Here’s another short story for Chuck Wendig’s weekly challenge. This week, the theme was “To fix something, you first must break it.” I’m not quite sure if anything in my story ever was actually fixed, but maybe that’s the point. You decide and let me know what you think.
Living With Harmony (1,025 words)
Harmony liked to take things apart and try to fix them. Her mom and dad said she would be an engineer some day. Her brothers said she was the worst. She constantly took apart their drones, robots, or any other amazing electronic they had received. Most of the time she couldn’t figure out how to put them back together again.
At school, Harmony didn’t quite fit in. All the other girls talked about princesses then as they grew older they talked about makeup and boys. She liked boys, but makeup didn’t make one iota of sense to her. Why would you put makeup on your face like a clown? Didn’t people know lipstick had been created to cover up the effects of tuberculosis? She didn’t understand how she could feel so smart and so able, but not fit into the box of society.
Then she met Reed. Reed fixed everything. The first time he came over to her house, the door creaked as he opened it. Reed asked if they had WD40. This cemented what Harmony already knew: they were made for each other.
Their relationship grew and eventually they married.
“Are you sure he’s the one?” Harmony’s oldest brother asked.
“Why wouldn’t he be?”
“He’s a fixer.”
“I’m a fixer too,” Harmony insisted.
“No. You’re a destroyer. That’s what you are.” Her brothers laughed at her.
But Harmony didn’t see it that way. She and Reed both liked to fix things or at least try. She couldn’t figure out what her brothers were driving at so she ignored them.
Harmony and Reed moved into a studio apartment on the East side of town. The apartment started out as perfect as their marriage. They tinkered together toiling steadily over different projects. Reed landed a job in an up and coming architect firm while Harmony continually questioned what to do with her life. And Harmony grew bored. There was nothing for her to take apart and for Reed to fix in the little apartment. The super took care of all of that.
On a Monday, Harmony burnt the pancakes on purpose.
“Maybe there’s something wrong with the burner,” Reed said.
“There’s nothing wrong with the burner. I just burnt them.”
“That’s okay,” Reed said, giving Harmony a kiss on the cheek as he headed out the door.
Harmony sighed. Now she sat alone in the apartment bored with her perfect little existence. She took apart the television. Only, she couldn’t figure out exactly how to get it back together. She did the best she could, screwing in bolts and nuts, and putting the bunny ears back on top of the television.
Reed came home, sat down, and tried to turn on the boob tube.
“The TV is broken,” Harmony said.
“How’d that happen? I wanted to watch Johnny Carson”
Harmony shrugged. She went into the kitchen and scrubbed the pristine counters. Reed worked on the television. That night they made love more passionate than they had in six months. Harmony knew what she had to do to make things work.
The following day, Reed’s car wouldn’t start when he left work.
“I’m going to be late,” he said over his office phone.
“Working on a tough project?”
“Car won’t start. But it’s the strangest thing—I took the car to the dealership yesterday and everything was okay. I’m wondering if someone messed with it.”
Reed’s voice had an edge to it Harmony had never heard before.
“Honestly, Reed. Why would someone want to do that to you? You’re being paranoid.”
“Yes, I guess you’re right. Save me some dinner.”
He almost caught her with the toaster. She pulled out a piece, and when he went to fix it he found the piece in the drawer.
“Harmony, did you mess with the toaster?”
“No,” she said from the living room where she worked feverishly on a particularly difficult crossword puzzle.
“But I found a piece to it, in the junk drawer.” He stood, towering above her, holding the piece.
“I don’t know where that came from,” Harmony said, looking up at him for a minute then looking back at her crossword puzzle. “Do you know a four letter word for sex?”
“Fuck, I just don’t get it. Everything is breaking around here.” He slanted his eyes toward Harmony, but she had returned to her crossword puzzle.
That night when he crawled into bed, his breath smelled of gin and tonic. Harmony pushed her body closer to him. He pulled away.
“I’m so tired. Do you realize I’ve fixed three things today? I feel like everything is falling apart.”
As time marched on, Harmony became more adept at breaking things and Reed became more adept at fixing them. With everything Harmony broke, she felt closer and closer to Reed. She loved how he could fix even the most complicated things she broke. But then she started to notice Reed pull away from her and retreat into himself. She felt as if they were no longer in concord with one another. And she had no idea how to fix it.
The second summer of their marriage, the air conditioning went out. The apartment sweltered. The Super had gone on vacation.
“Aren’t you going to fix it, Reed?”
“Fix it? I’ve fixed everything. And everything keeps falling apart. It’s like I’m cursed or something.”
“Well have you looked at it?”
“Hell, I just don’t know what to do. It seems like it started when the car wouldn’t start. Then the TV broke, the fire, the carburetor in the car, the stupid toaster, and now this goddamn air conditioning. I just don’t see why all of this keeps happening?”
“But Reed, you’re so good at fixing things.”
“Harmony, there are some things that can never be fixed.”
With those lines, Reed walked out the door. Harmony looked out the second story window and watched as he hailed a cab. She had no idea where he was going, but she knew he wouldn’t be coming back. Harmony could create problems, but she could never quite figure out how to fix them.
Follow Lauren Greene: