PERIL & EXPLOIT

and Other Mysterious Tales

available on Amazon and Patreon

The Fixy Fixy Man comes at night and repairs broken things.

A living skeleton might be sealed up in the kitchen wall.

A girl will stop at nothing to get the Green Invader's X-Ray Monocle.

A man cuts a door into his forehead to try to put an end to his terrible headaches.

On the night of the supermoon, a ghost tree appears by the side of the road.

These exciting adventures and more are contained within the pages of Peril & Exploit.


THE FIXY FIXY MAN

A short story from Peril & Exploit and Other Mysterious Tales by Vincenzo Ravina

Helen and Gregory Pencil follow their real estate agent up the stairs, giving each other significant looks. Gregory's eyebrows are raised. Helen tilts her head and smiles. This is the third house they've visited today and it is immediately perfect.

The first house was too small. They could see that as they drove up to it. The second house was too old. That, too, was evident from the jump. But this house is just what they're looking for. It's tall and green, freshly painted, with big windows and a sunroom and a lovely front lawn.

The real estate agent fumbles with the lockbox while Gregory and Helen nudge each other and wink and jab their thumbs in the general direction of the house. The real estate agent finally gets the key and she turns around to smile at the couple. They put on their poker faces and nod gravely.

She opens the door and ushers them inside. "How about this great sunroom where you can bring your morning coffee?" she says.

"Yes, it is nice, if you like sunrooms," says Helen. "We don't drink coffee."

"This house is perfect for tea drinkers as well," says the real estate agent, sticking her pinky out and pretending to sip from an invisible cup.

"Has this place been recently renovated?" asks Gregory.

"Yes! New windows!" shouts the real estate agent, her smile slightly strained. "Sorry for shouting, I have intermittent shouting syndrome."

"No problem," says Helen. "I've heard of that."

"Is this oak?" asks Gregory, tapping on the wall.

"I think it's drywall," says the real estate agent.

"I see," says Gregory.

They tour the rest of the house, and Helen and Gregory have to stop themselves from gasping at the six large bedrooms, the walk-in closets, the high ceilings, and the fireplace in the living room.

They come to the end of their tour and see zero red flags, which strikes Gregory as a red flag in itself.

"How much are they asking?" asks Helen.

"Two hundred thousand!" says the real estate agent.

"Hm," says Helen.

"It's a fantastic house," says the real estate agent, not quite smiling, more just showing her teeth.

"It does seem pretty good," says Gregory. He puts on an easy-going joking voice to ask the tough questions. "What's the catch? Did someone get murdered here?"

"No catch!" says the real estate agent, shouting again. "Sorry." She coughs. "There's just this one thing about the houses in this neighbourhood that is a little different from most other houses, and it's actually an amazing perquisite of this beautiful neighbourhood!"

"Here we go," Gregory mutters under his breath.

"What is it?" asks Helen.

"Uh," says the real estate agent. "Well, have you ever heard of the Fixy Fixy Man?"

"The... Fixy Fixy man?"

"Yes, he's...." She laughs in a hysterical sort of way. "He's sort of like the tooth fairy," she says, jabbing her thumb into Gregory's shirt buttons, "except you pay him! Ha ha!"

Gregory and Helen give each other concerned looks.

"We don't understand," says Helen.

"Well, you see, the Fixy Fixy Man comes at night and he fixes broken things," says the real estate agent, miming hammering. "Before you go to bed, you can put any broken thing inside a cardboard box next to your bed and just, you know, put a quarter in there for his trouble. And in the morning, the broken thing will be fixed!"

"He comes at night? Who is this man?" asks Gregory.

"He's the Fixy Fixy Man," says the real estate agent. "He's well-known, in this area."

"But, why..?" says Helen.

"It's like having a handyman on demand! Think of it like you think about your garbage service. Men come and take away your garbage and you don't worry about it!"

"Well, but garbage men don't come into the house at night," says Helen. "While we sleep," she emphasizes.

"Can we leave the box outside?" asks Gregory. "By the curb?"

"No, it has to be beside the bed where you sleep. And you should be aware that no lock can stop the Fixy Fixy Man."

"Can we... meet the Fixy Fixy Man?"

"Uh, yes, but you'd have to stay up pretty late. If you'd like to take the old house for a test drive, as it were, that's perfectly acceptable!" say the real estate agent, pumping her arms as though pretending to be the wheels of a train.

That night, Helen and Gregory find themselves sitting on an air mattress in the master bedroom of the empty, beautiful home.

"This is like one of those movies where they have to spend a night in a haunted house to get an inheritance," says Gregory.

"Don't say stuff like that," says Helen, looking at the Homeowners' Association website on her phone. "He comes between 1:30 and 5 AM, it says. You better break something and put it in the box."

"Oh right," says Gregory. He looks at his watch. "I don't know how skilled this guy is... I shouldn't break anything of value..."

Gregory walks down to the kitchen and looks in the drawers, but they're all empty. Strangely, there's still a carton of eggs in the otherwise bare fridge. He brings an egg up to the bedroom and drops it into the shoebox where it shatters. Helen hands him a quarter and he places it in the box next to the broken egg.

"And now we wait," says Gregory, returning to the air mattress.

He manages to stay awake reading an ancient Readers' Digest he found in a closet, but Helen falls asleep. At 2:02 AM, he spies movement in his peripheral vision. He looks up to see what appears to be a greenish purplish reptile with feathers and a bushy moustache entering the room carrying a toolbox. The creature looks sort of like a Tyrannosaurus rex, but with proper arms and hands. It is about half Gregory's height.

"Hello," says Gregory.

"Oh, hello!" says the creature. "How you doin'?"

"Not bad. Are you the Fixy Fixy Man?"

"That's me!" says the Fixy Fixy Man. "I fix you things during the night. Nice to meet."

"Yes," Gregory nods. "I'm Gregory. Nice to meet. Uh, could I ask you what exactly you do... and why?"

"Fixing is my pleasure, Gregory. When I come to this country, they ask me to fix, and I fix. I'm the best to fix anything!"

"And where are you from... originally?"

"I'm from Italia. Beautiful country. You should go. The best food is there."

"But, so, you come every night? Into our bedroom?"

"I come at night, while you sleep, I bother no one!"

"Are we able to change that schedule, at all?"

"No, impossible, Gregory, I'm sorry. But thing breaks every day, Gregory, trust me, you be so happy you have the Fixy Fixy Man. It's my pleasure to fix."

"How do you get in?"

"Oh, is no problem, I pick locks."

"We have a cat, she has to stay indoors."

"No problem, Gregory. Many people has the pets, I am good with the pets. Ask any neighbour."

"OK. Well, thank you, Fixy Fixy Man."

"Thank you, Gregory! Now what do we have, eh?" The Fixy Fixy man lifts the lid of the shoe box. "An egg! Oh Gregory, a broke egg is a sad thing. You want the yolk back inside?"

"Uh... yes, please. Can you do it?"

"No problem, Gregory. I fix anything." He takes a bottle of glue, a paintbrush, a screwdriver, and a baggie of white powder out of his toolbox. "This fix take a while. You sleep if you tired."

"I might watch for a little while, if you don't mind."

"No problem."

Gregory watches the Fixy Fixy Man work. It is slow, as the Fixy Fixy man promised. He takes the largest piece of shell and begins gluing the smaller pieces exactly where they go. It is like a terrible jigsaw puzzle. Gregory feels a little bad about giving the Fixy Fixy Man such a pointless and terrible job before his eyes get heavy and he falls asleep with the Fixy Fixy Man's work only half done.

In the morning, Gregory leaps from bed and opens the shoebox to check the Fixy Fixy Man's work. He finds the egg whole and smooth. The egg is immaculate. He brings the egg to his eye and examines every inch. No seams, no joins, no bumps. It's impossible. It's unbelievable.

He shows Helen.

"Look at this egg. It looks like it just fell out of the chicken. It's perfect."

"It's a fine egg. What happened last night? Did you see him or not?"

Gregory nods. "It was strange, like a dream... But I'm sure I met him. I spoke to him. He's supposedly a little Italian gentleman who looks like a large feathery lizard."

"Why do you say supposedly?"

"Well, if you ask me, I say his accent's as fake as his moustache. He's no Italian. He's the last of the dinosaurs."

"The last of the dinosaurs?"

"Has to be. No other explanation. But look at this egg, you can't see tape, glue, nothing," says Gregory, turning the egg over in his hand. "It's seamless."

"Dinosaurs are extinct."

"Or so we thought!" says Gregory. "There's one left! One, at least."

Helen taps her chin. "That's a pretty big deal, isn't it?"

"I suppose," says Gregory. "But it's no business of mine if he wants to pretend to be Italian. The Fixy Fixy Man situation seems like something we can live with."

"Even if he lies about his identity and comes into our bedroom at night?"

"I think so," says Gregory. "It's the same with every other house in this neighbourhood. Everybody else must trust him."

"Hm, I suppose," says Helen. "Why don't we talk to the neighbours, get it from the horse's mouth?"

Next door, Judith and Eric are happy to meet Helen and Gregory and talk about the Fixy Fixy Man.

"Glass squid," says Judith, holding up a glass squid. "This one smashed into a million pieces and the Fixy Fixy Man made it good as new. It has great sentimental value, so you can imagine how happy I was."

"Yeah, wow," says Gregory. "The work is really, uh, intricate."

"That's the best thing about having the Fixy Fixy Man," says Eric, "you never have to worry about breaking things. The Fixy Fixy Man can fix anything and make it good as new!"

"Nothing alive!" blurts Judith. "Never put a living creature in the box!"

"Oh yeah, that was horrific," says Eric. "He's a good guy, the Fixy Fixy Man. Just–" Eric grabs Gregory's hand suddenly. "Just don't forget to put something broken in the box every night."

"Ow," says Gregory, tugging his hand out of Eric's grasp.

"If you go on vacation, just let us know and we'll put something in the box for you," says Judith.

"Why? Does the Fixy Fixy Man get angry if you don't leave him something to fix?" asks Helen.

"Not angry, no," says Judith, with a haunted look in her eyes. "He just always needs something to fix, that's all."

"What does he–?"

"Just don't forget," says Eric.

Judith and Eric smile strange lopsided smiles.

Helen laughs weakly. "OK, nice to meet you."

As they walk across the lawn, back to their car, Helen says, "I don't know about this. They seemed a little off."

"I know, they had the exact same crooked smile. You think they're related?"

"No, I'm talking about how they were really intense about not forgetting to leave him something."

"I'm sure the neighbourhood is just so happy to have him, you know, they don't want to piss him off and have him leave," says Gregory. "Think of the money we'll save. One of the main reasons we buy new things is because the old things break. We're getting the house for a song, and the Fixy Fixy Man is going to reduce our expenditures... All we have to do is give him something to fix every night. Easy."

They get into the car but don't drive off right away. Helen looks at the house that might be theirs. "I do love the house."

They move in on a beautiful sunny day. The house like a mansion compared to the one-bedroom apartment they were living in before. During the move, a few plates and glasses break, so the Fixy Fixy Man comes in handy immediately.

In the weeks and months that follow, there are a handful of other things that break and Gregory and Helen are very glad to have the Fixy Fixy Man for those occasions, but most nights, Gregory breaks a pencil and puts the pieces in the box right before sleeping, and all is well.



But thirty-two weeks after moving in, it happens.



That morning, Helen kisses Gregory goodbye on her way out the door, off to a marketing convention for a few days. Gregory spends the day building and painting a birdhouse and working in the garden. At the end of the day, Gregory is tired. He takes a shower and lies on the bed on top of the covers to rest his eyes.

Gregory wakes up the next morning and knows immediately that something is very wrong. His mouth feels weird. He puts his hand to his lips and... can't find them. His fingers encounter smooth flesh. He rushes to the mirror in the bathroom and the sight is horrifying. His mouth isn't there.

Gregory is filled with terror. He feels sick. He tries to grab his phone off the bedside table to call 911, but the phone won't come away from the table's surface. He tries to run outside to get help from Judith or Eric, but the front door won't open. In fact, there is no door. The door has become part of the wall. The work is seamless.

Gregory runs around the house in a panic, discovering at every turn that everything is seamless. There are no gaps between the oven and the counter and the fridge. None of the sinks have drains. Every book on the bookshelf has been melded together. The toilet is a single solid piece of porcelain, the bowl completely filled in.

The Fixy Fixy Man's not the last of the dinosaurs, Gregory thinks. He's some kind of warlock.

Gregory has to wait until night falls and 2 AM comes. The Fixy Fixy Man enters the bedroom to see Gregory lying on the floor with his head in the shoebox.

"Oh Gregory, what is problem?" asks the Fixy Fixy Man. "You no like my work?"

Gregory shakes his head. He points to where his mouth used to be.

"You want I should open this back up?"

Gregory nods.

"Oh," says the Fixy Fixy Man. "My mistake. I apologize, Gregory! When there is nothing in box, I look and find holes and cracks and I fix, Gregory. I fix what I see... Maybe I get, how you say, carried away to make smooth world."

The Fixy Fixy Man removes many sharp tools from his box and Gregory shuts his eyes to wait for the work to be done.

The spot where Gregory's mouth used to be tickles while the little Italian creature works. The surrounding parts of Gregory's face feel wetter and wetter. Gregory smells blood.

After an hour, the Fixy Fixy Man announces, "There! You back in business, Gregory."

"Thank you," says Gregory. "I'm sorry I forgot to leave you something broken last night."

"No problem, Gregory, no problem. But I hope it never happen again. It was very confused!" The Fixy Fixy Man chuckles. "OK bye-bye now, Gregory!"

"Uh, Fixy Fixy Man, it's just, my phone is stuck to the table and the front door is part of the wall and..."

"Oh, you no like?"

"I don't like it. Sorry, Fixy Fixy Man."

"I fix, I fix." The Fixy Fixy Man picks up his toolbox. "You sleep if you tired."

Gregory does not sleep. He listens as the Fixy Fixy Man moves about the house, unfilling holes, unsealing gaps, and unfixing cracks. Finally, after many hours, after the sun rises, he hears the Fixy Fixy Man leave.

Gregory checks his mouth in the mirror. It looks slightly different to how he remembers it. He thinks his lower lip might be slightly bigger and his smile is maybe a little lopsided. He curses himself for his stupidity.

He promises himself he'll never forget again. He'll keep boxes of pencils beside the bed so that when he wakes up in the morning and takes the fixed things out, he can immediately snap a pencil and put one in. Thus, the box will always, always, always have something inside to fix, even if Gregory falls asleep early again.

He walks through the house, checking that the books come apart and the pages flip like normal and that there are gaps between the kitchen appliances. Everything seems to be back to normal. The front door works, and he steps out of the sunroom onto the front lawn to get some fresh air.

"Morning!" says Eric, raising a cup of coffee in cheers from his front porch. He's smiling his crooked smile.

Gregory frowns at him with his new mouth.

"Oh," says Eric. "Well, it happens to the best of us, Greg."


PERIL & EXPLOIT

and Other Mysterious Tales

available on Amazon and Patreon

The Fixy Fixy Man comes at night and repairs broken things.

A living skeleton might be sealed up in the kitchen wall.

A girl will stop at nothing to get the Green Invader's X-Ray Monocle.

A man cuts a door into his forehead to try to put an end to his terrible headaches.

On the night of the supermoon, a ghost tree appears by the side of the road.

These exciting adventures and more are contained within the pages of Peril & Exploit.