Tales from Tillamook (A serial novel)

“It’s gotta be Randy,” Pennie told me when the lights went out.

Whenever the power goes out, Randy’s name comes up because he’s the unlicensed electrician in charge of all things electrical in the 100-plus-year-old Tillamook Building where Pennie and I lease space. She rents a room for her Curly Girls (and Guys) Hair Salon. I rent one where I write.

That day I was sitting in Pennie’s one-chair salon where, every six weeks, she does her best to tame my frizzy hair. After a few minutes, the lights came back on.

“I hope the power surge didn’t fry my computer,” I said, talking into the mirror that reflected Pennie’s image. Tall and strong, she wielded a flat iron in one hand and a hairbrush in the other.

“If it does,” she said, gradually pulling the iron away from my head, “you could try billing John.” John is our landlord.

“Yeah, right,” I said. “Like that’s gonna work.” Years of trying to make a living as a writer had turned me into a sceptic.

Just then we heard a knock on the door. A second later, Randy poked his head inside.

“Hi, girls,” he said, throwing us a smile. “I know. I should have told you I was going to work on the wiring in the basement but no one was around when I showed up this morning and John’s in a hurry to update the old lines, so I decided to go ahead.” It was hard to get angry with Randy. A small, sinewy man continually covered in dust, he was just making it, like the rest of us, and needed every job he could get. “Is there anything you need to have done?” Randy continued with a pleading look on his face. “I’m offering a special on window cleaning this month, and you know my motto: I Can Fix Everything Except Your Love Life.”

“But that’s where Twyla needs help!” Pennie blurted out before clamping her mouth shut.

“Hey!” I said, offended at hearing the truth. “I actually met a guy last week. Didn’t I tell you?”

“Yes you did but going to a fundraiser for the arts and talking to someone isn’t a date,” Pennie said.

This time it was Randy who laughed. “So,” he said, “what can I do for you both?”

Pennie and I exchanged a glance in the mirror. Over the years we’d both hired Randy to do odd jobs but we always ended up regretting it. The door lock he’d installed for Pennie never worked quite right, and the rug he’d replaced for me had soon wrinkled, tripping the students who met in my space.

“I…uh…,” Pennie stammered.

“We’ll think about it,” I said. “Really. We will.”

“Okay,” Randy said. The look of concern on his face was soon replaced by a smile and a wink. After Randy closed the door. Pennie twirled me around so she could reach my bangs.

“You’re the only client I know who has cowlicks in back and front,” she said while yanking at my hair.

“Ouch!” I yelled. “Watch it.”

“Behind every beautiful thing, there’s some kind of pain,” Pennie said.

(To be continued)

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