"Are you sure about this?" Wellsey asked.
"Could you be any more clichéd?" Belinda said. "'Are you sure about this?'" she added in a high-pitched mockery of Wellsey's voice. "Gahd."
The Handy Pavilion was spooky in the dark. No, Wellsey thought, not spooky. Terrifying. The huge shelves towered up into the darkness, dark and ghostly pale in the dim moonlight. The air hung still and hot, undisturbed by the vast ceiling fans that hung idle beneath the ghostly ceiling. The building seemed at the same time too large and too small, dwarfing Wellsey and yet leaving him all too aware of the many places some terrible thing might hide. Wellsey stood in the middle of aisle eight, his growing dread focused on the folding table, covered with black candles and surrounded by director chairs.
"Fuck you," he said. "I don't mean, 'are you sure we should be doing this?', I mean, 'are you sure this will work?'" ...continue reading "Do It Yourself – Chapter 18: From Across the Veil"
Gwen watched as Ms Shan dropped a pencil near the information counter, and Norman rushed 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! To have given so much up, only for nothing.
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"
There were two coffee shops at the South Hertling Super Centre. One, in Captain Stellar's opinion, was quite a nice one. It was located just in between the Barbecue Imperium and Arthur C. Clock's Timepiece World. The barista there was a slightly annoying but basically quite nice hipster woman named Carol, who sold organic coffee and gluten free wraps.
The other was in a dingy little corner of the Handy Pavilion, just by outdoor furniture. It sold second-rate coffee at first-rate coffee prices to those too tired or lazy to walk all the way across the vast car park to Carol's.
Captain Stellar would have liked to go to Carol's, but without his coffee he didn't have the energy. ...continue reading "Do It Yourself – Chapter 15: Light and Dark"
(Note for non-Australians: a 'ute' (pronounced 'yoot') is a type of light truck with the tray integrated into the body.)
In a second, Zorbar of the Chimps went from sleeping lightly to wide awake. He had his knife pressed against the flesh of the intruder's throat before… Oh, wait, it was only Norman. Zorbar sheathed his blade.
"Jesus, Zorbar," Norman said, rubbing his neck.
"Zorbar sorry, Norman."
"You nearly cut me head off, Zorb. I think you need a little more than a sorry."
"Please not call Zorbar 'Zorb.'"
"I mean, I was just doing you a favour, waking you up before Adam gets in. You know how pissed off he was last time he caught you sleeping in the treehouse."
"Adam jerk," Zorbar said, pulling on a pair of pants in the tiny space. ...continue reading "Do It Yourself — Chapter 14: Zorbar and the Ute"
"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"
Marlon had never liked Jasu Shan, but now he was happy beyond words to see her. Ms Shan was abrasive and talked over him and would change the topic of conversation right in the middle of one of his sentences, and there wasn't a damned thing he could do about it because she was the General Manager and he was just the Duty Manager.
When Ms Shan taken ill, Marlon had been quietly pleased. He'd expected corporate to put someone else in charge for a while, preferably some quiet little pen-pusher who would take care of the big picture stuff and leave Marlon to the rest. In fact, head office had made Marlon acting manager. He'd been doing double duty as General Manager and Duty Manager in exchange for a nominal--and temporary—raise in salary.
Even that he might have coped with, had sales not started tanking when the DIY Barn had opened. That had put him in the awkward position of being both the good-guy boss he liked to believe himself to be--champion of his staff against the penny-pinchers at head office--while simultaneously acting as a penny-pincher from head office. It was vexing. ...continue reading "Do It Yourself – Chapter 12: Tea and Scandal"
Seamus awoke to the full moon shining down on the Handy Pavilion garden centre. He yawned and stretched, though even at full extension his arms didn't go very far. He smacked his lips and put his pipe in between his teeth, though he did not, could not light it.
Standing, he began his inspection. All the neat rows of plants, all the trees and seedlings, all the ferns and that little corner full of bonsais. Walking slowly on his little legs, he began his methodical rounds, examining the leaves, testing the dampness of the soil, squinting in the moonlight for any sign of aphids or thrips.
He had one night to do it. He had to make it count. ...continue reading "Do It Yourself – Chapter 11: Silver Men in Moonlight"
Wellsey watched Fiona with horrified interest. Here was a woman who not that long ago could barely tell one end of a plunger from another. Hell, a fortnight ago he'd seen her reduced to mumbling incoherence by a simple question about bath plugs. Now she was selling like Arthur Daley on steroids.
"Sure, this one's top of the line," she said. "But you've got to ask yourself, 'do I need top of the line', yeah? You're doing one of those dream home sort of projects, you've got money to burn, then yeah, get this one. But for a place the size you're talking about, I'd suggest this baby. Looks good, solidly built, nine year guarantee, half the price of the one you were looking at." ...continue reading "Do It Yourself – Chapter 10: A Dilemma for Wellsey"
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"