By Dan Nielsen
The dog barked. Dave looked out the window. The side panel on the truck said PRESTON REPAIRS in big red and blue lettering. Preston climbed down. He carried a toolbox. Dave opened the front door and leaned out. There was a thin blanket of new snow.
“Hello,” Dave said.
“Good morning,” Preston said.
“Come around the back,” Dave said.
Preston nodded and headed up the driveway.
Dave held the back door open. Preston paused a moment to stomp his feet and bang the soles of his shoes, one against the other. A small PRESTON REPAIRS patch on the front of his coveralls matched the sign on the truck. Once inside, Preston wiped his feet on the mat.
“They say eight to twelve tonight, the worst toward morning,” Preston said and led the way down the basement stairs. A large PRESTON REPAIRS patch on the back of his coveralls matched the small patch on the front.
Dave already had the dryer’s sheet metal backguard removed.
“I gave it a look,” Dave said. “But I couldn’t see anything.”
“We’ll just put that back on and then get started,” Preston said.
He opened the tool box. He chose a small Phillips-head screwdriver. He found some screws on top of the dryer. “Is this all of them?”
“I guess I lost a couple,” Dave said. “But those should hold it.”
Preston got down on hands and knees, found the lost screws, and replaced the dryer’s back.
“Okay,” Preston said. “What’s it doing?”
“It goes,” Dave said. “But it doesn’t heat up.”
Preston set the controls to Cotton and pressed Start. A few seconds later there was a whoosh sound.
“Look through here,” Preston said, indicating a vented area on the side of the dryer.
Dave saw flames. Then they went out.
“Is that supposed to happen?” Dave said.
“Nope,” Preston said.
“Is it bad?” Dave said.
“No, it’s good,” Preston said. “Now I know what it is.”
Preston popped the top off the dryer with one blow from the heel of his hand. He unscrewed two screws and removed the front.
“We’ve been lucky so far,” Preston said.
“I suppose,” Dave said. Then he said, “What do you mean?”
“The snow,” Preston said.
“Yeah,” Dave said. “Another mild one. I love it.”
“I agree,” Preston said. “But some don’t.”
“I know,” Dave said. “Some people like snow.”
“Some people need it to survive,” Preston said. “Like my friend Greg. All he can do anymore now is plow. His foot got run over by a forklift. Squashed it like a banana.”
“No safety shoes?” Dave said. Dave worked in a factory and knew about safety shoes.
“Safety shoes?” Preston said. “That steel toe just made it worse.”
Preston had the drive-belt off now. He lifted the drum out and set it on the floor. “I tell him to just have them cut it off and go prosthetic. He can’t walk on the damn thing. All it does is hurt.” Preston looked at Dave. “Greg lives on pills. He needs it cut off.”
Dave said, “Why doesn’t he?”
“I don’t know,” Preston said. Half his body disappeared into the dryer. A minute later he reappeared with a pair of white plastic electric connectors in his hand. “I go through a ton of these babies,” Preston said. He opened a drawer in his tool box and took out a fresh packet. Loud country music played. Preston flipped open his cell phone. “Yeah. Yeah, okay. Yeah, that is good news. I don’t know, half hour. Bye.” Preston returned the cell phone to his pocket. “That was Greg.”
“About the snow?” Dave said.
“Nah,” Preston said. “About a monster truck.” Preston disappeared again. It seemed like he’d be in there awhile.
“I’ll leave you to it now,” Dave said.
“Okay,” Preston said.
Dave went upstairs. He poured a cup of coffee and sat at the kitchen table across from his wife, Gail.
“What were you doing in the basement?” Gail said. “And what was that music?”
“The dryer guy is here,” Dave said. “That was his cell phone ring tone, if you can believe it.”
“Jesus,” Gail said. “How much is this going to cost?”
“I have no idea,” Dave said. “The call was some guy named Greg who got his foot crushed.”
“Jesus,” Gail said. “Just now?”
“What?” Dave said. “No, not just now. The call was about a monster truck.”
“What’s a monster truck?” Gail said.
“You know, a monster truck,” Dave said.
“You better get back down there,” Gail said.
“Why?” Dave said.
“Because there’s someone in our basement talking about a monster truck,” Gail said. She laughed. Then Dave laughed. The dog barked.
“Hello,” Preston said, leaning in from the back hall. “Your dryer’s fixed and fine.”
“Come in,” Gail said. “Would you like some coffee?”
“No, thanks,” Preston said. “I need to see a guy about a monster truck. I just sold one. I build them, you know.” Preston stepped into the kitchen, crouched down, and extended his hand for the dog to sniff.
“Who do you sell monster trucks to?” Gail said.
“You’d be surprised,” Preston said.
“I bet,” Dave said.
Preston placed a brown paper lunch bag containing something heavy onto the kitchen table. “That’s about fifteen bucks in change, a couple keys, and a busted watch.”
“I don’t understand,” Gail said.
“Stuff falls out of pockets. It makes it out of the dryer, but not up the shoot,” Preston said. “It settles in a crevice. I’ve seen lots more than this.”
“And you always give it back,” Gail said.
“Not the diamond rings,” Preston said. Then he said, “Just kidding.”
Dan Nielsen spreads his limited talents thinly so as to cover writing, music, art, and stand-up comedy. Old credits include Random House and University of Iowa Press anthologies. Recent work has appeared in The Ottawa Object, Lockjaw Magazine, The Fem, Semaphore Magazine, and Minor Literature[s]. He has a website: Preponderous.