Monday, November 28, 2011

Chapter 9: The Repairman

A long time ago, in a city far away, Mr Stoat and his loving wife had a solid and reliable internet connection through their cable company. When they moved to Stoatbridge, they learned, to their ever-lasting sadness, that the cable company that had served them so faithfully for so many years, provided nothing to the area the Stoats were moving to.

So the Stoats were forced to sign up with a regional service that provided high speed internet to remote areas using a system of towers and little satellite dish-style receivers. Mr Stoat grudgingly paid the company's ransom and the couple settled down in their snug little den with their unstable, overpriced internet connection.

The Stoats love their router/modem as best they could. They fed it and stroked it and spoke little comforting words into its little black antennae. There were good and kind and gentle to it. But still the ro-mo wouldn't do what they asked. It was a terribly naughty little black box. It didn't appreciate the bills being paid on time, it didn't appreciate the constant attention it was given, and it didn't appreciate the amount of money spent on iTunes.

Then one morning, after Mr Stoat had gone off to work and Mrs Stoat busied herself with downloading music and podcasts on iTunes, the internet connection died. It didn't say anything, it didn't give them any warning. It just decided it was done and, like the fish Mrs Stoat kept in a broken blender in the top of the closet in her university dorm room, it went belly up. Mrs Stoat knew exactly what to do in a situation such as this: call her husband. He called tech support and they told him there was a service outage. Mr Stoat relayed this information to his wife, explaining to her that their entire area was down and they had someone out looking at it, but there was no estimate as to when it might be back.

Mr Stoat had a Stoatbridge Cigar Club meeting that night, leaving his wife home alone until very nearly bedtime. So Mrs Stoat set to work in the kitchen, preparing something from her Microwave Dinners for One cookbook, when Toby, their enormous dog, started growling at the patio door. Toby loved to growl and bark at the neighborhood kids, animals, vehicles, and anything that moved, so Mrs Stoat ignored him, took her Pizza Pockets out of the microwave, and flipped them over. Toby barked louder. Mrs Stoat walked around the corner to investigate.

Mrs Stoat was startled to find a greying weasel in a black cap and blue overalls standing on her deck, peering in. Toby barked his face off. The weasel continued to stare at her.

"Can I help you?" Mrs Stoat tried to shout over Toby's barking. The weasel cupped one paw around his ear and mouthed the words I can't hear you. Toby kept barking. Mrs Stoat unlocked the door and opened it slightly, holding her bat-shit dog back by his collar.

"I'm here about your internet," the weasel said, his voice deep and slow.

"Um," said Mrs Stoat.


"I'm going to go up on the roof, okay?" said the weasel.

"Okay," said Mrs Stoat, who had suddenly become aware of just how many crime procedural dramas she watched.


"Might want to put him away," said the weasel. He looked around.

"Okay," said Mrs Stoat faintly, as she wondered how long it would take for someone to find her body.

The weasel backed out of the house slowly, keeping his eyes on Mrs Stoat and Toby, who had likely alerted the entire county with his incessant barking.

After fifteen minutes of shuffling around on the roof, the weasel came back down and walked into the Stoats' living room. Mrs Stoat, having obediently put Toby in the bathroom, clutched at her cell phone and held her breath.

"My internet has been out most of the day," Mrs Stoat said, which seemed like a better idea than screaming her face off.

"It's working just fine," the weasel said.

"No," protested Mrs Stoat. "It says I'm not connected to the internet. It's been like that all day."

"Seems your ro-mo's malfunctioning. It's flooding the tower with signals. Brought down the whole area. Office says you need a new ro-mo. They're sixty dollars. I have one in the van. We'll take a cheque." The weasel's gaze felt particularly uncomfortable to Mrs Stoat. He looked dead inside. Like his eyes were made of glass. More importantly, Mrs Stoat was not pleased with the idea of paying $60 for this when her beloved cable company wouldn't have charged her anything.

The weasel looked around.

"Usually when I come out here," he said languidly, as though this were something that happened regularly, "there's a man here. Where is he?"

"Um... on his way home?" Mrs Stoat asked. The weasel nodded and squatted beside the desk.

"Let's just try a reset on this." The weasel fiddled with the little black box with the flashing lights.

"It looks like it's back," Mrs Stoat noted, when the little yellow yield sign that turned into a spinning blue circle disappeared.

The weasel stared at her, his beady little glass eyeballs seemed to be daring her to make some claim that she knew more about the internet than he did.

"How would you know? You haven't even tried it."

"The little-"

"Just try a page, ma'am."

Mrs Stoat sat down obediently and opened up a browser window. She typed the name of the local constabulary into the search field and the monitor displayed the address, phone number, and a useful map as if by magic.

The weasel nodded, satisfied.

"We're going to monitor this connection. If we see you flooding the network again though..." He trailed off.

"I wasn't doing anything! I couldn't even use the internet! The little yellow yield sign told me I had no internet access! I couldn't so much as pull up Facebook!" Mrs Stoat protested.

"No need to get hysterical, ma'am," huffed the weasel. "Just remember: we're watching you."

When Mr Stoat got home that night, his wife launched herself in his arms and recounted the whole story.

"I think you've been watching a little too much Law & Order," he said, patting the top of her head. "I remember that weasel. He lost his ladder and peed in your petunias last spring." Mr Stoat opened the microwave door and noticed the pizza pockets. "Gonna eat these?" he asked.

"I could have been murdered!" shouted Mrs Stoat.

"But you weren't," Mr Stoat pointed out with infuriating calm.

"This time!" she waggled her finger at her husband. "This time!"

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