He pulled up to the house, got his tools together, and walked up the driveway. The house was a ramshackle in desperate need of a paint job. But that was all right, Jim told himself, he’d be in and out in a jiffy. He was here to fix a fridge, how hard could it be? “I’ve seen worse,” he thought.
The moment he knocked on the door, blood-chilling shrieks came from inside. Jim winced. The door opened and two tiny dogs, like miniature, fat hounds from Hell, came waddling out. From the dank depths of the house, the customer emerged preceded by a sulfurous cloud of smoke. A cigarette with a bright orange tip was pinched in between her lips. She pulled the cigarette out and puffed a stream of acrid smoke in Jim’s face.
“You the appliance guy?” the customer asked.
“I am,” Jim said, coughing as discreetly as possible.
“Well, come in. I’ll show you where the fridge is.”
The dogs raced around Jim’s feet, tripping him up as Jim crossed the threshold. He sighed and said, “Cute dogs, but do you mind calling them over to you?”
The customer screamed her dog’s names a dozen times then finally grabbed them and stuffed them into a room off of the hall.
She led Jim down the dark hallway into a room at the end and flicked a switch. After a second, a single fluorescent bulb flickered on, then off, and back on. The greenish light showed off the impressive display of detritus covering every available surface in the kitchen.
A TV came to life and blared at full volume. It nearly blasted Jim back down the hallway.
“Ma’am, can you turn that down?” Jim asked.
“What?” the customer yelled.
“Please turn that down!” Jim yelled.
“Sheesh, why you gotta yell?!” she shuffled over to the TV and fiddled with the dial.
Jim shrugged to himself. “All in a day’s work”, he thought, “I can handle it.”
His customer rasped, “It’s making a funny noise. My husband is an engineer, and he’s sure it’s the fan.”
Jim inwardly rolled his eyes, but just said, “Okay, ma’am, I’m just going to check it out to make sure.”
He chuckled to himself and thought, “Old Jim, cool as a cucumber! I can handle this job. Easy money - just a little common sense and a few tricks of the trade is all that’s needed!”
He started feeling around for the tech sheet. Immediately, his fingers hit something fuzzy. He pulled out a dead mouse. Tossing it aside without so much as a grimace, Jim stuck his hand back in. His fingers slid past something slimy—he didn’t really want to know what that was. When Jim’s arm was in up to his shoulder, his fingertips felt the empty pouch where the tech sheet should have been.
A few drops of sweat beaded up on his forehead, but he took as deep a breath as he dared to in that hellhole and calmed himself. “That’s all right,” he thought, “I know what to do.” Jim had a backup plan.
He took his cellphone out. He pulled up the number for tech line. But nothing happened. Jim’s heart began to sink. He tried again. The same thing. He looked at his phone. There was no signal. Jim was really sweating now. He wiped his forehead with his sleeve. He was going to have to go in blind.
He pulled out the control board in the hopes he could figure something out. But beneath the control board was a confused tangle of wires of different colors. Red, purple, green, brown, they all snaked around each other and knotted together. Jim licked his lips. He had no idea what to do. Suddenly the wires were getting longer and longer, reaching out towards him, winding around his neck and cutting off his air. All the while, the customer was lurching at him, croaking, “Why aren’t you fixing my fridge?! Fix my fridge!!!!”
Jim woke up in a cold sweat, screaming. With shaky hands, he grabbed his smartphone off the night table and opened up the Master Samurai Tech Academy site. There they were - the training courses he had enrolled in so that he could finally up his game and have the knowledge and troubleshooting skills he needed to never have that sinking feeling again.
He took a deep breath, chuckled a bit at that awful nightmare, then fell back onto his pillow, comforted by the knowledge that he was soon going to be master of his trade.