Mister Jemmings opened the front door to his tore and turned on the lights. Fern stepped into the room. It smelled of metal. Fern, who had grown up in a house smelling of rabbit droppings, was by no means sensitive to harsh natural smells but the metal smell was unfamiliar to her. The store consisted of the front counter, shelves that sold screws, light bulbs, and other assorted items, and behind the front counter was tables with tools and broken objects on them.
On one table, Fern saw it was covered with many mechanical looking parts and an opened up television set. Fern admired the inside of the TV from the front of the counter as Mister Jemmings bent down to rummage under the counter. Green chips connected to wired were inside of the television. She had not seen this before and her curiosity piqued.
Mister Jemmings came up from under the counter holding a colourfully labeled box. Fern saw that the front of the box had a picture of an angry rat surrounded with a red circle she recognized from No Smoking signs. Mister Jemmings wrapped up the box inside a plastic bag and placed that inside of another paper bag. He sealed the bag with elastic and down “Mrs. Maine” onto it. He handed it over to Fern.
“Here you go. This is for yer mother. Don’t open it, though, because it’s dangerous for little girls,” He said.
“What is it?” Fern said, taking the bag.
“Don’t worry ‘bout it. Your mother will know what to do with it,” Mister Jemmings said. Fern felt the bag in her hands. Did it have to do with rats? Maybe it was mousetraps, perhaps?
“Thank you,” Fern said. “But I don’t have much money.”
“Oh, I don’t sell this stuff. I keep it under the counter just in case but I think your mother might need a few of them. She’s a beloved customer of mine after all,” Mister Jemmings said.
“Thank you,” Fern said again, she looked up at the TV. “Are you fixing a TV?”
“I will be tomorrow,” Mister Jemmings said. “Want a closer look?”
“Yes!” Fern said. She ran around the counter and was stopped by Mister Jemmings.
“Now hold yer horse feathers, little girl. Let’s get some rules down first,” he said. He raised a finger. “Rule one is not to touch anything. These machines are broken enough as it is. And rule two is no singing new age pop music. You probably weren’t planning to anyway, but I thought I should give yer fair warning. I absolutely hate that stuff. If you want a closer look at any of the parts ask me, okay?”
Fern wasn’t sure she knew what new age pop music was but she was sure she wasn’t in danger of singing it anytime soon. “I agree to these rules,” she said with as much dignity she could muster into her petit body. Mister Jemmings Chuckled and flipped a wooden crate so she could stand upon it. He carefully moved some pieces away from the edge of the table so she could grab a hold of it.
The table was covered in parts for many machines, they were labeled using folded scrap papers. The labels consisted of two or three letters, some numbers, and some notes such as TV-12 or PIP-4-Cross screw. Fern was especially interested in all the pieces that came from the inside of the little box. She had often wondered just how some machines worked, like her radio at home. She supposed that she could learn from reading a book from the library, but the idea of opening up the machine to see fascinated her. When she wanted to have a closer look at something she asked mister Jemmings to hold it close to her. If it was a simple screw or wire Mister Jemmings let her hold onto it.
Fern inspected a red wire in her hands, looking at the bit of yellow copper stick out of the ends.
“The rubber coat makes sure you can hold onto it without getting hurt, because ‘lectricity doesn’t travel through rubber. The wire acts like a path for ‘lectricity to travel to and fro, y’see,” Mister Jemmings explained.
Just then the door opened and a man holding a wooden crate stepped in. “Mister Jemmings! I was just wondering if you were open today!”
“Oh, I’m not working today. I was just letting Miss Maine here see the store. You can leave whatever you’ve got here, though,” Mister Jemmings said.
“I appreciate it, Mister Jemmings,” the man said. He carried his crate to the counter and Mister Jemmings went to inspect its contents. Fern admired the wire in her hands for a little bit then placed it down by its numbered paper. She stepped off the wooden crate and watched Mister Jemmings inspect a broken air conditioner from the box. He opened it up with a screw driver and looked inside.
“I’ll need to replace the mount. The engine might be busted too,” he muttered.
The customer looked down and smiled at Fern. She smiled back. “Is she a relative?” he asked Mr. Jemmings.
“No, she’s a daughter of one of my customers,” Mr. Jemmings said.
“My mom brings him rabbit cages to fix,” Fern said.
“Really? What’s your name?” the man said.
“I’m Fern Maine,” Fern said.
“Alright,” Mister Jemmings said, putting down an opened up device that resembled the dehumidifier her family kept in her basement. “I can give you an estimate now if you can wait a little bit.”
“Please,” the customer said. Mister Jemmings punched numbers into his calculator and wrote things down on a scrap paper. Then he wrote down a receipt and handed it to the man, who nodded. “I’ll have the upfront tomorrow morning,” he said. Then he waved goodbye to Fern as he left the store.
“I should go now too,” Fern said. “Thanks for letting me see the TV and other things!”
“Don’t forget you mom’s package,” Mister Jemmings said, handing Fern the paper bag. She walked out the door. The sun was beginning to set.