Sunday’s Fictionaut Fiction Nugget: Repair Man

By Melanie Yarbrough

Thanks to free holiday wifi, this week’s Fictionaut nugget of fiction is coming to you from the sky somewhere between Virginia and Massachusetts.

Repair Man” by Kathy Fish is spare in length but big in its heartbreak. The story’s biggest success is in its ability to capture the minutiae of a life heading some place slowly. There is a sense of simultaneous urgency and patience, a combination both familiar and frustrating. There is always something to be done, never an adequate amount of resources – like time or money. Fish’s story focuses on one of the few saviors in a bleak existence: The comfort of camaraderie. No matter how the bills pile up or how dire the title character’s situation is, he has Mattie there when he is frightened. Fish does a great job of presenting the stark difference between having someone to give you the gumption you need to pull yourself up out of where you’re buried. When the repair man’s other half dies – whether actually or only in the part of his imagination and expectation worn down by his circumstances is unclear – he is unable to continue plodding forward. He sees himself unable to open the books he needs to study, the same books Mattie read aloud to him at the kitchen table.

What I found most interesting, and perhaps confusing, about the story was the ambiguity of whether or not Mattie actually dies. The repair man seems to predict that someday she will board a train with a flaw that will result in her death, a cruelly ironic death because of his occupation. I chose to read the mention of Mattie’s death as the tone of the repair man’s predictions for his life rather than an accurate foreshadowing of events to come. Though he works hard, he feels that it is in vain, demonstrated most effectively in the manner in which Mattie dies in his fantasies. It is also clear that he is very aware of his dependence on Mattie, of the precariousness of his situation and progress forward. While at first this can pass off as disturbingly bleak, it is also a testament to the incredible power of relationships and the frightening nature of allowing them to define your future, let alone of understanding their power in determining your happiness. There is no happiness without unhappiness, and accepting a current state of contentment can sometimes mean resigning yourself to a future of discontent and loneliness.

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7 thoughts on “Sunday’s Fictionaut Fiction Nugget: Repair Man

  1. thenerdynegress says:

    Great story. Had to bookmark it. Makes me think of gender roles and how men work, and women nurture, and women are supposed to be afraid of not having money, and men are supposed to be afraid of vulnerability. Made me think about how fear motivates me, how it’s necessary, and how when I’m in love, I fear less.

    Men who work without passion and women who love without condition. Good stuff.

    • That’s such a great observation, which I obviously missed out on my first couple reads. I think that’s what’s so great about it, how the story functions in so many (seemingly) conflicting levels. Thanks for pointing that out (and for visiting)! Love your site. 🙂

      – Mel

    • Mark Reep says:

      Your comment’s good stuff too. ‘When I’m in love, I fear less.’ Yes. Thanks.

  2. Julie says:

    I have gone back to reread this story a number of times now. Amazing on so many levels, really enjoyed this review.

  3. Kathy Fish says:

    Thanks for the review, Melanie!

  4. Mark Reep says:

    Great review of one of my favorite flash ever. Thanks, Melanie!

  5. Aw shucks, thanks for stopping by! I don’t get to spend nearly as much time on Fictionaut as I’d like, so Sundays don’t come nearly fast enough. Thanks for the great read, Kathy!

    – Mel

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