Copyright© obohobo 2007
This is a work of fiction, any resemblance to persons living, dead or fictional is purely coincidental. The ideas and thoughts that follow are pure fantasies. In real life, at the very least they would be unpleasant and probably illegal. Fantasies are like that; daydreams where we can contemplate and imagine the sensations without suffering or inflicting the pain, despair or humiliation.
"Why don't you ask Ernie in stores to have a look at it Mickey? You saw that beautiful box he made for Mrs. Gooch when she retired last year and the photos in the paper of the case he made for the ceremonial mace for the Mayor's Parlour." Sally Meacham suggested to her friend Michelle as they sat in the canteen of Brindle Enterprises at lunchtime.
"Oh I don't know Sal, he's a strange man. Always seems scared shitless when near a woman and doesn't even stand close to the counter when we go to get stuff from the stores."
"Get Ken to go with you then."
"There's the problem of trying to ask questions that only require a yes or no answer. I know he can't help not being able to talk but it does make things difficult."
"Look at it this way Mickey. You've bought a wall unit bookcase and you can't understand the assembly instructions. Ken's more useless at that sort of thing than you are so he's no help to you. You paid a fair amount for it so what have you got to lose by asking Ernie? Go now. There's still twenty minutes of lunch break left, Ken's only outside having a fag and Ernie always stays in the storeroom to have his lunch. Now's as good a time as any." Sally pressed her point. Mickey nodded, went to find Ken and they made their way together to the basement.
Ernie looked up from drinking his tea and reading the latest issue of 'The Woodworker' when he heard the footsteps approaching and through the two-way mirrored panels across the hatch, saw the couple stop and read the notice he always displayed. They'd read it many times before but this time it was more because she was hesitant to ask.
I am sorry but I literally cannot speak.
Please try and ask your questions in a way
that I can give you a yes or no nod to answer.
If that is not practical,
please watch the computer screen for my reply
Mickey knew that Ken wouldn't be of much use in this situation but his presence reassured her. Ken might know computers from the inside out but on practical work, he was worse than useless. Gently she tapped o the glass. When Ernie opened the hatchway, Mickey explained about her flat-pack bookcase problem and asked if he would mind looking at it for her. <Cannot Ken do it?> came up on the screen although Ernie guessed the answer from the experience he had of him when he installed the storeroom's new computer system.
"He's useless at anything that doesn't have a keyboard and a mouse," laughed Mickey, "But he can be there when you come if you like." Eventually he agreed to call on his way home from work.
"You think that it is rubbish then Ernie?" After pointing out a number of defects, he'd indicated that she should put it all in her wheelie bin.
"Return it. Get your money back." He wrote on a pad. "Come to mine after tea. I have something much better. Needs a bit of fixing." For ever afterwards he was amazed that he wrote that. "I wanted to get it out of my workshop, ' he answered himself, knowing full well that wasn't the real reason. He seemed very shocked and worried when she turned up without Ken.
"I'm sorry Ernie, but Ken wanted to work on a computer he's building for a client so he went home. I know you're not keen on women so I'll go home again and come back when Ken is available if you wish. I'm quite harmless really." Ernie shook his head and indicated she should follow him to a converted barn close to the house. Inside he showed her what had once been a grand bookcase bureau with a tambour roll top desk and leaded glass doors enclosing the bookshelves above. Now though, it was very dilapidated and in a sorry state. It had been stored in a damp garage and now the joins gaped apart, the doors were only held by one hinge and the drawers stood alongside because they had swollen and now wouldn't fit in their openings. It was also obvious that canvas of the roll top desk had rotted because the tambour slats were in disarray and the pigeon holes behind it were loose or missing. "How can this be much better?" Mickey asked herself, "Its just firewood."
Ernie saw her disappointment and knew she couldn't see what he could see. His mind's eye saw the item restored to its full glory. Realising she would now be trying to think of a way out of the situation without offending him, he pointed out the price tag from the sale yard. £10. The wood alone was worth far more than that. "Solid Cuban mahogany," he wrote on the back of a scrap of sandpaper and his knuckles rapped the wood, "£10 + £300 if I repair." He waited a few moments and added, "£10 + about £20 for materials if you repair it." "Why did I add that?" Ernie again asked himself afterwards.
"I could never repair it!" Mickey looked aghast and then, after a pause, hesitatingly went on, "Could I?" so that he could answer.
"Yes," he nodded and then wrote, "I show you how. Take some time. Worth it." He spent an hour showing her the various parts and how they should go together but Michelle was still not overly impressed.
She followed him into the old farm cottage when he indicated, and from a bookshelf took down a book on antique furniture. After thumbing through a few pages he showed her a picture of an almost identical piece but in good condition with a price range £3000 - £4000. The price was for a sale several years previously and Michelle guessed that it might well have risen since. "Would your one look like that when repaired?" she asked, "Even if I did it?" Ernie nodded yes to both questions and then pointed to a teapot and looked questioningly at her. "Yes, please." Michelle realised she would have to find out more before she decided to commit herself to doing the work and that any conversation with Ernie would be difficult. "He doesn't seem quite so afraid of me now," she thought. "He's standing quite close to me. I wonder why he's so against women?"
While Ernie fussed about making tea, she sat and looked around the kitchen. Only one dirty mug by the sink, the rest of the crockery was stacked in the drainer to dry, the counters were fairly clear except for the pile of mail, probably just from today, the floor had a couple of spots but was otherwise clean. "The kitchen's no worse than mine!" Mickey smiled to herself and wondered what she could say to open up a conversation when Ernie couldn't reply. She could not think of anything and sat in an uneasy silence until Ernie beckoned her into the lounge. A computer stood on the table and he turned the screen to face Michelle sitting on the settee while he positioned himself at the keyboard. After pouring the tea he typed, <Okay, we talk now. Do you want me to repair the bookcase or you thinking about trying to do it? >
"I don't know, Ernie. I ordered the flat pack because it was affordable, or at least I thought it was." Mickey laughed and Ernie seemed to warm to her. "£300 plus isn't really within my budget at the moment even if I was to end up with something worth far more. I've just bought a new car and the payments on that take a good slice of my wages. On the other hand, I've no idea on repairing a thing like that. I've done nothing like it before except I did woodwork at school for a couple of years when we had to take it. Only made a pencil box and a small stool. I still have both."
<You made them because you had a teacher and were shown how. I can show you but there's a lot of work and it would take many of your weekends. > Michelle marvelled at the speed at which Ernie could type. The words appeared almost as fast as she could speak them. <The £300 was a special price if I did it as a hospital job; a job that I could fit in between other work. If I did the work to order for a client, it would be nearer £1500. >
"What would be involved?" Michelle asked not really wanting to commit herself at this time, although in the back of her mind, she quite fancied the notion of restoring that wreck of a bookcase to its full glory. "Could I do it?" Ernie patiently explained that the whole thing would have to be taken apart completely, each piece stripped of the old polish, any repairs done and then the whole thing rebuilt and re-finished.
.... There is more of this story ...