Kate_Kearns

The Cost of Doing Business 

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Mr. Fontana was still yelling. Tania kept her back to him as she finished putting her tools away and wiped the last of the water from the tile floor, leaving it cleaner than it had been when she’d arrived. When she rose he followed her, stomping a leaden trail from the bathroom, through the master bedroom, out to the kitchen.

“Listen, Sweetheart, this is robbery, plain and simple. I’ll have your business license for this!” The muscles in Mr. Fontana’s jaw and forehead contracted hard, his gaze tight as a fist.

In one continuous movement Tania took a slow breath, looked back at him with calm eyes, wiped her hand on a rag tied around her belt loop, and pulled a piece of paper out of her pocket, “We made an agreement, sir – maybe you should read what you sign a little more carefully.”

Mr. Fontana broke eye contact first and grabbed the paper. Beside the box reserved for the total quoted amount, an asterisk led to the bottom of the page: Tan’s Plumbing is a registered business owned and operated by a trained, qualified professional. Five percent will be added to the customer’s total for each use of inappropriate endearments such as ‘Honey,’ ‘Cutie,’ ‘Love,’ ‘Sweetheart,’ and the like. Upon signing this estimate, the customer agrees to these terms and promises payment in full upon receipt of the final bill.

From where she stood she could see into the second bedroom. An alphabet border lined the ceiling. Something small, pink and ruffled hung over the back of a chair. A ballet tutu? An image of Cinderella’s glass-slippered foot was just in view on the bed.

While he read she continued speaking as if he wasn’t filling like a cartoon barometer, “What you really need is a new toilet and updated plumbing, but I was able to rig something to hold you over until your houseguests leave. I’m a bit of an artist that way, saved you a bundle on parts. But really, sir, those plunger ballcocks have been obsolete for decades, and your valves are wearing out…”

“You stupid bitch! What gives you the right…”

“… I’m surprised your entire house isn’t leaking from those old copper pipes. You really should upgrade to pex before the oxidation gets worse. I can give you an estimate for the whole…”

“… There’s no way I’m paying this!”

“You’re all set for now, but like I said it’s just a temporary fix. I’ll send you the invoice and some information on upgrades tomorrow. Happy Thanksgiving.” She left him in the kitchen.

As she stepped out she heard him slam the paper down on the countertop half a second before she closed the door. Her knees and the tops of her sneakers were still wet from kneeling in his flooded bathroom; the damp patches absorbed the coolness from the air.

 

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Kate has a Master’s of Fine Arts in Creative Writing from Lesley University. She enjoys all the equipment on the writing playground, evidenced by her many simultaneous projects. She is a freelance writer and editor, author of the poetry collection How to Love an Introvert, and is working on a piece of non-fiction while dabbling in children’s books and flash fiction. She’s the Platform Manager at Mash Stories and the owner of Black Squirrel Workshop LLC.

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