The Adventures of Skylar Grey

Chapter 20: The neighbors who stole Thanksgiving (and Christmas and New Year’s Eve)

Jazzy steals a Christmas kiss from Kickie while I deal with the Fix-Its.

Part 2 of a 3-part series

The following Thanksgiving, Jazzy seemed almost embarrassed to bring yet another soggy letter. “Again?” Kickie said, shaking her head. “These people are Mr. and Mrs. Fix-It! And why does this always happen during the holidays?” When I opened the letter it read, “Stairs in light well need replacing. We have a guy we use.” I was furious, but I didn’t want to ruin the holiday, so I made myself a stiff martini and stuck the letter in a drawer.

Three days later, Mr. Fix-It knocked on my door. “The stair guy is here,” he said. “Do you want to come down and see what he has to say?” I nodded and followed him to the light well. “These need to be completely replaced,” the guy said. “You’re looking at ten grand …” I felt my blood boil. “We need to get other estimates,” I said. “Besides, these stairs lead up to your kitchen,” I told the Fix-Its. “They only benefit you, so I don’t see why I have to pay half.” Mr. and Mrs. Fit-It were stunned that I was standing up for myself. “These are common,” Mr. Fix-It said condescendingly. “Is this guy even licensed?” I asked. Mr. and Mrs. Fix-It looked down. I took that to mean “no.”

The next day I brought a contractor friend over to look at the stairs. “These are fine,” he said. “Maybe a few boards could be replaced, maybe some paint …” I sent his comments to the Fix-Its in an e-mail. Several days later, I was in the kitchen when I heard hammering. I looked through the window to see the Fix-Its’ 24-year-old daughter’s ex-boyfriend hanging precariously from the railing. I pushed the window up. “What are you doing?” I asked. “I’m fixing the stairs,” he said. “Are you a licensed contractor?” I asked. “No,” he responded, wrapping one leg around the banister to steady himself. “But I’ve done a little construction work here and there.” I watched as he tried in vain to pull one of the boards up with his scrawny arms and an old hammer. “Are you insured?” I asked. He looked down. I took that
to mean “no.”

I sent a text to the Fix-Its: “Why is this guy working unlicensed and uninsured where he can kill himself? Not only did you not inform me about this, you didn’t get my approval. Don’t you dare put a bill through my mail slot.” The Fix-Its never responded, and the ex-boyfriend worked in the light well for a month, taking long breaks to talk to friends on his cell phone about his ex-girlfriend, Miss Fix-It. “I want her back,” he said one day. “That’s why I’m doing this job for her crazy-ass parents.” A week later, the Fix-Its pushed a letter through my mail slot. “Here’s your half for the stairs,” it read.

Kickie and Jazzy were snuggled up in the garden room watching the 1938 version of A Christmas Carol when I stomped down the stairs. “Your dad didn’t like the Alastair Sim version,” Kickie said. “This was his favorite.” I stopped briefly to hear Reginald Owen as Scrooge say, “Bah! Humbug!,” which suited my mood perfectly, and then I held up the letter. “Now what?” Kickie asked. “They think I’m going to pay that kid for ‘fixing’ their stairs,” I explained as I crumpled up the letter and threw it in the trashcan. Kickie shook her head, and Jazzy took a deep sigh as if she, too, were dismayed. I sat down at the end of the bed, stroking Jazzy’s velvety ears. “I don’t know how much more of this I can take Kickie, seriously.”

“Well, hopefully all the work is done and they won’t ruin another Christmas,” she said. “I wouldn’t go all Tiny Tim yet,” I warned Kickie. “This is like the Fix-It Mystery House. The work never stops.”

I had a bad feeling that the Ghost of Christmas Future would soon pay me a visit and take me to a hardware store…

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