The odor was almost unbearable. It smelled like a rotting corpse, or a beached whale that had been left to decompose in the hot sun for weeks. A group of my characters crowded the hallway around the door to the utility room. Cleric hesitantly poked her head into the room and wrinkled her nose. “Mistress! What is that dreadful stench?”
I looked her straight in the eye and spoke in my most dramatic voice. “Why, that’s the smell of . . . death.”
“What? Who be dead? What kilt ’em?” My Old Dwarf pushed his way past the others, and raced into the small room waving his war axe. He took one breath, turned green, put his hand over his nose and mouth, and ran out almost as fast.
I laughed. “Not who. What. The freezer died.”
Cleric furrowed her brow.
“I was planning to do grocery shopping this afternoon, so I wanted to check the inventory list I keep taped to the top of the freezer. The list must have gotten wet; it’s smeared and totally illegible. So I opened the freezer to see what we have stored in it, and I was almost overcome by this smell.” I fished out another soggy package and tossed it in the big, black trash bag I was holding.
Cleric’s eyes widened. “The food is ruined?”
I sighed and nodded. “Luckily, there were only a few items left in the freezer.”
My Young Hero, my Gypsy, and Sorceress – all three holding their noses – peered around Cleric. My Young Hero said something, but I couldn’t make it out. After the lad’s third attempt to make himself understood, Sorceress placed her hand on his shoulder. “Wait.” She waved her other hand and mumbled a few words. The stench was gone.
My Young Hero removed his hand from his nose and thanked her, then turned to me. “What I said was, would you like us to take a look at it? Maybe it can be fixed.”
“Thanks for the kind offer, but I somehow doubt that a bunch of medieval characters who fell out of the pages of my book manuscripts would be much help fixing an electric appliance.”
My Gypsy grinned and waggled his eyebrows. “Oh, I don’t know. A little magic here, a few wards there. I bet we could have it up and running in no time.”
“Don’t trouble yourselves. Really.” I gave them a stern look. “If you remember, I have a service contract with my utility company that covers all my appliances, so all repairs are free. I’ll give them a call and ask them to send a repair technician.”
My Gypsy smirked. “Would that be the same repair technician who came out for your other appliance, the machine in which you launder your clothing?”
“I don’t know if they’ll send the same technician. Why?”
“Oh, no reason. No reason at all.” He spread his hands and looked at me, wide-eyed, trying hard not to laugh.
Sorceress raised an eyebrow, and a smile tugged at the corners of her lips. “As I recall, it took that technician numerous attempts to fix the other machine. And did he not have a problem with mislaying his tools?”
I groaned as I remembered the last time I had required a service technician. (https://margecutter.wordpress.com/2016/05/01/the-case-of-the-missing-tools/)
I gave my characters a sharp look. “I don’t know who they will dispatch, but I don’t want any of you getting in his way. I’m warning you, if there’s any trouble, I’ll . . .”
“…write you all out of the books,” the entire group solemnly intoned. They all rolled their eyes and started giggling uncontrollably as they turned and walked toward the stairs.
I need to come up with a more effective threat! I finished removing the packages of spoiled food from the freezer, carted the bag to the trash bin, then went to my office to call the repair service. After navigating their automated system, I steeled myself against the inevitable wait. To my astonishment, rather than being placed on interminable hold, I was immediately connected with a live service representative, a woman with a very pleasant voice who identified herself as Dee.
I explained the problem. Dee asked me to wait while she checked my account. A few minutes later, I found myself speaking to a different representative, a woman with a very stern voice who identified herself only as Dee’s supervisor. I was puzzled. I wasn’t sure why a simple request for a repair technician warranted being transferred to a supervisor. I shrugged and repeated what I had just told Dee regarding my need to have the freezer fixed.
“Yes, Ma’am. We can dispatch a repair technician to your location tomorrow morning, between 8 am and noon.”
Well, Dee’s supervisor certainly arranged for very prompt service. Maybe I shouldn’t look a gift horse in the mouth. “Thank you. That will be just fine.”
“Good. Now Ma’am, before I am able to confirm the appointment, I must remind you of certain policies. Any pets, including any errrr . . . exotic pets you might have, must be secured well away from the area in which the technician will be working. The technician and his tools must not be disturbed; nor may anyone at your location appropriate any of the technician’s tools for any purpose.”
I felt my cheeks flame. “Of course! I assure you, I have no pets here, exotic or otherwise. And no one here makes a habit of appropriating other people’s property.”
“Hmmm. Yes, Ma’am. Well, if you understand and agree to these policies . . .”
“Well, then, I can confirm your appointment. Now, will you be at the service location at the time the technician is to arrive?”
“Will anyone else be there?”
“I don’t know. Possibly. Why?”
“I need to make a note in your file if anyone else will be there at the time of the appointment.”
“That’s rather irregular.”
“So why are you asking?”
“Ma’am, do you want a technician there tomorrow or not?”
“Of course I do!”
“Then that’s why I’m asking.”
By the time the appointment had been confirmed, I was reaching the boiling point. I felt totally humiliated. Just wait until I get my hands on some little tool pilferer! And just what had happened last time, after my Young Hero returned the tools that Dragon had taken, that it was entered into our file?
I was unable to locate Dragon the rest of the day. She was not, as had become her custom, basking by her conjured fireplace. She was not on the wide shelf in the walk-in closet in the guest room she had chosen as her lair in this world. She was not in the conference room, or my office, or the kitchen. I searched for hours, checking every nook and cranny of the large bi-level house, but was unable to find her. I finally satisfied myself with gathering the rest of my characters and giving them a stern lecture on the consequences, should anyone disturb the repair technician the next day. I spent a good ten minutes describing, in grim and graphic detail, what would happen if any tools went missing while the technician was at work on the freezer.
Later, as Miles and I got ready for bed, he said, “That was quite some lecture you gave your characters tonight. So, do you think they actually listened to you?” Miles tried to hide his smirk, but failed miserably. I chucked a pillow at him.
At precisely 8am the next morning, the doorbell rang. “I’ll get it!” Miles headed for the door, while I quickly took a head count of my characters. Dragon was still missing. “Honey, the repair technician is here.” I sprinted for the door.
An older man stood at the door, a game smile contrasting sharply with his thin, shaky voice. “Good morning, Ma’am. I’m Bob and I’m here to repair your freezer.” Following company protocol, Bob handed me his identification credentials. He looked warily past me as I glanced at his company ID and returned it.
Bob picked up his toolkit and I started to lead him downstairs to the utility room. I saw my Young Hero and my Gypsy at the top of the stairs. They smiled and waved at the technician, who grabbed me by the arm. “I was told only you and your husband would be here today.”
I pulled my arm out of his grip, raised an eyebrow and scratched my jaw. “What difference does it make who’s here?”
In reply, he just gripped his toolbox tighter, his knuckles turning white. I again started to lead him down to the utility room, and he followed, stumbling along. I showed him the freezer and explained how I had discovered that it was not running. Bob nodded a lot, but said nothing. His eyes darted around the small room as if he were searching for an escape route. Finally, I said “Well, I’ll be in my office if you need anything. It’s at the end of the hall, the door on the left.”
Wide-eyed, he grabbed my arm again. “You’re not going to leave me here alone, are you?”
This time, I had a bit more trouble extracting my arm from his grip. I scowled. “I’m sure you know your job, and don’t need me watching over your shoulder while you work.”
“You know, I’m really not feeling very well. Maybe I should just go, and they can send another technician.”
I gaped at him. “What is your problem?”
He blushed. “Well, John, he’s the last tech who was here, he reported some very strange things.”
“Oh?” I racked my brain, trying to remember what had happened, what the other technician had seen. “As far as I remember, some of his tools went missing while he was out in the truck. When he discovered the items were missing, he confronted me about it. A young relative who was visiting figured out the tools had been taken by his pet, who is attracted by shiny things. My relative got them back from his pet and returned them to the technician. Then my relative and I left the room, and the technician finished his repairs.”
“Yeah, right, but he told our supervisor that after you and your relative left the room, the pet came in. John was hysterical when he came back to the office, and he told some pretty wild stories about this pet. The supervisor ended up making John take medical leave. Said he had suffered some sort of breakdown.”
“Oh, that’s ridiculous! What’s so scary about a . . . ?”
Before I could finish, Dragon squeezed through the door, smiling a toothy smile and snorting puffs of smoke from her nostrils. She was carrying a big, shiny, chrome-plated wrench. “Excuse me. Did you drop this?”
I might get my hearing back in a few weeks. I think Bob’s scream shattered some crystal three states away. Rumor has it the utility company has offered him early retirement. I keep calling them to have another technician sent out, but every time I call, I’m disconnected. I don’t know if we’re ever going to get our freezer fixed.
If any of you are experienced in the field of freezer repair, Dragon would love for you to stop by and lend a hand. I’ll leave the porch light on for you.