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Wellsey leant against one of the pillars that held up the lofty roof of the Handy Pavilion and sighed deeply. It really was just one of those days. Marlon, leaning on the other side of the pillar, sighed even more deeply. From his jeans pocket he took a hip flask, took a swallow, and handed the bottle to Wellsey. Wellsey shook his head. Marlon shrugged, and slipped the flask away.

"You and Joyce got Valentine's Day plans?" Marlon said.

Something came hurtling over the nearest shelving unit. Part of a toilet? Something porcelain anyway. Both men ducked as it hit a nearby shelf, smashing a pile of paint cans, sending blue acrylic dripping to the floor.

"Nothing fancy," Wellsey said There's a Valentine's special at our local restaurant. Free bottle of champagne. And we don't get out as much as we used to. How about you?" ...continue reading "Do It Yourself: Chapter 55 — Principles of Retail Management"

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"So," Fiona said.

"So," Norman said.

They sat at a wicker table, just by the plastic jerry cans in the Outdoor Furniture section. Not that long ago, Adam would have chased them away, but even he'd stopped caring. A grim, defensive mood had settled over the Handy Pavilion and customer numbers were at an all-time low.

"It's just that sort of a bloody morning, isn't it? Norman said.

"We have to give ourselves up," Fiona said. "We can't stay free while Sadie takes the blame for the armoured cat heist. There's not even any reason for her to go to prison any more. She was only confessing to save Axel." ...continue reading "Do It Yourself: Chapter 52 — Inside Your Mind"

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It was almost a week before Christian saw Pennington again. This wasn't good news. Christian was holding onto his job by a thread, and he was terrified that he'd be fired before he could speak to the alchemist.

A whole dozen people had been fired. Low performers, chronic latecomers, suspected pilferers. To be fair to Ms Shan, she didn't play favourites – though to be unfair, that might just be because she never remembered anyone's name. Only a couple of weeks before, Christian would have thought himself invulnerable to anything less than a complete shutdown of the Handy Pavilion, but his indicators were all down since the Phantasm's disappearance. He might have escaped the last round of layoffs, but the next round would take him out.

He needed Pennington's help before that could happen. ...continue reading "Do It Yourself: Chapter 43 – Never Pay Retail"

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Gwen saw Ms Shan dropped a pencil near the information counter, and Norman rush to pick it up. He smiled winningly as he handed it to her. She acknowledged his action with a gesture and moved on, leaving Norman staring, sighing at her back. Gwen bit her hand. What a fool. What a fool she had been!

All around her were the Handy Pavilion staff, going about their business as if it were just another day. It was a quiet day. Fiona lugged a box of taps. Adam laughed uncomfortably at one of Belinda's jokes. Axel Platzoff, rubbing his eyes, was being lectured by Sadie MacGregor. Marlon and Wellsey were deep in conversation. Customers were few, but present. An elderly man in a tweed jacket staggered under too many cans of paint. A carpenter's apprentice eyed expensive hammers with a wistful sigh. A short woman and her tall husband pushed a trolley full of plants.

No one looked at Gwen. If the world ends with aliens or fire and brimstone or zombies, then everyone is in on the fight. When the world ends in heartbreak, there you are, alone. ...continue reading "Do It Yourself – Chapter 17: A Bad Deal All Round"

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A man was looking at melamine boards. He checked their lengths for defects, then raised them it to eye height and held it straight ahead to see if it was straight. He was doing a terrible job of it, taking too long about it and picking a bunch of boards that even from five metres away, Gwen could see were sub-par.

The customer had probably never had to check boards before. He'd probably learned the technique out of a book or a YouTube video. Men who were just starting in on woodwork tended to be like that. There seemed to be a weird belief amongst men that woodworking is in the blood, and so asking for help was admitting something was wrong with them.

They seemed perfectly okay with asking about paint, though. Colours. Women's stuff. A bloke could be forgiven for not knowing. ...continue reading "Do It Yourself – Chapter 9: The Phial"

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The wood sang its sweet song to Gwendolyn Harper, but for once she could not listen. Most days, she could hear little else. Her ears filled with a thousand tunes and she was happy. Now there was no room in her broken heart for the joy of wood.

Sunday morning and the crowds were yet to arrive. Gwen worked in the timber section of Handy Pavilion, amongst the vast shelves of potential. Rough long baulks of framing pine, neat thin strips of hardwood decking, huge pallets overloaded with sheets of plywood and MDF. This was her kingdom and these were her people, and yet she would give it all away from one sweet kiss from the man she loved from afar.

Norman, his name was. Norman. Nor-man. New hire. Worked in power tools. He was a young man of perhaps twenty, perhaps less. He had a tufty little beard which didn’t suit him, and yet which could not obscure his beauty. There were tattoos up and down his arms. She wondered how far they extended beneath his shirt, beneath his apron. ...continue reading "Do It Yourself — Chapter 2: A Wooden Chorus"

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