"Hi, what can I get you?" Norman said. He was under the counter, taking stock when the customer came in. Why did the Handy Pavilion coffee shop have three times as many small cup lids as it had small cups? It just didn't make any sense.
"Can you do me a Greek coffee?"
"Don’t have the settup for Turkish coffee."
"I didn't ask for a Turkish coffee, I asked for a Greek coffee."
"It's all the same sh… Oh, it's you, Dad." Norman rose, dusting his hands with a paper towel. "Basically we're just set up for espresso. I can get you a short black, if you like."
Norman's father was a handsome, broad faced man with thick salt-and-pepper hair and a neatly trimmed grey beard. He was a couple of inches taller than Norma and looked like he worked out. The sleeves of his fawn windcheater bulged with muscle.
"Just a cup of tea will be fine," he said, "if I can't get a proper coffee."
...continue reading "Do It Yourself – Chapter 33: Family Business"
Axel looked down at the pile of glass terrarium bottles he'd just unpacked, and realised that he'd put them all on the wrong shelf. In his frustration, he kicked the base of the shelving unit, which hurt his toe far more than it did the massive steel form of the unit.
Why didn't Captain Stellar just fight him?
That was the thing. A week before, Stellar had confronted him about the incident with the death ray. He'd guessed everything. Everything!
Axel ought to have known that Stellar would figure it out eventually, once he'd sobered up and pulled himself together. But no, Axel had been caught flatfooted. His mind had raced, searching for some strategy for fighting Stellar without causing any damage to the Handy Pavilion. But before he'd even finished ironing out the issues with his third contingency plan, Stellar had waved goodbye and walked away.
Ever since then, Axel had been off his game. ...continue reading "Do It Yourself – Chapter 28: Axel’s Enemy"
Hot autumn was turning to freezing winter when Wellsey returned to the Pavilion. He stopped just before the automatic doors. He knew exactly where the invisible line was, that opened them if crossed. He drew a deep breath, held it for the count of ten, then let it out slowly.
He spotted Axel, helping an elderly customer find a cardboard box of an appropriate size for the old girl's gardening supplies. Wellsey felt his eyes narrow.
"Axel," he said in the most neutral tone he could manage.
"Morning, Wellsey," Axel said. ...continue reading "Do It Yourself – Chapter 22: No Way Out"
The Handy Pavilion was packed to the gills with customers. This was always the way on a Saturday. But on this Saturday things were even more hectic thanks to the public appearance of Sydney's newest superhero, Voyager, just out the front, downwind of the Rotary Club sausage sizzle.
The scent of sausages and onions made Voyager's mouth water. She couldn't buy a sausage sandwich, though. Her stupid costume didn't have any pockets. Her utility belt was full of crime-fighting gear, but the designer had neglected to include a change pouch. She decided that she should get rid of one of the micro-torches. She could melt steel with her eye beams, what did she need it for anyway?
Voyager took photo after photo with her new fans. "The public loves its newest hero best," Aquaticwoman had told her with a touch of bitterness. Voyager didn't quite know yet whether she liked the attention, as she had her picture taken with customer after customer. ...continue reading "Do It Yourself – Chapter 20 The Return"
It was Laura Cho's first day at the Handy Pavillion, and her trainee badge was pinned to a neatly ironed apron over her polo shirt. Her excitement on starting her new job was rapidly dwindling, since Adam had parked her close to the entrance and told her to wait for her supervisor.
That had been half an hour ago. Not only was she bored, customers kept coming up to her and asking questions that she couldn't possibly answer, then getting annoyed when she didn't know.
She wished she could go hide in the break-room, but she didn't know where it was.
"Excuse me?" came a voice.
"Yeah, no, I'm new here, so…" she turned and nearly jumped to see a little man in a Handy Pavilion uniform. He had slate grey hair and a deeply lined face, and stank of tobacco. "Oh, sorry, I thought you were a customer."
...continue reading "Do It Yourself – Chapter 19 Origin Story"
"Have you noticed Ms Shan's hair?"
Axel looked up from the cans of grout he was stacking at Norman, who leaned wistfully against the mighty shelves.
"I have not noticed Ms Shan's hair, particularly,' Axel said. "What is it about her hair that I ought to have noticed?"
"It's very black," Norman said.
"Well, she is Indian," Axel said. "Black hair rather comes with the territory."
"So black," Norman shighed. "Like a really black car. But not one of those matte black ones, though. Her hair is shiny."
"I quite like those matte black cars," Axel said. "I'm thinking of buying one, as soon as the International Court of Justice lifts my driving ban." ...continue reading "Do It Yourself – Chapter 13: Axel’s Day"
Captain Stellar had couple of lengths of two-by-four in his trolley. When he reached the cashier he realised he'd put them in the wrong way around, and the woman at the checkout couldn't get at the barcodes. It was a stupid mistake. Cycloman always did that and Stellar would have to correct him, and now here was Stellar doing it himself.
Annoyed, he'd flipped the two-bees end-over-end. He must have whacked the poor cashier while he was doing it. Her eyes were shut tight in pain, and was clutching her temple.
"Oh! I'm so sorry!" Stellar said. "How careless! Here, let me…"
Let me what? Apply a tourniquet? Kiss it better? What could he do? What could he do?
The cashier let go of her forehead and smirked. There was no bruise; no cut. "Nah, I'm fine. You're the third person I got with that one." ...continue reading "Do It Yourself – Chapter 7: Diversion"
There was a sink overflowing.
This wasn’t supposed to be Wellsey’s problem. The Handy Pavilion was like any other shop, in that if there was a problem with a sink or toilet then a plumber should be called. But Marlon -- cheap bastard that he was -- would generally call on Wellsey to fix leaks in the grimy Pavilion bathroom. Wellsey could and did argue this was not his problem. He was senior staffmember in the plumbing section, sure, but that didn’t make him a licensed plumber or even, you know, a competent plumber. Marlon usually responded by glancing around and seeing no customers talking to Wellsey.
“Well, it’s not like you’re busy,” he’d say.
It was true, usually. A lot of customers didn’t like talking to Wellsey. Not so much the tradies, they didn’t mind him, but the middle class mums and dads who came into his section always gave him funny looks. Fair enough, he looked like he was bad news. He was a big man, and even though he was pushing fifty, he looked like he could dish out some damage if he wanted to. A shaven head, a facial scar, a missing front tooth and an armful of tattoos all seemed to confirm the inevitable first impression that Wellsey was a dangerous customer. ...continue reading "Do It Yourself – Chapter 3: The Mystic Spring"
It was a Saturday morning, and the hot sun beat down on the hardware centre. The centre’s air conditioning struggled to put up a fight, but it was still anyone’s battle.
Axel Plazoff was restocking a shelf of caulking guns, when out of the corner of his eye he spotted a familiar face. It was a handsome face, screwed up in an expression of concentration, and it belonged to a big man who examined the label on a can of exterior varnish with the intensity of a bomb-disposal expert wondering which wire to snip.
Oh God. It was Captain Stellar-- not in his uniform, just a t-shirt, shorts and sandshoes. Please, Axel thought. Please don’t let him recognise me. ...continue reading "Do It Yourself — Chapter 1: The Reunion"