The Handyman’s Summer

by Nick Poff

The Handyman's Summer - Nick Poff
Editions:Kindle - First: $ 3.49 USD
ISBN: B07YJ2GVFR
Pages: 279
Paperback - First: $ 13.95 USD
ISBN: 978-1694648037
Size: 6.00 x 9.00 in
Pages: 298

“Sometimes the hardest part of my job is dealing with human cruelty and its aftermath. It’s almost always instigated by fear. I wonder if we will ever evolve out of that instinct.”
Pastor Phil Sturgis in The Handyman’s Summer

By the late spring of 1987, Handyman Ed Stephens and his life partner Rick Benton are anticipating a lazy, peaceful, even boring summer. Things do not go as planned as Ed and Rick suddenly find themselves embroiled in mystery, scandal, surprises, and a lesson in both the kindness and cruelty of people.

When local bag lady, Evie Fountain, suddenly dies of a stroke, Ed and Rick become interested in her rundown house. Evie’s house turns out to be shrouded not only with overgrown bushes, but also in secrecy. Ed and Rick are drawn into the murky legend of the official town character, determined to discover the truth underneath the rumors that have circulated throughout Porterfield, Indiana, for almost thirty years. When a personal journal is found in the house, they become immersed in a shameful story of small town bigotry and its tragic results.

There is plenty of other activity to keep Ed and Rick busy over the summer. Neal Soames, the gay teenager they have been mentoring, graduates high school and suddenly gets cold feet about going away to college. He moves into Penfield Manor while Ed and Rick try to convince him leaving Porterfield is in his best interests. Ed’s friend, Dr. Paul Klarn, calls Ed for help when one of his patients is an unidentified victim of a queer-bashing. Ed and Rick decide to take this young man in as well, creating, as their friend Gordy calls it, “Uncle Ed’s Home for Wayward Homos.”

Ed’s mother, Norma, also stirs up drama when she involves Ed in her troubles with the local garden club. Ed develops a scheme to turn the tables on a pushy, obnoxious woman who is determined to run the club in her own best interests. Norma will have another surprise for Ed before the summer is out. “Expect the unexpected,” Norma tells him.

Muriel Weisberg, self-proclaimed vision-impaired bitch goddess, is on the scene as well throughout the summer, providing much needed comic relief for Ed. She uses her new role as a columnist for the local newspaper to solve problems, spout her sometimes unconventional wisdom, and to assist in the mystery of Evie’s house.

As always, Ed supplies a soundtrack of both oldies and current hits to help him cope with this busy season, one that will, in some ways, change the lives of Ed and his beloved Rick forever. Join these two gallant men as they continue to create an oasis of freedom and acceptance in an otherwise narrow-minded world. Together, hand in hand, still in love, Ed and Rick move triumphantly forward, ready to take on the world.

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Excerpt:

Now in his workshop, tape measure in hand, Ed watched Muriel furiously scratch something out and write something new, guffawing to herself. “Who’s the victim du jour?”
“Oliver North,” she replied, continuing to write.
“Geez,” Ed complained, “haven’t we had enough of Iran/Contra? Besides, I thought you were supposed to stick to local topics.”
“I do not feel,” she responded huffily, “this man has been taken to proper task for his twisted sense of patriotism. And as for Fawn Hall…” she gave an evil snicker.
“Ah,” Ed sighed. “You’re an incredibly insensitive woman, Miss Weisberg.”
Muriel opened her mouth to protest, and then slowly closed it. “On occasion,” she sniffed.
Ed heard the Camaro come into the garage. Rick soon appeared, brows beetled in annoyance. “Rough day at the office, dear?” Ed inquired.
Rick slammed his briefcase down and walked around the work table to give Ed a kiss.

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Frustrating,” he admitted. He gestured to Muriel. “Is she cool?”
“You should bow down in the presence of such coolness,” Muriel muttered into her notepad.
“Maybe later,” Rick told her.
“Yeah, I told her what we’re up to.” Ed grinned. “What did you find out?”
“Not much and all of it mysterious.”
“Oh?” Ed hoisted himself onto the worktable to give Rick his undivided attention. Rick sat next to him.
“Yeah. First thing this morning I talked to Vince about Evie Fountain’s house and he said he had heard absolutely nothing regarding a potential sale of 517 North Cooley Street. So then I drove over there to take a closer look, thinking I might see something we missed the other day.”
“Did you look for a key?”
Rick smirked. “Didn’t have to. The front dock was unlocked.”
“Yay!” Muriel exclaimed. She hopped down from her perch on the counter. “Let’s go see.”
“Wait a minute,” Rick held her back. “I’m trying to keep this quiet. If we do end up buying this place we don’t want anyone else getting interested and jacking up the price.”
“Pooh,” Muriel pouted.
“Back at ya,” Rick agreed. “It took plenty of self-restraint to keep me from going inside. As it was, I was caught by the next door neighbor, a Mrs. Celeste Burns, a natural born quidnunc if I ever saw one.”
“Ooh!” Muriel clapped her hands. “He used a vocabulary word. Define, please.”
“A gossip,” Rick said, grinning.
“There’s no shortage of those in this town,” Ed laughed.
“I can see it now,” Muriel said, hands in the air. “The new sign at the town limits: WELCOME TO PORTERFIELD, QUIDNUNC CAPITAL OF INDIANA.”
“Save it for your next column,” Rick said. “Or better yet, save it until I’ve unraveled the mystery of Evie Fountain and we’ve decided whether or not it was worth the bother.”
“So you didn’t learn anything?” Ed asked.
“Well, Celeste Burns was spectacularly unhelpful. She carried on about how sweet Evie was, and how she just wanted to be left alone.”
“Like ‘Ruby Red Dress’,” Muriel muttered, referencing the old Helen Reddy hit record.
“Yeah, exactly. I get the strange impression that people were so busy leaving Evie alone no one had a clue about her or her story, or they’re just not telling. Anyway, after that, I went to peruse the town tax records to find the owner’s name. Turns out the house is owned by B.M. Tarpley, Limited, of Fort Lee, New Jersey.”
Ed and Muriel looked at each other, and then at Rick. “Huh?” Ed said.
Rick shook his head. “I went back to the office and called the Fort Lee Chamber Of Commerce. Long story short, no one there had ever heard of B.M. Tarpley, Limited, and the address on the tax records belongs to a decrepit office building scheduled for demolition.”
“This is too weird,” Ed protested.
Muriel was tapping her fingers on the counter. “Someone has gone to great length to hide the ownership of that house. There’s gotta be a reason.”
“So what’s the next move?” Ed asked him.
“Well, I sat there at my desk, chin on my fist, for about ten minutes and then got up and walked across the street to the library for a chat with Edith Clayton.” He grinned. “My teacher parents taught me a long, long time ago that whenever you’re stuck on a project you ask a librarian. Ole Edith perked up like a hound dog on a new scent. I’m sure she’ll come through with more information on B.M. Tarpley, Limited.”
“B.M. Tarpley,” Ed mumbled, fiddling with his tape measure. “I hear some distant bell in my head with that name.”
“That’s early onset Alzheimer’s, dear,” Muriel said.
“No, no, I just have a feeling I’ve heard that before, but I can’t for the life of me make the connection.”
“Well, keep thinking,” Rick said briskly, hopping off the table. “In the meantime let’s let Edith do her thing.” He moved toward the door. “She staying for dinner?” He asked.
“Am I invited?” Muriel inquired.
“No.”
“Then I’m staying.”

COLLAPSE

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.

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, available October 8, will take Ed and Rick on a journey of discovery regarding the challenges of being gay in the twentieth century.

Nick enjoys reading, old pop music, and the sillier aspects of pop culture. His current passions include both "Wentworth" and "Stranger Things" on Netflix,  and discovering obscure 45 rpm gems from the late sixties and early seventies. He also spends a good deal of time rolling his eyes at the political and societal madness of the world.

 


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