get his broom repaired in time for Sunday Night Sweeping.