Sneak Preview: from Chapter Five

If you needed your plumbing fixed, G.B. Cross was your man. “Miz Breecker,” he called through the screen door Saturday morning, “I come to fix yer dreen.” My father, genetically incapable of any handy-man’s task, gratefully let him in. He relinquished the orange plunger to G.B. like a scepter. One of the perks of living on campus at Browning, besides free rent—nothing to sneeze at on a teacher’s salary—was the “workmen”. G.B. was among their ranks and the foulest. Concentric rings of sweat perpetually stained the underarms of his work shirt, his nails and skin indescribably grimy. G.B.’s stench lingered in your apartment long after he was on his way again. Ronnie worshipped G.B. and followed him from room to room. For his birthday my parents had given Ronnie a little metal tool box and set of play tools, a hammer, pliers, nuts and bolts, and the like. My parents saw no harm in allowing Ronnie to shadow the man. But when G.B. looked at me sometimes, I thought I saw something behind his greasy, slack-jawed facade, something slit-eyed, reptilian.