As an Amazon Associate we earn from qualifying purchases.

The Handyman’s Storm

Handyman Volume 6

by Nick Poff

The Handyman's Storm - Nick Poff
Editions:Kindle - Kindle: $ 3.99
Pages: 278
Paperback: $ 8.82
Pages: 292

Autumn 1989 begins as a season of loss for Handyman Ed and his life partner Rick. Their dear friend Doug passes away after a losing battle with AIDS. Effie Maude, the longtime Penfield Manor housekeeper, announces her retirement. Ed and Rick are exhausted and mournful, and despite the advice of friends and family, determined to continue with their regular responsibilities. Little things suddenly become big deals as they struggle to cope with the daily activities at Penfield Manor, and the result is an unfamiliar distance between them. Unexpected houseguests, the trials and tribulations of their foster son Rex, and a new overbearing client of Ed’s with murky intentions complicate their lives even more as they struggle to deal with their loss and find their way back to each other.
Fortunately, Ed and Rick do not lack for good friends and compassionate families. While Ed’s mother Norma is preoccupied with her new cookie enterprise, the rest of the family and their friends Gordy, Pete, Muriel, and Dr. Paul are always available for companionship, advice, and the occasional kick in the butt.
Ed may be balding, Rick may be covering his gray, and they might argue about who has the worse eyesight, but the genuine love and respect they share for each other enables them to survive the surprises and storms both inside and out through the final months of 1989 and come through it all, ready to meet a new decade.


They climbed the steps to the front porch and stood for a moment, gazing at the autumnal landscape surrounding their home. “Well,” Ed said, reaching for Rick’s hand, “I don’t know how amazing we are, but we sure as hell are lucky to have what we have.”

“Yep,” Rick said, bestowing a tired but heartfelt version of his special warm and tender smile at Ed. “That we are.”

They found Gordy and Muriel seated in the parlor, now known more commonly as the living room, chatting quietly. Ed glanced around, a bit surprised by the quiet. “Everyone else gone?”

“Who else could you possibly need but us?” Muriel said grandly, sweeping her hand toward Gordy, who chortled happily. Gordy and Muriel thoroughly enjoyed each other’s nonsense which Ed found both endearing and annoying as hell.

“Give me a minute and I’ll make a list,” Rick retorted, flopping on the couch.


Muriel sniffed. “Well, Pete took Effie Maude home; Rex and Janet are doing clean up in the kitchen. That’s it, boys.”

“Good,” said Ed, throwing himself across Rick on the sofa. “We don’t have to be nice to any of you people.”

Gordy, who had put on some weight in the past few years, shifted uncomfortably in his formal clothes. “Is that anyway to thank your best buds?”

“It’ll do,” Ed assured him, “until I can think of something better.”

“Nice!” Gordy grumbled, unbuttoning his suit jacket and squirming again. “I need to change my clothes. Fuckin’ funerals! I hate ‘em.” He scratched at his blond beard as though he wanted to change that as well. “Seriously, though.” He leaned forward and peered at Ed and Rick. “How are you guys?”

Rick shrugged. “I don’t know. How are we supposed to be?”

“Well, you look tired as hell.”

“We are.”

“That’s understandable,” Muriel said, with a glance at Gordy. “But otherwise…”

“Otherwise what?” Rick asked irritably.

“Seriously,” Muriel insisted. “Are you guys okay?”

“If either of you two say ‘seriously’ one more time, I’m gonna throw something,” Rick threatened.

“Here!” Muriel grabbed a painted candy dish from the coffee table. “Throw this. I’ve always thought it was ugly anyway. The two of you have been so quiet and polite and oh-so-proper you’re making us sick, not to mention worried. Seriously,” she said laying her half-blind chick’s death glare on Rick. “How are you?”

Rick gave Ed a look that let Ed know he was turning this discussion over to him. Ed frowned at Rick, and then sighed as he took in the genuinely worried faces of their friends across from them. He was grateful for their concern, but in no mood to talk about feelings.

He found himself thinking back to that gloomy day late in the winter of ’88 when he had gone to the Fort Wayne airport to pick up Doug. The year before, Ed had given Doug a wad of cash and had told him to use it when he knew he needed their help. Once he had been released from a Santa Fe hospital after a serious bout with AIDS-related pneumonia, Doug called Ed and Rick and told them he was coming to stay with them.

At the airport – greeting each other (Ed appalled at Doug’s weight loss and general appearance), gathering luggage and loading it into Ed's truck – they both were artificially cheerful. Once they were on their way to Porterfield the conversation faded to nothing. The quiet began to get on Ed’s nerves so he turned the radio on. The Pet Shop Boys and Dusty Springfield blared through with their current hit. As Neil Tennant repeated the refrain in his signature monotone, what have I, what have I, what have Idone to deserve this, Ed and Doug looked at each honestly for the first time. Doug shrugged. “Fuck if I know,” he said.

The ice was broken as they both roared with laughter. It was their first shared moment of gallows humor, but definitely not the last. Over the next year and a half, Ed had been grateful for every laugh and moment of amusement shared with Doug and Rick and their support crew.

But what stuck with Ed was that day; the low-hanging clouds threatening either rain or snow, the damp chill in the air. Somehow that almost claustrophobic, depressive atmosphere had slid inside his soul, and even now, with Doug gone and the endless caregiver chores behind him, Ed still felt it dampening any sort of perspective he may have had.

Now he sighed once more and said quietly, “I know how I feel. I’m just not ready to talk about it.”

“I think I’m with Ed,” Rick said softly, stroking Ed’s hair. “I know we can’t just put this all behind us like it didn’t happen, but I feel as though we’ve been living life on hold for a long time. I just want to get movin’ again.”

Rick looked challengingly at Gordy and Muriel. “Is that ‘serious’ enough for you?”

Muriel and Gordy exchanged glances. Gordy shrugged. Muriel reached behind her head and began to impatiently pull at the pins in her bun. “That’s honest enough,” she finally said, running her hands through her hair.

A silence that matched Ed’s inner gloom descended. He was relieved when he heard the swinging door to the kitchen creak open. Rex strode through the dining room and up to the gathering in the living room. He abruptly stopped, hands on hips, and observed them somberly. “Boy, this sure ain’t anything like the Catholic funerals I had to go to growing up. Where’s the screaming and wailing? Where’s the drunken yelling? You people are boring,” he finished, looking at them in disgust.

Rick, Gordy and Muriel laughed. Ed chose to throw a sofa pillow at him saying, “So sorry to disappoint you, son.”

Rex deftly caught the pillow and torpedoed it back at Ed. “Geez, Pop,” he said in a put-upon voice. “What’s your damage? I was just making a joke.”

“What’s your what? Gordy exclaimed.

“Pay no attention,” Ed said, mock glaring at Rex. “He got it from that movie, Heathers. I swear, he and Neal must have seen it twenty times this summer. Hell, he can probably quote the whole thing.”

Rex nodded happily. “Yeah, like Fahrenheit 451, but with a movie instead of a book.” Rick and Ed had had Rex on a serious reading program for the past two years, and he always proud to show it off.

“’What’s your damage.’” Gordy snorted and laughed. “I like that.”

“Anyway,” Rex said, throwing himself on the sofa next to Rick. “I just wanted to make sure you don’t need me for anything.” He looked down at his black suit. “I should probably get out of these monkey’s uncle clothes and go fix Old Lady Piper’s basement clothesline before she forgets she asked me to do it.”

Rick scowled at him. “Please tell me,” he said as he gently put his hands around Rex’s throat, “that you do not go around referring to your and your other father’s handyman clients as ‘old lady’ or ‘old man’.”

“Not to their faces,” Rex said innocently. “Oh, come on, Dad…”

Rick let go and held up a hand. “No. Don’t you dare tell me to fuck you gently with a chainsaw. I might go out to the workshop, power up, and do just that.”

“Fuck you gently with a chainsaw?” Gordy roared as he slapped his thigh. Is that from Heathers, too? Oh man, I have got to see this flick!”

“Yes,” Ed said, sitting up and giving Rex a good shake. “He’s our kid and he is incorrigible. Pray for us.”

Rex scrambled away from Ed, giggling. He bounced out of the room shouting, “I’ll be home in time for supper!”

“We have no doubt,” Ed hollered after him.

Gordy watched him go with admiration. “You guys are doing a good job with that kid.”

“Well,” Rick drawled, glancing at Ed, “fortunately there was some good raw material there. We’ve just had to dig past eighteen years of the bullshit he went through.”

Ed nodded, thinking of some of more exasperating times Rex had handed them since he entered their lives. Still, every one of them had been worth it, seeing the man Rex was growing to be.

Muriel shook her head. “Oh, we seem to be back to the joy and merriment of Penfield Manor.” She opened her mouth to say more but suddenly began fanning her face with her hand. “Oh, shit,” she muttered, getting up and storming out of the room. The next sound they heard was the slam of the bathroom door.

Gordy watched her go with interest. “What’s her damage?” He wanted to know.

“Oh, Gord,” Rick groaned.

“Hey, I gotta keep up my rep as a cool dude,” Gordy said. “But what’s up?”

Ed pulled himself off Rick and sat up. He cupped his hands around his mouth and whispered, “Hot flash. I think she’s going through the change.”

Gordy’s eyes widened. “Muriel Weisberg and menopause? Well, holy shit, bolt the doors and lock the windows. I’m glad I’m going back to Fort Wayne. This whole town will be under a ‘Muriel Warning’ before Halloween.”

“I know,” Ed said ruefully. “And it’s not like she isn’t dangerous enough already. I hope Rupert at the Courier keeps a close eye on what she puts in her column. She could end up getting the newspaper office burned down.”

“Geezo peaso,” Gordy grumbled as he got to his feet. “And I promised to drive her home. Look,” he said, turning to Ed and Rick. “If I don’t reappear here by sundown you come check on me, and make sure she hasn’t taken a cleaver to me and stashed my body parts under her front porch.”

Reviews:Lyn Perkin wrote:

The 80’s. The AIDS crisis. An honest account of real life in these times in a small town rather than a big city. An emotional journey that ultimately proves that love will prevail and the family you build for yourself is everything.
As always, Nick Poff has written a novel that will grip the reader and take them on a roller coaster ride of every emotion.
If you prefer to read a “real” story with depth rather than just an air-headed romance then this book is for you. It’s a must-read.

About the Author

Nick Poff enjoyed a long career in the radio industry until technology took all the fun out of it. That same technology, however, enabled him to pursue another dream -- writing and publishing stories about everyday gay men in the "flyover states" of the US. A widower, Nick lives in Fort Wayne, Indiana, where he currently has a day job in the transit industry to take care of the mortgage payments on a home in an historical early twentieth century neighborhood, and cover the Friskies expenses for his current feline companion, Jasper. The sixth volume in the HANDYMAN SERIES, THE HANDYMAN'S STORM, was published in early 2021. He hopes to continue the story with a new book in 2023.

His first novel, THE HANDYMAN'S DREAM, became the beginning of a series of books about gay handyman Ed Stephens. In this book, Ed meets his dream man, Rick Benton, in the autumn of 1980, and Ed enjoys all the exciting and beautiful aspects of falling in love. The story continues with THE HANDYMAN'S REALITY, and as the title implies, Ed learns about maintaining his relationship with his dream man. IN THE HANDYMAN'S PROMISE, Ed and Rick explore the meaning and boundaries of their commitment. In the fourth volume, THE HANDYMAN'S HISTORY, Ed reflects on his past as a way to come to terms with is present and the future. THE HANDYMAN'S SUMMER takes Ed and Rick on a journey of discovery regarding the challenges of being gay in the twentieth century. Ed and Rick wrap up the eighties with a periods of both sadness and optimism for the future in THE HANDYMAN'S STORM.

Nick enjoys reading, old pop music, and the sillier aspects of pop culture. His current passions include "The Great British Baking Show" on Netflix, "comfort" reruns on HULU, and discovering obscure 45 rpm gems from the late sixties and early seventies, not to mention all the Europop and Eurodisco records that didn't make it to the U.S. He also spends a good deal of time rolling his eyes at the political and societal madness of the world.