Broken Beyond Repair
Harvey’s job was a tad ridiculous these days. Here he was, sitting on the woman’s floor in his little slipper-covered work boots, chatting on his Bluetooth headset while the woman yammered away on her own cell phone… all for the sake of a landline that he suspected nobody would ever use.
“Still holding,” he said to Jen as she came back on the line for the fifth time. “Any signal?”
“None yet,” Jen grumbled. “You sure it’s a live line?”
“Registers in the house,” Harvey said unhappily. “Strength is good right to the hub. It’s gotta be on your end, Jenny.”
Jen’s voice got louder, more personal.
“It’s Jen, Harv. I’m not a little girl. Stop calling me that.”
“Sorry. Old habits die hard.”
She put him on hold as a rebuke. He glanced over at the woman, sitting on the sofa with her phone glued to her ear, and smiled as apologetically as he could. She rolled her eyes at him.
“I know,” she sighed into the phone. “It’s been almost an hour. How hard can it be?”
Harvey went back to testing the line, even though he knew it wouldn’t work. He checked the cables from his unit, down along the ground and into the socket, but they all looked to be in good shape. He wiggled them a bit. A small spark shot out and he pulled his hand back, sucked on his finger.
“Jesus Christ,” he grumbled. “Didn’t expect that!”
The woman on the sofa stared at him with nervous eyes.
His phone rang, and he switched lines without thinking.
“Harvey here,” he said.
“Harvey Wallace?” asked a quiet, almost anxious voice.
“Yeah, that’s me. What’s up?”
“Oh my darkness, you’re kidding! You’re really Harvey?”
Harvey checked his phone. The number was “(666) 666-6666.” He sheathed the handset and pretended he was working on the line again.
“Who is this?” he asked quietly.
“I don’t know how to explain,” said the voice. “I’m your uncle Lucifer.”
“I don’t have any uncles. Who are you?”
“This isn’t the right way to have this conversation. Can we meet somewhere?”
The woman passed by closely on her way to the kitchen. She wasn’t saying anything anymore. Listening.
“Yes of course,” said Uncle Lucifer. “Working. I understand. Well then, I’ll do my best. You, Harvey, are—”
“Are you done yet?” asked the woman, arms crossed, eyes fixed. “Because I have plans this afternoon. So if you could, you know, wrap it up…”
“Sorry, ma’am,” Harvey smiled, tapping the wires again. “Almost there.”
She grunted and went back to refill her coffee cup.
“Sorry,” Harvey said into the headset. “You were saying?”
“The Anti-Christ,” said Uncle Lucifer.
“The Anti-Christ. You are. The Anti-Christ.”
Harvey rubbed his eye. Allergy season.
“All right,” he said finally. “I’m not following. What are you trying to say?”
“I’m saying you’re the leader of the Forces of Darkness, Harvey. You are the Chosen One. He who will crush the Lord and bring about the End of All Time. The son of Satan. The Unrighteous Bastard of—”
“Sorry,” Harvey said, “got another call.”
He switched lines, tested the signal again, and saw it was working. He grinned happily.
“You got it!” he said. “What was the problem?”
“Wrong address on the file. We’ve been resetting the neighbour’s connection all morning.”
“Tell me about it. So we’re good?”
“Very good,” Harvey said, packing up his stuff. “Thanks, Jenny!”
“Harv!” she yelled. “Stop it! Seriously! Stop!”
“Sorry,” he nodded meekly. She hung up on him, and he got to his feet, stretching his legs and back. He pulled a clipboard out of his pouch and peeked around the corner, smiling to the woman with the coffee.
“All done,” he said. “I just need your signature here.”
The woman scribbled her name on the line and not-so-subtly rushed him out the door. She locked it the second it closed. Harvey pulled the slipper-covers off his boots and shoved them in his pocket.
His earpiece beeped softly.
“Sorry,” he said, taking it off hold, “I forgot you were there.”
“I’ve never been on hold before. It’s so… boring.”
“Necessary evil,” Harvey said, lumbering down the walk to his van. He threw the gear in the passenger side. “So what do you want me for again? Some kind of club?”
“Oh, Harvey!” exclaimed Uncle Lucifer. “What to say? Honestly, we should have found you the second you were born. I’m as sorry as I can be that you’ve gone these forty-three years without knowing your true potential. I’ll understand if you hate me.”
Harvey shrugged, started climbing in the van. Just then, the woman swung open the front door and sneered furiously.
“You boar!” she shouted. “You scraped my hardwood floor! I should sue!”
“You can smite her if you like,” said Uncle Lucifer. “I would. She’s so shrill and obnoxious. Go ahead. I’ll wait.”
Harvey got out of the van, and trudged over to the house, slipped on his slipper-covers and carefully shuffled over to the spot where she was pointing. There was a light mark on the floor. He leaned down, rubbed it with his finger, and it came off.
“I don’t believe you people!” the woman said. “You’re always late, you take forever, and you destroy my house!”
Harvey finished rubbing the mark off the floor, then stood up and faced the woman. Her face was red in patches. Her ears were practically purple. He lowered his eyes.
“I’m sorry,” he said. “I should have been more careful. We’ll… uh… credit your account for two months of free service.”
Her eyes narrowed at him.
“I should think so!” she snapped, and rushed him out the door again. He stood outside, slipped off his slipper-covers, and walked back to the van. A baseball whacked him in the back, and he turned around to see a pair of boys two yards over. Their faces were blank with apprehension. He reached down, picked up the ball, turned it over in his hand.
“You threw this?” he called.
The boys nodded.
“Good spin on it!” he said, and tossed it back. They caught it and hustled inside. Harvey smiled, climbed into the van, and started the engine.
“Still there?” he asked Uncle Lucifer.There was a long pause.
“Y-yes. Yes I am.”
“You were sayin’…”
Another long pause.
“Harvey,” he said carefully, “I don’t think this is going to work out.”
Harvey checked over his shoulder as he started to back out. He paused to let a teenager in a red convertible go by.
“That’s okay,” he said. “I’m pretty booked these days anyway. The switch to digital is a pain.”
“I know. We… er… made it that way.”
“You don’t say.”
“Again, I’m so sorry, Harvey. You could have been so powerful. So powerful. I feel terrible. I will find the minion responsible and flail the flesh off him for the rest of time.”
“No need for that,” Harvey said. “These things happen. If there’s one thing I’ve learned in this job, it’s that you can’t blame anyone for anything, because it might just as easily be you. No hard feelings, then.”
Uncle Lucifer sobbed briefly before hanging up.
This is for @mjgolli, who wrote "Telephone Repairman discovers he is the Antichrist."