A short story about all the cracks in Eddie’s life that revolves around getting his phone fixed. Read more Short Story Sunday stories.
The clean, uncracked windows of the cell phone repair shop stood in front of Eddie. He traced his fingers over his phone’s splintered screen. If he went inside and got it fixed, it’d be a good chunk of his paycheck from flipping burgers and filling cokes at McDonald’s. His fiancé Carla, seven months pregnant, without a ring on her finger, would beat on him to no end if he splurged on himself rather than his familia.
“Eddie, you going to go in or what?” his brother Juan said, sipping a frozen slush drink from the convenience store next door. They were about the same height, but where Eddie was broad shouldered, Juan was square. Eddie held himself with a quiet, introverted reserve, while Juan flashed easy smiles and clapped his hands at a good joke. They both shared their father’s deep set brown eyes.
“I want to,” Eddie replied, stepping closer to peer through the windows, “but I need to put the cash aside for the baby.”
“A little girl, right?”
“That’s what the pictures from the doctor’s office showed. Or what the nurse told us.” Eddie shrugged. All he saw on the sonogram was a tiny human inside Carla’s belly in grainy black and white.
Juan smiled, “I’ll spot you the cash, as your brother, and soon to be favorite uncle.”
“Juan, you don’t have to do that—.” Eddie didn’t know where Juan made his money. He quit the lawn crew months ago.
“Please,” Juan said, opening the door, “it’s a gift.”
Eddie hesitated, but crossed the threshold of the door. It would be nice to read his texts without the cracks warping the screen. Inside, racks of phone cases, chargers, and any other peripheral he could imagine were stocked. A stand of model phones lined part of the wall to his left, while a skinny, pale guy with a bad hair cut and comic book t-shirt leaned over the glass counter with the more expensive GPS and tablet demos.
The man made eye contact with Eddie and Juan, “How can I help you guys?”
“I need to get my brother’s phone screen fixed. He dropped it, it still works, but it’d be cool to have it like new.”
“I think we can fix that. Let’s see it.”
Eddie pulled the phone from his pocket and placed it on the counter. He swiped the screen to life and cleared the messages. “See, it works, but it’s annoying.”
The man, his name tag read Greg, picked it up and inspected it, squinting at the jagged lines. “I can replace the screen, no problem. Want me to upgrade the operating system, too?”
Juan wandered over to the disposable phones, and Eddie considered the offer. The phone always nagged him about updates, but he ignored them. They took too long. Plus, he didn’t want to take advantage of Juan’s generosity. “How much will that cost?”
“Eddie,” Juan said over his shoulder, “don’t worry about it. I got you covered.”
Greg tapped his fingers on the glass and looked to Eddie. “New screen is eighty bucks, and I’ll do the update for free. Should take about thirty minutes.”
“Wow, thanks, that’d be great,” Eddie said. A deal and a quick fix. He bobbed his head and smiled.
Juan returned to the counter with a pay as you go phone. “I’ll get this, too. A buddy needs it for his new stereo business.”
Greg took Eddie’s phone to the back room, and Eddie turned to his brother, “Thanks.”
“De nada,” Juan said. “Brothers got to help each other, right?”
Eddie left the convenience store and hopped in his trusty but ugly car with a plastic bag full of baby wipes, orange juice and Frosted Flakes. The cell phone shop where he got his phone fixed six months ago sat vacant. Maybe it closed a month ago. Two? Eddie hadn’t noticed. In that time, Carla gave birth to a healthy girl they named Marguerite, after Carla’s grandmother. Eddie knew taking care of a tiny human was going to be work, but no one told him about the lack of sleep he’d endure. The days flew by in a deprived fog, and he also contributed it to his promotion at McDonald’s. He applied for a manager trainee program, and was accepted, learning more about how keep things moving quickly and what all those numbers meant that were reported back to corporate. He worked hard. One day, he was going own his own franchise.
Until then, his little family lived in a six hundred square foot apartment with no central air or heat, and he was sure the landlord scrimped on pest control. Carla set roach traps out on a regular basis, despite Eddie not seeing a difference. But a roof hung over their heads and they could give Marguerite lukewarm baths in the kitchen sink. Whenever he picked her up from with in her crib, he marveled and the immense joy that blossomed in his chest when she blinked and smacked her lips. She had her mother’s lips, and he was pretty sure she’d have her mother’s smile.
He parked his car on the street outside his apartment. His brother’s low rider Impala sat by the curb. Juan also had been busy the last six months. He worked at a car stereo shop that also did custom detailing and interiors, and to Eddie, the business appeared to be thriving judging by each new customization Juan did to his car. Rims, a blue pearl paint job, custom neon lights around the license plate, the chrome. So much chrome. It blinded Eddie whenever he saw it on sunny Saturday afternoons.
Eddie got out of his car, grabbed his sack of groceries and closed the door with a gentle push. The last time it slammed shut, the armrest on the inside of the door popped off. Down the street, an electrician’s van sat in the shade. It was the third day this week he came home and saw it. Perhaps the landlord wasn’t a total scrooge.
He strolled to his front door, his work shirt unbuttoned, and the evening’s heat still hanging around the yard. Juan sat outside next to a duffel bag and called out, “And the king to the castle is home.”
“Hey Juan, is Carla not home yet to let you in?”
“No. I knocked, but I figured she was out with her mama and the little one,” he said, standing up, brushing his shorts. Carla did hospice care during the day, and they left Marguerite with Carla’s mother to babysit.
“Carla’s probably still picking up Marguerite after work.” Eddie looked at his brother and down to the bag.
“Did you forget I was stopping by?” Juan said. “I texted you, and you even replied.”
On instinct, Eddie felt for his phone in his pocket. Scuff marks wore at the back of the case, but he managed to keep the screen free of cracks. The apps opened slow and it lagged at times, but it still did everything he needed it to do. He shook his head, “Sorry, I forgot, you know how it’s been recently between the baby and work.”
“Are you sure you don’t want to come work for the shop. I could teach you how to wire those new dashboard GPS units. Better than getting burned by french fries.”
“I told you,” Eddie said, unlocking his apartment door, “next month I’ll be done with the program, and I’ll get a raise, and benefits.”
“Stress free days and hard cash are good benefits, too.”
“I appreciate the offer, Juan, but long term, I could own a McDonalds. Or I could be CEO.”
Juan slung the bag over his shoulder and slapped his brother on the back, “A real king, I see. Okay, but I offered. Look, can I crash here tonight? I got an early appointment tomorrow with a client not too far from here.”
“Why can’t they meet you at the shop?”
“He’s real particular about his ride. Plus, he’s paying extra.”
“Is that why you have the bag with you?”
“My tools and the gear he wants installed.”
Eddie set his sack down on the kitchen table. “Carla might give me grief, but if you don’t mind us being up with Marguerite, it should be okay.”
“I won’t mind at all. She’s a sweet little angel, won’t bother me a bit.”
Eddie laughed, “You haven’t heard her scream when she wakes up.”
In the dim light of morning, Eddie rolled over. The clock read 6:04, and soon Marguerite would wake up. She slept in three to four hour intervals, where he or Carla would get up to feed her, check her diaper or bounce her back to sleep in their arms. Her crib hugged the wall, below the bedroom window, where the slats of the blinds were shut. A shadow passed outside. A neighbor heading to work, most likely.
A pop came from out front, and the window’s glass shattered. The blinds caught the shards, rattled, and dropped a ball of smoke into Marguerite’s crib.
Marguerite wailed awake, and a bang and a crash erupted in the living room.
Carla bolted up and screamed at the smoke rising where Marguerite’s head should be. Eddie stumbled out of bed and tripped at the blanket wrapped around his leg. He cried out when he landed on his knees, and the tangy smoke filled the room and burned his eyes. He ignored the yelling and commotion in the living room and waved his arms for the side of the crib. Blind, tears filling his eyes, he pulled himself upright and fumbled for his daughter’s hot, writhing body.
Their bedroom door burst open, the door frame splintering at the knob.
“Hands up! Don’t move!” a deep voice said.
Carla screamed, throwing her hands in the air.
Eddie remained bent over, searching for his daughter. Pieces of glass nicked his fingers, and he gagged at the dense cloud of smoke. He found his daughter’s stomach and scooped her up and shielded her close to his chest.
“I said, hands up! Where I can see them!”
In between hysterics Carla said, “That’s my fiance. He has our daughter. He has—.”
Eddie heard a click.
His daughter shrieking into his chest.
The squeak of the bed frame while Carla screamed.
Boom that pounded his right shoulder blade. He dropped to his knee, twisting, collapsing to his back, still holding his inconsolable daughter. A figure in a black helmet, black fatigues and body armor stood above him, pointing the shotgun at his face. Dizzy at the lack of air, Eddie struggled to raise his head. Carla jumped out of bed, and a second black clad figure wrapped an arm around her waist and restrained her. He looked at his daughter, her face beet red but blemish free. She continued to wail. Eddie couldn’t help but think she screams like her mother.
On their couch in the living room, the EMT immobilized Eddie’s arm in a sling as a precaution. The bean bag round left a welt the size of a fist on his shoulder, but nothing serious. His eyes still burned not just from the smoke, but from the realization of why everything occurred.
While he was being examined, a pale man with a bad hair cut approached him. “Remember me?”
He no longer wore the comic book t-shirt, but a flak jacket and a DEA badge dangled around his neck. Eddie only stared. Carla sat next to him, rocking Marguerite, now quiet, in her arms.
“Okay then. Your brother, Juan, he’s a pretty notorious drug dealer in this neighborhood. More than that, even.”
“We set up that shop hoping to net someone in his hood with ties to him. We lucked out it was you, his brother.”
The screen and the upgrade. The bugged his phone. How many others did they net?
“You nearly killed our daughter,” Carla said.
“And your daughter is fine.”
Eddie sat back, stunned. The man had no clue what occurred.
“Juan will be taken into custody, and we’ll be gone once we’re done searching for evidence.”
“Evidence,” Eddie said. What evidence could there be? Did Juan leave things in their apartment regularly? This was how the justice system worked? If so, it was messed up. He rubbed his head with his free hand, “What about the broken window? There’s glass all over the crib.”
“That’s something the DEA doesn’t fix. You’ll have to do that yourself.”
Eddie wanted to snap the badge off his neck and crack it in two.